Since I had to catch a 11:20am Nok Air flight from Phuket to Bangkok, I had to head back to Krabi first. I checked out of my hotel just past 5am and got a pick-up taxi that was heading to Krabi town.
Ao Nang at around 5:30AM; above photos taken on the Nokia E72
The taxi went around slowly (as usual) to collect more passengers before picking up speed. After a while, it was still me and an American girl (forgot her name) in the back. So we got talking.
She’s been by herself in Thailand for quite some time, originally with the Peace Corps and now teaching at a school in Trang, which is where she was headed. She told me about Trang and how I should come there as it was a lot less crowded than Krabi — but still offers pristine coastal beauty. Sooo, another destination for my next trip!
Left, the american girl; Right, possibly-on-drugs white bloke
The white dude in the “lungi” who joined the taxi ride kept twitching and stammering throughout the journey to Krabi bus terminal. He made me look rich.
I reached Krabi around 7am and got a bus to Phuket but asked that I be dropped near the airport. The American girl advised me to do this because the bus will pass the airport anyway. But if I headed straight to Phuket bus terminal, the ride back to the airport from Phuket town would have cost me half-an-hour. See kids, striking conversations with strangers isn’t all bad.
Since I woke up early, the lack of sleep caught up on me while on the journey — and I just couldn’t keep my eyes open fo long.
I was awoken at around 10am by the bus stewardess as we neared my stop. I got down and out into the bright sunshine still in a daze. I looked around and wondered where the airport was. I saw the bus push on and across the road stood two moped taxis calling out to me. There was nothing around besides a highway, a few farm houses and trees. Also, a small sign pointing to a road that leads to the airport.
I crossed the road and somehow managed to get on the moped with all my luggage.
Taken (very carefully) on my phone while on the bike
The short ride cost 50 baht or so (don’t quite remember exactly how much I paid). Anyway, after answering my dad who called me just as I had arrived, I took a trolley and went in. Checked in my luggage, got a window seat and my boarding pass. Twice. At the gate where we were supposed to wait for our flight, a machine that supposedly opens the door with the boarding pass managed to get mine stuck in it. So I went back to the Nok Air counter and quite embarrassingly got myself another boarding pass.
While my flight left on time, I sat by the window feeling quite sad that my stint on Thailand’s beaches had come to an ‘incomplete’ end. That feeling changed a bit a few minutes into the flight.
(This one was taken on the Nokia E72)
Ko Panyee a.k.a "FLoating Village," wanted to go there too
Beautiful, isn't it?
I love this photo
I felt a bit more satisfied after seeing all that.
By 12:30pm, we were above Bangkok.
(Taken on the Nokia E72)
We landed at Don Muang, Bangkok’s old International Airport, which is still being used by mostly budget carriers for local flights (hear that BIAL?). Took a metered taxi and headed to the highly commercial Sukhumvit area of Bangkok city. I didn’t have a hotel reservation or anything but I just looked at the city map and decided to stay in Soi 7 since it had a BTS station very close by. I had planned on taking the sky train this time to get around Bangkok.
I got down at the BTS station and just walked down Soi 7 (soi = street) in search of a room. Found a small sign for a family-run guesthouse called Thai House Inn pointing into an alley. Don’t be deceived into thinking you’re going to expect a down-rotten room in here. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you get for 700 baht (Rs. 970) a night (cheap for this area). The room and the toilet were clean and the only thing you will not find is a TV. (In case you want to know how to find it, I found a video by somebody who liked the place just as much.)
I checked in, unpacked, freshened up and went out for lunch. I was resisting eating Pad Thai (considered Thailand’s national dish) mostly because I’m not much a noodle person. But I caved thinking why come all the way here and not try it the way locals make it.
Sea food Pad Thai (badly taken on the Nokia E72)
It was okay. I still prefer my steamed rice and Thai curry combo
After lunch, it was straight to the BTS station (Nana stop on the map) for my next sightseeing destination. There was a reason I wanted to be back in Bangkok city by Sunday — Chatuchak Weekend Market.
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.
You just need to walk this small stretch 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.
But don't expect to see ATMs and other ammenties here
There's even an Indian restaurant on Railay East (taken on E72)
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.
What a sight to end the evening
Sunset at Ao Nang beach
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.
Ao Nang beach road early in the morning
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).
The first boat was our ride
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.
Barracuda was the name of our tour company
Railay was another place in Krabi I planned on spending time at. It’s become a destination for rock-climbing enthusiasts…
... for obvious reasons.
Railay West beach
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!
It wasn't misty that morning... the lens filter wasn't clean
None the less, the "effect" still makes it look 'heavenly'
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.
Spot the 'chicken'
The one in orange was our guide. I believe she was a woman.
A bumpy 30-minute ride later, we stopped at a quiet and less-crowded spot for snorkeling.
Emerald green water... mmmmmmm
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!
The fish... from above the water
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.
This is Maya Bay now
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”.
I'm guessing it was because of the 'orange'
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.
Lying flat and staring under water is fun
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.
Leonardo DiCaprio was here too
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.
We were told a few people actually live in there
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.
Monkeys inhabit this island... thus the name. Duh.
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).
Phi Phi Don: The view from the restaurant
We had around half-an-hour to kill after lunch to walk around Phi Phi Don, which is what I did.
Yummm... (yeah, yeah.. go away PETA!)
Poor Nemo. After all his father went through.
Man with evil stare: "You better buy banana"
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.
Now I know what it feels like to be on the set of LOST
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.
(This is a panoramic photo comprised of 4 shots)
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.
The lack of smile is due to: a) very sunny b) very sad to leave
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.
Word of advice: Speedboat not recommended for photography
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.