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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrWith a population of just over 50,000 people, Krabi is the capital of its homonyms Thai province, one which is renowned for its ethereal archipelagos, dramatic coastlines and breathtaking beaches. One of southern Thailand’s most popular towns, Krabi is a delightful place to visit and a convenient springboard for island hopping off the Andaman Sea coast. The most popular off-shore destination from Krabi are Koh Lanta and Ko Phi Phi, yet aside its fantastic location and over 130 outlying islands, the town has much to offer the discerning tourist. Krabi is a favored by experienced beach lovers and return visitors, who know that the town offers all the treasures of nearby islands, at only half the price. From a multitude of amazing day trips to sparkling beaches, a wide range of cultural attractions and a healthy dose of fun and active pursuits to boost, Krabi makes for a convenient place to holiday especially if you only a few days in the area and you deem the island too expensive and overly-crowded.
LayoutKrabi town itself is set on a river inland from the coast and although the town offers quite a few guesthouses, shops, restaurants and bars, most tourists stay in Ao Nang , the unofficial ‘seaside half’ of Krabi, only 16kms away.
Brief HistoryAlthough Krabi is mostly known as a beach-bum haven, it’s interesting to learn that the town is believed to be the longest inhabited settlement in all of Thailand. Archaeological have dated back human inhabitants here to over 35,000 years ago, and for many centuries the incredibly secluded archipelagos off its shores were the chosen hiding spots for sea faring pirates and gypsies.
Nowadays, tourism is what provides most of the income in this town, and although it is abundantly visited by transient tourists on their way to and from the islands, you’ll still find it a thoroughly relaxing and laid-back village in which to spend a few days. This is especially true of Krabi Town itself.
What Krabi & Ao Nang have to offerMuch like Phuket, Ao Nang enjoys a true western location at optimal latitude,which translates, in layman’s terms, as the most idyllic spot in Thailand from which to enjoy spectacular sunsets. Ao Nang is a lovely seaside strip, home to a selection of guesthouses, bars, souvenir shops, and inexpensive eateries. As the town expands inwards and up, you’ll find a good selection of gorgeous hillside guesthouses ideal for those who want to relish the magnificent views, but be a step back from all the tourist action. The seaside strip has no real supermarket but plenty of convenience stores for all your basic needs. Do note that prices in both Ao Nang and Krabi are infinitely cheaper than on any of the islands, yet Krabi is also cheaper than Ao Nang. Whether you want to pack some snacks, buy a new sarong or have a silk suit made, this is definitely where you should be making your purchases.
In Krabi Town you’ll find a selection of guesthouses and eateries in the center near the Municipal Office, a reputable hospital as well as supermarkets and shops.
Every guesthouse offers a wide range of day-trip tours and activities. Go island hopping for a few days, take on the challenge of a delectable cooking class, enjoy numerous pamper sessions, and indulge in snorkeling and scuba diving galore. Once the daytime fun is over, the night-time shenanigans can begin!
These are some of the most popular highlights in and around Krabi and Ao Nang. All can be explored alone or via tours booked through your guesthouse of choice. Where prices are mentioned, they are indicative only.
Wat Tham SuaKrabi’s Tiger Cave Temple is one of the most revered sites in Krabi Province and named after the tiger paw prints visible within the cave’s interior. This 600m high hilltop temple, complete with ubiquitous golden Buddha statue, gifts superb 360-degree coastal and hinterland views and is a spectacular reward for the hard climb needed in order to reach it. Head here at first light, as the ascent of over 1,200 steps is only bearable when the sun is not at its peak. Bring plenty of water for the arduous climb and do watch out for the pesky (and often thirsty) monkeys, who have the annoying habit of swinging by tourists and snatching their supplies. Depending on your fitness level, the hike up to the top of Wat Tham Sua can take anything from 20 minutes to an hour and a half, so be prepared for a sweat and a moan. One look from the top, however, and all the pain and suffering will be but a distant memory.
The temple is about 8kms out of Ao Nang own and can be visited by rented scooter or tuk-tuk, but do make sure to bargain hard for a good price with the driver. About ฿1,000 ($31) for a round trip plus waiting time is a pretty good deal.
Railay BeachRailay Beach, nestled between Krabi town and Ao Nang, is an insanely picturesque beach is framed on three sides by vertiginous limestone karst cliffs, and only accessible by boat. A day trip here from Krabi makes for a particularly enjoyable day out of sun, sea, and surf. You can hop on a longboat from Ao Nang for a quick 10-minute ride, or rent a kayak for a much more adventurous journey. Affordable rental homes are found here and make for an idyllic and romantic getaway from the crowds for a few days. There are a total of four beaches here to explore, all dotted with rustic guesthouses, homestays and even a couple of upmarket resorts. You’ll find plenty of eateries and drinking spots along the coastline and a number of caves which you can explore.
Phra Nang BeachYet another secluded beach reachable only by boat, Phra Nang Beach is an absolute stunner in all respects. With sparkling sand, crystal clear waters, and jaw-dropping scenery, it is no wonder that Phra Nang Beach was recently rated as one of the world’s top 10 most beautiful beaches. This is a particularly fabulous swimming beach and does not suffer from the low-tide sludge which one sometimes finds at Railay Beach . The overhanging seaside cliffs are favored by rock climbers and spending hours admiring the pros at work is one of the best ways to spend a day on the beach in Thailand.
You’ll find Phra Nang just south of Railway, behind the protruding cliffs.
Sunset cruisesYou need not head far off into the horizon to enjoy the very best that Thailand has to offer. From either Krabi or Ao Nang, you can organize afternoon boat trips which include fun activities and a chance to enjoy a superlative Andaman Sea sunset. Join a kayaking trip to the Ao Thalane canyons ( ฿600 ($19)) or splurge on a 4-island sunset dinner cruise, which costs about ฿1,500 ($47), or ฿600 ($19) without dinner.
Beach HorseridingYes, this may be kitsch and touristy...but if you’ve always dreamed of riding a wild stallion on a long stretch of pristine tropical beach, then indulge in Ao Nang, where the going price for a ride is only ฿1,000 ($31).
Kao Phanon Bencha National ParkThis wondrous national park is a delightfully serene place to visit and makes for a great half-day trip. You could head here on your own (bring a packed lunch and enjoy the picnic areas) or on an organised, guided trip. There are waterfalls to swim under and hikes to enjoy. The park is about a 40-minute drive away from Krabi and along the same road as the Tiger Cave Temple, so consider visiting the two places at the same time if you wish for a full day away from the beach and crowds. If you don’t feel confident renting a scooter then splurge ฿2,000 ($62) on a comfortable taxi and make the trip in air-conditioned comfort.
Drinking & Eating outBoth Krabi and Ao Nang have plenty of places where you can enjoy some delectable seafood and a few refreshing beers. Although Ao Nang is slightly more expensive, dining and drinking options do come with superlative ocean views so they’re well worth the slightly inflated price tag.
Seafood based Thai dishes are, unsurprisingly, the main fare on offer, but you’ll still find a wide range of eateries offering western dishes like burgers, pizzas, pasta, and steaks. Indian food is also abundantly popular in both towns.
Krabi boasts three very popular and tourist-frequented night market, although all have been marred by reports of sub-standard hygiene practices, so do set forth with caution. Nonetheless, there are plenty of stands which are clean (enough) and serve up some truly delicious fare at rock-bottom prices so, if you’re feeling adventurous, having a dinner here will certainly make for a fun dining experience.
AccommodationLike all of Thailand’s most popular spots, both Krabi Town and Ao Nang offer a wide range of accommodation choices, from cheap and cheerful hostels to sumptuous, luxury digs.
Best Time to VisitThe weather patterns in Thailand, as in the rest of the world, are becoming increasingly unpredictable, yet by and large, this stretch of Andaman Sea coastline does boast two very distinct seasons (wet and dry) and an average year-long temp of about 82 °F.
The rain season usually starts in June and ends in October, and during these months you can experience some seriously wicked storms. Having said this, if time is not a major issue, this can actually be an ideal time to visit, as about half the resorts close down leaving the other half offering ridiculously low prices. Not only are you likely to suffer just a few hours of rain every day, but you can score a room in a 5 star seaside resort anywhere on the Andaman Coast, for the price of a 3 star double room in high season. If you don’t mind having a (still minor) chunk of your beach vacation wiped out, this is a wonderful option for enjoying a cheap vacation. Moreover, global climate change has seen Krabi and its surrounding area enjoy some out-of-season breaks, meaning full-on storms in dry season and dry spells in wet season which have lasted for a whole month.
How to get thereReaching Krabi by air, sea, or road is infinitely easy and, whichever way you intend to come, incredibly scenic too.
By air: there are daily flights from Bangkok to Krabi Airport (about 15km out of town) and many more to Phuket, from where you can drive or catch a bus to Krabi on a wonderful stretch of scenic road. The ride takes about three hours.
By road: buses ply the route between Bangkok and Krabi every day, on a journey which takes about 13 hours.
By train: there are no direct rail links between Bangkok and Krabi, however you can catch a ride to relatively close destinations (Surat Thani or Tung Song, for example) and catch a connecting bus from there.
By sea: if you ant to reach Krabi in style and comfort, you can charter a speedboat from Phuket (OK, so you'd have to fly here first!) which will take you past Ko Phi Phi as well.
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Author: Laura Pattara. Last updated: Apr 29, 2015