I ventured from the Gulf of Thailand to the Andaman Sea to check out Krabi, a province in the southwest of the country. Most of the region is devoted to tourism so there has been an influx of visitors to their beaches and national parks in recent years.
Get out your geography books boys and girls! I’m constantly getting to brush up on my knowledge of land masses and this is no exception because Krabi is an archipelago. An archipelago, if you remember, is a group or chain of islands and the word is a mix of Latin and Greek translating to “chief sea”.
I used Ao Nang as my home base then headed out from there on day trips to explore beaches and other islands. Ao Nang is a great little beach town. The main beach of Ao Nang is full of long tail boats so you can hitch a ride and head to a neighboring beach or explore an island for the day. Most of the round trip rides are a steal at around 300 baht. The beach in Ao Nang feels more like a place to commute from and I didn’t end up spending much time there, I had too many other places I needed to see! I did get to know the town and there is plenty to do aside from sand and sea. The main road is full of shops, restaurants and bars so you have enough food and shopping options to keep you busy. There was a weekend market on the street where our hostel was located so we had a chance to do some souvenir shopping and street-food sampling most nights on our way home.
Best Thai Massage: Haven
We stumbled upon this little gem on one of our walks to and from our hostel to the beach. There are countless numbers of massage places up and down the road in every town in Thailand. Thai massage is plentiful and cheap here, you can get a massage just about anywhere including right on the beach as you sunbathe. The problem with these “quick and convenient” offers is it feels like I’m a little too out in the open and it’s hard to completely relax in that environment. Haven offers more of a spa-like experience with a competitive pricing as the other options.
The atmosphere is relaxing, clean and quiet, the staff is friendly and the massages are rejuvenating. After our hour of serenity we sat and enjoyed a cup of tea and I was so relaxed I didn’t want to leave!
Crêpes to die for: Smiling Dog Cafe
I pulled myself together post massage and left Haven, only to sink into a chair a few blocks up at this adorable little Cafe. We had crêpes for lunch and they were light and delicious. I love Thai food but I’m always looking for an alternative and sometimes a good “western” meal is hard to find. After today I’ve decided that crêpes and a massage should always go together.
Overpriced Deliciousness: Movenpick
This is over-the-top amazing ice cream, probably one of the best I’ve ever tasted. It is a Swiss company and they don’t have ice cream flavors, they have collections. You don’t go to the store, or shop for this ice cream, no, it is a boutique. I had the Caramelita and it was the best thing I’ve ever wasted my money on and I’d do it again in a heart beat, but since they don’t have any locations in the US I may have to hop an international flight to get it.
My little Oasis: Glur Hostel
Without a doubt one of the best hostels I’ve stayed in over the past year. I got here a day later than I had originally planned and I wished I could have stayed longer. It has an open air concept with a modern vibe. Hammocks in the corner, a turquoise tiled pool as the center point, it is easy to fall into carefree beach life here. I was in an eight person room but it felt like I had a space of my own in what I’ve dubbed as “pods”. You have your bed with your own storage area, mini closet to hang clothes, a shelf, a curtain for privacy and I almost fainted when I saw that I had my very own electical outlet all to myself, which sounds trivial but I just had come from a place that had one outlet for the whole room to share. It’s the little things. There’s a Sandwich Market next door for tasty breakfast and lunch options with one of the best “American” breakfasts I’ve had.
Thanks so much to the hospitable staff, I look forward to coming back soon!
Taking long-tail boat rides in this area is the only way to travel. The long-tail boat is that great iconic wooden boat found throughout Southeast Asia. It’s basically a canoe with a motor, making it a contradiction on water. You are sitting on a worn, wooden bench in what feels like the equivilant of an Asian viking ship, it’s bow raised high out of the water with fabrics draped around the front for good luck. The engine begins to sputter loudly in your ear quickly reminding you that you aren’t on a boat from hundreds of years ago.
The water splashes on your face as you bounce over the crystal blue waters. These beaches are broken up by massive rock formations, the lush green vegetation climbing up to the top as if to try and reach the sun. This area is world renown for rock climbing and it’s quickly apparent why. The towering limestone around the beaches and the jagged earth that juts up from the ocean makes you feel as if this area is ancient and in the caves and cliffs there are signs of inhabitants over 35,000 years ago.
Railay beach is only accessible by boat so get ready for a mini adventure. There is an East and West side, connected by a small pathway and although both are equally beautiful, we spent the day on the western side.
Phra Nang (or Phranang) is another picturesque beach in Krabi not far from Railay. This beach is great for rock climbers, there is a section on the far side where you can scale the limestone while over looking the water and also great for swimmers, there is a cove area on the same side of the beach that is shaded most of the day providing some cool relief from the warm sun.
The highlight of this beach are the Phranang caves, or Princess caves. The legend is that fisherman believed there was a princess in this cave and they would leave offerings here in return for good luck on their journeys. Not only would the offerings be to keep out of harm’s way, but also for a fertility blessing so there are several phallic objects in the shrine. The caves are covered with stalactites and stalagmites and from inside the cave there is a stunning view of the beach and the sea from the cove.
There are many long-tail boats coming in and out dropping off visitors as well as some boats that are stationary that sell food and drinks. The side of the beach where the caves are in the late morning has several speed boats full of tourists coming in and out so if you are looking for a quiet place to soak up the sun I’d suggest coming here later in the afternoon when the crowds have dissipated.
It’s also a great time of the day to see the monkeys come out and do their trash picking!
There are several tour operators that are in Ao Nang that offer “Island Tours” which are a full day tour to places like Chicken Island (who wouldn’t want to go to chicken island), Bamboo Island and the famous Phi Phi islands. For many people it’s worth it to see the smaller islands but the problem is you are going during the time of day when all the other tours are out so it can be pretty crowded. You also spend a lot of time on the boat and then have short periods in between to get off and see the islands. I decided to forgo the tour and pick one beach each day to get a better feel and a more relaxing day but it meant I missed going to Ko Phi Phi which will be on the top of my list next time I come back.