Most people are surprised when they find out I’ve never set foot on Krabi – especially since I took a year off in 2011 to travel around the world. The truth is, I’m not convinced that Krabi has anything to offer that I can’t find at other beach destinations.
Good diving? Well, there are more hardcore scuba diving destinations like Manado, Layang Layang and Sipadan not too far away.
Thai food? Well, Bangkok and Chiang Mai have never disappointed.
Island hopping? How different can one island be from another?
It’s less commercialised than Phuket? Well, I’ve never been to Phuket either, and I’ve never felt compelled to go.
So the truth is, if AirAsia had not invited me to be on their inaugural flight to Krabi this past week, I would probably have been quite content not going at all.
But having gone to Krabi, I find myself telling friends that I want to go back, to spend more time there, and to bring my boys as well. Here’s my top reasons why.
1. Hong Island and Hong Lagoon
I did decide to do island-hopping in the end, because the idea of hopping from island to island in a Thai long-tail boat was novel to me. Plus, it makes for iconic Krabi photos.
Instead of the popular 4-island tour, which is nearer to Ao Nang Beach, I opted to head northwest to the Hong Islands, a series of 12 islets in the Phang Nga province.
Hong Island or Koh Hong (as the Thais call it) is home to a National Park, which conserves wildlife and plants on the island. As such, there are nature trails to explore and facilities like restrooms, a drinks stall and shaded lunch areas for visitors.
Aside from swimming and snorkelling in the sheltered bay, you can laze or picnic on the white sandy beach or rent a kayak for 300 baht (S$12) and pedal around the island to the beautiful Hong Lagoon.
The entrance to the lagoon is almost hidden from view from the open sea. A narrow slit of an entrance allows one boat to enter or exit at any one time.
But once inside, you see a mysterious emerald pool cocooned by lofty cliffs and magnificent rock formations. I saw people wading in the lagoon, and the water was only waist-deep!
2. Koh Lading
This is my Gilligan’s Island on Krabi, complete with a coconut grove. It’s like a little spot of paradise on earth.
The island itself is laid-back, rustic and devoid of amenities. But you can get a fresh coconut off the tree for 60 baht (slight more than S$2). If you dare climb the tree, it’s free!
I found a spot on the beach, laid out my beach towel on the sand, ordered a fresh coconut and promptly dozed off to the gentle lapping of waves.
Koh Lading is very different from Hong Island – it’s small and secluded. But what makes it noteworthy is that it’s famous for its swallow caves. Locals harvest these swallows’ nests for birds’ nest soup!
Our guide told us though that we can’t access these swallow caves because they are heavily protected and the locals may even be armed. I am not sure how true that is, but we weren’t about to take the risk!
But as we neared Koh Lading, I did spot a flock of swallows circling above our long-tail boat!
3. Krabi Sunsets
I’ve seen many spectacular sunsets on my world travels and in all honesty, I did not expect much from Krabi. After all, it’s hardly written about.
I did, however, read about expats booking a table at The Last Fisherman (on the far, far end of Ao Nang Beach) to catch the sunset. So that was our plan on the first night.
But sunsets are really early in Krabi – around 6pm! And because we could not make it from our hotel to The Last Fisherman in time, we heeded our hotel GM’s advice to catch the sunset at Nopparat Thara Beach, just within walking distance of our hotel, the Mercure Krabi Deevana.
Nopparat Thara is a quiet stretch of beach, adjacent to the more bustling Ao Nang. Here, you will not find deck chairs with umbrellas nor beachfront shops. However, there is a row of seafood restaurants fringing the beach where you can catch the sunset.
And oh, what an awesome sunset it was!
And in the end, we did make it to The Last Fisherman at the furthermost end of Ao Nang Beach. Although we didn’t end up eating there, we did claim a spot on the beach to catch Mother Nature’s spectacular daily show.
Initially, the sunset did not impress me. But about an hour after the sun dipped below the mountains in the horizon, when the deep blues of the night sky slowly filled the canvas and the stars came out to play, the skies became insanely beautiful.
4. Thai Food
Krabi isn’t necessarily the best place to have Thai food – I’ve definitely had better in Chiang Mai and Bangkok!
But where beach destinations go, Southeast Asia explodes with options. In the mood for Indonesian food? Go Bali. Vietnamese food? Da Nang. Filipino food? Cebu. So when you’re in the mood for a beach vacation with spicy Thai food, I’d opt for Krabi – yes, it’s less commercialised than Phuket.
Here, you can get a decent Thai meal for as little as 35 to 60 baht (about S$2) at the roadside stalls.
On the first night, we enjoyed a feast of seafood tom yam soup, Pad Thai noodles, deep-fried spring rolls, mango juice and Thai coconut at a restaurant by the beach, and the whole meal – including front-row seats to catch a spectacular sunset – cost us just S$18!
There are also many traditional and modern Thai restaurants and eateries serving international fare (like Italian, Indian and Swedish cuisine) along the beachfront at Ao Nang.
We settled on a Chinese-Thai restaurant that claimed to the the oldest restaurant on the stretch, and enjoyed a wonderful dinner of Thai fusion food.
For dessert or just a snack, there are countless roadside stalls selling banana pancakes for 35 baht. They’re really greasy but hugely popular with tourists. You can even have your pancakes slathered with Nutella, peanut better and other decadent fillings.
If you’re worried about piling on the pounds, just adopt the philosophy that works for most of us: Holiday calories don’t count!
5. Daily Flights
AirAsia now flies from Singapore to Krabi direct. Daily flights depart at 1.20pm (Singapore time), and arrive in Krabi around 2pm (Thai time), which is perfect timing for hotel check-in.
And it takes just an-hour-and-a-half!
A plus-point for all AirAsia flyers must surely be the onboard meals that are only available for flights in and out of Thailand. I’d recommend you try their Thai Basil Chicken Rice and Mango Sticky Rice. Both are to die for!
I am tempted to write in to the airline to request they serve these for all flights, especially their mango sticky rice! The one I had at Ao Nang Beach did not even come close to this!
I’d already wiped clean Pak Nasser’s Nasi Lemak before I started on this, so I was planning to skip the sticky rice altogether. But I took one mouthful and I knew I would finish all the coconut milk-infused rice. And I did – so someone please kill me. The mango is also very sweet and comes sealed in an airtight pack for freshness.
Appetiser for More
So, this 3-day Krabi trip ended up being an appetiser for me. I intend to go back to explore the natural hot springs, which is something you don’t think occurs in Thailand. But I will need time for that, to just soak in the jungle vibes and listen to the birds and crickets. Perhaps in low season, a wonderful time to travel in my books.
Another place I’d like to visit is this curious cave where visitors throw carved penises of all shapes and sizes as a prayer for fertility. It kind of reminds me of Bhutan, but it’s apparently not linked to any religion. It’s called Phra Nang Cave, and I’d imagine it would be blast to visit with friends!
To find out more about AirAsia’s daily flights to Krabi, click here.