Krabi Province in Thailand features some of the most stunning landscape to be found anywhere in the world within the protected boundaries of Noppharat Thara Marine National Park.
The coast of the mainland and numerous offshore islands feature a mixture of sheer rocky cliffs, elevated jungles and coconut trees which majestically roll down to the water’s edge to meet with glorious sandy beaches. The rusty red and grey cliff faces are scarred with numerous caves and crevices and can be climbed to reach a mountaintop lagoon.
Away from the mainland in Ao Nang bay, limestone karsts stretch the imagination as they tower from the water, forming curious monolithic statues. Giving the appearance of melting under the scorching sun, jutting overhangs along the edges of. their rocky icicles provide natural mooring points.
Krabi province is located some 940 km south of Bangkok and 55 km due east of Koh Phuket. General activities are centered around the two beaches of Ao Nang and Railay, although they are slowly making their way towards Had Nopparat beach as well.
Krabi Town too has its share of the action, there are numerous hotels catering to gradually increasing numbers of tourists before they relocate to one of the beaches. There’s plenty of reasons for people to actually stay for a while in Krabi town itself. There are cafes and restaurants serving most international flavours, and of course the town’s very own 5 Star IDC Dive Center.
Located some 14km’s away from the town lie the beaches of Railay and Ao Nang. For amenities, the latter is the most popular in the area. While Railay is noted for its spectacular beaches and climbing, it cultivates a more bohemian image, so we’ll concentrate on Ao Nang.
Thankfully there’s an absence of those horrible electric lines cluttering up the skyline! For photographers, this is a Godsend, as many a would-be image has been thwarted by these thoughtless eyesores. But the renovations to this tourist haven have not stopped there, there’s now a selection of top-notch hotels, resorts, and spas lurking in the background, sensibly placed within easy grasp of beach amenities without obscuring the vistas of the bay. As you would expect, there’s a great selection of eateries along and beyond the road that traverses the beachfront. All the local fayre is to hand, and at affordable prices, as are those crafty tailors and gold stores that seem to pop up everywhere there’s a tourist!
Diving though is where Krabi comes into its own, with possibly the most unique and beautiful seascape in the world. Here, you can dive on haunting wrecks, through dark and forbidding caves and on some of the most resplendent sites available. Dive with sharks around exotic tropical reefs in the worlds most bio-diverse waters.
Scuba diving is also a big feature here with many wonderful sites (the bio-diversity is far superior on the Andaman sea than on the gulf side).
All in all this area maintains a good degree of convenience as everything is either close to hand or can be reached quickly and comfortably. The area still maintains its natural charm; there are no skyscrapers or superhighways nor are there any plans for any in the near future. The recent introduction of Kabi’s very own airport has elevated the area to International status but in a user-friendly way. This area should not be missed by any visitors to Thailand, especially divers!
When outstanding scenery is required, then Krabi is where the film crews inevitably end up. The world’s most beautiful beaches, stunning and unique rock formations riddled with multi-levelled waterfalls and mysterious caverns, lush tropical forest, unbelievable scenery and a City who’s motto is “Lively Town, Lovely People” together make Krabi a mecca for climbers, divers and adventures, as well as for those who just want to bask in brilliant sunshine and do cocktails on the beach.
Explore Krabi’s unique, unpopulated tropical islands, either by charismatic longtail boat or by the larger dive boats. Easy access to a dozen local islands with fringing coral reefs and clear shallow waters, daily trips to the best of Phi Phi islands dive sites, King Cruiser Anemone Reef and Shark Point as well as liveaboards to the incredible Hin Daeng, Hin Muang and the Similans, show that Krabi has lots to offer – except the large crowds of the more well-known areas of Phuket and Phi Phi.
Krabi Town was once just considered a jump-off point for tourists heading out to Koh Phi Phi and other outlying islands and while that is what many holidaymakers still do, there is a growing band of tourists who now regard Krabi as their final destination and use it as a base to make day trips and go exploring not just the islands but also the many other attractions that are in and around what is widely regarded as the first part of Thailand to be populated by man.
All the usual suspects are here, Elephant treks, canoe trips in and around the mangroves, the ever-present butterfly gardens. However, for those who are prepared to go more than skin-deep, Krabi has a lot more to offer than at first meets the eye.
Here you can still leave your front door open or your keys in your car or, as I did recently, leave your wallet in the basket of your motorbike for two hours and still have reasonable hope of getting it back. If it had been stolen my first suspects would be other tourists!
Let’s be clear about this: Krabi Town is no Chiang Mai, oh no! This is an affluent town that is willing to welcome visitors but is unwilling to sell its soul to get them, no hustling on the streets or beaches.
Prices for goods and services are Thai so don’t expect to be able to haggle large chunks off the asking price.
Railay beach offers world class rock climbing: those that know rate it as one of the top ten places in the world (some say top five).
Krabi also has one of the most picturesque nine-hole golf course I have ever seen.
So if you are heading south and looking for a bit of real Thailand combined with some great sports activities, Krabi may well be the place for you.