06.09.2012 - 09.09.2012
The first thing that struck me (and lots of people whom I related the trip details to!) is how similar the word "KRABI" sounds to "CRAB", making one wonder if it's actually the creature that gave this name to the province ;-D. In fact, that is quite far from reality! Krabi means 'sword' in Thai and legend has it that an ancient sword was unearthed here giving the region its name.
Crystal clear waters, gorgeous pristine beaches and hundreds of sprawling resorts & spas; that just about describes the beautiful islands of Krabi. Tucked away in the Andaman Sea in Southern Thailand, the Krabi province is made up of over 150 small & large islands but proper accommodation for tourists is found only in a handful of these. One of them is Ao Nang, a convenient & popular base to explore all that Krabi has to offer and this was to be the destination for our 1st wedding anniversary!
We reached the Krabi International Airport after an approx 1 1/2 hr flight from Singapore and were picked up by the hotel van. Our resort, Ao Nang Nagapura was located in the Ao Nang beach area, a 40 min drive from the airport. Most of the resorts provide airport drop and pick up at an extra charge (which is quite higher compared to normal taxi charges, something we realised after reaching the resort!). Since this was our first visit and we wanted to avoid any hassles, we decided to pre-book the airport pick-up through the resort itself.
Krabi Town is located in between the airport and Aonang beach and is cheaper in terms of accommodation, but Aonang is where all the action is!
The first thing that strikes you when you enter the Aonang area is that the main occupation for the townspeople is most definitely hotels & spas. The number of resorts in that small stretch of road is staggering and there is little else other than these!
May-November is generally the off peak season as there are intermittent rain showers. Luckily for us, we weren't affected much and our tours went as planned. The only drawback in this season is that since there are lesser number of tourists, many of the resorts undertake renovation activities and unfortunately the spa in our resort was also closed for renovation. But this was hardly a setback, as we quickly discovered that there are several other options! And our disappointment was more than made up for when we saw our extra large pool facing room :-D
There are numerous tour & travel agencies on the main Aonang street and the best way to get good deals is to ask around a few of these agencies and bargain a little. Most of them offer excellent rates during off-peak season and further discounts if you book multiple tours with them. Don't forget to ask them if insurance is covered in the price and anything else that you may have in mind before booking the tour. Most of the agents are quite friendly and patient. We even picked up two of the most important phrases in Thai from them, 'Sawadee ka' (hello) and 'Khapun khap' (Thank you). Needless to say, we used them liberally during the next few days! :-)
Our first evening was spent thus in walking along the main market of Aonang, enquiring about the tours and getting a general feel of Krabi. Some of the inner lanes have a very vibrant nightlife with different themed bars and live music at restaurants.
We also discovered that the dining options for vegetarians like us are aplenty in Krabi! This was a very pleasant surprise! Do try the Blue Mango restaurant for some yummy Thai delicacies & Royal Tandoor (the self-proclaimed best Indian food in Krabi) for their mouth-watering raita!!
The next morning, we were picked up from the hotel for the Four Island Tour. Our speed boat first took us to Phra Nang Island, a gorgeous, isolated stretch of fine sand with emerald green waters.
The Phra Nang cave here is an interesting visit, local fisherman and boatmen leave offerings in this cave to ensure safe travel on the sea. These offerings are in the form of 'lingams' and hence, the cave has become associated with fertility. Legend has it, that Phra Nang was an Indian princess who was killed in a shipwreck. Another version says that Phra Nang was the wife of a fisherman who was lost at sea. She lived out the rest of her days in the cave, awaiting her husband's return.
This island is also extremely well known for its rock climbing. We witnessed a few tourists climbing up the sheer cliff face, definitely a haven for adventure enthusiasts!!
Next stop was a group of 3 islands, Tup Island, Moore Island and Chicken Island. The best time to visit these islands is during low tide. A thin strip of land opens up during this time, making it possible to walk between the 3 islands. As the area above water is quite small, it was quite crowded and the islands themselves have nothing much to offer. The Chicken Island, named so because it is shaped like a chicken, is the largest island of the three. A little way out into the sea from the Tup island, we were taken snorkeling. This was the real fun part of the tour! We saw large schools of fish, some corals and some individual exotic fish. Even if you do know to swim, its advisable to wear a life jacket while snorkeling, as they drop you into mid sea and there is no guide to accompany you. The last time I went snorkeling was in Bohol, Philippines but that was with a local who accompanied me in the waters & this was my first time doing it alone. To say the least, it was an amazing experience!
Next up and last in the tour was Poda Island. This island is the only one with restroom facilities and lots of trees for shade. Ideal for a picnic; so we spread our mats, opened our pre-packed lunch boxes and spent a relaxed hour under a tree! So blissful!!!
Around 5 pm we were back to the main island and free to explore on our own. We spotted a local cafe & decided to head there for an evening snack and drink. This cafe happened to be Black Canyon Coffee, a local coffee chain in Thailand, which I later discovered has branches even in Singapore! The cappuccino and cranberry coffee frappe were great!
Around sunset, we made our way to the Aonang beach - narrow, spotless and uncrowded. It was a beautiful experience to watch the sky turn into different shades of deepening blue until it became black altogether. Do take a walk along the bustling Seafood Street right along the beach, you will be spoilt for dining choices!
The next day, we embarked on a small adventure, kayaking through limestone caves! Kayaking is a great way to explore the dramatic scenery of Krabi and it's eco-friendly too! Along with two local guides and a Chinese couple, we started our journey at the Bor Thor village. Paddling almost noiselessly through the narrow stream with magnificent mangroves on both sides can be quite an exhilarating experience! We soon reached the limestone caves, cool and dark with towering stalactites and stalagmites. The limestone formations were shining like crystals all around us and the water was quietly dripping from the stalactites (with an occasional plop on our heads!) It was truly a magical world!
Next, we headed to a small hidden lagoon, so shallow that our kayaks were literally brushing the muddy waters.
About 10 minutes from the lagoon was the "Tham Pee Hua Toe" (Big-Headed Ghost Cave). Apparently, long ago, a skull larger than ordinary was discovered here, hence the name. The cave has two large chambers with prehistoric paintings believed to be almost 3000 years old. The mural paintings in different colours have been divided into three categories: human beings & animals, non-human beings and those shaped like hand and foot.
The return journey was through a gorgeous wide canal flanked by mangroves, under the hot sun (that made us bump into the trees in search of shade!!!), as we headed back to the riverside restaurant where we had started our journey. An unexpectedly delicious vegetarian fried rice was waiting for us there and after this simple yet satisfying meal we were back to our resort.
That evening, we decided to head to Sheraton for our anniversary dinner. It's pretty easy to get air-conditioned taxis from the main street. (Bargain with the driver, it works! :-p)
The luxurious Krabi Sheraton resort is situated about 25 mins away from AoNang and it would take almost an entire evening to just look around the humongous property! Planning a visit around sunset time would be ideal, as the view of the setting sun from the private beach is stunning!
Last but not least, I must talk about the dinner at Gecko's, Sheraton's Italian restaurant. With an open, gazebo style architecture, cozy candles lighting up the tables and lush greenery all around, it's the perfect place for a romantic dinner!! Crunchy thin crust pizza, an exquisite ratatouille and a delectable cassata; in short, the food was splendid! :-D
The final day at Krabi was one of leisure. We spent the morning at the AoNang Villa Spa, one of the oldest and apparently one of the best spas in Krabi. The traditional Thai massage was both relaxing and rejuvenating. As I mentioned earlier, there are numerous spas to choose from; walk around and find one that best suits your budget.
Feeling refreshed, we decided to rent a motorbike for the rest of the day! This was definitely one of the high points of the trip! Rentals are cheap and easily available all around the area.
We had a gala time driving around, venturing into places that we had missed in the past couple of days. One of these was Coffee Kiatsch, a chic cafe with plush sofas and spacious interiors, ideal for spending a lazy hour or two! A little more of driving around and it was time for dinner at Bombay Palace. Located on the road leading to Krabi town, this place serves authentic Indian food and is a must try! Everything that we ordered was absolutely fantastic!!
Too very soon, the partly adventurous - partly relaxing trip came to an end & it was time to go back home. Hoping that we can come back and visit Phi Phi next time!
Till my next trip ... Adios! :-D