Krabi, another of Thailand’s multitude of fine beach destinations, is the second stop of our cruise onboard Superstar Libra, after Phuket. Brought to fame just fairly recently as the jump-off point to the Phi-phi Islands, which itself was brought to fame by Leonardo DiCaprio’s 2000 movie, The Beach, Krabi is much more laid back and still less “urban” than neighbouring Phuket. Still, the number of tourists it attracts, especially those from western countries, is quite amazing.
The waters around Krabi are indeed a natural beauty, more so than Phuket I would say, and here is one of a few places on earth where karst islands exist, a fascinating piece of geology where islands of steep cliffs dot the seascape. Numerous limestone karst islets, like the ones above, came past us as we sailed towards the coast.
The ship reached our anchorage point at 10 in the morning and was to be there until 6 in the evening. Quite short a stay for such a lovely place, but were determined to enjoy it nevertheless. Due to the absence of a large port in Krabi, and probably due to the jagged coastline, the ship has to drop anchor quite a distance offshore. Guests wanting to go ashore had to go via tender boats, one of which I photographed below. The boats, around 3 of them by my reckoning, shuttle back and forth the small port of Krabi and the ship, carrying passengers to and from the coast.
The boat ride from the ship to the coast took more than half an hour, and as we came closer to shore, the inland karst formations became visible on the horizon as well.
Like in Phuket, we chose to make our own itinerary rather than take one of the ship’s packaged shore excursion tours. Though unlike in Phuket, we didn’t book a van through the ship’s excursion desk this time, and decided to hire a taxi on our own. We were only going to one place, Ao Nang, a beach town within Krabi province, and I wasn’t enthusiastic about paying hours for a van that would sit idle as we take our time on the beach. It turned out to be a fine decision, as despite the hassle of avoiding the numerous taxi touts ashore, we were able to hire a taxi for about a third of what the ship offered, and it took as back and forth from Ao Nang, at a time of our choosing.
And I found Ao Nang to be a quaint, lovely little town. There are a lot tourists, of course, in fact tourists probably outnumbered locals while we were there, but the place looked more restrained, in a good way, than Phuket.
Surrounded by hills and a wall of karst, the town looks like a world of its own, seemingly detached from the rest of Thailand. Ao Nang only has a single main street, lined with shops of all sorts and restaurants, stretching around a couple of kilometers. But it’s far from being a dusty little town, for along the coast is a long string of resorts – and with it a lot of guests which give the little town a lot of buzz and life.
Krabi is also used by many as a jump off point to the numerous islands that dot the Andaman Sea. The farther islands, like Phi-phi, require larger boats that sail from the small port on scheduled services. But the nearer ones can be taken with the ubiquitous “long tail” boats, right from the beach at Ao Nang.
The eastern part of Ao Nang’s coast is also ideal for swimming, with orange-ish sand and mostly rock-less beach. There are also trees that have canopies extending to the beach, providing shade to those not in need of a tan. I found the waters at Phuket’s Patong Beach a bit more pleasant though, in comparison, with finer sand, calmer waves and a more shallow gradient.
Thailand is of course known for food, and if our taxi driver is to be believed, you wont run out of good restaurants in Ao Nang. The stretch of the main road nearest the beach has plenty of them, so he says, and encouraged us to try the seafood.
We tried one of his recommendations for lunch, an open air restaurant called Tanta a short walk off the beach, and weren’t disappointed. My personal favorite was the Tom Yup soup, which had a surprisingly generous quantity of shrimp. Apart from that, none of the things we ordered was “below par”. Everything was good.
After having lunch, we spent a couple of hours dipping in the beach, before making our way back to the port, and taking a boat back to the ship. The time was too short, but I was happy to see Krabi, and especially Ao Nang, a destination that, despite its popularity (and the presence of McDonalds and Starbucks, both fortresses of western incursion) still looks and feels “off the beaten path”.
*We were in Krabi on April 2017.