Having decided I wasn’t going to end my Krabi trip in further disappointment, I got down from my tour boat at Railay instead of Ao Nang, which is where my hotel was. I wanted to see as much as possible of what I had intended to in Krabi.
I was on the Railay West side and I made my way through a narrow ‘street’ in between resorts on either side. It was one short walk to get to Railay East.
Railay is essentially for backpackers. And if you are into reggae. Seriously.
It was funny to see Thai Rastafarians but the place had loads of them. Bob Marley, Jamaica and ‘weed’ art pretty much painted Railay East’s bar scene. Accommodation is mostly budget and the parties go on until late.
Railay East was, well, different from all other coastlines I saw in South Thailand. It’s still a cool place to be if you just want to party and smoke up — because just about everyone who chose to stay in Railay looked like they didn’t want to be among the ‘other’ tourists.
As it neared 5pm, I walked back through the hotels and resorts back to Railay West.
There is a boat taxi counter on the beach itself. A ticket back to Ao Nang costs 80 baht (Rs. 110). That’s fairly steep considering the journey takes less than 5 minutes. On top of that, you have to wait for the boat to get enough passengers before it can leave.
But wow — the ride as short as it is — is beautiful!
Getting to see the enormous rocks from up close was an awesome experience.
Having taken a longtail boat, I must say, the ride is a lot smoother than I thought.
I went back to Ao Nang Grand Inn, freshened up and collected my bags. Since I had to catch a flight from Phuket back to Bangkok the next morning, I was contemplating spending the night at Krabi town.
But since I was still on the “don’t-want-it-to-end” mood, I instead sought a cheap room in Ao Nang itself and decided to leave early next morning. I found a decent room just a few shops down from Ao Grand Inn for 300 baht (Rs. 415) . I checked in, showered and went out in search of a bigger bag as I was tired of carrying around 4 small bags (including the tripod stand).
I found a 80 litre capacity bag for 1500 baht (Rs. 2,000), which I thought was a good deal as I had bargained it down from around 2000 baht most shops were selling it for. Of course, once I got back to Bangkok a day later, it wasn’t quite a bargain I thought it was.
Dinner was at Bernie’s Place, run by a Dane, who was offering an all-you-can-eat buffet for 250 baht (Rs. 340) that was attracting quite a crowd. And boy, was it a good deal or what! First you have option of whatever you want barbequed — chicken, fish or corn. Then there were breads, fries besides a decent selection of starters and main course items. Then ice cream for dessert. Highly recommended if you are hungry!
By the time I was stuffed and cleared the bill, it began to rain lightly in Ao Nang. As the streets cleared, and knowing there was little to do in such a scenario, I headed back to my room (after picking up an ice cream from a 7-11) and called it a night.
I had planned on seeing quite a lot in four days… and I saw most of it in one. Not bad, I guess.
Woke up 6am, checked out and kept my bags at the reception. I got picked up at around 7am and the tour vehicle went around collecting the other tourists from different hotels who were all part of some day tour or the other.
The tour of Koh Phi Phi I had chosen was on a speedboat, thinking it would have been safer as supposed to taking a traditional longtail boat (the wooden ones commonly used as taxis and by fishermen).
Our tour group consisted of nearly 16 people and I walked rather hurriedly towards the boat in the hope of getting a spot right in front. Unfortunately, in that rush, I ended up dipping my camera bag in the water. (“Oh crap” moment #7).
Fortunately, the camera and lenses were safe. Only thing that got drenched was the manual and the battery charger (wasn’t too happy about that) which were placed in the front pouch. But because I had to stop a few seconds and assess the damage, a few managed to pass me by to get a spot right at front. Sucked.
Anyway, we set off after everyone put on their life-jackets. The tour boat had to pick up two more tourists from Railay which is a 5 minute boat ride from Ao Nang beach.
Railay was another place in Krabi I planned on spending time at. It’s become a destination for rock-climbing enthusiasts…
Since we docked at the beach and the boat was stable for a few minutes, it gave me an opportunity to take out the Sigma 70-200 lens. Unfortunately, humidity had caused vapour on the filter and I made the mistake of trying to clean it with a wet towel — which only made it worse!
We left Railay and headed off for our tour of the Phi Phi islands. On the way, we passed by Koh Kai (“koh” = “island”), famously called Chicken island.
A bumpy 30-minute ride later, we stopped at a quiet and less-crowded spot for snorkeling.
I had never tried snorkeling, so I put on the gear and got into the water (which was quite cold). I had my life jacket on so I just lay flat and put my head down under the water. My-GOD-the-water was so clear! It was an awesome feeling and wished I could have captured it on film — but I wasn’t going to risk my Canon 7D even though it was weather-sealed to a certain extent.
“Swimming with the fishes” was the only way to describe the feeling. There were so many in the water and the sun light making its way through the water and glistening off the fish scales made for a very pretty sight. I can’t wait to try out scuba diving!
After 30 mins or so, the tour boat moved on to our next stop — the famous Maya Bay. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, I wanted to come to Krabi after watching The Beach. Even though the movie was mediocre (but the soundtrack awesome), I loved the fact there were beautiful paradise islands not too far away from India. In the film, the inhabitants of Ko Phi Phi Lee were only a few. The beaches were pristine, the waters clear and the sands were devoid of any litter. I was looking forward to visiting such places in this trip.
But…. things have changed since the release of The Beach apparently.
Turns out I’m not the only one who watched The Beach and was inspired by it to visit Thailand. 🙂
The place was crowded! Most of the visitors are from Phuket and there were more than 20 boats at any given time docked on the shores. Our stop was for around 30 minutes, so I could wade through the hundreds of people and check out the place as much as possible.
Many Chinese/Taiwanese/Hong Kong/Japanese tourists were excitedly posing under these phallic stalactites.
Our tour guide even asked if she/he could take a photo with me citing we were “matching-matching”.
Besides tourists, there really isn’t much on Maya Bay. Its a protected reserve and there is just one shack serving drinks and toilet way in the back.
A brief video (you may choose 720p or 1080p for Hi-Definition quality):
Despite the crowds, you could still make out how beautiful Maya Bay is. It would have been nice if I could come by private boat early in the morning or at sunset and spend some quite time alone here.
After half-an-hour, we moved just a bit away from all the boats for some more snorkeling.
We left Maya Bay and moved on to our next stop — another location which was featured in The Beach. Seriously, half the tour was based on “how this is where Leonardo DiCaprio did this”, “here is where Leo jumped into the water” etc. What Dil Chahta Hai did for Goa, The Beach did for Ko Phi Phi.
A brief video of the lagoon:
After taking a round inside the lagoon, we then made our way to Tham Pya Nak, a.k.a Viking Cave.
No, the vikings never made it to Thailand, but you can read about why it got that nickname here. Found inside are swift’s nests which people collect to be used in Bird’s Nest Soup, a Chinese delicacy.
We couldn’t go inside as it is restricted to tourists mostly because of the disturbances caused by chatter and flash lights that annoy workers and the bats that reside in the cave.
So we moved on to our final stop before lunch — Monkey Island.
At around 12:30, we headed for Phi Phi don, which is the only commercial region of the Phi Phi islands. All the hotels, stores, internet cafes and markets are located on this part of the island.
The buffet lunch was at some restaurant and it was… meh. Didn’t have much ‘cos it wasn’t really palatable. The lunch is included in the tour fare and there were dishes in both veg and non-veg (though, as with all of Thailand, more options in the latter).
We had around half-an-hour to kill after lunch to walk around Phi Phi Don, which is what I did.
By 2pm, we left Phi Phi Don and made our way through slightly rough seas (best not to eat much when taking a speedboat) and it for a bit, it looked like it was going to rain.
Our final destination on the tour was an hour-long stop at Bamboo Island.
This is what I wanted to see in Thailand. This is the kind of place I wanted to spend an entire day at. Sit on the beach under a shade and just stare into the sea.
But all I could think about was how sad I was in knowing I had only hour here. I didn’t even feel like walking a bit to explore the island and find the bamboo trees inside, which is where the island get its name. I wanted to soak in as much of the shore as I could. There weren’t many people on our beach too — the way I liked it.
Even the rocks looked unique.
As it neared time for us to leave, I recorded some videos (which I didn’t even feel like setting up the tripod for) and then headed back to the boat.
With that, the one day tour of the Phi Phi islands came to an end. It really is a beautiful place and it was exactly how I pictured it to be. (Minus the crowds). But the next time, and there will be a next time, I’m just going to come here on a longtail boat. It may be slower, but it will be a lot less bumpy than the speedboat.
On the way back, I sat there all glum and told myself I didn’t want this to end. And so, on the way back to Ao Nang, I decided not to end it.
When it came time to drop the tourists from Railay… I got down along with them.
I woke up at around 8am, headed out for breakfast and went back to JungCeylon at around 10am. I went back to the camera store I had picked up my Slik F630 tripod and asked them if they had the part which had fallen off the night before. They checked their store room and they didn’t have it. To get a new part, they would have had to order it and it would cost me 300 baht (!) just for that screw!
I pleaded with the salesman I dealt with yesterday if he could give me the part from the unit they had display. I know it was a long shot and not right of me to ask for it but I was desperate. After half-an-hour or so of pleading, he actually gave me the part from the display unit and I handed him the 300 baht. I was really grateful to him — but I just hope he didn’t get into any trouble because of it.
As it was already past 11am, I dashed back to my room, collected my bags, checked out of my hotel and walked towards Beach Road where I boarded a local bus heading to Phuket bus terminal. I had already wasted precious day time and wanted to be in Ao Nang before sunset.
I bought a ticket to Krabi which is where one needs to disembark first before heading to Ao Nang. The ticket cost 115 baht (Rs. 160) for a regular A/C bus. The journey would take two and half hours but I was hoping to get there at least by 4:30pm.
The bus set off at around 1:30pm and slooowly made its way out of Phuket town (which really is worlds apart from the Patong area).
I stared out the window throughout the bus ride and clicked quite a bit en route to Phang Nga.
I knew Phang Nga was near the Andaman Sea but even though we never could see the sea proper, the hilly landscape was equally picturesque.
By around 4pm, we arrived at Phang Nga town.
Phang Nga was on my on tour itinerary as well — mostly for the James Bond Island (you can read about it here) but I was starting to get worried about if I would be able to see it all in the time I now had in Ao Nang.
I got down at Krabi bus terminal and was approached by a travel agent who asked me the usual barrage of questions: “where you go?,” “you have room?,” “you need tour?” etc. Since I really wasn’t in the mood, I caved in, got a room booked and bought a boat tour to Koh Phi Phi from the agent. He then led me to the pick up taxi which was heading to Ao Nang.
As I sat inside and waited for the driver, I felt glum. I kept thinking about all the places I had planned on seeing and what I wanted to do in Krabi: Phang Nga bay, Wat Tham Suea (Tiger Cave Temple, where you have to climb up 1,200 steps and they say you get one heck of a view of the Andaman sea on one side and the hills on the other), Phi Phi islands, rock-climbing in Railay, kayaking to Pranang Cave Beach…
And now I had just one full day in Krabi province — and there was no way I could do it all.
Finally arriving at Ao Nang
It took nearly half-an-hour for the taxi driver to leave the Krabi bus terminal as they normally wait for a few more passengers to fill up the taxi before it sets off. It then sloooowly made it’s way through Krabi town to pick up some more passengers before finally shifting gears and speeding up. I would definitely not recommend taking a pick up taxi like this.
It was past 7pm when I finally reached Ao Nang (its supposed to just take 30 minutes). My hotel was Ao Nang Grand Inn, opposite the McDonalds at Ao Nang and a 5min walk from the beach. The room I got was supposed to be an A/C room but the A/C wasn’t working. I got a make-shift fan instead and the two beds were apart from each other. I had asked the agent for a single room but for 600 baht (Rs. 830), this wasn’t a bad deal. The agent at the bus terminal told me this was the cheapest room available but as you’ll read in the next post — it wasn’t 🙂
Anyway, I was only going to be in the room for a few hours. I had to check out early in the morning itself (12 noon is the standard check out time) because the Phi Phi islands boat ride was going to be a full day tour.
After freshening up, I walked down to the beach side road and checked out whatever Ao Nang had to offer.
Ao Nang is a quaint little town, and a lot less noisy compared to Phuket. I would suggest Ao Nang over Phuket to any honeymooner or anyone looking for a quieter, less crowded town to base yourself to see the tourist sights South Thailand is famous for. In fact, they are closer from Ao Nang.
Just because it’s small, doesn’t mean you’ll have a tough time with shopping and other services. Ao Nang has enough ATMs, foreign exchange centers, fast food chains and other essential services tourists need. There are enough bars to service the crowd seeking them and a few night clubs. But if you did your research, you’ll know Ao Nang isn’t a place famous for a night life, compared to say, the likes of Phuket or Pattaya.