If you are into family holidays that includes luxury and malls, then Krabi might not be for you. We are that way too with holidays. Being young parents, we already have daily doses of energy sapping moments. For stay-at-home parents, it’ll be multiple times daily. Thus, hearing words like adventure nowadays causes my paranoid mind to go bombastic. Images of being lost on an island, held hostage by a group of jungle monkeys, flashes in my mind. I mean who needs adventure when everyday already is???
Being an OCD planner does help with my anxiety. And a little adventure is good for all of us, not only for the kids. Especially holiday adventures!
We could’ve settled for Phuket, a well known tourist spot with all the glitz and comfort that deserves to be on front pages of beach holiday brochures. When my wife suggested Krabi, I did a quick google check and the pics were enough to bring the oomph back.
When researching Krabi, I found it very challenging to pick the right hotel. With all the bear minimums that comes with traveling with small children, there are very limited appropriate accommodations available. There are hotel resorts available, where you will fork out USD500+ per night, should you have the means and want to avoid the hassle. I find that these are typical problems with places that are still raw and underexposed to tourism. With every good and bad hotel review, one would also need to think about the levels of expectations/standards that these reviewers had, and then calibrate them with our own. In the end we settled on Holiday Inn. It’s labeled a family 4 star hotel in Ao Nang village (yes the word village was initially hard to digest), and really I felt that was the best out of what’s available at the time.
Upon arriving at Krabi, it was everything we envisioned. What we found is a small, simple town, with mountains, majestically surrounding it. Lush greeneries can also be found throughout our drive from the airport. The perfect getaway from the hustle bustle of metropolitan towns. As we later found out, Krabi is comprised of many villages, Ao Nang being the the largest and most commercialized of them all. And we can certainly see why! Entering Ao Nang we saw the local market that begged to be visited. The beachfront, though not sparkling white, has picturesque limestone headlands that creates a sense of awe and beauty especially at sunsets. Wiki
Above pic is of Ao Nang beach. Just in front of the Seafood arcade.
So thrilled to realise that Holiday Inn was not only facing this scenic beach, but was also 20 meters from the Seafood arcade. Most of Ao Nang is still very simple, but this arcade provided a bit of modern offerings. There are cafes, souvenir shops, and fantastic food! The prices were relatively cheap, and the taste was unpretentious and bold. We quickly befriended the owner of the food stall that became our go to spot for 3 meals in our 3 nights stay.
For our stay we have booked with Andaman Camp and Cruise. I thought their prices are a bit pricey, but upon corresponding with Elizabeth regarding our trip and excursions, we felt a big sense of peace of mind. Elizabeth wasn’t only efficient, but she was also attentive with our needs and what we want to do. For example, she outlines the essentials that we needed to bring for different trips, while also forbidding us from getting on a speedboat due to my wife’s pregnancy. It was a private tour, thus the price, but we felt very comfortable as the trip was designed to be flexible, knowing that my 20month old boy is in tow.
The pic above was the morning when we were about to go to sea. I admit it wasn’t brilliant that we picked a bad season to visit Krabi. But, we did it with the intention of getting the coolest Bangkok weather, which we visited before Krabi, for our holidays.
No speedboat rule was quickly forgotten the minute we set our eyes on our Longtail Boat! This is truly the most recommended way to tour the Krabi seas. These boats has been a part of the local’s life and culture for yonks number of years. Nowadays they are used primarily for tourist, but its existence might not last for much longer as the Thai government has banned logging of natural forests, making a shortage of timbres that are used to make these boats.
One way to tell that the tour was not cheap, we had a Swedish guide called Sven. An interesting person that we got to know quite well. He got along well with the little dude, and shared the love of watermelons. With the same name as the evil Swedish architect in HIMYM, he had me at hello.
This was the entrance to the lagoon.
The tour was anything but boring, aided by the fluctuating weather. But it was a beautiful ride, especially on the gentle longtail boat. We first went to the lagoon. This was the exact same lagoon that was used in the movie The Beach. We planned to stop for a bit in the lagoon for a swim. The water was great, and we almost had the lagoon to ourselves when we got there. But, it started raining heavily, and it was safer for us to wait the rain out in the lagoon. Soon after other boats started appearing, to join our storm hiding spot. I think it was at this time that we decided to use the time to have lunch. Yes, the tour included lunches. It was a simple local lunch (Elizabeth previously discussed menus with me, prior to our arrival).
Very clear waters allows for some fishy playing
We skipped Hong island as the rain was still heavy, so we drifted off to another island which, by the time we got there, the weather was ok enough for us to get off the boat and spend some time there. I can’t remember what the island is called. The rope swings tied up to trees gives a playground like impression.
On the next day, our itinerary was Kayaking. To bring towels, sunscreen and change of clothes. Being the hero that I feel I always am, I didn’t bring swimmers. So I ended buying one when we got to Bor Thor.
From a photo taking perspective, I was really annoyed. I was put on a 1 man Kayak, given a dry bag to put my camera in, as we set off paddling. This doesn’t allow me to take a lot of pics. Not only did I have to constantly make sure I wasn’t lagging behind, but it was also tedious to take my SLR in and out of the dry bag to take pics. And they also lied about relaxing kayak! With the currents and all, I was gassed! I prided myself on my kayaking prowess, as I have kayaked in between islands in PNG. As my muscles strained, I realised my kayaking experience was a good 15 yrs ago. That, along with having to look at my wife and son smiling smugly, from the other kayak which they shared with the guide who also paddled for them.
Limestone caves in Bor Thor
The few pics I did manage to get though…breathtaking.
Apart from the gripes I mentioned above, however, it was a wonderful trip. We kayaked through mangroves, rubber forests, and spectacular caves. Our guide was a very proud local whose family has grown up in the area. He even had a great grandfather who was the paddler and guide for the Thai princess, when she visited Bor Thor for the first time, in the early 1900s.
Back to my kayaking problem. On the way back the guide felt pity for me, and pulled my kayak with a rope tied to his kayak. My arms was aching so much that I was beginning to fight cramps. I decided to tough it out on the 10 mins home stretch though. As he began a semi rant for his dislike for Chinese tourists. It started out being the usual. Litterers, rude, loud, obnoxious, but then he also mentioned the fact that they almost usually prefer speed boats. The few that opted kayaks, was NOT willing to paddle themselves! Pride swallowed and back to the burn…
Backtracking a bit. Our Andaman guide for day 2 is actually Sun (cant remember if it’s pronounced Soon or Sun). There was the Bor Thor local guide that took us kayaking, but Sun was the one that took us there, and accompanied us for the rest of the day. And we love Sun! He’s actually Elizabeth’s husband. Which means that he’s also the business owner. But, he’s got such a down to earth charm about him that we found so endearing. He’s a generous heart along the ride, with his personal life stories that borders naivety.
My favourite part of the day was the end of Day 2, when Sun brought us to the local market. As little dude was asleep, my wife kindly told me to explore while she stays with him in the car. I was a little hesitant, but Sun assures me that it’s a safe town. Everybody knows each other. And for good measure, he’s also the head of Police reserves. The trip to the market was glorious for me. I loved seeing every stall, and absorbing myself in the many colours of the market. Maybe because I was with Sun, but people even gave me free snacks!
Sorry for the super long post. Reading back, this sounded more like a travel journal. Hopefully it didn’t put any of you off from visiting Krabi. As for us, we will definitely go back. As we unknowingly, left a piece of our hearts behind.