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Home to the main ferry pier at Ko Lanta's northern point, the once sleepy fishing village of Baan Saladan is now officially a full-scale tourist centre. Though the old stilted wood houses remain, they're now occupied by traveller-oriented cafes and cheap guesthouses that overlook high-speed ferries rather than fishing junks.
Yet it would be a mistake to wave goodybe to Saladan immediately after arriving, and return only when it's time to leave. The village offers some of the best and cheapest eating options on Lanta, with a few of the islander-owned seafood restaurants attracting just as many locals as travellers. There's even a little-known white-sand beach to the west of town.
A side road from the centre of Saladan takes you to neighbouring Ao Kaw Kwang, a small cape that stretches seaward between Khlong Dao beach and a thinner, north-facing beach. Unless you're looking for a lavish experience at Crown Lanta Resort, Kaw Kwang's accommodation is rather forgettable. Still, the area makes for a scenic detour by bicycle or motorbike.
In the centre of Baan Saladan, a lively traveller-oriented night market is a fun place to munch on kebabs and roti sold by the locals.
In addition to countless travel offices, internet shops, tailors and full-scale bank branches with ATMs and currency exchange, the area hosts several open-air shopping plazas with no shortage of swimsuits, key chains and trinkets for sale. Go on and be a tourist!
Just west of the ferry pier and a five-minute stroll from the night market, a string of low-key guesthouses sell beds for as low as 250 baht per night, often with waterside chill spaces where backpackers gather to sip cheap beer and play guitars after dark. If you're on a tight budget, it makes good financial sense to stay here and rent a motorbike to explore different parts of the island each day.
By David Luekens.