The last 2 days of our trip to Thailand, which incidentally fell on a weekend, we spent in the small beach town of Krabi. Krabi is the lesser known neighbour of Phuket and hence this place attracts a smaller crowd when compared to its superstar sibling. But if one has pristine beaches in mind rather than active night-life and so forth, then Krabi region offers you some of the most breathtaking beaches in the world.
We boarded a late evening Air Asia flight from Don Muang Airport, (i.e. the older airport of Bangkok) with the journey lasting an hour. Once here one has an option of taking either a shuttle bus or a private taxi. The shuttle bus costs 150 Baht/person (from Airport to Ao Nang beach. 90 Baht from airport to Krabi town) and one interesting thing about this bus is that they drop right in front of your hotel. So pretty much this is a much economic solution for a smaller group when compared to taking a taxi which costs 600 Baht flat. Another important thing is that all the activity available in Krabi is centred around Ao Nang beach from where one can take boats to the various islands and beaches, hence its recommended to stay in the vicinity of Ao Nang beach rather in the Krabi town.
We were dropped by the shuttle bus right in front of our President Hotel in Ao Nang beach. This 2 star family run hotel was decent enough for our tastes ( but no lifts though, so one has to haul the luggage themselves over the stairs :P). We had close to 2 days to explore. The first must-do-item for every tourist in Krabi is to go island hopping. There are 3 packages with increasing distance and hence increasing price, which being the 4-island tour, Hong Island tour and Phi-Phi island tour in that particular order. Since we hadnt booked any of these tours in advance, we were in for a rude shock when most of the packages offered by the various tour operators were completely full. Finally we had to settle for a much pricey Phi Phi island tour in a speed boat which costed us 1600 Baht/person, organized by Barracuda tours (http://www.barracudastourkrabi.com/). Therefore if visiting in peak season do remember to book the package in advance. If not for our hotel lady we would not have gone for any of the package tours and might have gone for some lesser preferred alternative.
We were picked at around 9 am from our hotel and taken to the location from where the speed boats head towards the various islands. We had close to 30 people in the speed boat and it included people of European, Asian and Indian ethnicity. The Europeans were the first to board the vessel and they immediately occupied the part of the boat which is exposed to the sun, which they repented as the day progressed, with them getting baked and turning bright red thanks to the equatorial sun :P. We boarded the boat just behind the Europeans and occupied the best seat with views as well as protection from the sun, and surprisingly no one occupied our place as the day progressed. We were just imagining that if we were in India, some aunty might have come earlier than us and occupied it :D. We were provided with an English speaking guide and it was quite funny to hear him trying to speak English in American accent :).
The Phi-Phi group of islands are a 45 mins ride from Ao Nang beach on a speed boat. The initial part of the journey in the powerful speed boat was quite thrilling with the boat skimming and jumping over the waves. The route to Phi Phi island also takes one through the islands part of the 4 island tour, such as Chicken island and Tup Island(where Kaho Na Pyar Hai was shot) even though we didn't have a stopover. Our first stop was Bamboo Island and it was small but very beautiful island with crystal clear azure waters and white sand. Spent close to 30 minutes absorbing in the views. This entire region is dotted with rocky islands rising dramatically from the sea. The reason for this is that limestone which forms of the major constituent of these rocks is soft and gets easily eroded after getting exposed to the elements of nature.
After this we were taken to Lohsamah bay wherein one can do snorkelling. Were provided with life-jackets and snorkel goggles, but surprisingly no guidelines was provided to the newbies. Since I had snorkelled for countless number of times it was not a necessity for me and hence was able to guide my wife too. The underwater activity here was good, with good number and variety of fishes. From here we were taken to Monkey bay wherein we again got an opportunity to snorkel. And I would rate snorkelling in here to be the best I have experienced so far. Huge number of fishes in various colour and size would swarm us and this experience was as good as a scuba diving session if not better.
Next stop was the main Phi Phi island also called as Phi Phi don. This island has places of accommodation and restaurants unlike the other islands visited, hence a logical choice for lunch. Had a lunch of spaghetti with hot sauce along with fresh cut fruits, which was part of the package. Post lunch we explored the beautiful shallow lagoon of the Phi Phi island. From here we were taken to Maya bay, which has become famous thanks to the movie "The Beach" starring Leonardo De Caprio. I havnt watched this movie yet, but now plan to do so. Maya bay is one of the most stunning beaches one can come across. A beautiful beach surrounded by steep limestone rocks in 3 directions makes it picture perfect. Spent close to an hour in this place. But one complaint is that this place was crowded. Even-then the place was kept spic and span, unlike Indian tourist places which are frequented by huge crowds. We as a culture have a lot to learn from our distant neighbours.
Finally we were taken for a drive through Philey Bay, a lagoon without any sandy beaches and surrounded by huge mountains on all directions. If felt as if one was entering a huge hall with no roof, an absolutely gorgeous hall if I have to describe it, with crystal clear green coloured water reflecting the afternoon sun like liquid emerald. On the way back we were taken to Viking cave, but we were shown directly from the boat and no landing was done. We returned back to Ao Nang beach at around 4 pm and were dropped to our hotel. Overall I would rate the Barracuda tours to be professional and good.
|Wanderlust, Railey West Beach|
After resting a bit, we again went back to the Ao Nang beach to witness a gorgeous sunset. Roamed around the shops of Ao Nang. We even got ourselves thai massage done from one of the numerous massage shops adorning the beach area. I found this massage to be quite painful, even-though my masseuse was an old lady, but on the other hand my wife found it to be very relaxing :). Had dinner at an Indian restaurant which was pricey, but good enough. This was how we spent our first Valentines Day together :).
The final day of our stay in Thailand we were to explore the beaches near to Ao Nang namely Railey East and West beaches and Phra Nang Beach. Even though they are only 10 mins from Ao Nang beach , they are still isolated in the sense that they can be reached only by long tailed boats from Ao Nang. One has to take a shared long tailed boat which costs 100 Baht/person one way which either drops a person in Railey West beach or Phra Nang beach depending on where the majority of the people want to go. We were dropped in Railey West beach, and considering the awesome beaches we had witnessed the previous day it was just Ok. From this beach there is a walkway to Railey East beach, which can be termed as the least beautiful of the all the beaches in and around Krabi, with it nothing more than a big slushy spot. From Railey east beach there is a walkway to Phra Nang beach which I consider to be among the best and one not to be missed. Its not every other day that one would find a huge rock rising dramatically from the beach providing awesome aesthetic value to it.
|Phra Nang Beach|
One will find a lot of people engaging in rock climbing activity in and around this beach. Since we were short of time we didnt venture to try it out. There are various caves near the beach and we explored many of them and one of the most unique among them being the shrine dedicated to Phra Nang (which means princess) from whom the beach got its name. This shrine is dedicated to the spirit of the princess who had according to legend drowned in the beach and is supposed to haunt it. There are a lot of lingas (male sexual organ) made of wood, given as an offering from the local fishermen folk in order to get favours from the spirit. This can be quite amusing for the non-locals and they have specifically mentioned on a notice board to respect the place and maintain its sanctity.
Spent as much time as possible in this place and then it was time to return back to catch a 4pm flight to Bangkok and then a flight to Bangalore. From Don Muang airport we caught the free shuttle to Suvarnabhumi International airport from where we had to catch the flight back to Bangalore. The return journey back home was eventless apart from the fact that I had a minor accident and my thumb nail came off. So it was quite a painful journey back home, but I have no complains since it happened right at the end of the trip, so wasnt much of an inconvenience. Overall I found it to be a very pleasant country to visit. Ofcourse some of the locals might try to cheat you, but being a person from India, you are literally a pro in these matters, hence for South-Asians it is a no brainer :)