History - Ko Lanta - Krabi - Thailand.

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Lanta History

The word “Lanta” and what it means

How did the island of Ko Lanta get its' name? What does the word "Lanta" actually mean? While the origin itself has still yet to be proved conclusively, there are a number of interesting proposals. The first is based upon the Javanese word used to describe a sieve used for drying fish, “Lantus”. This is a food-saving process still used during the monsoon season by the New Thai (Sea Gypsies) on Lanta today.

Another reliable source claims that the original word, "Pulau Lun-Tuck" or "Pulau Sa-Tuck" stems from the Malaysian language, meaning “the island with a long mountain range”. Examination of ancient documents by historians have prompted further claims, this time of sea maps from Arabia showing the island was first known as “Janub Lanta”, meaning Southern Lanta. And other sources yet indicate that the word "Laan-Ta" was the original name of the island. This last comes from a Thai word meaning “to get blurry eyes”, due to the dust generated from shells on the many long beaches.

The island's name was officially declared to be “Lanta” about one hundred years ago, during the reign of King Rama the Fifth. It was at this time also, that the first Chief Officer to govern the Ko Lanta district was elected. The first governor's office, built in classic Thai-style, is a two-storey wooden house still standing in Old Town today.

Lanta Old Town
Rong Ngang-Traditional Dancing Ko Lanta

Malay Peninsular Trade Route

Ko Lanta's history stems from traders who came by boat from China , and from the Arab continent, originally using the island as a stopover point. In fact, Ko Lanta's Old Town on the East coast of the island is still home to some of the first traditional Chinese long houses built here. Before the First World War, Saladan at the northernmost point of the island was the checkpoint for all tax-paying boats en route to the Malay peninsular.


Traditional Music and Dance – Rong Ngan

Having originally been the trade centre for this area, it's not surprising that Ko Lanta's first settlers absorbed a mixture of various cultural traditions, resulting in the melting pot of today. One product of this is the performance of original Rong Ngeng dance and music. The folk dance incorporates movements from old-fashioned western dances, while the music is played on the violins, Arabian drums and Chinese gongs. It also includes the use of Ramana ( Raman Drums) and Malaysian lyrics.

Rong-Ngeng is customarily perfor med by the Sea Gypsies during special festivals, including the aforementioned “Loy Rua” (Floating Boat). A full-length performance is included annually at the Laanta-Lanta Festival. Due to its popularity with tourists, many resorts are also hire troupes to perform Rong-Ngeng for special occasions.

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