Krabi was our college reunion choice. We zeroed in on this destination after a bit of picking and choosing; and for the sun n sand experience that we had, it was an amazingly apt choice.
Krabi is a resort town in Thailand and lies close to the Andaman coast. Famous for its mangrove forests, pristine beaches, limestone formations and picturesque islands, it promises a little bit of everything for everyone.
We stayed at the Aonang Villa Resort (http://www.booking.com/hotel/th/aonang-villa-resort) a 30 kms drive from the airport. Pick up from the airport was efficient, friendly and completely welcoming. The resort itself is a great place to stay in, with spacious comfortable rooms and within a 2 minute walking distance to the Aonang beach. The housekeeping staff could have been a little more resourceful, but overall we enjoyed our stay here.
We took our 4 Island tour from the resort itself and had to pay 9500 baht for our own motor boat. There are also long tailed boats you can hire. We were promised that our captain could speak a ‘little bit’ of English but when we were out at sea we realized ‘little bit’ actually meant ‘none at all.’
They took us first to Chicken Island (or Koh Kai Island) which when viewed from a distance loosely resembles a chicken.
Unfortunately, when we got off here, we were not even allowed to walk on the beach. A bunch of government officials (who looked and behaved more like thugs) ordered us off the island unless we paid a further 400 baht each, something the Aonang Villa Resort agent had conveniently forgotten to mention to us. We were all completely disgusted with the rude and threatening behavior of these guys. Looks like they were trying to paint a black spot on the Thailand tourism map. If you are traveling in a ladies only group its best to avoid this island. We felt very unsafe here. (will be posted on tripadvisor.com).
We were told we had to pay at one island, to go ashore on all the islands except for Railey Island. So we just sailed around the other Islands (Poda and Tup) and took pictures from the boat. Three of my friends wanted to try out snorkeling for the first time, so we stopped a little away from one of the islands. The captain and his assistant seemed particularly disinclined to help, and my brave friends got into the water after figuring out how to use the equipment all themselves. Except for some small fish and random coral there wasn’t much to see anyway.
For obvious reasons, Railey Island was much more crowded. The beach is beautiful but most of it had boats docked along the shore; swimmers had converged to the other end under the limestone cliffs as there was more space for swimming there.
At this end, we also came across two caves within the cliffs. These were actually fertility shrines that had wooden penises of all shapes, sizes and colors piled together. Some sight that!
Because this part of the beach has jagged limestone cliffs they attract a number of professional rock climbers. We spent some time watching them ascend the steep incline.
Railey Island also has quite a few restaurants which come in useful if you plan to stay there for a longer time.
The Tiger Cave temple on one of the islands is the more advertised one along this coast, but we skipped it as we were not keen on climbing the 1,237 steps to get to the top.
All in all, the Island Hop is a good way of enjoying some spectacular scenery. The backdrop of cliffs and mangrove forests against the brilliant blue of the water makes for some great pictures.
One of the best places to chill out in Krabi Town is the Roots Rock Reggae Bar – (https://www.facebook.com/Roots-Rock-Reggae-Bar-Aonang-315366658635895/)
The band is so good we went there twice in our 3 day stay. They played some amazing songs and every time we got up to leave, they would urge us to stay on for ‘just one more number.’ In fact they played well past their closing time and we would like to think it was just for us:) Those thugs on Chicken Island could learn a thing or two from these guys about true Thai hospitality!
We do not recommend the massages that are offered along the beach side by Thai women who follow you and do their own self advertising. They cost less (300 Baht) but are at best freestyle rubdowns that are haphazardly administered. At worst you could have some purple bruises the next day as did happen with a couple of my friends. I opted for a foot reflexology and head massage but was not entirely satisfied with the experience.
A couple of my friends who did not come Island hopping with us tried the traditional Thai massage at the hotel we were staying at, and they recommended it fully as it was done by professionals and was really good. So yes, a thumbs up for the Thai massage at the Aonang Villa Resort.
(We ate at quite a few restaurants in town. Some were recommended by friends and some we just wandered into because we were too tired to walk any further. My friend Rani not only has discerning taste buds but also keeps a watchful eye on slacking waiters. Hence, I’ve included her reviews on the restaurants we visited.)
Restaurant Review by Rani Bopanna –
The Last Fisherman – Enjoyed cocktails watching lazy waves lap the shore while one of us spent roughly 12 minutes explaining in sign language to Tham, our server, that she wanted wine from a fresh bottle and not dregs from the bottle that he was swirling. Lunch the next day at the same place was a very relaxed affair – fresh tender coconut water, cocktails and beer with flavorful local cuisine served by sullen servers, all except Tham who was happy to see us again! We discovered it was the owners b’day and so astonished him by singing “Happy Birthday to Bohhh—usss.” We also bought him a lime-soda, apparently his favorite drink. So excited were we, that all of us forgot to take pictures!
Tanta’s Restaurant – Glowing red and gold and set against the backdrop of a rocky cliff, Tanta’s Restaurant easily stood out as the brightest in Ao Nang. The Thai Cuisine was great in taste, but minuscule in portion and each of us had to order twice! Disappointed that we had to pay for ordering hot water but the excitement of being together in Krabi… simply priceless! Mango sticky rice and banana fritters and ice cream for dessert complemented the tasty dinner.
Delhi Darbar – All the “mammas, no Papas” trooped into Delhi Darbar on the main street, not expecting much but choosing the place only because it was late and we had to eat. Indian food at 20% discount did not do much to inspire great hopes. But surprise, surprise! – melt-in the mouth buttered tandoori rotis with smoky Dal Makhni along with tangy and tender tandoori chicken had us scraping our bowls. Perfect taste and perfect quantity PLUS staff who could actually understand what we wanted!
La Casa – The menu boasted of Thai, Indian and European cuisine. The owner, a Bangladeshi gentleman, was very warm and welcoming. He helped us with the selection of dishes and especially recommended a few from the menu. Nothing remarkable about the food, it was good. At least the staff was accommodating. And more of Mango sticky rice and fried ice cream!
TJs Sports Bar and Grill – On day three we realized that all the ‘fine dining’ places were on the opposite side of the street where we hadn’t bothered to look, mesmerized as we were by the amazing music by the live band in the Reggae Bar. TJs surprised us with its simple ambiance. The menu was mainly American. Food and drinks were good and service was friendly. The most exciting feature of the evening were the nice bar-stools as if they were set up for just the 9 of us!
Jeanett’s – A final stroll on the prom
enade on the sea front brought us to Jeanette’s, tastefully decorated and inviting with a great view of the open sea. The menu had a selection of western and Thai cuisine. Das, our server who came to Krabi from Chennai was happy to converse with us in his native tongue. We picked pineapple juice, watermelon juice and Teh Tarik, the Malaysian version of pulled tea. The fruit juices were fresh and refreshing. The American breakfast was sumptuous but missing pancakes. The noodle dish was salty and had to be returned. It came back on a fresh plate without any change in the salt content. We asked for barbecued fish pizza but got the chicken pizza instead. Which tasted good, but it wasn’t what we ordered. By way of explanation we were told that the price of both was the same, so “no problem”!! More mango sticky rice!!
End of Review (Thank you Rani:))
Since we were staying in Aonang, it cost us 800 baht to get to and fro to the night market by taxi. But it’s worth the trip if you’re traveling in a big group and want to get the local market experience.
Though not as big and slick as the Bangkok night market, the Krabi market holds its own in terms of the variety of food stalls (sushi heaven anyone?) and local products on sale. Clothes, souvenirs, shoes, artifacts, herbal oils, painted fabrics, all locally made and sold here. There’s also some cultural entertainment on the side.
Shops and restaurants are all lined on the opposite side of the beach and we took long exploring walks on both sides in the 3 days that we were in Krabi. The beach is unspoilt and not as crowded as Railey beach. Periodic showers are common during September and October and due to the overcast sky, the color of the water here is a greyish blue. When the sun comes out, the blue changes to a brighter aquamarine shade – quite fascinating to watch.
The shops that line the street offer shoes, bags, artifacts, pottery etc but prices are noticeably higher than at the night market.
On the whole, if you want to visit a place that has fewer tourists, then Krabi is the right choice. You may feel a little exasperated that so few of the locals speak even a smattering of English, but most of them make up for it with welcoming smiles.
As an afterthought, if one is not specifically looking for privacy, it may be wiser to go to a destination that is better equipped to deal with tourists in terms of communication and tourist related infrastructure/facilities.
(Picture courtesy: Rani Bopanna, Jennifer Fernandez, Shaly Pereira)