Having been in Koh Samui now for 7 weeks, Monsieur Bleu (MB) and I decided it was high time to take a Mini Break from our… um…Mega Break and take a road trip to the famous beaches of KRABI! Ahhhh….life is tough at the top!
KRABI is situated on the west coast of Southern Thailand and is well renowned for its magnificent limestone rock formations and its close proximity to many famous islands and beaches. Think of all the postcards you have seen of this place and it truly does look exactly like this! Crystal clear waters, lines of traditional Thai Long-tail boats, baby- powder soft sandy beaches and enormous towering cliffs all combine to guarantee many perfect one-stop-shot photography moments! It’s a “selfie-addicts” paradise on many levels!
DAY 1: Saturday
We decided to take our Maxi scooter “Big Bike “ in Thai, for a road trip and and organising it all was a cinch! To get to Krabi, first you need to take the ferry from Koh Samui to Donsak ( first port of call when reaching the mainland of Surat Thani). The ferry terminal is the Sea Tran in Nathonand it is for both passenger and vehicles. We turned up at 845am for a 9am departure, bought our tickets on the spot (no need for prior booking when taking a bike), grabbed a coffee from the little cafe and got on board! Easy Peasy!! The ferry departed dead on 9am too and it was all very organised and dignified if I may say so myself! The trip takes exactly one and a half hours and apart from the sudden excitement of nearly getting decapitated by a wayward drone (much to the amusement and fascination of the other passengers), it was an extremely pleasant experience all round!
Upon arrival in Donsak, we promptly took off in the wrong direction for awhile before realising that we were heading for the airport instead of the direction of Phuket which is the way you have to go! Helps if you actually have a map or use Google maps in this instance, which we did eventually! Riding free and with no time restrictions or hotel booking, we just went with the flow and had a laugh worrying more about where we could stop to eat (of course) than how long it might take us to reach Krabi!
Words of advice……when doing this road trip, it takes approximately two and a half hours to reach Krabi and the highway is fantastic. Basically straight ahead the entire time and when you come across a roadside restaurant…..STOP THERE as there is NO OTHER stop apart from a few petrol stations after that!! We learnt the hard way and ended up eating some dodgy -looking fried chicken on the side of the road! AHHH the glamour of it all!
The ride is (hot) but fantastic, whizzing past numerous rubber and palm oil (the controlled ones not the controversial type that affects the orang-utans ) plantations and of course the beautiful rocks that loom into view when you reach Krabi Town! We didn’t explore the town area, except by accident when we got lost AGAIN! It helps if you head towards the sign saying Nopparat Thara or Ao Nang Beach (they are next to each other so don’t get confused like some people.. i.e ..us ) and which is where we were actually headed! There are night markets in the town on Friday/Saturday and Sunday though, which are a great option for a longer stay or just to poke around to find some local island treasures! We opted to stay at Ao Nang Beach which is the most popular and touristy area full of nightlife, restaurants and shopping and also the central hub for taking the Long-tail boats to the islands. Maybe not for everyone but the ‘quieter’ side is EXTREMELY QUIET and I think you would feel a bit isolated! Anyway, MB and I don’t really do the quiet thing very well and it’s all part of the fun anyway to people watch and wander around and of course, buy that one thing that you will never end up using or wearing, just to be able to get back home and say “What in the world was I thinking!!! Oh that’s right…..it must have been the mojitos fault”!
After finally arriving at our destination of at Ao Nang Beach, we then had to play Spontaneous Sally and find ourselves some sort of accommodation for the next few nights! Being the end of high season and also the Thai New Year, needless to say that it was extra busy and the prices for any of the hotels along the beach were HIGH! SO… we scrapped the posh option and went for the poverty pack deal and checked into a ‘quaint’ place called Harvest House B and B (more bed but no breakfast…strange) in the main street off the beach! Voila! At Only 800 baht per night, it was a bargain! Central, clean, a king size bed and also being on the top floor, allowed for a view of the huge limestone cliff face and street and even a sea glimpse if you risked your life hanging over the side of the balcony! What more could you ask for a quick getaway on the go! Downside (for some maybe) was that it was RIGHT NEXT to Krabi’s biggest Mosque and hearing the call to prayer at 5am every day could rudely awaken you from your slumber, but the haunting chants took me back to my exotic days of living in Bahrain! Memories!
We decided to just head straight for the beach for a dip as it was nearing late afternoon and the long day and hot ride desperately needed to be washed away in the cool waters of Krabi. After awhile of lazing, hunger loomed once again (dodgy chicken was well gone), talks of where to go for dinner surfaced and we took off to our new little home, stopping along the way for supplies and a quick look around the shops and got ready for our first night on the town!!
Not having done a reconnaissance mission of restaurant suitability earlier, we quickly decided to take a whizz around on the bike and see what the nightlife looked like from a pillion passenger view.
Nearing starvation at around 8pm, we decided on a rooftop Thai restaurant called TomYam and indulged in a feast of Fish Cakes, Papaya Salad and Deep- Fried Snapper with Thai herbs. Not the most memorable of meals, but the street view was cute and the company number one! Later we indulged in a cocktail at WineV, but I wouldn’t recommend this place for any drink other than Vino! It is a wine bar after all! Sleep beckoned then and with heavy lids but an adventurous spirit, we knew that exploration day was to ensue.
DAY 2: Sunday
Day two found us rested and chomping at the bit to get out and about and discover our new environment. Knowing already about Krabi’s famous Railay Beach, we decided to go there later on in the morning as it was only a quick 20 minute Long-tail boat ride from Ao Nang and they go all day and depart every few minutes. No stress! Riding around we found the quiet beach of Tub Kaek (later nicknamed Cupcake Beach by MB as he couldn’t pronounce the original name!) There are a few restaurants and some hotels and the sea is very still.
There is a lovely view of the islands in the distance and some Long-tail boats leave from here as well to do the island-hopping run. There is a little town street and it seemed to be popular with families. Railay Beach beckoning, we shot back to the main strip, bought a return ticket and jumped on the boat! Both MB and I love boats and these traditional fishing boats with their noisy, smelly diesel engines and precarious boarding facilities ( a wonky ladder) and together with smiling daredevil of a captain, it’s not a trip for the faint -hearted, but for us it was one of the highlights of the day!
RAILAY BEACH is around the huge cliffs and only accessible by boat. There is an East and West side but you get dropped at the West side which is the place to be! (You can walk to the East side and takes around 10 minutes. Here it is mainly mangroves and no swimming, but the bars …mostly Reggae…and restaurants are popular here amongst the backpacker community as is the climbing facilities if that’s your hobby of choice!) West Railay is pretty packed all day every day and it’s clear to see why when you land here. Feeling like we were on the set of The Beach (same same but different island) MB (thinking he was Leonardo DiCaprio ) and I stripped off and dived into the crystal clear water! It was gorgeous! Wet and wild we found a little place to eat our Thai lunch and then soaked up some rays before hiring a kayak and with great skill and athletic prowess (LOL), we scooted around the neighbouring islands and caves and even got to Ton Sai Beach around the corner, which is also only accessible by boat or kayak and is home to the legendary Phra Nang Caves- The Princess Penis Legend! Kid you not, the caves are full of phallic symbols! The legend behind the caves is a whole other story which you can have fun researching yourselves, but it is well worth a visit to this site before it is ruined by over tourism or closed down. It was very interesting and a hit amongst the masses! MB said he didn’t feel intimidated at all (trés French) and I could name some ladies I know that would quite happily lay down a futon in amongst those babies! You know who you are girls!
After a huge day of kayaking, swimming, penis perving and boating, along with the added bonus of witnessing a family of wild monkeys tree jumping, it was nearly Pina Colada O’ Clock and time to catch the boat back to basecamp, do a ‘hot turn’ (airline talk for a quick change and turnaround) and head back out just in time to watch the sunset over the water! Magic! Embarrassingly craving pizza and a glass of red, we found an Italian restaurant called Spaghetti House, that made it quite clear by its sign out front that they “DON’T SELL THAI FOOD”! Ok….got the message loud and clear and that’s great, but if you only do Italian and you are an Italian owner and Chef, then there is no excuse for poor quality.
It was very disappointing and I wouldn’t recommend it. We ended the evening though on a high note, discovering not one but TWO direct beachfront restaurants close by where we sat, sipping a nightcap by candlelight and watching locals ride their scooters along the sand! Having already found our final evenings dinner spot, we were tired and content enough to call it a night. Two days down and one to go….next….The Islands!
DAY 3: Monday
Having already checked out the Island Run scenario the day before (whilst walking back home), we decided to make an early start (no thanks to the 5am wakeup call) and rented a private Long-tail boat and captain for a few hours in the morning. (FYI: there are many different trips available to loads of islands including full-day trips to Koh Phi Phi..where the movie The Beach was made..and James Bond Island.) Arriving dead on 8am at the boat rental area, we introduced ourselves to our skipper for the day Bee.
He deftly manoeuvred his boat around the islands of Koh Gai(Chicken), Koh Tup and Koh Poda. Having only booked for two islands, we got a package 3 for 2 deal by starting out early, as the tide was low and we could manage to walk from Koh Tup to Koh Gai in one hit! It’s a national park, so you have to pay a 400 baht fee to the inspectors, but it’s worth it to have a long, private walk along a pristine beach and rediscover nature in its purest form……until the crowds descended. A group of muslim women and girls thought it would be fun to take a thousand selfies with MB and I in all our ’near nakedness’ as they thought we looked ‘exotic’ with our deep tans and bright swimwear. I imagine we did next to them with their fully covered bodies and heads complete with lifejackets and survival packs and it seemed to be a surreal moment for all!
After the paparazzi parade, we headed off to a (we thought) secluded spot and I tested my severely lacking snorkelling skills whilst attempting not to drown, be drowned by wayward kids in all their childish glory or get knocked out by the one of the many boats that suddenly arrived at the speed of knots to the snorkelling site! MB being French and therefore a natural water sports/diving/Jaques Cousteau type guru, loved the entire episode and eagerly kept pointing out marine life to me whilst diving beneath the choppy water! Show off! Not feeling very Bond Girl whilst choking on seawater and hanging onto the boat ladder for dear life, we quickly decided that enough was enough and my foggy, water- clogged mask and pipe were promptly abandoned and my snorkelling days over…. for the time being any way! I was disappointed that I didn’t have any photo evidence of this spectacular moment as I was too busy trying to stay alive and afloat, but at least I saw a striped fish! High- Five!
Next we continued onto our final Island of Koh Poda which is the most popular spot and swarms of tourists and boats arrive all day as it is also a lunch area with kiosks and toilets etc etc. Busy as it was, the sand was pure white and the water crystal clear. We walked a long way from the masses and swam and floated our way to bliss! After about an hour, as it was getting boiling hot and more people were discovering our secret spot, we headed back to Bee and loudly roared our way back to Ao Nang, but not without El Capitano allowing us the pleasure of witnessing a severe jellyfish massacre on the way, much to his pleasure and amusement and my horror! It was sweet that he thought this was the highlight of the mornings excursion and a special bonding moment for us all, but next time I’ll pass thanks!!
Time for lunch and we took off for ‘CupCake’ beach again, this time to chow down on some excellent Pad Thai and Spicy Chicken with Basil leaves. Finding a spot under an Umbrella Tree, we relaxed for two seconds before an enormous black raincloud appeared and we disappeared, back on the bike again for ride inland to see what Krabi amongst the cliffs held in store! Riding blind (as we had not yet found a map as they appear to be extinct), we rode where the wind took us, past many Muslim Villages (make sure you have a wrap handy or you feel a bit weird), towering limestone cliffs and more rubber and palm oil plantations! By complete accident, as we got lost again..shock.. we fell upon an ENORMOUS gold, reclining Buddha stature nestled into the mountain! It was beautiful..hugebut beautiful, and I looked like the size of grain of rice next to it! (I actually remembered to take photos of it too which is always handy!) Having taken longer than expected on our spontaneous trip into the wilderness, it was late and we had to abandon our very sporty idea of a hike up the big cliff we could see from our balcony…damn shame that…NOT! Oh well…maybe next time! Sunset and Wine Sprizers were beckoning and our ‘hot turn’ got so hot we were on fire and we dressed in our finest and settled into our little dinner table by the beach.
The settling was lovely, but the food was disappointing again and our appetisers arrived with our mains which were cold as well ( it was a Thai meal and not that cheap either), and I had the smallest serving of Green Curry ever to be seen….I mean I can eat and this chick needs to be fed people! After dinner, we found a cool beach bar aptly named “The BeachBar” and sat for an hour listening to an American singer/ guitarist who performs all the classics.
He plays at this bar every Saturday/Sunday and Monday nights and it’s great, apart form when he has a large audience and starts getting a bit political! Nothing like a lecture on a Saturday night whilst on holidays! Our final night was drawing to a close and to be honest, we were quite exhausted from all the sun, snorkelling and sea! We were happy to fall into bed and rest up for the long ride home…
The next morning we were up earlier AGAIN to make sure that we had enough time to ride back to Donsak to catch the 2pm ferry. We had one last look around Ao Nang and then took off in search of Fossil Shell Beach. Here it is another national part where you can pay to go on a hike and admire the fossilised sea snails and other marine life. Of course we didn’t do any of this as I was overcome with buyers glee at discovering the pearl necklaces (same lady who sells the tickets sells the jewellery.) These are fantastic and real bargain and well worth the trip just for that!! I wish I had bought more now and will just have to swing past here another time!
We rode all the way from Krabi Town back to the ferry in record time as we decided not to stop for anymore unpleasant road side cuisine and just wanted to get home really! Now that we call Koh Samui home for the time being, having been away for a short time and seeing the other side of Thailand, made us appreciate just how lucky we are and that our tiny island is so very beautiful.
KRABI was fun and eventful and it’s a very magical place. Our trip was a whirlwind one but I think we still managed to squash in all the best bits! I would highly recommend visiting, if only for the Islands and to see the limestone cliffs. It’s a great place, even bucket- list worthy and not a disappointment by any means. Go, see ,swim and most of all…Enjoy!…the photos are worth a thousand words.
…“The Sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever”… Jacques Cousteau