I know, intellectually, that sunset and sunrise occur every day. I have lived, sometimes, in places where either or both were obscured regularly by weather (yes, Seattle, this means you). And, honestly, I have seen many many more sunsets than sunrises. But, there is something magical about being in a place where one or the other is a daily "happening" which causes people to gather, fall silent, and just witness the wonder of nature.
Kho Lanta is such a place. As one of the Trang islands, but not one of the more popular ones, Kho Lanta has a laid back rhythm that is exactly what we needed at this point in our travels. Since we arrived at the cusp of low and high season, we were able to witness the place as only locals see it. With few other tourists there, we easily fell into the pace of the off-season, and felt the wonder that those who have chosen to make this place their home get to latch into every day.
As I reviewed my photos from our twice-extended stay there, I realized that about half of my photos were of the incredible sunsets. We were lucky to be able to book into one of the few resorts on the beach that was fully operational at the end of low season. We took advantage of this good fortune throughout our stay there, making sunset a priority on most days, and seeking our places which maximized our ability to relax, witness and appreciate what nature hath wrought.
Our standard go-to sunset place was the reggae bar which we first stopped at minutes after arriving on Kho Lanta after a day's travel from Siem Reap. This place had a magical array of cocktails, an almost aggressively laid-back vibe, and the ever-so-appropriate dread-locked bartender who punctuated my first drink order by changing the next song to the eponymous "Tequila Sunrise". For all of us, the feature that drew us back to this place was the abundance of friendly dogs, who lowered our blood pressure and helped us to chill enough to just enjoy the sunset.
Of course, there were cocktails, not the least of which was the appropriately named Lanta Sunset. Even though others (including the Mojito, Mochito, and Lanta Sunrise) were actually better, I ordered this one multiple times because, well, branding.
The reggae bar was very close to our hotel (the awesome Lauguna Beach Club Resort), on Long Beach, which has an incredible expanse of sand curving all around the northwestern bay of Kho Lanta. We enjoyed sunset from there on perhaps three different nights.
To the north of our resort was the fabulous Coco Cape Resort, featuring the Rockaway Bar, one of the coolest tropical bars I have ever seen. Though we were usually one of two or perhaps three parties there at sunset during this seasonal lull, I got the sense that this was a magical place, which, given a little more human energy, could be one of the all time best places to hang at sunset in the world.
Laura and I were so impressed that we brought Naomi and Keegan to this place two nights later, and they were as awestruck as we were.
Focusing on the actual sunsets, I have to admit that there is some gamey-ness to watching sunsets. You never really know whether a sunset that looks good to begin with willl blossom into an epic progression of yellows, reds, blues and purples, or quickly descend into blah. For a truly great sunset, you need clouds. As I am writing this, we are in Bali Indonesia, and the sunsets are largely clear and, frankly, boring. Kho Lanta produced spectacular bloom after spectacular bloom. I know that there is no way to convey a sunset - it is dynamic, slow, and immense.
Such things can't be captured, but only raptured about. But I can say that a great sunset gets better and better. It isn't just one sunset that makes a great sunset, but a sequence of settings where the light hits different parts of the cloud system that makes for a sunset symphony - a series of movements. Many times, especially in Kho Lanta, I have started to think that we have seen the best part of the sunset, and that all that remains is pathos and credits, when nature will shock me by revealing new horizons high in the clouds. The "sunset" is the first of many events which create a light show unrivaled by the best fireworks artisans of any country on New Year's Eve.
Basically, nature rocks, for about an hour, every day, in magical parts of the world. We are so lucky to be able to notice, appreciate and share this.