On the small island of Lanta, off the west coast of Thailand, there’s Kohub: an increasingly well-known coworking space which suggests you trade your office for tropical coworking, and a magnet for digital nomads in South East Asia. How could I not try it?
[The above image is released under Creative Commons, credit to Thai National Parks, via Wikimedia]
The Important Info
- TL;DR: Go there for at least a month, it’s a fantastic place and excellent value.
- Location: Long Beach, Koh Lanta, Thailand
- Type of venue: 24×7 coworking space, small cafe attached; apartment package available
- Length of stay: ~6 weeks (24 Jan – 13th Mar, 2016)
- Website: http://kohub.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kohuborg/
- Twitter: @kohuborg
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/kohuborg
The Coworking Space
On the road near Pra Ae park and a two minute walk from the beach, the bamboo fence of Kohub is low key and relatively unmarked. You could easily think it’s a private residence if it weren’t for the line of parked scooters out front! Through the gate you’ll find a welcoming and relaxed space – open areas and natural light, a timber building and gardens, places to sit and make yourself comfortable. It has everything you need to be able to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: plenty of desks, chairs and day-beds to choose from, international power outlets everywhere, solid wifi and power, running water, small kitchen with aeropress coffee and tea, free drinking water, and of course washrooms. The front desk is hosted from around 8am to 6pm
As far as internet connection goes, Kohub has 2 zippy connections via different ISPs for increased reliability, and while there was an obvious speed difference between quiet days and a full house, the speed was always definitely workable. In addition, much of the island has good 4G coverage if needed.
During the day from (~8am-5.30pm) a cafe serving clean and tasty food is open. They make amazing smoothies and shakes, and serve fresh coconuts as well as delicious local Thai meals, fruit salad, and even some western foods blueberry pancakes. There’s a small fridge in the foyer with some water, juices, iced coffee and beer for purchase too.
There are all kinds of zones at Kohub so you can find your favourite place:
- the back deck (my favourite), a large covered open area full of desks and chairs. There’s a mix of table and chair types so you’ll surely find something that works for you. For hotter days there are fans all around to keep the air moving and cool. There are also mosquito coils and repellant for keeping away the bugs!
- the “standing zone” a convenient stretch of bench outside, facing the garden, perfect standing desk height
- an area near the cafe / juice bar for eating and hanging out, with large bench tables and a few sheltered huts.
- a few air conditioned rooms for individual work. These are usually considered fairly quiet zones)
- the “skype booths”: two are salas – open, raised huts outside in the garden, and one is a small indoors booth for private calls.
- cushioned day beds in places like the living room and on various decks
- hammocks. In the garden. Yes.
There’s also a large, air conditioned desk-oriented room which is bookable for larger groups. When not in use by teams it’s generally able to be used by whoever. Note that unless your group has booked one of these rooms, you will be hot-desking. You will not be allocated a desk for exclusive use. In the two months I spent at Lanta during the busiest season, I worked almost every day. There was only one day where I couldn’t find a desk on the back deck, and had to content myself with either an air-conditioned seat or cross-legged on a comfy day-bed for a few hours (oh the humanity).
There are some things available for shared use: a small library of donated books from other Kohubbers, some monitors and keyboards, adjustable laptop shelves, various cables, a printer, games like Cards Against Humanity, and some sporting equipment like soccer balls and bits.
The park nearby has soccer and basketball areas, and marked running trails. Being so close to the beach, stretching your legs and jumping in the ocean is a perfect way to break up your work day and stay refreshed for the next shift. You can even shower at Kohub when you come back. If you’re working late and need a short break for food, it’s practically next door to the local pub and a few decent and affordable Thai-food restaurants.
For a travellers’ coworking space, it’s surprisingly focused and productive. People generally don’t disturb others, there’s not much loud tomfoolery, no music playing etc, and while it’s not stressed or tense, everyone seems to want to make the most of their “work time” so they can get it done and get back to their “island time”. The community and staff are friendly, welcoming, interested and all round pleasant.
One thing that makes Kohub special is that community and the vibe, and the owner James is genuinely excited about cultivating a vibrant community here. As a digital nomad destination, most people are interested in enjoying their time on the island, making friends and being productive – what a great combination! Kohubbers are encouraged to get involved and get to know others – either taking part in events or helping to run them.
If you take a package with Kohub, you’ll be staying at their apartments. I think you need to stay at least a month use a package deal. The apartments are about a 15-20 minute walk north of Kohub coworking space. While there’s no reception desk there, the building is secured with pin-code locks, and has security cameras in the halls. Each room is key-lockable and some are also able to be padlocked if desired.
All Kohub apartment accommodation has:
- bed, of course – twin singles or a queen
- air conditioning
- desk, wardrobe, bedside table and lamp
- small fridge
- private bathroom: shower, toilet, basin, mirror. This is a Thai-style bathroom, so there’s no shower curtain or shower screen. The toilet is a flushing one, but like many loos around the world and all of them on Lanta, you don’t flush toilet paper (you bin it). If you’ve not travelled much before Lanta, brace yourself.
- linen: sheets, pillows, towels
- cleaning service: linen replaced weekly, apartment cleaned
- wifi access – and yes, it’s fast and stable enough to enjoy quiet Netflix nights at home, no problem.
The bottom floor has a few suites – a furnished living room with a few bedrooms attached, which could be good value for teams.
One of the great things about the apartments is that they’re full of other Kohubbers, so it’s easy to meet up, or bump into others and hang out on the rooftop. It was, in my experience, also super quiet. People didn’t really party in their rooms – they instead went to a bar, and why not? Bars are super cheap and there are plenty nearby. Every now and then a few people had a small party on the rooftop of the apartments. The walls of the rooms are pretty solid, and I never heard a peep from my neighbours despite almost all rooms being full.
The place was simple and clean, had everything I needed and was a quick and easy walk to groceries, laundry, beach and Kohub. I was lucky enough to be in a room at the back of the complex (away from the road), with a small balcony and a cute view. There are some photos at the bottom of this post.
Value for Money
I was on a Kohub package, which included 24×7 access to Kohub for working, with two “menu items” a day from the Kohub cafe – I tended to use these for most breakfast and lunch meals, and paid for things like fresh coconuts. The package also included private, air conditioned accommodation with queen bed, linen, weekly cleaning and ensuite bathroom. I paid ~32,000THB per month (currently about AUD$1200, USD$980). That’s the peak season price. Green season prices are lower (around 27,000THB per month).
If you didn’t want a scooter and weren’t much of a party person, there’d be very little in the way of other expenses and they’d be cheap in any case. Maybe a social evening meal nearby most nights, additional drinking water, an occasional tuk tuk ride, laundry once a week (~50THB), consumable toiletries from time to time.
A Kohub package may not be quite as cheap as some places in Thailand, but for relaxed small-island beach life with, a 24×7 tropical office, daily meals and a room, the help of the Kohub Team, the excellent community and events, and the convenience of having it all organised for me… even with peak season prices, the Kohub package was well worth it.
A++, would Kohub again.
If you’re on a super-tight budget, you might be able to find cheaper accommodation on Lanta, moreso if you’re sharing with a few others and/or are staying long term. You might even be able to group together to get a good deal on a kick-ass villa. It’s probably easier to find that once you’re on the island though – there are a lot of options and many of them aren’t online. If you can deal with the unknown of not having booked your accommodation in advance, and you have your haggling hat on, you could find a sweet deal.
The Island and the Area
Koh Lanta is a interesting island for a bunch of reasons. First, it seems to be home to a majority Muslim population, as well as Thai Buddhists and local sea gypsies, all of whom are quite welcoming and peaceful together. Almost every village has its own active mosque, and the calls to prayer can be heard via loudspeakers at various times through the day – not loud enough to disrupt sleep. It’s also not uncommon to meet women wearing hijab and even niqab, which I didn’t expect in Buddhist Thailand.
It also turns out that Lanta is somewhat of a destination for Swedish tourists and expats. So much so that there seems to be a singularity of sunburnt blonde Scandinavians on the island, and after Thai I think I heard Swedish spoken more than English. There are Swedish-run resorts, cafés and high-end fine restaurants. There’s even a Swedish school!
Koh Lanta is an easy ferry ride from Phuket Town (international airport there), Phi Phi Island, or Krabi (international airport there too), though Krabi may be the only ferry still running in the wet seasons. Which brings me to another point…
I was on Lanta during the high season. Every day had a maximum temperature of between ~28-38ºC, and a night time low in the mid twenties. In the six weeks I was there, I think there was rain only three or four times, and one of those times was only a few hours. But there is definitely a wet season here, and while I heard that more and more of the island is working business-as-usual, there will be a slowing down during the off season. Some things will be closed, and it might be difficult to know how much.
Kohub, however, is open all year round and offers low season pricing. I heard some other regular Kohubbers talk about how they enjoyed those quieter times when the rains came and the island vibe was different. I’m curious about what it’s like.
Amenities and Island Life
Going to a small south-east asian island can be daunting. What if Kohub is isolated or you’re without the bare necessities? Don’t worry! You’ll be just fine.
You’ll arrive on the island by ferry at the bustling Saladan township, and Kohub at Long Beach is an easy 15 minute ride/drive – there are plenty of taxis and tuktuks to get you there. Amenities on the island are mostly on the main road, and much of the entertainment is beachside.
In Long Beach, nearby to both Kohub and Kohub apartments you’ll find plenty of places to eat, have a beer, wash clothing, and shop for groceries. You’ll have no trouble finding everything you need in terms of hygiene products, batteries, drinking water, alcohol, and food, providing your requirements are not too specific. Finding an abundance of vegan organic shampoo (or cheese!) could prove difficult, as could replacement parts for your computer or a Macbook power supply. But daily living? Good food and coffee? Junk food? No problem.
If you’re organising your own accommodation it would be worth knowing if you’re within an easy walk or scoot commute from Kohub and other places. Also, it seems most lodgings aren’t equipped with a kitchen, so if cooking is your thing you might want to do some research and be prepared to pay a little more.
If there’s something you really need that you can’t find on the island, the odds are that someone coming to Kohub can get it for you, or you can ferry to nearby Krabi for a day to try and find it.
While I was there, there were two or three planned power outages, one was a full day, the others only a few hours. I think they were upgrading the island’s power connection and that involved some disruptions. We were notified well beforehand so we had plenty of time to plan for it, and communicate it to bosses and clients at home. Kohub has a generator to keep its wifi up so we were able to continue working, but those working in the enclosed rooms were without air conditioning. Some cafés and hotels have generators too, to run coffee machines and air con and bits, and for some of the interruptions, 4G signal was working just fine too. However most of the island’s water supply requires pumps to be running on premises, so a power interruption often means a running water interruption too (no showers or flushing toilets). Luckily, this seems to be quite rare.
Events, Things to Do
In terms of Kohub stuff, there are almost always informal after-work beach hangouts organised by Kohub or just organically tumbling out of the community. Lanta sunsets are beautiful, and swimming and chatting with new friends after a productive work session is a great way to wind down.
These are the kinds of events that seem to happen regularly in the Kohub community:
- regular “communal lunch” at Kohub, organised by Kohub
- Thai lessons, at Kohub
- trivia and games nights, coordinated by Kohub but hosted by Kohubbers
- sport after work – soccer and volley ball are common, either at the beach or at the international school near Kohub. I think badminton and sometimes tennis too.
- rooftop nights, on the Kohub Apartment rooftop – usually organic BYO nights of chatting and playing games, sometimes poker. There are Cards Against Humanity sets, Poker sets, and other games at Kohub.
- knowledge-sharing sessions, by Kohubbers. These were very interesting and ranged from “how our startup grew so big in 8 months” Q&A to “using comics to communicate ideas”.
- networking events
- big dinner groups and party nights at bars
- snorkelling trips, scooter day-trip exploration adventures, hikes, etc
Depending on the season, there can be plenty of things to do around the island too. Boat trips to nearby islands, diving and diving certification, snorkelling expeditions, paintballing, petanque, kayaking, trivia and games nights at various pubs, beach bonfires, “party night” at various bars, picnics, shopping trips, and plenty of coffee and food to taste. Massages are wonderfully cheap and everywhere, and there are so many different types of massage and day spa treatments that it’d be hard to exhaust them all. The southern tip of the island has a large national park with walking trails and monkeys (!), and the even quieter island to the north is now connected by bridge and much easier to explore.
For fitness, there are yoga classes, volleyball nets set up in several places on the beach, soccer fields, basketball courts, tennis courts. There are also running paths in some parks too, though Long Beach is a great beach for morning runs. There are several gyms where you can take Muy Thai classes, or if that’s a bit much you can always watch an amateur Muy Thai match with enthusiastic local spectators. Super fun!
In more productive pursuits, there’s weekly Trash Hero, volunteering to walk a dog from the nearby animal shelter, Thai cooking classes, and participating in cultural events. You can volunteer at the local international school to help give local kids English practice, or just to join in the regular games of soccer and badminton there. If you’re on the island for a longer period of time, there are plenty of ways you can get involved in the broader community.
I’d not call Lanta a party island (Koh Phangan comes to mind, with its full moon parties). But if you do want a party on Lanta, there is one to be had every night of the week. The bars have arranged it all so they each “own” a night, meaning that you can always tell where the big party will be – you can then choose to join it or avoid it. There are also the usual full moon parties (nothing on the scale of other islands of course) and live music from local and visiting bands and DJs.
Food and Eating
Aside from Kohub’s tasty and convenient on-site kitchen, there are plenty of eating options across a range of cuisines, ranging from ridiculously cheap to fine dining. Scattered across the island you can find things like: traditional Thai restaurants and cafés, German bakery, Swedish cafes, French fine dining, modern western fine dining, pizza and pasta places, noodle bars, gelato bars, burger joints, BBQ ribs places, clean and fresh vegetarian food, and even full western breakfast cafés serving only organic meals made on site. There are also very special experiences like The Table, where one chef creates a delicious set of improvised Thai food for just one table of guests.
With a little hunting you can find decent barista-made lattes and iced coffee, and even a Sunday roast.
Some restaurants and cafes might close for the low season, so keep that in mind.
I spent the first month without a scooter, and settled in just fine by walking from apartments to Kohub and tuktuk to most places. By the end of the month I wanted to explore more of the island independently, and hired a scooter. I think it was a great decision not to rush into it, and to get a feel for things before I got on the road.
There are tuktuks almost everywhere, though some more remote parts of the island may be difficult to get back home if you’re there late at night. Kohub’s team can help you hire a scooter at a competitive price from a reputable rental company if you don’t want to organise that yourself. You’ll usually be asked to leave photo ID for security – your passport is a common request. I happened to have an expired Drivers’ Licence with me, so I used that.
Please be careful on your scooter. Lanta’s roads aren’t as full or chaotic as some other parts of South East Asia, but the mix of relaxed locals and inexperienced or risk-loving tourists can be lethal. People die regularly due to traffic accidents, and I’ve witnessed accidents and injuries several times in my few months there. Do not assume other riders or cars will honour the road rules you know.
While I was there, Lanta seemed free of the usual “police road block to get bribes from foreigners” shenanigans common to other parts of the world. I don’t think I ever saw traffic police, actually.
You can’t drink the tap water on Lanta, and should drink bottled water only. It’s available everywhere, and is very cheap. If you have a Trash Hero drink bottle, there are also free water refill points at cafes around the island. You should know that almost all brands of bottled water are “dead” – completely devoid of nutritional value. Consider regularly adding readily-available powdered electrolytes to some of your water, or getting into the habit of drinking fresh coconuts (delicious and healthy!).
There are two strains of dengue on the island, and yes people do get it. Some years the season is worse than others – while I was in town, I think around 8 Kohubbers were confirmed cases. It can be quite mild, and even with severe cases is rarely lethal if you have access to medical care which is readily available. Dengue is carried by the dusk / evening mosquito, and you can catch it by getting bitten. A vaccine is in its early days so all we can do for now is avoid bites by not being outdoors at dusk and/or covering up and wearing DEET insect repellant. Even the locals apply insect repellant twice a day (morning and evening).
The good news is that there are several excellent, cheap clinics on the island who can check for dengue markers pretty much while you wait. They’re equipped to monitor and support mild cases while you stay at home, or help get you to Krabi if you need to go to hospital. One of the best clinics on the island is practically next door to Kohub, which is convenient. If you take precautions and pay attention to your body, you can catch it early and hopefully avoid more serious complications.
There are also plenty of well-equipped pharmacies on the island, including one a 10 minute walk south of Kohub.
At the time I visited the island, the CDC had not listed Lanta as requiring malaria prophylaxis, but malaria regions can change. As always, check with a travel doctor before you head to a new part of the world, and review your vaccinations, medications, and travel insurance.
That’s all great, but can I get work done here?
I got so. Much. Work. Done. Much more than I expected. If you want to party it’s there, if you want to socialise-and-network, you can, and if you want to zen-and-work, there’s space and support for that. Kohub and Lanta provide you with the freedom to explore the balance of those elements, and find other people who are on a similar rhythm. I think this is why it worked so well for me, and for others. While the island itself is nice and you might be able to work from the one or two cafés with wifi, Kohub has a much better and more stable setup for work, and is where it’s happening. It has that community.
Should you go? Yes. Do it. Book it now.
It’s at some magical intersection of beautiful island life and a space for productivity and energy. You’ll make great friends, great memories, and do great work. You’ll love it.
Here are a few pics from my trip.