*Sigh*. The Andaman Coast along the province of Krabi, Thailand… full of beautiful sandy beaches, warm calm turquoise waters, heat-stroke inducing sun, tropical landscapes and most magnificently, the incredible limestone geology that results in high and sporadic rugged yellowed cliffs leaping out of the ground!
What a place!
I’ve always carried fond memories of the Krabi province from my initial visit three years ago as it was the area that really got me hooked on backpacking and traveling. The scenery and the vibe of every island and beach I visited along this coast sucked me into the traveling lifestyle of Thailand and boy, was it a blast. But there’s so much to see, so much to do, so many places to explore! Where to bloody start? Well, fear not: here’s a quick lil’ guide to help you cut to the chase and experience the top things on the West coast of Thailand!
1. Eat Some Krabi Food
Krabi town is merely 18km from the sea with its own airport making it an easily accessible destination. 10 years ago, Krabi was a teeny tiny fishing community with a population of less than 50,000 but that’s all changed now. It’s a bustling but still relaxed town that is proving to be a better option than nearby Phuket’s booming resort industry and increasing prices.
Krabi’s a well-used jump off point for the many islands in the Andaman Sea and its surrounding coastline is reason enough to head there! But after traveling either by air, boat, car, night-bus, mini-van etc, you just need to chill-out and refuel your body before embarking on more explorations. Where better to sink your face into delicious traditional Thai food than Krabi Town??
There are two night markets in Krabi, but the one that is full of exotic tastebud-exploding dishes is the one near the boat docks which is open every night. Hawkers, street stalls and outdoor restaurants set up shop every eve and all the Thai locals and tourists come out to play (and dine).
It’s the ultimate place to try mystery meat on sticks, odd looking salted fish, strange and psychedelic coloured desserts and hopefully the chili of the papaya salad won’t burn your face off.
2. Shop in Ao Nang
The big main beach of the Krabi province is Ao Nang. It’s full of holiday makers, especially families and tour groups, making it a concentrated centre where you can go a bit crazy with shopping and pick up souvenirs and holiday clothes!
Bikinis are abundant, massage pampering parlours at every turn, pharmacies to pick up that much needed mosquito spray…and if you follow the main strip down along the beach to where it turns inland… you might find the gem of a store which sells vintage high-waisted Levi denim shorts for a mere 300 THB (AUS$9). Ultimate bargain!
Here in Ao Nang, it definitely has everything you need to stock up on for your holiday and a huge long golden beach, but in peak season it can get crazily packed and busy with families at every turn. Luckily it’s a perfect jump off point to explore the Andaman coast as there are plenty of boats that can whisk you away to other bays or islands.
3. Railay Beach
Now if you want stunning scenery and a beautiful beach that will blow your mind, jump on a longtail boat from Ao Nang pier and get to Railay beach.
It is the ultimate honeymoon destination due to its few resorts and luscious surroundings, and the bay is surrounded with the limestone cliffs that make the landscape incredibly unique. It’s isolated by the thick jungle making it a hidden little gem that is only accessible by longtail boat. Railay West is the picture-perfect beach that will make all your friends delete you off Facebook when you upload your view. On the other side is Railay East which has less resort accommodation (a bit more affordable for the backpacker who wants to stretch their Thai Baht) but the only sacrifice on the East-side is the sea. The East has a lot of mangroves growing and the water isn’t as perfect as West, but hey it’s still paradise!
There’s so much to do here: sea kayaking to the limestone outcrops springing up from the sea bed, diving, snorkelling, jungle trekking, elephant trekking, quad biking, cooking, and of course rock climbing. There are some fantastic beginners’ limestone rock faces where you can hire an instructor to help you tackle your first climb, and there are a huge range of rock faces to pick from; whether you’re a novice or spiderman.
4. Party on Phi Phi
From Krabi you can jump on a ferry to the beautiful 6 islands of Koh Phi Phi. It was absolutely devastated by the Tsunami of 2004 but it has now recovered and is thankfully blooming in success again.
It was made famous from Leo Dicaprio prancing about on Maya bay in The Beach, which has been debated on whether it has benefitted the island or not. Sure, the tourism industry is booming as everyone wants to see the setting for that hidden ‘Beach’…. now Phi Phi parties non-stop on the beaches to sate the tourists need to have fun. But these parties are epically good and a great setting to drink buckets and dance under the stars with the sand between your toes.
Just watch out for the skipping rope of fire or the burning limbo. Too many times have I seen a drunkard attempt to join the skipping, only to have the rope that has been set on fire with gasoline get wrapped around their neck. Sunburn is the only burn I think I could handle while on a beach.
Jump on a longtail to escape the crowds and go tour the hidden bays and other islands where snorkelling and general relaxation can be had. The bay where the beach was filmed gets hectically busy but boy, is it stunning.
Drinking in paradise with a few boutique clothing shops make Phi Phi a must-see/experience when you’re in the Andaman Sea.
5. Chill-out and Climb in Ton Sai
Now this was my slice of paradise where I had the best time at the beginning of my travels way back in 2009. Ao Nang in peak season had proved too much for me to handle, and to my delight, a longtail boat ride took me to Ton Sai: a little bay between Ao Nang and Railay Beach which is the most chilled out and serene community. Isolated, like Railay, you can walk the entirety of the area in about half an hour which curves in and out of the jungle in a horseshoe shape. Cheap homestays and guesthouses, reggae bars, beach swings, flat-lines, beach bars and delicious food stands make up this idyllic area…and did I mention that you can hike over a rocks and jungle to get access to Railay??
It is a highly desired place for serious rock climbers as the range of walls are fantastic and in peak season, Ton Sai becomes a flourishing little community (with many strapping young rock climbers roaming around).
It is my favourite beach-side destination in Thailand as you can relax on scenic beaches while listening to the faint tinkles of reggae music (when the electricity kicks in at 5pm) and you can also exhaust your body with a dash of intense rock-climbing.
When traveling, sometimes lounging on a beach for too long can do your head in, but here on the Andaman coast there is way too much to do. Boredom will never sink its claws into you as adventures are plentiful! Whether you want to check out jungle, climb an incredible limestone cliff (I realised I’m as weak as a kitten when I attempted to haul my body up a sheer wall), eat authentic dishes, swim in crystal clear waters or just marvel at the landscape of the Andaman Coast… whatever tickles your fancy, the Krabi Province in Southern Thailand will provide an awesome experience for you.
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