Head to the east coast of Koh Lanta where you can see the original Thai way of life – almost as if tourism didn’t exist. You can get there by driving south from Ban Saladan, or by taking one of the two roads that cut across Koh Lanta from west to east (Phra Ae and Klong Nin areas).

At the northern end of the east coast road you’ll see rubber and palm tree plantations on both sides. Both are big industries in Koh Lanta and the south of Thailand – dotted along the roadside you’ll see local houses where the rubber is processed.  From liquid form (sap collected from the trees) the rubber is dried and pressed into doormat-shaped objects which you can see hanging outside. These are then transported and sold on the mainland

The mangrove forest  – a huge protected natural ecosystem – can be found at Tung Yi Peng village, Koh Lanta. You can see this by kayak or longtail boat. There are also a couple of fishing lakes and numerous shrimp farms by the road. The east coast is interspersed with tiny villages, each with a shop or two where you can buy drinks and gasoline. This is a place to see the scenery and local life rather than top up your tan as the waterfront on this side is either mangrove or rocky and muddy.

Further down the road you can turn left to Koh Lanta’s heritage Old Town or continue on and at the very end of the coast road you will find Sand Ga U village, which is home to some of Koh Lanta’s population of Chao Ley (see Sea Gypsies). Just park at the top and walk down into the village. Its a simple fishing village with private homes, so please respect their privacy as much as possible

The widest choice of accommodation on Koh Lanta’s east coast is in Old Town but there are a few guesthouses and homestays along the road. Most are pretty basic and dont have websites so its better to go and have a look yourself.

Apart from a few shops selling snacks and drinks along the road, you may find some vendors selling BBQ chicken, sausages, fruit etc. For more restaurants head to Old Town or further south near the end of the road there are some cliffside restaurants with excellent views over the water