Beach Life: Krabi Edition | Railay, Ao Nang, Phi Phi
Welcome back to post #2 in Thailand series! In this one I'm trying to cover A LOT - Ao Nang, Railay, Phi Phi, so let's get right into it!
Krabi is a whole big province in southern Thailand, and there's a ton of islands to cover. Sadly we had to skip the Ko Yao islands this time as we just didn't have enough time, but gotta leave something for the future, right? Anyhow, we did manage to do a lot - we flew into Krabi and started out in Railay, then we took a ferry to Phi Phi islands and spent a couple of days there, then another ferry to Ko Lanta (which I'll do a separate post on because it's the best), and then back to Ao Nang.
When you travel down to Krabi, you've got so much choice when it comes to deciding where to stay. I had read that Railay is a must-see place, so I thought why not stay right there. It's a bit of a pain to get to as you can only access this peninsula by boat, and it seemed especially tricky when we arrived at 10pm to a pitch black pier. However, all ended well and we later found out that it's not actually too hard to find someone at night to boat you over, you just might have to pay a bit more.
Railay is right next to Ao Nang which is the main beachside tourist town in Krabi, so in the daytime you can easily get on a boat taxi there. However... this means that during the day the beaches are crammed full of (even more) tourists. There's 2 beaches here - main Railay beach where most of the boats come in, and Ao Phra Nang beach. We liked Ao Phra Nang a lot better as it's just a nicer layout and you can (sort of) hide from all the others, whereas Railay beach is just a very long and wide strip of sand. Both stunning, surrounded by the typical Thailand postcard cliffs, but to me Ao Phra Nang was more impressive.
I am SO glad that we stayed here overnight, because the real magic happened at dusk. By sunset time, most of the longtail boats have gone and beaches have emptied, so you can go down to Ao Phra Nang and enjoy a stunning sunset. It was quiet and calm and we felt like in a dream. We saw our first proper Thailand holiday sunset here and it kind of ruined the rest of the sunsets.
The food is a different story. Being a tad snobby with my meal choices as usual, I had done some research and I did read ahead of time that the food in this part of town is quite bad. As it's only accessible by boat, you can't expect a whole lot. There's plenty of choice, but even the restaurants with the best reviews served pad thai noodles in a sauce that suspiciously tasted like ketchup. Also, when I say "restaurant", I mean a patch of sand with a dingy roof, a couple of old dirty plastic tables and chairs, and maybe an electric fan somewhere above you if you're lucky. I must admit though, there was something romantic about it all.
Made so popular by 'The Beach' film, Phi Phi was definitely one of the most crowded places we went to. But I don't think it's overrated - it is actually stunning, and you can easily avoid the super drunken party scene if that's putting you off. It's a bit more expensive than other islands, but there's so much choice for accommodation, food, and activities. We stayed in a hotel with a private beach on the other side of the island, facing completely away from the main party area of Loh Dalam Bay beach. There's 2 islands - Phi Phi Don, the bigger one with all the action, and Phi Phi Le - with the famous Maya Bay and Pileh lagoon.
- Maya Bay & Pileh Lagoon - just imagine Leonardo Di Caprio running out of the jungle to find that beautiful paradise view.. and now add a shit ton of tourists and boats everywhere. I've read that for the next few months Maya Bay will actually be closed to help it recover from all the environmental damage, and thank god for that. We went early in the morning to try and avoid most of the crowds, but even then it was just manic. It would be a shame to see this stunning place ruined - but then I was one of the tourists there too, contributing to that pollution. You live and you learn. After seeing Maya Bay, the boat took us around to Pileh Lagoon - which in my opinion is even more stunning, and way less crowded. The boats just anchor and you can jump out in the blue blue water (which I'm sure is nicely polluted as well) for a refreshing swim with the most insane 360 views. I also want to note that the views approaching Phi Phi Le are the most stunning, so you don't even have to go in to the bay or stop anywhere, just take a boat around the island. It will make you feel like a tiny ant and you might even shed a tear at the beauty of mother nature.
- Kayaking - In the afternoon (to save yourself from some serious sunburn), I'd suggest hiring a kayak and going as far around Phi Phi Don as you can. We kayaked up to Monkey Beach first - and as cool as it is to see wild monkeys, it was so sad to see how most people were treating them. Monkeys will grab any kind of food or beverage that you bring with you, and there were empty crisp packets and coke bottles all over the place. And then there's people who feel the need to harass the monkeys or get a selfie with them - please don't be those people. Just let the monkeys be and enjoy the white sand beach. And take your trash with you. We then kayaked across to Nui Beach which was a true hidden gem. With the sun almost setting and only a handful of people left on the beach, we enjoyed a few moments of blissful silence and beautiful views.
Phi Phi is very touristy so there's plenty of shops, restaurants, and loads of little stands offering every kind of tour you'd want - especially for snorkeling and scuba diving. There's also a plethora of tattoo shops, if you're feeling particularly adventurous you can get a traditional hand-poked tattoo. I was tempted.. but I didn't get a hep B shot so it was a no-go.
Now the really important bit - food. After Railay, I was sooo impressed by the places we found in Phi Phi. I apologise that I don't have photos of food; i'm the person who's always starving by the time the food comes out, and I have to eat it right away.
- Aroy Kaffeine - tiny little gem of a place, great smoothies and healthy choices available. If there's an acai bowl on the menu, I'm there.
- Garlic 1992 - a place that actually looked like someone's dingy old garage, but only because they had suffered in a fire a few months earlier. The food completely made up for it - the curries were absolutely delicious, and there was lots of choice for vegetarians.
- The Mango Garden - if you like mango, this is the place. Great smoothies, great brunch-y foods, loads of different mango dishes, and of course the signature mango sticky rice.
- Street vendors selling fruit - can never go wrong with this. Fresh coconuts are available on every corner too, though some were selling them for 4 times the price as other islands.
Back on mainland, the town of Ao Nang seems to be the center of tourism in Krabi. It's nothing special, there's lots of shops and bars and a nauseating amount of tourists, but it's a good place to be based out of if you want to see lots of the smaller islands in the area. You can find a boat or a ferry to pretty much anywhere; you can even go on a 10-hour bus ride back to Bangkok if you fancy. So here's what we did while based in Ao Nang for a couple of nights:
- Private boat tour to Ko Poda and Tup island - spend a couple of hours just beaching away from the masses. Private tours will always cost a bit more, but the price is per boat and not per person. It's really easy to organise one and no need to book ahead - you'll see tens of boat skippers hovering around the beach, trying to sell you a trip. Ko Poda has a beautiful quiet beach and plenty of shade to hide from the sun, we really loved it there. When the tide is low on Tup island, you can walk to another nearby island. Kind of cool, but nothing I'd write home about.
- Railay day trip - if you're not staying in Railay, definitely go on a day trip over there. In my opinion, it's a must see, especially Phra Nang beach. It's an easy 10 minute boat trip and it's much cuter than Ao Nang.
- Thai cooking class - we had an amazing time at our cooking course at Ya Cookery School (they also do pick-up & drop-off at your hotel). It had great reviews and we 100% agree with all of them. Ya herself is just an incredible character; we were repeating her signature phrases for days. We had the best time, made and ate the best fresh thai food (so much so that we stopped eating that day all together at 3.30 pm). You get to take leftovers home and you get to keep a recipe book of all you’ve made on the day. Now i’m off to buy a pestle and mortar to make my own curry paste. Also - they were super accommodating to me and my vegetarian needs.
- Massages - we found them cheaper here than on the other islands (like Phi Phi and Lanta) and they were great. We loved this place called Massage Corner, literally around the corner from our hotel.
- Tiger Cave Temple - if you're confident on a scooter, it's only a 30 minute drive outside of Ao Nang. If not, you can organise a taxi or a tour bus to take you there. It's a beautiful temple with a viewpoint on top of a mountain - SO worth the crazy steep climb up 1237 steps! Highly recommend it for sunset, as you'll get cooler temperatures (kind of.. it was +33 when we went at 6pm) and a pastel-coloured skyline. We arrived just before 6 and it took me - the slow one - about 30-40mins to get to the top. Luckily I made it just in time for sunset.
- Cafe 8.98 - we came here every morning for breakfast. Lots of choice and it's delicious (though they constantly had an avocado shortage), but expensive for Thai standards.
- Protect your skin - day one on the beach, it's a tad windy, and Kat's being cocky again thinking I'm good, my skin is so used to this, my SPF 15 will keep me protected. It happened SO fast, I literally put the crab in Krabi. It took my back a week to recover. Never have I been so badly sunburnt!
- Boat trips are the most expensive thing - a good thing to keep in mind when budgeting. They will be your biggest expense, and most of the smaller islands also charge a not-so-cheap national park fee.
- Longtail boats - there is something so romantic about a longtail boat, but they run on petrol and I can't let go how much waste they must create and how bad they are for the environment. See if you can hike or kayak, or split one with other people instead.
- Cheap fruit all around! Take advantage of this and stuff yourself with as much pineapple and mango as you can. I didn't even know pineapple could taste that sweet.
Thailand adventures continue in Ko Lanta - see ya in the next one! x