Krabi is an access point to a cluster of offshore islands. Many of them are small, with no development at all except a possible connection to a national park system. The geology and the dive sites are the attraction as well as their relatively pristine natural state, limestone cliffs rising sharply from the placid waters and surrounding idyllic beaches.
This is my first of three island stops in Krabi province. The town of Krabi itself is hardly noteworthy. The coastal attraction and point of departure for tours is Ao Nang, about 30 km from the airport.
This being the warmest time of year, the water is much too close to body temperature for my liking. It’s calm, but not clear, at least not now. Unlike the beaches at other Thai island destinations, the water is also clean. I did not see any trash in the water and the beaches are well tended, but there is the seemingly inevitable plastic debris in the undergrowth. There are even trash receptacles, a rarity in some areas of Thailand, and they are used. Whether the trash is collected is another issue.
I set out from Ao Nang beach with about a dozen others of various nationalities, including a half-dozen Thais, on a speedboat to sample several venues. I decided to take this one chance to go on one of these tours. I doubt I will return here.
The tours last about 6 hours. They might start early-late in the morning (8:30-11) and go into mid-afternoon or even until sunset, visiting as few as three or as many as 8 islands. They are efficient and can be enjoyed in varying degrees of comfort and cost. You can hire a slower long-tail boat with driver for a small group or solo, join a speedboat tour with a few as 6 or as many at 15 others. There are so many places offering these tours that a little shopping is in order, including asking at your hotel what they are offering.
I realise I’m sounding like a tour book, but there are some basic facts to convey. I did not have much interaction with my tour mates, mostly due to language differences. The amount of time spent at each location was about right. Hong Island is the main attraction (only 30 min from the mainland), with virtually every tour stopping there. So the beach was crowded, the water not very swimmable, swimming areas proscribed, and if you are snorkelling, no visible coral or fish. But very picturesque, a geological wonder with fine sand, good shade, picnic tables and a National Park concession.
Mostly by accident while touring on my own, I found a beach about 5 km from my hotel, Khlong Khan beach, which turned out to be the most ideal swimming place I’ve seen: very calm, gradually sloping sandy bottom, clear water, long crescent shape….and deserted. But alas, I found this place too late. Plus, swimming in 90 degree water is not my cup o’ tea.
Settled for som tam (papaya salad) and some grilled chicken for lunch.
I did not realise this before I took the ferry to Koh Phi Phi, but this island is loaded with young backpackers who seem to love their pizza and beer. Hotels and guest houses packed together, no vehicles, all narrow brick walkways winding through a dense commercial area.
This is the hottest time of year with high humidity, nightly thunderstorms, often combined with loud music from the beach bars. Beautiful, with great food, roving monkeys, lots of dive shops, speedboat and long tail boat tours. I got bored very quickly.
Before taking off a day early, I did hire a long tail boat for a solo tour to Koh Phi Phi Ley. It took a leisurely three hours and was worth it. I could go where I wanted, stay as long as I cared to. Sampled Maya Bay, got to
swim in the gorgeous, shallow and clear Pi Leh lagoon, where I contracted my very first ever jellyfish sting from one of these nasty-looking black things. I swear I stayed away from the rock walls where they were hanging out, but it did’t work. If you’ve ever had one of these, you know what 6 hours of second degree burn feels like. Left a red welt on my shoulder.
Don’t ask me what this sign means. I think it might mean “Don’t feed the fish.”
Onward to Koh Lanta.