The fabulous landscape of Krabi
From white sand beaches to limestone formations emerging from the turquoise sea, Krabi has it all. If you look for fabulous landscape, this is a place to include in your Thailand trip. Located in the south of the country, the Krabi province requires a bit of preparation to avoid the crowds and find your little piece of paradise. We give you some tips and tricks to take full advantage.
Dreamy scenery in Railay Beach
The main natural hot-spot of the Krabi province is Railway Beach and Ao Phra Nang Beach, two stretches of sand located next to each other on a small peninsula encircled by limestone karst formations.
Unfortunately, it is no longer a secret place and the area has been developed with hotel properties and shops. It is hard to imagine that it was a mangrove of palm trees a few decades ago. However the beaches and the surroundings definitely have something magical. If you arrive in the morning like us, it is still relatively peaceful and really creates a vow effect.
Our hotel located off the beaten track offered us a free van shuttle until the small pier of Ao Nam Mao. There we could take a long tail boat service until Railay peninsula. In the morning, we could reach Railay in 15 minutes along the beautiful coastline.
We first walked towards the stretch of beach called Ao Phra Nang. The beach is located within a small bay delimited on both sides by impressive high karst formations. On one side, there is the Princess Cave at the base of the limestone formation. In the cave, Thai fishermen deposit gifts to the god Shiva so that he protects them in the sea.
Then, we enjoyed the view of this single limestone formation raising out of the turquoise sea. Limestone is a soft porous rock through which rain can easily percolate dissolving the limestone. It is also eroded by wind and seawater creating precarious shapes like this one.
In the morning, the beach was still scarcely populated. The only negative thing is the succession of long tails boats docked on the beach in one area. However the end of the beach was almost empty.
Railay Beach is another stretch of sand located juts on the other side of a kart formation, but we liked it a bit less as it was quite crowded when we went there but we soon discovered our small island for ourselves next door.
Koh Poda : a small dreamy island
To avoid the bustle of Railay Beach, we rented several times a private long-tail boat to reach Koh Poda, a fantastic small island off the coast of Railay.
The long-tail boats can be rented as private taxi from Railay Beach, Ao Phra Nang beaches or from other small piers in the area. For instance, we went to the island directly from the small pier of Ao Nam Mao, just next to our hotel.
From Railay, it only takes 10 to 15 minutes to reach Koh Poda and you can combine it with nearby Chicken Island.
We did not want to spend hours on one of those high-speed boats proposing long day tours to go explore further islands such as Koh Phi Phi. Spending so such time on the sea to reach an island that might be full of tourists is not so exciting.
Arriving at Koh Poda, we were amazed by the white sand and turquoise sea with almost nobody around. Looking to the horizon, we could admire the limestone formations shaping the mainland coast.
We enjoyed Koh Poda because we almost had a whole stretch of white sand beach for ourselves on the eastern side. I guess crowds can vary a lot based on the month of the year. Again, early to mid December was surprisingly quiet given it is already the dry season and the weather is perfect at that time with little to no rain.
We spent some time snorkeling and enjoying the turquoise sea gazing at the mainland of Railay emerging in the horizon. The contrast between the white sand and the light blue colors is quite stunning. I only saw that kind of scenery in Sardinia until now.
From the western side of this small island, you can see an iconic limestone formation emerging from the sea. On the rocks, all kind of vegetation is growing.
After few hours on the beach, our long-tail boat took us for a quick round-tour of the nearby Chicken Island. This name comes from a rock formation that looks like the head of a poultry.
Sampling Thai dishes at the Krabi night market
In the evening, we took several times a cab to reach the Krabi town night-market. It is open Friday to Sunday from 5:00pm onward.
One part of the market is made of food stalls and stands selling craft items, another part is a grocery and flower market dedicated to local residents. The city of Krabi is a small laid-back provincial town with a southern nonchalant vibe. In terms of places to visit, there is not much to “see” but the local feel of the market makes it enjoyable after a day of outdoor fun.
At the food stalls, I recommend tasting a fish straight out of the grill. It is served with a small pot of fresh sauce made of lime juice. There, we also discovered the Papaya salad and enjoyed a lot of Roti for dessert. Roti is a Thai sweet crepe that can be found everywhere on the streets of Thailand.
In the nearby fruit and flower market, we spent some time admiring the local exotic fruit such has the purple Dragon fruit or the Dorian. Dorian is an expensive but very controversial fruit. It has the shape of a green oval with spines and exhales a strong odor that I personally find hard to cope with. It is well known across South East Asia for its health properties. However, it is prohibited in many public areas such as hotels because the smell is so strong. We always wanted to taste it but the mix of odor and high price made us procrastinate all along our trip.
Talking about local people, you will observe that some women wear the hijab, the veil covering just the head and chest, because the south of Thailand hosts a large Muslim minority. They represent up to 30% of the local population in the southern provinces. In the morning, we even heard the call to prayer from a mosque close to our hotel.
Further south, several Thai provinces along the Malaysian border are actually the theater of clashes between the national army and Muslim rebel groups. The kings of Thailand conquered these southern provinces in the early twentieth century. That said, Krabi Province is far from this tension and remains perfectly safe.
Finally, you might often notice the darker skin completion of these Muslims because they are ethnic Malay. Malaysia is not that far in the south. Interestingly there are also small Muslim minorities in the center and north of Thailand, but these people are mostly of Chinese descent. In Chiang Mai, we saw few women wearing a hijab selling street food.
Staying in a new elegant hotel off-the-beaten track
While searching for a hotel in the Krabi area before our trip, I was surprised by the very high-prices of stylish properties and the mixed customer reviews.
In this region, I would not stay in a hotel selected only for its private beach because you will miss the main beauties located in the islands like Koh Poda. Staying at Railay was also not a plan because it became way too over-developed on a tiny space of land and is regularly invaded by day travelers.
We finally found a brand new high-end hotel located between Krabi town and Railay Beach on the sea shore. The Shell Sea Krabi resort is a quiet and modern resort built in luxuriant manicured greens.
The hotel was a very good base for daily explorations and the price was attractive for a luxury hotel. Our spacious room with balcony was overlooking a grove of palm trees and the atmosphere was quiet and serene.
We could enjoy nice buffet breakfast indoor and outdoor. The restaurant was also good for lunch or diner but slightly pricey for Thailand with a Western style of presentation of the dishes. We did not try the Spa but it looked good. There are also many swimming pools that make it perfect for families with small kids. Personally, we prefer to swim in the sea but I did my morning crawls in the pool.
Even if the place feels a bit remote, the staff would drive us for free in a luxury van to the Ao Nam Mao pier in less than 5 minutes. There, we could start our island adventures with public or private long-tail boats.
If you call the booth of the pier in advance, you can book many day-tours by high speed or long tail boats including remote islands such as Kho Phi Phi. Long tail boats are designed for local journeys only as they are not strong enough to resist bad weather on the sea.
Finally, there is am amazing Thai restaurant near the hotel called Ban Ko Lek where we would gladly return. The hotel can drive you there and you will enjoy a diner alfresco on a wooden terrace overlooking the river. The staff barely speaks English which is a good sign and dishes were some of the very best I had in our Thai trip, for instance a fish with black pepper sauce.
All in all Krabi province definitely deserve a visit to end a trip in Thailand and relax before heading back home (in the cold winter)!
Recap of our addresses
Hotel: The Shell Sea Krabi Hotel
Restaurant: Ban Ko Lek restaurant
When to go there?
We recommend going to Krabi at the beginning of the high season early to mid December, just before the Christmas “rush”. At that time, we will not feel overwhelmed by tourists. December also offers sunny weather, mainly clear sky, and bearable temperatures with maximum in the low thirties Celsius.
How to go there?
If you are in Thailand, take an internal flight with a domestic company directly to Krabi Airport located in Krabi Town or, alternatively, to Phuket airport combined with a van transfer (2,5 hours one way).
From abroad, Qatar Airways flies to Krabi Airport via Doha (Qatar). The Qatari airline also flies direct to Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai from Doha. This provides you with options to organize a multi-destination trip without going back to your city of arrival.
Krabi province is located on the shore of the Andaman Sea within a gulf enclosed by Phuket island. From Phuket international airport, a private van / taxi brings you to Krabi Town by going round the gulf in 2.5 hours, mainly via freeways.