Krabi is found lining the Andaman coast in the South of Thailand. It is famous for unique geographical features of limestone cliffs (karats), thermal springs, white sand beaches, forest parks and emerald waters. What’s not pictured in holiday brochures however are the many unique cultural differences in the region, as expected from a 750 mile leap from Bangkok, where locals darker skinned, they speak Thai with a southern dialect and the predominant Muslim religion is mirrored through dress, food and culture. The sounds of prayer echo through streets from colourful mosques and the fronts of local houses are commonly decorated with the call of caged songbirds (red-whiskered bulbul). Wildlife is diverse in the area and you are likely to come across wild monkeys or tropical bird during a visit. When in come to coastal destination’s Krabi is no doubt one of my favourite regions of Thailand even Krabi during low season.
Ao Nang – Just another Beach Resort
Getting there: 30 minute drive from Krabi town or airport
The favoured first port of call in Krabi is Ao Nang Beach as it offers the ideal vantage point for Krabi’s inland attractions and gives access to the coral reefs and the 200 islands which line Krabi’s coastline. If you plan on sea kayaking or venturing inland to Krabi’s famous national parks Ao Nang is a good place to be. If you are looking for an authentic Thai experience then I suggest keep moving. Ao Nang is best used as a transit point and if you have made it this far you should take the extra step to nearby islands.
Ao Nang has become just another beach resort, albeit with a beautiful backdrop. While the area won’t reach the same notoriety of Pattaya or Hua Hin the area does harbour the same traits. The beach road is lined with international food joints, bars and hard sell. Thai food restaurants sell Thai food ‘not for Thai tastes’. Culture is watered down for tourists. Pushy taxi touts cuss in Thai when their hard-sell services are ignored. These annoyances remain during low season in Krabi and strangely this ugly tourism is encouraged with a ban on Thais using tour buses to reach Ao Nang. The lack of locals allows greed to run riot as Thai hospitality has been replaced with opportunism. Not a trait of locals but of tourism in the area. The area was best summed up by Fanfan when tweeting “I’m Thai… why don’t I feel I’m in Thailand.” There was only one picture worth taking in Ao Nang.
The best accommodation comes on the North side of Ao Nang beach (soi 8). 1000 baht the magic number during low season in Krabi when budget travel meets luxury accommodation.
The 4* Red Ginger Chic Resort (1,400bt+). Design hotel, delicious Thai food and proper cocktails.
The 5* Centara Grand Beach Resort and Villas (4,100bt+). Secluded, luxury resort, private beach, breath taking views.
Railay, Perfect Seclusion
From Ao Nang: 15 minutes by long-tail (100baht)
From Krabi Town: 35 minutes by long-tail (150baht)
The Railay peninsula is cut off from mainland Krabi by towering limestone cliffs and oceans. It hides quietly between the ugly tourism of Ao Nang and the backpacker hordes of Koh Phi-Phi. Access is by boat only and for this reason Railay is less visited and has a relaxed island feel to the area. During low season in Krabi it makes for the perfect hideaway from the mass tourism.
East Railay brings perfect seclusion. With mangrove beaches swimming is restricted in the area and because of this tourists favour West Railay’s white sands. This means accommodation in East Railay is cheap and lack of tourists allows wildlife to roam free. You can expect a wake-up call from passing monkeys or tropical song birds. We stayed at the Railay Great View Resort and Spa where gibbons greeted us on our balcony. Normally I don’t promote where I stay but for 1000 Baht during low season this place was special.
A 10 minute jungle walk reaches West Railay with perfect beaches, famous sunsets and the island’s more expensive accommodation. The famous Pranang cave beach is a 10 minute walk from both east and west Railay. The rock climbing mecca of Tonsai Bay is a bit further out and can be reached by a 15 minute hike from West Railay.
East Coast: 3* Railay Great View Resort and Spa (1,000baht+), budget bordering luxury bungalows, secluded, seaview and amazing value for money.
West Coast: The 4* Railay Village Resort (4,000baht+), luxury villas on West Railay beach, surrounded by limestone cliffs.
Ultimate Luxury: The 5* Rayavadee Hotel (20,000+), surrounded by pristine beaches and home to the grotto (cave) restaurant. Proper paradise.
Koh Phi-Phi Don (Breath Taking Scenery / Ugly Tourism)
There is no denying Koh Phi-Phi is a true island paradise. From the moment you set foot on the pier you are surrounded by pristine waters and schools of yellow and black coral fish (sergeant major fish). Unfortunately this marine reserve is quickly depleting through over development.
The island is busy year round with low season in Krabi not affecting popularity with backpackers. ‘The Beach’ fanatics also guarantee steady flows of tourism. This means high prices so expect to pay hefty mark-ups on basics such as 7/11, water and local food markets. Hospitality is not so welcoming with pushy tour operators and an insular diving fraternity. The island is small and easy to navigate with no motorized transport allowed meaning you will likely travel by foot. Inexpensive long-tail boats also offer transport between beaches including trips to Monkey Bay and further afield to the famous ‘Beach’ island of Koh Phi-Phi Leh (30mins).
There are 2 sides to the island; Ton Sai Bay (the pier side) and Loh Dalum Beach (the party side). Loh Dalum (during the day is a serene sandy beach hidden between limestone cliffs. Serenity is lost after sundown as the beach transforms into a hedonistic circus of drugs, alcohol and poi (fire) shows. If you plan on sleeping do not stay on this side. At night Ton Sai Bay is our preferred location along with Long Beach which is situated next to it. The atmosphere is serene, the bar scene is relaxed, the poi (fire) shows are artistic and the views are perfect. A great place to relax is Carlito’s bar with idyllic views of Tonsai Bay.
There are few exciting hotels in Koh Phi-Phi’s central tourist areas. To find any hotel worth mentioning a trek north is necessary to the quieter and secluded Laem Tong Beach and the impressive Zeavola Resort.
Luxury: 5* Zeavola Hotel (8,000+), luxury boutique resort, beachfront suites, secluded location.
Budget: 2* PP Insula (1,000+), basic, affordable and in ideal location between both tourist beaches.
Koh Phi-Phi Leh (The Beach). Finding Paradise?
Home to the iconic ‘Maya Bay’ filming location of cult backpacker movie ‘The Beach’. The island can only be accessed by tours and boat trips and offers no accommodation other than overnight camping trips. To see ‘The Beach’ you should stay at nearby Ko Phi-Phi Don. Trips are organised throughout the day and if planning to avoid the hoards of snapping tourists (as pictured below) and the roar of motorboats go very early. If you plan on going by long-tail boat be prepared to get wet as tides often force a swim to reach the island. In short, horribly touristy and not how it’s pictured in brochures. This goes the same for low season in Krabi.
Ko Lanta. An Island of Your Own.
Low season in Krabi brings rough seas to Koh Lanta forcing sea excursions and ferry services to shut down. Reaching the island is only by the short boat trip from mainland Krabi. Tourists don’t come, the liveliest beaches are emptied and many restaurants, bungalows and hotels shut down from the start of May to the end of October. Abnormal tides bring debris to the islands best beaches.
On the plus side you can easily avoid crowds. In fact you won’t be able to find crowds as beaches are deserted. The island’s 200 Baht entrance fee is waived and the hotels (which still operate) are cheap. One beach which opens for business during low season is Klong Dao beach on the northwest of the island. If you plan on eating outside of your hotel however the best bet is Saladan pier or along the main road lining the West of the island.
While I generally avoid renting motorbikes it was unavoidable on this trip with transport hard to find. There are two sides to the island split by tall hills, mangroves and rubber tree plantations. The west side is popular for beaches. The east side is quiet and culturally diverse with old Lanta Town and a sea gypsy village (Chao Leh). It takes 40 minute by motorbike from top to bottom. A recommended inland eco-excursion is kayaking (or long-tail) through rich wildlife of the Ko Lanta’s mangroves.
4* Costa Lanta Hotel (1,900bt+). The perfect chic retreat on Klong Dao beach, stylish Sea View cabanas. One of the few places on the island to serve a proper cocktail.
Travel from Bangkok to Krabi (Thailand)
Fly: Bangkok (BKK) – Krabi (KBV) 1hr 20mins 3 times a day with airasia.
Bus: Bangkok to Krabi 11 hours leaving the Southern Bus Terminal (+66 2 894-6122)
Low Season in Krabi: Travel to Krabi in Low Season is no different than year round.
Arriving in Krabi you will find travel easy. Cheap tour operators are found almost everywhere for travel between beaches, islands, resorts and attractions. It is best to avoid independent Tuk-Tuks as they will likely rip you off.