Once upon a time, Krabi was probably an untouched beauty of an unseen Thailand, with towering natural limestone formations right on the coastline, conjuring shorelines like that in a dream postcard. Today, where some write as the province’s “must see”s and must do”s are being painted with a slightly tainted and tourism-orientated brush, while some areas – the not as beaten track – still glow in a light true to the province and its people. Having arrived in Krabi after having part of my heart stolen by the neighbouring island Koh Lanta, my first impressions were naturally going to be a wee bit biased. Moving from an almost ghost town environment to AHH PEOPLE EVERYWHERE was straining and a little challenging to get used to in the first couple of days. To find paradise here, like many other experiences I’ve had travelling around Thailand, it’s so important to stop reading other people’s opinions and just go explore for yourself. First and foremost, Krabi is beautiful. Pictures paint a scene of golden sands against crystal waters wading in and out and crashing in the distance against giant columns of limestone karst. Our first morning was an exploration of the most renowned beach of Krabi, Ao Nang. As a hub for many tourists and travellers, it was difficult to remember about the beautiful nature jazz when crisp packets tumble in the waves and sellers dangle an array of tacky jewellery and dresses in your face every one and a half minutes. Ao Nang is positioned in a U-shape, the seafront laden with traders selling the “same-same but different” stuff and guesthouses and properties stacked upon each other down the congested main road to the beach. What was probably paradise a decade ago now feels like Blackpool has uprooted and rehomed itself in South East Asia.
Seek and you shall find, however! Only a few minutes drive away from the tourist-clad Ao Nang, separated by a small stretch of rocks and limestone, lays Hat Nopparat Thara. While tourists flock to Ao Nang waters on a Sunday afternoon, around the corner Thai families throw their picnic blankets down and bring out their rice cookers, eating lunch “family style” right there on the seafront. Some of the best foodie spots are around here too, in restaurants not so decorative, but we bingoed more locals tucking in here too.
Any homework into beach bum hotspots of Thailand says Railay Beach is an absolute must. It’s promised that the clearest waters wash onto white sand, an isolated paradise. Maybe my mentality has turned residential in Thailand but again, the mark of tourists is apparent everywhere. The most accessible part of Railay is beautiful yet typically overran with longtail boats and partygoers waiting for the sun to set. Railay seems to be a bit of a haven for rock climbers, the scene sliding quickly from calendar shorelines to staggering cliffs surrounding the front and the jungle that’s just a couple of minutes walk away.
Our five days in Krabi were spent going at turtle pace at times, but it really suited the feel for the region itself. There are a handful of things to do in Krabi, including a hot springs waterfall and an Emerald Pool (which is the treat after a Thai-estimated kilometre walk through woodlands). These things are cool, but there are definitely better out there, with maybe half the Russians taking promiscuous pictures of one another in the rocky entrances to the pools.
A highlight of my time here was a 1237 step climb to Wat Tham Suea, also known to us muggles as the Tiger Cave Temple. Being one of the most sacred buddhist sites in Krabi, it gleams over a vast amount of space at the top of the mountain it’s perched on. In overbearing enthusiasm I didn’t realise how strenuous the walk might be, combined with the unforgiving sunshine and heat. There were a few touch-and-go moments, but my Ma managed to drag herself to the top too! This was our reward: