Krabi and Ao Nang…A holiday from our holiday
March 16, 2017
Krabi and Ao Nang
I will get back to our visit to Siem Reap shortly but for now we are in Krabi, Thailand. Our hotel is in the Ao Nang area. We came here to experience the beach life of Thailand, to escape the smoky air of Chiang Mai and best of all to meet with our daughter, Melissa, who came for a visit. It’s a 2 hour direct flight from Chiang Mai and cost us about $175 return for the flight.
There are lots of beach towns and islands to visit in Thailand. We talked to many people before deciding on Krabi. It is not as popular with the party folk and is fairly well-developed for those of us who can backpack, but don’t necessarily want to. It was easy to get to for a 5 day visit.
Finding a place to stay was more challenging than I expected. Agoda, the Thai on-line booking company, showed lots of places as not available, although word is that they had limited rooms, not the hotels. The majority of places only have beds for 2 people, either 2 twins or 1 double. We would have needed to book 2 rooms for the 3 of us.
We found a place called Oscar Villa that had a family room with sleeping space for 4, a little kitchenette and a pool view for about $65/night. It was about 4 km from the beach so it took us awhile to figure out the transportation. The hotel provided free shuttles to and from the beach 3 times a day. You could call the office and go or be picked up any other time for 200 baht (about $7.50) per family. They had a restaurant at the main office which was a couple of blocks away.
We didn’t take advantage of their activity planning until later in the visit. Peter and Melissa went kayaking the last day. They arranged the booking for them, the transportation, stored our luggage for the day and picked us up at the beach for our trip to the airport in the evening.
The customer service was very good. They really want you to have a good experience. Pete got bit by some caterpillar thing that was sharing the back of the bench with him. The gardener made a big show of killing it with his shoe, then brought over some ointment to rub on his arm to prevent any itch.
Ao Nang Beach
The Andaman Sea is warm and clear. A peninsula protects the beach at Ao Nang from the Bay of Bengal. Phuket is on that peninsula. The area has recovered from the tsunami, although many big resorts rebuilt along the coast and took over some of the nicest public beaches.
The view is dotted with limestone cliffs, stone karsts and longtail boats. It really does look like the views you see in the travel books. The islands that you can visit may have promotional pictures of their beaches from 10 years ago but they are considerably busier now. They are still so beautiful though.
Things to do in Ao Nang
- Sit on the beach. There are trees to provide shade until afternoon. There are hawkers for bamboo mats, cold drinks, dresses, jewellery, massage deals, and even fresh cooked corn. That man even had a charcoal bbq with him.
- Swim in the ocean. It’s sandy on the bottom and clear. Watch for jellyfish. Someone thoughtfully fished one out with a big palm leaf and left it up on the sand where it was easily seen. Roped off areas protect the swimmers from the boating area.
- Take a long tail boat to another beach. You buy the tickets at the beach access. Railay beach is about $7.75 or 200 baht return and takes about 10-15 minutes in the boat. It was low tide when we got there so the beach wasn’t that nice, but the cliff views were worth the trip. There are lots of shops and eating/drinking spots there.
- Find a rooftop bar for happy hour. That’s all day for many places. We really liked the Tom Yum restaurant near the big sailfish statue. It’s upstairs on the roof next to the Family Mart. The staff made sure we had cushions to sit on, shade or a fan and the view of the water is through the trees that give the shade. Their mojitos are delicious and are on sale for 90 baht or less than $3.50 each. They put fresh-cut pineapple on their Hawaiian pizza. The places on the beach that are south of the main drag are more expensive.
- Have a massage or mani/pedi along the beach. Head south along the beach and keep going until you find the row of massage places. They are open to the beach and most have mattresses on the floor. We had picked up a flyer earlier in the day on the beach so we went looking for #12, Jan’s Massage. Peter had an hour aloe vera massage plus his nails trimmed. Melissa and I had a mani-pedi which included having our feet scrubbed and nails painted. The entire process occured with us lying down on the mattress. The women moved themselves to where our nails were. We spent 1100 baht which is about $40 for an hour of bliss for the 3 of us.
- Book a table at the Hilltop Restaurant. It is at the northern end of the beach up in the hills. The food was quite good, the service was fine and the sunset views behind the islands were spectacular. We also enjoyed the live music. One other highlight was witnessing a wedding proposal while we were there. They offer a free shuttle service to/from several local hotels. Ours was not in their zone, but they picked us up at the Sailfish statue by the beach. Sunset from the beach is pretty nice too.
- Watch the clam diggers at low tide…moms, dads and kids.
The highlight of most people’s trip to Krabi is a day trip to some of the islands. There are many options so I am glad we talked to others who had been here. You can book a tour to the closest 4 islands, a tour to the Hong Islands or a tour to Phi Phi Island. You can travel by long tail boat or speed boat. To read more details on the pros and cons of the tours and the mode of transportation, check out these two sites. Travelfish boat and kayak tours and YourKrabi. We found them quite helpful.
Although this is still high season here, it was not as busy as we expected. We didn’t want to spend our island tour day on someone else’s schedule so we opted to book our own private long tail boat to the Hong Islands, just for the 3 of us. It cost 3000 baht which converted to $114 CAD for the day. The group tours cost 700 baht each but include lunch. We came into town early, had breakfast, and bought a couple of take away sandwiches for our lunch. We bought our boat ticket when the booth opened at 8 and were taken to our boat right away
Thoughts for next time
Although the day was fantastic, I know a couple of things I would do differently. I understood that the drivers travelled the same route as the tours, just on our time schedule. I should have been more familiar with the tour route as I would have liked to spend a little time snorkelling at one of the off shore stops instead of just along the beaches. When I asked what was next, he just replied, “whatever you wish, madam.” I should have known better what I wanted.
The other thing we learned for next time is that we could have bought our boat ticket the night before. Then we could have left even earlier and beat all the crowds. Regardless, the day was terrific.
It took about 45 minutes by long tail boat to get to Hong Island. The water was like glass so it felt more like a lake than the ocean. We saw other long tails and speedboats as well as some dive boats and large catamarans. We had benches to sit on under a shady cover. The motor is loud but the ride was smooth.
Our boat was the 3rd to arrive for the day. We paid our marine National park fee of 300 baht each and ogled the smooth white sand and teal water. The cliffs were steep around the bay with a large rock formation splitting it into 2 parts. The background was all jungle. Areas for the swimmers had ropes and there was a big boat parking lot. The driver told us to stay as long as we wanted and let him know when we wanted to go. He recommended about 3 hours if we wanted time to see the other areas.
Hong Island Facilities
This is the largest area on this tour so the facilities were good. There were lifeguards and parks people to remind the idiots not to feed the fish. Toilet facilities were clean and included a water filled area to walk though to remove the sand from your feet. There was also a restaurant and a place to buy snacks and drinks. You could rent kayaks to travel around the island, or into the cove.
Although we stayed for 3 hours, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the dock had people coming and going, but the beach or swimming area never felt crowded. It was a good place for families with children.
We swam and snorkelled. There were bottles of vinegar in posts along the beach to use as an antidote in case of a venomous jellyfish if necessary. There were also signs with warnings of what to look for. The water was clear and I saw several varieties of fish.
We left about noon and travelled around the island to a lagoon that is in the center the opposite side. It was high tide so the boat could enter. The water was a beautiful green color with high cliffs all around. We toured around the inside at a nice slow pace and took lots of pictures. At low tide you can only enter in a kayak, but apparently, the colour is even more intense.
We travelled to 2 more islands. One had a small beach with more cliffs and more fish to see. The other had a long sand section joining 2 rocky sections. There was a mushroom looking rock in the bay that had a lot of coral just past it. The textures and fish were worth the sunburn I got on the back of my legs. Much of the other coral I saw was dead. I don’t know if this is still a result of the tsunami, or from development and all the boats in the area.
It took about an hour to return to the beach in the long tail. It was 4 o’clock and we so appreciated our tropical paradise.
Melissa and Peter took a half day kayak tour north of Ao Nang at Ao Thalane. The trip in the back of a songtaew to the boat launch was uncomfortable, but the time on the water was just what they hoped it would be. They paddled in a group of 10, led by a guide. Included were water bags and drinking water.
The current took them along for much of the ride. They travelled through mangrove trees, over a small stretch of open water and into steep canyons that had once been limestone caves until the tops caved in. Stalactites were still visible. They spotted some monkeys in the trees, but fortunately none came for a closer look. This route is only available at high tide. Coffee and fresh fruit were available after the trip concluded. At a cost of 500 baht, or $20 CAD, it was a fantastic time.
Holiday from our holiday
It was a great place for a holiday from our holiday. It was also nice to choose a late flight home where we could get a quick ride home and not have the 2 hour drive through the snow and darkness we usually experience after a tropical holiday.
I have included some photos here in the blog but look for others in the travel menu.