Friday, March 14, 2014

Krabi - 4 nights in Ao Nang

Day1 : We had a 7am pick up from Rawai, Phuket, for the ferry over to Krabi. We booked through ‘Ao Nang Travel & Tour’ on the Ao Nang Princess while in Phuket and the pick up was prompt in an air conditioned van. The guys carried our bags on and off the boat, which was great, as you do have to ‘jump’ across a few boats’ boughs to get to the one you need. We took a seat inside where it was cool and shady for the 1.5-2 hour trip across the Andaman Sea to Krabi. The trip was smooth and uneventful.

When we arrived in Krabi, the boat stopped in a few places where it was met by longtail boats to ferry passengers to Railay beach, Lanta or other day trips. For Ao Nang, the boat docked at a solid pier and we were transferred to our hotel the Mecure Deevana that we really enjoyed.

After a quick splash of water on the face to refresh and we headed out to explore Ao Nang. We got as far as the end of the street, turned right, over the bridge and across the main road to a beach restaurant called (I think) ‘The Moon’. It sits right at the end of the beach and J and I enjoyed a cold beer watching the clear water over some really yummy crispy tofu (for me as I don’t eat meat or seafood). Its pronounced “doe-hoo” in Thai for those who may want to order it in their meals as I had trouble with some locals understanding me if I said ‘tofu’ – the hard ‘t’ thrown them off I think. Mr J just had a chicken fried rice that he enjoyed too.

Relaxed and full, we took a stroll the length of the beach, walking back along the road. This part of the beach and road is much quieter than the other stretch of beach towards Ao Nang town. We picked up a few brochures for snorkelling trips and spent the afternoon enjoying our pool access room. Dinner was at the tex-mex restaurant across from the Mecure, ‘Coco-locos”. The owner came over and we had a good chat about his food and ordered some original margaritas (i.e. on the rocks with lime juice – not a slurpy) with tortilla chips and salsa as we perused the menu. Unfortunately, many of the items were not actually available. Nevertheless, we had a pretty good dinner enjoying some beers with our enchiladas. Tired, we just grabbed a few beers from one of the convenience stores near by and headed back to the room for more relaxation.

Day 2 Time to check out what was along the main road in the other direction. Breakfast wasn't included in our room rate, so we headed out. We didn't go too far and chose a simple Indian restaurant (may have been Royal Tandoor), but one of only a few open for breakfast. J had bacon and eggs, while I had a sandwich. Over fresh juice and coffee, we decided to do the afternoon/sunset snorkel trip ‘7 islands’.
Booking with a lovely lady on the street, we got a big discount on the displayed price, and we could fit onto that afternoon’s trip.
Look, for the price, it was lovely, but not as good as expected. We were picked up on time and ferried over to a muster point on the main Ao Nang beach. There, we waited as they collected others. Some sort of confusion happened leaving us waiting, waiting... A few people went over the road to get drinks (and beers) and were getting restless. Luckily, they then decided to start loading us onto three boats, about 15 on each, and off we set.

I loved Poda island that was truly beautiful (though very crowded). J and I walked around the ‘side’ of the island to explore the rocky area that faced the rock pillar (Tang Ming island) that stood sentry beside Poda. The snorkelling off Tang Ming was OK with a good variety of fish, but not much coral. 

The next stop was a rocky cliff where braver people than I climbed the rock, scrambled along the cliff and then dived (plunged) 10-15 metres into deep water. I was happy to do a few jumps from the boat’s roof – far safer! The other snorkelling site was also OK, which was near ‘Chicken’ or Gai island. Yes, the island’s rocky outcrop looks a bit like a chock’s head, but we only did a ‘drive by’ without stopping. 

Dinner on Tup island was basic and maybe not the best, but so what – the spectacular sunset and surrounds are what you go for, and we lucked in with a golden-red sunset. 

I was happily shooting away, and even spotted a pied hornbill out on a branch near the edge of a rocky outcrop. Then I realised, my camera was on the ‘flash x sync’ setting locking the shutter speed to 1/180 sec, so pretty much none of those photos turned out (but I salvaged some through Gimp software). Silly me for not checking. But I did get some great sunset shots after I set the mode back to Av.

The crew twirled some fire sticks as the sun went down, with 100s of bats doing a mass exodus from their day-time sleeping hole flying toward the main land overhead. Really special. The night snorkel was nothing much to see – just some phosphorus particles in the water that glowed when you splashed around. And we didn't see Pranang cave as advertised on the brochure. But we did have a very enjoyable day.

Back at our hotel, we were not ready for bed yet, so we headed back out to the main road to try to book into a trip out to Bamboo island for the day. We were not keen to be herded on and off a boat to do another multi-island tour. This was our first real taste of the night scene in Ao Nang. And it is a little mad and certainly lively. Lots of people eating, drinking and shopping. In many places it was very crowded. Not my favourite, but I do love the energy – as long as I can watch from a ‘safe’ distance. That’s when we found the perfect people watching place (once again sorry for not knowing the name). It’s not as far up the main street as McDs (and I couldn't believe just how many people are in there day and night), maybe a few doors down from a wine bar place. To enter, you have to go up about 10 steps along the side of the restaurant where there are pairs of chairs and small tables set up overlooking the street almost a story high, with a few table set a little further back. They did tapas and pizza as well as Thai food. J and I picked an empty spot and had a beer or two enjoying the moving picture below.

Day 3. Unable to book Bamboo island the night before (but booked for day 4), we decided to hire a driver to go to the tiger temple. Mr Biw was lovely, not too chatty but a careful driver with a big SUV that we found at the taxi corner of the main road and the road the hotel was on. He left us for a few hours, promising to meet us back in the car park, warning us that it was a exhausting walk to the top. And he wasn't wrong. In fact he understated just how steep and taxing it was to climb the 1200 or so large steps to the top. Even I had some difficulties (me – the mountain climber and ‘walking freak’), having to sit and rest a few times along the way. Clouds hovered overhead so we weren't in the blistering direct sunshine for the whole trip, which was a small mercy in the heat. 

Reaching the top, we quickly forgot the arduous climb when we saw the magnificent view. Amazing! Spectacular! Worth every knee-crunching step. I made a small offering to the large Buddha sitting at the top, offering any merit for both J’s and my efforts to make it up there for world peace (to which J said I was just trying to cash in two for one for merit to which I had a good laugh).

Taking many photos and relaxing in some of the shady spots, we spent half an hour or more enjoying the scenery. Going down was much worse than up, and as we approached the final steps near the bottom it started to rain lightly. By the time we got all the way down, the heavens opened up, complete with thunder and lightening. Those poor buggers who were on their way up – I wonder how many turned back.

Slamming down a sports drink, we headed into the actual tiger cave temple, where I received a monk’s blessing and made a small donation. The cave isn't that large, with some nice golden Buddhas and the revered Tiger shrine. To our amusement, the elderly monk who had just blessed me was ‘picked up’ by a small car that drove right in to the cave temple, making other visitors scatter to the side in its wake.

As it was raining, Mr Biw drove right to the main temple to find us so we didn't have to walk back to the car park in the rain – too nice. I guess he was also wondering where we were as I had spent a bit of time in the temple, and there were plenty of ‘recovery’ stops on our climb to the top of the mountain. 

By the time we returned back to Ao Nang, it was after lunch, and the rain and thunderstorms had followed us back to town. So what else is there to do in the rain? After the amount of sweating and exertion we had just done?! Yeap – jump in the pool. And it was wonderful. Before long, a few others jumped in to – we started a trend! We exchanged lots of looked of bemusement and fun with the others. The best moment was when a mother and two kids came in for a swim, but the mother had brought an umbrella and she stayed under it – while she was IN the pool. I guess she didn't want to get wet!

Showered and stretched, we headed off for a very late lunch. Hiring one of the motorcycle ‘side-car’ tuk-tuks (which I really liked and were so cheap 60 baht to most places in Ao Nang) we started with tapas at the bar from last night. Followed by a Indian feast at Maharaja. I thought we’d just get some small meals but we ended up with enough for a crowd. J’s sizzle plate was sensational with my paneer tikka, raita, naan and rice simply too much to finish. A really good meal. We decided to walk through the shops as the crowds hadn't descended yet. It was mostly same same stuff. I decided to go on a sunglasses hunt to find some cheap spare glasses for home. J laughed as I tried on some of the crazy styles. Stopping for drinks along the way, we made our way slowly back to the hotel. Despite lots of looking and browsing, I only managed to buy a few postcards and magnets (yes yes, as a friend of mine said, I do need an intervention – you should see my fridge! as well as the magnetic whiteboard on the pantry cupboard door). Anyway, back to this...In the evening, we headed out again with a small snack for dinner and a few more beers back at the hotel by the pool, and we were spent.

Day 4 Bamboo island – I’d read about it being gorgeous and it was. Our tour with ‘Ao Nang Speed Boat Tour’ took the others to snorkelling spots around Phi Phi, but we elected to be dropped off at the island, packed off with a foam lunch pack (rice and cold stir fry in plastic bags with a few chicken wings) and drinks. I had hoped for a quiet island experience. Boy was I wrong. It was crowded, with boatload after boatload coming in or out.

From my research, I’d read that the best snorkelling was on the south of the island. J and I headed off away from the main beach area with it’s stalls and crowds to an almost deserted, tiny strip of sand on the far side of the island. As we waded in, we saw three juvenile black tip reef sharks swimming in the shallows. I walked towards them  and they kept their distance – but they were baby sharks. We’d swam with adults (inadvertently) during a trip to Lankayan island in Malaysia. Spreading out our towels and applying a layer of sunscreen, we were about to begin our snorkel when a couple of longtails arrived full of people. Talk about gate grashers! We swam a little but found it difficult with the boats moving around. Looking back, we should have persisted there, but I later found that the best part of the reef was a fair way off shore.

With dark clouds drifting in from the mainland, we decided to head back where there was some shelter. Sure in the water it didn’t matter if it rained, but it’s nice to have a dry towel to come in to. Plonking our stuff next to one of the shelters away from the busiest part of the beach, we spent the day snorkelling. Only metres from the shore, we saw giant turquoise and green parrot fish feeding. Lots of colourful fish abounded but most of the coral was very damaged. J fund a giant brown-spotted grouper trying to hide under a rock ledge. I found a moray eel, some huge bat fish and of course nemo. A little rocky outcrop was home to some cleaner wrasse, and fish queued up for some depilatory work to remove their parasites etc. I’d only ever seen that in nature documentaries. It’s a lovely spot, and the snorkelling pretty good. But there is one major problem – other tourists – many have no concept of diving etiquette. You’d be happily snorkelling away, looking at some fish etc, then all of a sudden you’d have a pair of blue flippers in your face. Thanks – nice one.

We had about 4 and a half hours there, which was lovely, but gee I wish we had come when it was quieter. The others on the boat told us about their snorkelling and it seemed as if they visited some good spots with good corals. Oh well, next time. Because we hadn’t had enough swimming yet, we jumped in for another swim in the pool back at the hotel, before heading off for dinner and the final night’s browsing the shops, and I even bought a few pair of cotton pants – so many in the stores look nice but are nylon/rayon. The sellers tell you that they are cotton but the labels show otherwise. You really don’t want to be wearing rayon long pants in the Thai heat… so do check the labels…

We did see a baby gibbon outside the Burger King on the main road, exploited by it’s owner for tourists to have their photo taken with it, and it was forced to smoke a cigar and drink beer. Absolutely appalling! I discouraged a few people from having their photo taken, but there’s always someone willing to pay for a happy snap. When we were in Phuket, we visited the Gibbon project who rescue and care for gibbons. Truly, a most worthwhile cause and I recommend a visit and donation if you go to Phuket. All I can say is NEVER EVER have your photo taken with any wildlife on the street. Report any traders with wildlife to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants by filling in the form at: (just use your browsers translate function if you need). There was also a regal eagle that was made to pose with tourists, its owner reprimanding it to look the right way for the photos. It made me feel sick. It’s a practice that must be stopped.

Our last night in beautiful Ao Nang was spent with a last beer people watching on the main street. Tomorrow was transfer day to Khao Lak. It was a gorgeous stay and I do hope we can return to Krabi provence to explore further one day.

- K


  1. Hi KGB,

    Your blog is so informative and helpful :) I too love Thailand! Although, I've only ever been to Koh Samui and Bangkok. My husband and I are headed back in April 2016. This time round, i though we could do Krabi and go on day trips to the different beaches/islands.

    Can you recommend anything? Please. Anything advice would be appreciated :)


    1. Hi Sheri - per my blog - I've enjoyed all the places I've written about. Do look on tripadvisor forums for other people's advice too. The 4 island trip was lovely! We're going back next year and hope to explore further too. Oh, and do the tiger temple walk - the view is worth every painful step up!