A month of tropical co-working in Koh Lanta, Thailand

The small island in the south of Thailand is as a popular tourist destinatior. It’s famous for relaxing, snorkeling and ping. Tucked away in the center of the island lies the tropical co-working space KoHub. It attracts digital nomads from around the world. I had planned to visit here last year until I broke my foot and had to change my plans. As it happens KoHub moved into a brand new place this year and so I got to experience it in all its glory.

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Getting there

You can fly into Phuket or Krabi and take a shuttle or private taxi. Both arrive at the northern tip of Koh Lanta. I decided to fly down from Bangkok which takes about an hour. I had arranged pickup from the airport with KoHub (for about 65 EUR) and the driver picked me up at the terminal. The journey down to Koh Lanta is about two hours. To cross over to the island you catch the ferry for about 15 minutes. The driver drops you of either at KoHub itself or the apartments belonging to them.

The KoHub package

In the past I was disappointed with package deals from the co-working spaces. These were usually overpriced. Very basic accommodation for high end prices, which you then find out when you arrive.

The Kohub packages on the other hand are one of the best deals I’ve experienced. The package consist of the a month of accommodation, coworking and 2 meals a day from their cafeteria. They were even they able to host me even though I only contacted them a week in advance. Let’s have a look at each component.

Accomodation

The monthly rental room has a private bathroom and air conditioning. I think all of them have at least a mini balcony. All rooms are in a building owned by Kohub. So you’ll be staying with other nomads and coworkers. I would grade the rooms as Basic Plus. They have everything you need. But the furniture is not the cheapest version. They’re a good quality. My room had a great bed and pillows (I know, it’s the simple things).

The building has an underutilized rooftop terrace. I worked there once, but you can also relax. I’m sure the team will refurbish it soon and make it awesome space.

WiFi is strong throughout the building. The bandwidth is plenty even for streaming. Power black outs happened only twice for about five minutes. If you walk it takes about 5-10 minutes to get to Kohub which is just down the road.

Tropical Co-Working at KoHub

Their new space was purposely built for coworking and it really shows. There are large areas inside with AC, but also lots of space outside in the shade and Skype booths for some privacy. Plenty of international plugs, extension cords and even accessories like monitors for rent. One thing that really stood out was their online membership system. You take care of most things online. From getting you online on your first day, to joining the right social groups, to ordering food (see below). You can pay for different things, book Skype rooms, taxis and so on. A really thought out system that I wish more coworking space had. The great team, 24 hour access, fast internet with a generator for power outages, made this a very productive and very pleasant place for me to work from. I tend to stay outdoors to acclimate as much as possible and with some bug spray the insects left you alone.

There’s a good community in KoHub which thanks to an unfortunate series of work things I didn’t take full advantage of. But there’s events everyday to get to know everyone if you want. Tea, Coffee and Water is included. There’s an honesty fridge stocked with all the usual for good prices (e.g. Can of Coke 30 Baht).

Package meals

KoHub offers meals, drinks and snacks from 8am to 5:30pm. There’s a good variation of food even for non spicy eaters like myself. I had a delicious selection of great meals. The full menu consists of 50+ items and the quality was consistently good. Delivery times varied depending on time of day. Some mornings it took a bit longer, but at lunch time it was almost instantaneous. The package includes two meals a day every day of the week including weekends. One of those meals consists of a main and an extra. So for breakfast Omelette plus extra toast. Or Pad-Thai with extra chicken or fries for example. During the week I stuck with the included meals and did not eat anywhere else and I was never hungry. Though on the weekends I do recommend eating out at one of the many restaurants or beach bars.

 

Internet

You won’t get a SIM card in the package unfortunately. I tried getting one at the airport but somehow was unable to find a counter which would activate the SIM in my personal WiFi router. To get it for your phone it’s easy, but I use my normal sim there. Maybe next time I’ll take a simple backup phone with a normal sim for these purposes. If KoHub offered one that the taxi driver brings to the airport so you can work on the way down to KoHub that would great.

Internet at the accommodation and KoHub is great, most beach bars have WiFi too so I managed to survive without buying a local sim at all.

Seasons

I spent April on the island which is the end of the season which you do notice in some parts of the island. But the advantage is there are a lot of empty beaches to chose from. Songkran in the middle of April marks the Thai new year and is a water festival. Compared to stories I’ve heard from Chiangmai, Songkran on Koh Lanta is very calm. Sure you will get wet – there’s no way around it unless you stay locked up in your room which I do not recommend. Buy a water gun and join in the wet activities. A warning: keep your electronics at home or in a watertight bag. I’ve heard of soaked phones during Songkran. On Koh Lanta a Songkran is just on the actual day, whereas other areas of Thailand will celebrate up to three days.

Island Areas

First of all the island doesn’t have that much to offer in terms of land based activities. There’s lots to do on the water and there are daily tours to the surrounding islands. But if you rent a scooter or car you can explore the island a bit. It’s even possible to do by bike which is always my first choice. KoHub can organize each of these for you. But check the vehicle and contract for the terms of what’s covered by the insurance. Make sure you’re comfortable with the worst case scenario before you come. Also make sure you have an international driving license.

An Ugly Side

It’s very unfortunate that trash is a real problem in Thailand, but even more so on the islands. I feel that trash collection is under organized. I experienced a collection myself. Half of the trash was left on the roadside because it was not in bags, but in buckets, boxed or so. The beach situation can be even worse. It wasn’t too bad compared to the roads and other nature paths (where you’d come across dumps of trash in the middle of the jungle). But on the beaches there are hardly any bins. So please take your trash home. Join the beach cleaning initiatives and grab some plastic off the beach when you go.

Beaches

There’re are five beaches I went to. All beaches are on the west side from what I can gather, so they’re prime for sunsets.

Khlong Dao

This is the most northern beach and used most by the locals. The few beach bars here were already off season. This means minimal staff, no service or only half the menu available. In the north part I met a lot of the locals, the southern part was almost empty.

Prae Ae – Long Beach

This was home beach for me. It’s five minutes from both KoHub and KoHub apartments. There are plenty of beach bars along the beach. But also lots of space to lie in the sand or go into the water without being bothered.

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Secret Beach

Tucked away down a dirt path this is the most isolated beach with a single hut serving drinks. Go around the corner and you’re actually on an even more isolated beach. On the bike about 15 min from KoHub.

Relax Bay

Another midsize beach where you can watch the fisher boats at sunset. My favorite beach bar here was Sea Culture. Try their pineapple rice on one of the bamboo beds.

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Beach at Lanta Wild Beach Resort

I still don’t know if this actually qualifies as a general beach. But it was the most beautiful small strip of sand that went on for ages. There’s not a lot of space to lie down. But there’s a lovely little “resort” (which can barely call itself that due to its size). Sit down and enjoy the view with a drink. If you’re lucky you’ll meet the house kittens. Also if you continue up from the resort you can do a small walk through the jungle. This spot is about 45 minutes on a bicycle from KoHub down the main road but definitely worth it.

Activities

Mangrove Forest

From KoHub you cycle south to the road that leads through the middle of the island. A couple of steeper parts but you don’t need to be very fit to get there. Turn left at the last junction and follow the signs. The mangrove forest is part of a green village project. Entry is about 40 Baht (1 EUR). Inside a path takes you through the swamp and through the mangrove forest. Two monkeys, some resting spots, long boats for rent and a sea food restaurant make this a nice little resting spot for your cycle trip. My suggestion is then to cycle around the north tip back. You’ll encounter a sad elephant on the side of the road. Please don’t ride or swim with elephants. They are treated very inhumanly. If you’re into elephants visit the sanctuary in North Thailand.

National Park

Right in the south of the island, this was the first spot I looked into visiting. It ended up being the only one I didn’t visit. Next time I guess. It’s most probably the Nr 1 attraction and a lot of of tours go there.

Biking

Just a quick note. Cycling in Koh Lanta is more or less safe. You can borrow a helmet at most bicycle rental places. A great cycling map with some of the routes I describe above can be found here: http://kantiang-bay.com/local-area/maps/lanta-biker-map. I’m just going to borrow the top half and annotate a few places:

Cost of Living

Thailand is generally very cheap, but keep in mind this is a tourist island and the beach bars adapt accordingly. But it’s still cheap compared to other places. Including the package from KoHub you can get by on about 1000 EUR for a full month. I got the feeling that the prices drop from north to south.

Summary

Koh Lanta is an island to relax. If you’re into ping it’s really great. But even if not I really enjoyed the mix of busy work weeks and beach life at the weekends to recharge. KoHub offers one of the best packages I’ve seen to date. It’s handsdown recommendation for a mid season digital nomad stay. Next up, Vietnam.

More images of Koh Lanta on Flickr.

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