Koh Bida Nok is one of the most popular dive sites in South west Thailand. It’s a small island boasting wall diving and shallow reefs.
Koh Bida Noi and Koh Bida Nai lie to the south of Phi Phi islands, belonging to Phi Phi Archipelago. Together with Hin Bida they are known as The Bida Islands.
On a sunny Sunday morning I joined my friend Gianluca from Sea Gypsy Divers on board a brand new half catamaran half speed boat called the Ocean Manta for a dive adventure around the Phi Phi archipelago.
It had been a long long time since my last dive, about 3 years exactly, and I wasn’t sure what to expect from myself as a diver and from the marine environment of the area we were going to visit.
So I was a little nervous when I woke up at down in Klong Muang, but as soon as I grabbed my bag and hopped on my bike for the short ride to Sea Gypse’s office in central Ao Nang, I forgot all my worries and became excited for the day ahead.
At the office I met some of the other customers, we checked the equipment then we drove together to Port Tacola, the newest harbour just outside Ao Nang, where our boat was waiting.
Port Tacola is not affected by the tides as other piers in the area, and we could board the Ocean Manta through the main dock, loading all the equipment on trolleys for the short walk from the parking lot to the boat.
When we arrived at the pier, it was hard to miss that beautiful boat even among all the other catamarans and speed boat: the Ocean Manta was shining in the sun, all polished and neat, the prow pointing to the outer sea, eager to start her first official mission.
The boat has two very distinct zones, one dedicated to divers, on the back, and one in the front, for cruising, eating and chatting. The outside area, at the front, is spacious and super comfortable, and can easily accomodate 15 people.
Sun lovers rest assured: you can easily bask in the sun in between dives. I surely did that day!
Onboard I was introduced to the rest of the divers and snorkelers, the crew and the Finnish couple who are the owner of the Fast Manta.
The name is appropriate: the boat mounts 2 huge Mercury engines of 300 CC, and thanks to her catamaran shape it’s very stable and elegant on top of being fast.
We sat down at the tables in the lounge area and enjoyed the morning breeze and the splendid Krabi scenery while the boat departed.
It only took 1 hour and 10 minutes before we reached the first dive site, Bida Nok! That was really fast! I barely had the time to eat a slice of chocolate cake and prepare my equipment!
From the surface Bida Nok appears as a stunning limestone peak jutting vertically of the water. Underwater, it’s all about coral gardens, caves divers can swim through and vertical walls covered in soft corals.
Black tip sharks and leopard sharks are often seen parading around Bida Nok and typical reef fish like Clown Fish, red goby, angel fish, honeycomb eels can be spotted among the corals.
As soon as we approached Bida, the first shark appeared. We saw it from the boat, way before we were ready to jump in the water. Call it a welcome!
There was only another boat at the site, with a few snorkelers already in the water, but by the time we dove in, the black tip was still around. And it wasn’t alone. We saw three swimming in circle in very shallow waters, relaxed, not at all disturbed by us humans.
It was exciting to use a Go Pro during the dive for the first time, and I was so focused on getting on film everything that we saw that I was surprised once I realized the 60 minute dive was over. It was time to get on board.
On my first underwater movie I got the shark, a squid, some nudibranch, a baby banded sea snake, a ghost pipe fish, a group of large sea fans, some parrot fish and many more corals and creatures.
Turtles, barracudas and sting rays are often resting on the sandy area in the southern side, but we didn’t see any this time.
Back on board we cleaned our equipment and prepared the tanks for the second dive.
Lunch was served at the tables in the front covered area, consisting of a mix of fragrant white rice and diced tempeh in sesame seeds (or something similar that I can’t name, but very delicious).
We drank filtered water and soft drinks and there was some chocolate brownie as dessert, plus fresh fruits like pineapple and watermelon.
The only thing I really missed, but I hope the Ocean Manta guys will make it available in the future, was some hot coffee. A simple, instant coffee mix with hot water would be enough even for a coffee addict like myself.
I think that in between dives, specially if you get cold easily like I do all the time, some hot beverage would be very welcomed.
After lunch we had some time to relax or bask in the sun while the Ocean Manta headed to Phi Phi Leh.
We stopped for sightseeing and photo snaps at the entrance of Maya Bay, then we continued North along the coast of the island until we moored in a spot called Maya Nui, close to another dive site called Mushroom.
We could choose which one to dive, and we opted for the first one, more favourable given that a mild current was expected to rise by the time we finished the dive, and we could use it to push us back to the boat.
I honestly didn’t expect much from Maya Nui, but I was wrong.
Visibility wasn’t as great as in Bida, however we managed to spot black tip sharks again, and soon after a big, lazy, friendly turtle appeared, and decided to stay with us for part of our dive. She elegantly swam with us, keeping the same level and direction, then rising for breath on the surface before diving back down to us.
I love turtles and I was busy admiring her while, in the corner of an eye, I spotted a big octopus bouncing out at full speed from a cave.
I don’t know what pushed it to jump out, but it happened at the perfect time: the octopus was the biggest I’ve seen so far, and the bravest too.
From my experience, they don’t stick around mixing with divers for long, but this octopus did.
He started to show off, I would say, so much so that at the end of the dive my friend Bruno, who’s been a diver for 50 years, said: “I was about to ask him to leave, what was wrong with him wanting all the attention?”.
Of course he was joking, besotted as I was with the curious and friendly octopus.
Maya Nui is a shallow dive, but it boasts some colourful corals, large dramatic rocks and some interesting macro: It took me a while to see the tiny transparent shrimps that Gianluca was pointing to me.
Then, while we were ascending for the safety stop at the end of a 1 hour dive, a school of fish encircled us and I failed to understand the gesture Gianluca was doing to tell me what they were.
I got it later, but I enjoyed the swirling of the group none the less, they looked like a circus set up to amuse us during the required stop.
They were a large school of baby barracudas!
Back on board, more fruit and another piece of brownie, then we packed the diving gears and got ready to cruise back.
Again, the journey back was extremely smooth and fast: we all gathered on the outside deck to bid farewell to Phi Phi islands and to the adventurous day, and while the sky got dark and cloudy behind us we entered Tacola Pier and partied.
Hugs and googbyes, a few more photos, a pleasant ride back on my bike, riding ahead of the storm, and by 4.30 pm I was at home in Klong Muang, which is quite amusing considering that I had left Tacola pier at 9 AM in the morning and experienced so much in a such a short span of time.
Can’t wait to go diving again, that’s for sure!
For the divers: what is your favorite diving spot in the world?
Share it in the comment, and I'll share mine.
Koh Mook (Morakot Cave, Sivalai Beach resort),
Koh Kradan (The Reef Resort, snorkelling)
Koh Chuak (snorkelling)
Koh Ngai (Thanya Beach Resort)
With excellent weather, palm-fringed beaches and warm ocean, Thailand is an island-hopping destination all year round.
The Trang Islands can be described as the ideal exotic retreat that most people dream of when planning a tropical holiday.
Some of the islands off Trang province are almost unknown to foreign tourists; to name a few: Koh Libong, Koh Phetra, Koh Sukorn, Koh Bulon, Koh Lao Liang.
I guess you never heard of them, even if you are a repeating visitor of Thailand.
Others are a little more in the radar, yet still overshadowed by the like of Koh Lipe, Koh Lanta, Koh Samui, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao: this second group includes Koh Kradan, Koh Ngai and Koh Muk, boasting the most pristine and romantic beaches in the area and offering a large choice of beach front resorts and accommodation.
The sea encircling these islands is a palette of transparent turquoise and azure.
A day trip from Krabi
For a weekend day trip to the above mentioned islands off Trang coast, my friends and I started from Krabi, driving our car from Ao Nang to Pak Meng pier, at the border between Krabi and Trang provinces. It’s a pleasant 90 minute drive on good roads bordered by palm tree plantations and limestone mountains.
In Pak Meng harbour we boarded a private long tail boat for the day.
After about 30 minutes, we arrived in Ko Muk, the first island on our planned itinerary.
Koh Muk (sometimes spelled Mook) is best known for the Morakot Cave (or Emerald Cave), for its range of both affordable and upscale accommodation (Farang Beach vs Sivalai beach) and for the spectacular sunsets that visitors can admire from the West coast.
Koh Muk is especially convenient as a base for day-trips to the Morakot Cave, where a sea tunnel leads to a secret beach inside what looks like a volcanic crater cave, or to the nearby islands.
Plan to visit the cave at low tide and avoid the weekends, when many local tourists assemble at the entrance and the queue can be a little overwhelming inside the sea tunnel.
It happened to us on our Sunday trip but despite the long line of weak swimmers who had to be pulled inside by local guides through long ropes, creating some noise and traffic jams on one side of the tunnel, the wonderland that awaits at the other side still left us speechless and happy.
After spending some time at Morakot, we cruised along the west side of the island, past Farang Beach and the backpacker’s nest called Charlie Beach Resort, until we reached the Sivalai Resort.
The Koh Mook Sivalai Beach Resort lies on a quiet, white sand peninsula of pristine beaches bordered by shallow waters and fringed by palm trees. All the wooden and concrete bungalows and villas have a partial or full sea view and are shaded by exotic vegetation. We stopped at the Sivalai for a swim and a walk around the cape, then left for our next destination, a 15-minute ride away.
Koh Kradan is probably the most famous of the group thanks to the stark sugary white sand beaches and transparent waters very much alive with fish. You can snorkel right off the main beach (Kradan Beach) and at low tide you can even walk or paddle out to the reef.
We decided to stop at the main beach and have lunch at The Reef Resort, a corner of paradise consisting of simple but very well designed beach front and sea view rooms. And when I say "sea view" I mean it: the distance from each of the 18 rooms to the powdery beach of Kradan is probably 50 steps, and the sea view is the most amazing you will get on the island.
The resort’s owner is Italian but The Reef is very popular with North Europeans; many are repeating guests who have been returning to Koh Kradan for years.
If you visit the resort, spend some time at the lovely beach bar, reading the wooden plates that affectionate customers carved or painted for decoration and that are now part of the roof.
I recommend you to grab a bite at the hotel’s beach restaurant: the Thai and Italian cuisine is delicious, and the scenery one that you won’t forget.
Koh Chuak & Koh Ngai
After lunch and some snorkelling in Koh Kradan, we continued to the last island in our program, Koh Ngai, stopping on the way for more snorkelling in Koh Chuak, a little diamond-shaped limestone islet located between Koh Ngai and Koh Mook.
There are no beaches and accommodation in Koh Chuak, but the islet is not to be skipped if you like snorkelling: its aquamarine waters are bustling with fish and soft corals.
The last island we visited, Koh Ngai, boasts crystal waters, white sand beaches and some coral reefs (although not as beautiful as the reef in Koh Kradan & Chuak).
Among the Trang Islands, Koh Ngai has the most unspoiled jungle and it’s home to monitor lizards, snakes and a great variety of birds (including 2000 hornbills!)
The resorts on Koh Ngai are mostly upper/mid-range.
My favorite is Thanya Beach Resort with its Balinese style teak bungalows facing the beach and a nice, large swimming pool. All the buildings are immersed in a beautiful frangipani-filled tropical garden. The atmosphere is exotic and romantic, no wonders that the Thanya in Koh Ngai is a favorite destination for honeymooners.
In high season (November to April) Tigerline ferries stop just off Koh Ngai on their journeys between the islands of Phuket and Koh Lipe, while local long tail boats can be rent in Pak Meng for island hopping in the area. Join speed boats also run daily at fixed times.
After taking a photo tour in the marvellous garden of the Thanya Resort, admiring the tall frangipani trees and other lesser known but equally stunning trees and plants, we relaxed on the beach and enjoyed a last swim in the warm waters in front of the resort.
A large school of fish, like a storm cloud darkening the sea, kept following us while the islets-filled horizon started to turn from blue to gold. Sunset was coming, and it was time to start the journey back to Pak Meng pier to keep ahead of darkness.
We reached Krabi around 8 pm, happy, relaxed and charmed once again by the sensational scenery of Southern Thailand.
Good to know
When to go
Koh Muk, Koh Kradan and Koh Ngai are subject to the same monsoon as the rest of South-Western Thailand. The rainy season starts in May and keeps going until October; during this time many hotels are closed and transportation to and from the Trang Islands is not guaranteed
The dry season runs from November to April: the weather is generally amazing, you can expect blue sky, lot of sunshine and calm seas.
For this reason, dry season means high season: hotels can be fully booked and more expensive during the Christmas Holidays, New Year’s and Chinese New Year.
How to go to the Trang Islands
If you are staying in Bangkok or up north in the country, you should fly to Trang city, then hop on a shared or private minivan to Pak Meng Pier, a 40-minute drive away.
If you are already in the South, the best way to reach Trang is by driving your own car or taking a bus: a spiderweb of bus routes connect all the main Southern cities.
Join boats to Koh Mook and Koh Kradan departs from Pak Meng every day, however due to the current pandemic the ferry service is not as frequent as before.
Unless you are willing to rent a private long tail boat from the pier, I advice you to check the boat schedule in advance.
Prices for a private long tail boat start from 3000 THB per boat for a full day tour touching Koh Kradan, Koh Muk, Koh Ngai and Koh Chuak.
If you only need a transfer from Pak Meng pier to one of the island, the easiest way is to contact your hotel in advance, they will recommend and/or book a long tail transfer based on your needs.
How to island hop
In high season, island hopping is an easy ride. Hotel staff can book a join or private transfer for you to explore the whole area, including the nearby southern islands of Koh Libong, Koh Lao Liang and Koh Sukorn which we didn’t explore on this trip due to lack of time.
"The first I heard of the beach was in Bangkok, on the Khao San Road".
The beach & The Movie
Have you read "The Beach" by Alex Garland? If not, perhaps you have seen the movie, starring a young Leonardo Di Caprio. Well, Maya Bay is The Beach.
Alex Garland was thinking of Palawan, Philippines, when he wrote his novel about a secluded, heavenly location which somehow attracts the attention of the neurotic American traveller Richard; however the movie based on Garland's novel was filmed in Thailand, particularly in Phi Phi Leh, a cliff jugged little island in Krabi Province.
Before the shooting, in 1999, Ao Maya ("ao" meaning "bay" in Thai language) was a stunning sugary white beach in sleepy Phi Phi Leh, only visited by small groups of travellers that slept in Phi Phi Don, the bigger island nearby, and rented local boats from the locals for day trips to Maya Bay.
Despite being located between Phuket and Krabi provinces, the Phi Phi Islands were almost unknown to mass tourism until the movie became a sensation.
A local village of wooden shacks and unpaved roads, Ton Sai, was the only inhabited settlement of Phi Phi Don, while Phi Phi Leh was simply a natural sanctuary where monitor lizards, eagles and colourful marine species were the only residents.
I fell in love with the place in 1993, way before Hollywood chose it as movie set and people started to flock in. Year after year, every January or February, I used to spend some lazy days in Maya Bay with my family and a few other lucky travellers: it was so stunning and quiet, so dreamy like, so tremendously marvellous that I couldn't kick it out of my mind and kept going back.
I was in Phi Phi Leh even while Di Caprio was filming the movie, and I witnessed some of the changes that the film production made to the beach: the removing of wild vegetation to plant palms, the construction of temporary wooden structures which were to become the main set for the film. It was bad, but I think that at the time nobody realised the devastating impact that "The Beach" would have on Maya Bay.
When I moved from Shanghai to Krabi, in 2019, the beach had already been closed for a year and for good reasons: after almost 20 years of over tourism, it had nothing of the placid atmosphere I remembered from the Nineties.
Despite belonging to Krabi's Hat Noppharat Thara- Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park, it was a nightmare: countless speed boats and long tail boats would dash back and forth dropping off thousands of visitors every hour, every-day.
80 per cent of its coral reefs had been damaged by gasoline and sunscreen or by hordes of tourists stepping on them. The noise and the pollution were deadly to the local fauna.
In 2018, park officials finally stepped in and closed the bay, putting a halt to the flora and fauna carnage: a team of marine biologists and rangers began to work on restoring what was left of the reef and the fish and to plant more than 10,000 new corals.
Here's my latest video of the reopening of Maya:
New Rules for a sustainable re-opening
Almost four years later, on January 1st, 2022, with an unexpected decision, the National Park department officially opened Maya Bay again, reassuring all those concerned that a set of regulations would be put in place and police would make sure to protect the partially regenerated environment of the bay.
Regulations include keeping the number of visitors down to 300 people at any moment; banning boats and ferries from entering the bay and people from swimming from the beach.
On January 3, I was invited to join a day trip to Phi Phi Islands by one of the speed-boat companies that operate from Krabi. Group tours and crammed speed-boats are not my favorite way of travelling, I prefer slower, bigger boats or a private long tail, however I was eager to see how the tour would be run to include the visit to Maya Bay, and so I joined it.
The departure and first part of the itinerary was one I already knew pretty well: check in at Nopparat Thara pier next to Ao Nang at around 8 AM, a quick stop in Railay peninsula to embark more passengers, then straight to Bamboo Island, belonging to the Phi Phi archipelago, for a swim and beach time. Bamboo boasts an incredible scenery: a soft white sand beach runs all around the island, the crystal waters are ideal for snorkelling or soaking in mild currents, and often there is a delightful breeze to ease the heat.
In the past, Bamboo Island was another piece of cake very close to be devoured by greedy visitors, but the subsiding in the number of international tourists due to the pandemic bought it some time to rest and heal.
After spending about 90 minutes in Bamboo, our 35-seat speed boat headed straight to Phi Phi Leh, since the slot we were allocated to enter Maya Bay was between 11 AM and 12 PM (yes, now the entrance time is fixed, tour companies can't show up in Maya Bay outside the allocated time).
Since the re-opening, the only entrance point for the beach is at the back of the island: a new floating pier was built in Loh Sama Bay, previously a quiet corner of Phi Phi Leh with pretty good snorkelling. As soon as we approached Loh Sama Bay, I was dumbstruck: the boardwalk looked like madness, a trafficked parking lot where long-tail and speed boats were taking turns to drop off and collect tourists in a frantic, noisy scenario.
Groups were queuing on the narrow floating pier towards Maya Bay, bumping into others on their way to leave the island. I started to get sad and upset, and I wasn't the only one: the other passengers looked worried and unhappy too. My colleague Pluto said: "It looks like Tien An Men Square at rush hour". One of our friends, who had never visited Maya Bay before, was so shocked by the crowd that he considered not to get off the boat at all.
How was all this to be beneficial to the environment or to the visitors who had been dreaming of a tropical paradise? I thought: we all loose here, this is not the way to sustainable tourism.
Finally our boat approached the pier (a floating platform connected to a concrete walkway) and we disembarked. Walking in a line, we followed the path that cutting across Phi Phi Leh heads to the opposite side of the island, where Maya Bay is. It's a 5 minute walk past the rangers' houses, the toilets and a few smoking areas.
Maya Bay today
The first glimpse of the beach stole my breath. The incredible shades of blue and turquoise waters blend with the green of the surrounding karst peaks, the bluest blue of a sunny day sky and the sugary white of the beach in a picture that is too stereotypical to be real. Not for the first time, I witnessed the unparalleled breath-taking view of the bay wandering if it was true. There's nothing more beautiful than this, I thought.
But then, of course, reality came into the picture: I became aware again of the 200 people around me, taking photos, chirping with excitement, walking around in awe, sunbathing, drinking, plunging their feet in the water.
To protect the marine environment of Maya Bay, entering the water is now prohibited, and while the decision is one that makes sense if we want to give Maya Bay a chance to continue healing, the temptation to dive in for a minute is hard to resist.
Therefore, it was just a matter of seconds before the first person stepped a little too deep in the sea while a few others tried to have a quick swim, and the rangers on duty whistled repeatedly to call them out of the water. Far from my idea of a tropical retreat, it felt more like a kids' summer camp.
My thoughts on the reopening of the beach, then: I still get the goosebumps from seeing Maya Bay, and I'm still convinced it is one of the most spectacular beaches in the world, but the downsides of the reopening far outweigh the benefits.
Sure, visitors are not allowed to mess with the marine life, given the prohibition to swim, but they still produce and leave garbage behind, they still walk in the water wearing sunscreen, not to mention what is happening to Loh Sama Bay.
300 people per hour, for 6-7 hours a day, everyday, is more than Phi Phi Leh can take, and while the situation is still somehow manageable with the number of foreign travellers being limited due to the pandemic, I believe that it won't be easily managed once mass tourism come back.
I really hope to be wrong, and I'd like to hear the opinion of ecologists who worked so hard to restore the environment in the last 4 years, but for now my reaction to Maya Bay opening is a troubled and pained "No, thanks".
Have you ever been to Maya Bay yourself?
Do you think that the beach should stay open to travellers?
You have read that I live in Krabi, but you might wonder where exactly it is and why would someone live in such an unknown place (that is if you have never been to Thailand).
Well, Krabi is a spectacular province in the South-west of Thailand, boarding the Andaman Sea. Although Krabi doesn’t make headlines as some of the most famous tourist destinations in the country, like Koh Samui, Phuket and Chiang Mai, thousands of visitors come to visit the area all year round, but especially in dry season, from November until April.
Why so? Because Krabi has some of the best beaches and islands in Thailand and many other natural attractions like the karst mountains and peaks jutting out of the turquoise sea, or the mangrove forests, waterfalls and hot springs.
The first time I travelled to Thailand in the early Nineties, I didn’t go to Krabi but, as most European tourists, I only visited Bangkok and Phuket, with a day trip to Phi Phi Islands. My family and I immediately fell in love with Phi Phi, and when the tour guide told us that the islands belonged to Krabi Province, we made up our mind to go exploring Krabi Province, the following time we would be in Thailand. And we did it.
In all truth, Krabi should be on every Thai bucket list because its scenery is unique and the province full of surprises.
After travelling to Krabi for several years, on solo travels or holidays with friends and family, two years ago I decided to move here for good. Since then, I explored the province regularly, visiting the most touristic attractions as well as the less known places.
To help you planning your next trip, here are some of the best things to see and do in Krabi, Thailand.
Ao Nang is the most popular tourist destination in Krabi Province. It’s a laid back village about 20 minute drive from Krabi Town, where you will find plenty of hotels and renting accommodation, restaurants, shops, and the most popular beach in Krabi, Ao Nang beach.
The village is far from being fancy, instead it appeals to visitors that like an informal atmosphere and plenty of facilities, from Starbucks and McDonald’s venues to simple café and local restaurants where you can eat a Pad Thai or Mango and Sticky rice for less than a hundred bath.
At night Ao Nang is lively with cabaret shows, live music and performances, and a few soi (little alleys) where locals and tourists play pool and darts or drink a beer with bar girls. Boogie Bar and Booze are among the most popular bars, while the Slumber Party bar and hostel is the favorite among young travellers and backpackers.
Upscale Italian restaurants like Umberto or Azzurra will make pasta lovers happy, while Kodam Kitchen or Ton Ma Yom offer the best local Thai cuisine. Indian restaurants are everywhere, and Japanese and Chinese venues are doubling by the year, so there’s really something for everybody in this small beach town.
During the day, roasting in the sun and visiting the nearby islands are the visitors’ favorite activities: a boat ride from Ao Nang Beach to Poda and Chicken Islands only takes 20 minutes, and the local long-tail boats are waiting for passengers right in front of the beach.
Snorkelling and diving trips can be booked from travel agencies and diving shops in central Ao Nang. Same for kayaking trips or jungle tours.
The Railay Peninsula
Ao Nang beach is not the only lovely strip of sand along the coast and near Ao Nang Village: Railay, Ton Sai and Phra Nang are even more beautiful than Ao Nang. However, there are no roads to reach these three destinations and the only way to visit them is by boat.
The closest to Ao Nang is Ton Sai, then there is Railay, and the last one is Phra Nang. These three sisters are the top areas for rock climbing in Krabi, with several climbing schools operating all year 'round.
If you’ve never climbed before, you might want to take lessons, and there is a variety of half day, full day or multi day courses available. Even children can learn the basic techniques, and there are cliffs for every levels, from beginner to advance.
One popular option is Deep Water Solo: after practicing rock climbing, enjoy jumping into the emerald waters from different cliffs.
The limestone cliffs of Krabi are amazing to see from a distance, imagine how stunning they are up close!
Once you are in Railay, and even if rock climbing is not your thing, there is so much to see and do: hiking paths and jungle trails, swimming, snorkelling, kayaking options, and several bars and restaurants for chill out from morning until late at night.
To avoid the crowds, go in the early morning or late afternoon, or, even better, book a hostel or hotel in Railay and spend the night there.
Phra Nang beach is located on the southern Railay peninsula, and you can walk there through an easy and beautiful path from Railay East.
The sea is turquoise and shallow, the sand is soft and white, and the cliffs provide some shade during the day: it’s a kids paradise.
One attraction you shouldn’t miss is the Princess Cave where locals worship the goddess of fertility by bringing flowers, offers and…. phallic wooden objects which make this place really unique.
Sunsets are mesmerising in Railay West and Phra Nang beach, and you can enjoy the show each evening with a cold beer and a Thai snack. It’s Thailand at its best!
Krabi Town & the Night Market
A 20 minute drive from Ao Nang lies Krabi Town, the provincial capital.
It’s a laid-back little city that offers cultural experiences and close encounters with Thai people.
Art lovers should visit the Krabi Contemporary Art Museum for exhibits of local and foreign artists.
In Krabi Town you will also find many restaurants, shops and cafes, and a river promenade with a scenic view of Khao Khanab Nam, two limestone mountains that are the landmark of Krabi.
By joining a boat tour nearby the Khao Khanab Nam, you will see some interesting caves with prehistoric remains, the mangrove forest and the Muslim fishermen community that lives in Koh Klang, on the opposite side of the river, in front of Krabi.
Krabi Night Market
Night markets are ubiquitous in Thailand, in small villages and big cities, and Krabi is not different. Thais love to buy food and goods at the market, and they love shopping even more at evening, when the heat of the day is replaced by a gentle breeze and a dropping in the temperature.
Night markets are always busy and lively, colourful and cheap. If you’re looking for authentic Thai street food and souvenirs in Krabi Town, the Krabi Night Market is a must-visit.
The night market, which is also known as Walking Street, is open at weekends from 6 PM until 10 PM. It’s just behind the Vogue Shopping Center where you can buy designer and international clothing brands (don’t expect an Icon Siam though, or you’ll be disappointed! This is just an average department store).
The variety of items you will find at the Night Market is large: from local artefacts and clothing to leather handbags, street food and gardening tools. Visitors love coming to the market to enjoy live music and performances, too.
The best time to visit the market is around sunset: grab some local street food snacks, chat with the friendly vendors, enjoy the live music and street art performances before going for a beer in one of the bars downtown.
The Emerald Pool & Klong Thom Hot Springs
From Krabi you can visit the Emerald Pool and the Klong Thom Hot Springs.
The Emerald Pool consists of several natural pools of fresh water located in the jungle. Only the biggest pool, whose name refers to the turquoise color of the water, is suitable for swimming, while the Blue Pool is great for photos, but you are not allowed to dive in.
The Klong Thom Hot Springs are thermal underground springs with a temperature around 35-42 degrees Celsius. To refresh when it gets too hot, you can jump in the river below.
Some locals believe that the springs contain minerals which are healthy and can heal some disease, but even if there’s no proof of that, Klong Thom is perfect to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Avoid going there at weekends and National Holidays, because the place is very popular with locals and you will likely meet lots of people.
Explore the temples: Wat Tham Seua and Wat Kaew Korawaram
Besides the beach life, Thailand is famous for the thousands of temples that cover the country.
Not far from Krabi Town, Wat Tham Sua (the Tiger Cave Temple) is the most popular among visitors, and for a good reason: it consists of different buildings built into and around a cave in a limestone cliff. It takes its name from a wild tiger that used to live in the area when the first monks came to build the temple.
The most spectacular part of the complex is atop the cliff, but the hike to the very top of the mountain requires good legs and lungs, and some courage, since it takes 1260 steps on very steep staircases to conquer the peak.
From there, there’s an impressive 360 degree panoramic view above Krabi Province: on clear days, you can see as far as Lanta Island.
The Tiger Cave Temple is one of the most popular attractions in the province, so plan your visit early in the morning (as early as sunrise) or in the late afternoon to avoid tourist groups.
Don’t forget to cover your shoulders and legs, since this is a religious site, and be aware of the monkeys who are great thieves of cell phones, hats and food!
Wat Kaew Korawaram
In downtown Krabi, there’s another Buddhist temple that you shouldn’t miss, the Wat Kaew Korawaram, also called the “White Temple” because of the white exterior walls.
The large, white staircase leading to the temple can't be missed if you are walking or driving in downtown Krabi: you'll have to climb it to reach the main building which is perched on a small hill, but don't worry, it's nothing compared to the Tiger Cave Temple long staircase!
Once inside, check out the wall drawings showing important episodes of the Buddha’s life. Despite being an important temple in Krabi, and housing a monastery, the Wat Kaew is not as popular as the Wat Tham Suea, and you should be able to explore it without massive crowds.
All nature: explore Ao Thalane and the islands
The fishing village of Ao Thalane is not as touristy as other places in and around Krabi Town, and it’s a great idea for a day trip. Once in Ao Thalane, rent a kayak to explore the mangrove forest and canyons and observe the lush jungle and the creatures who inhabit it.
Locals are pretty serious about protecting the environment of Ao Thalane, and knowledgeable about the mangrove eco-system, so you will learn a lot about it during a kayak trip.
A few villas and beach resorts can be found in Ao Thalane, but if you don’t want to sleep there, this is an easy day trip from Krabi and Ao Nang.
Visit the islands
There are 52 islands off the coast of Krabi Province, and plenty of amazing tour opportunities for island hopping, many of them starting from Krabi Town or Ao Nang. The closest islands are ideal for half day tours by long tail boats, while others require a full day tour by speed boat, or a multi-day package.
One of the biggest and most beautiful islands where you should overnight is Koh Lanta Yai, a heaven for beach life, snorkelling and diving. It’s a laid back, relaxing place to spend a week, ideal for families with your children, yoga lovers, digital nomads and anyone who don’t miss the night life.
You’ll see some fantastic sunsets from Koh Lanta’s west coast beaches. Moreover, Lanta is easy to navigate: most of the roads are paved and scooters are affordable.
For a day trip from Ao Nang and Krabi, one of the most impressive islands is Koh Hong, boasting a long white sandy beach, a lagoon and, since recently, a phenomenal view point that can be reached in about 20 minutes, climbing an easy staircase.
Most join and private tours include a picnic lunch on the beach, anyway there is a simple restaurant where you can buy some fried rice, chips and ice-cream. It’s forbidden to sleep in Koh Hong, and the island closes at 5 pm. The boat trips to Koh Hong usually stop in two more islands: Lao Ladin (Paradise Island) and Pakbia.
The 4 island day trip is another tour that can be easily arranged from Ao Nang, Krabi Town and nearby locations.
Hop on a long tail or speed boat and spend your day basking in the sun, swimming, snorkelling or kayaking in the Andaman sea. Poda, Chicken, Tup and Mor islands are very close to each other: at low tide you can even walk on the sandbar connecting the tiny Tup island to Mor, feeling like Moses.
Poda Island is the one with the longest and whitest beach, it’s usually very crowded but if you walk to the southern part of the beach you might find a tranquil corner. It takes only 20 minutes by boat from Ao Nang to Poda and Chicken, and they are both stunning.
Hike the highest peaks
Krabi Province houses several National Parks, one of them is the Khao Phanom Bencha Park that takes its name from Khao Phanom Bencha, the highest mountain in the province.
If you are fit and healthy, you can climb it, but you should hire a guide and plan to overnight, since it takes about 7 hrs to reach the top, and the sun sets early in Thailand.
Another lovely (but challenging) hiking trail is the Dragon Crest (Khao Ngon Nak) which starts nearby Tubkaak Beach, a 15 minute drive from Ao Nang, and takes about 2 hours per way.
Start very early in the morning if you want to ascend slowly and enjoy some time at the top, taking in one of the most epic views in all of Thailand, because the National Park closest at 3 pm: after this time you won't be allowed to enter and climb.
What about my favorite activities as a resident?
As somebody who lives in Krabi all year long, I don’t visit the most touristic islands often, since I have been there many times in the past.
Mostly, I like to spend my free time eating brunch at a beach or panoramic café, enjoying a day at the spa, hopping on a public boat to Railay or taking long walks in Klong Muang or Tubkaak beach.
One thing I never get tired of is watching the phenomenal sunsets that happen so often in Krabi.
If you come to this part of Thailand, drop me a line and I’ll whisper some of my favorite secret places, so that you won’t miss out on all the natural beauties that Krabi has to offer.
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