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THAILAND | Friday, 2 December 2022 | Views [114]

Long boats on Ao Nang Beach

Long boats on Ao Nang Beach


I hadn’t intended to post anything about my time in Krabi as that portion of this trip was a gift from my daughter and son-in-law, but the experience there was too good to stay silent about. My family met me in Thailand to celebrate my 70th birthday, and I am so grateful that they did.  Normally, I don’t go to beach resorts, which Ao Nang by Krabi where we were certainly is, but this wasn’t a typical resort. The town and surrounding islands live off tourism and the number of boarded up hotels, restaurants, and shops in town demonstrated the effects the Covid lockdown has had on this region’s population. Tourists are returning, though, and the boardwalk and many of the re-opened restaurants were full of people enjoying themselves as they looked out over the turquoise sea and surrounding lush green karst mountains. The water was much warmer than I had anticipated; bathtub warm isn’t an overstatement by any means, and I wondered what effects the temperature was having on the coral and marine life that is in abundance just off the shoreline.  Ao Nang has a long golden shallow sandy beach with occasional small stones. It is perfect for walking barefoot along the shoreline, but there is also a nice long concrete boardwalk by the street, which is lined with clothing, knickknack, and dive shops as well as restaurants and bars, for those who don’t want to get sand in their toes and shoes. Decorated longboats that look like mini-Viking vessels, are parked near the shore and function like local taxis to the neighboring islands. On my birthday, we took a speedboat to the Phi Phi Islands, which are as magnificent as they are reputed to be EXCEPT Maya Beach, the one that was made famous from the movie “The Beach.” That one is suffering the consequences of mass tourism.  The place was crawling with people, and it was difficult to even get photos without hordes of bodies obscuring the scenery. It seemed like everyone from Phuket as well as Krabi and the surrounding regions all came to the same place at the same time, but I was told that it is always this crowded. My recommendation to anyone who is going to those islands – skip that beach and stay on some of the other islands. Bamboo Island was great as were some of the smaller coves, where there was lots of marine life to delight those of us who went snorkeling. Railley Beach was also good and had the added benefit of a mangrove swamp and the “Diamond Cave,” which has its own bat population. The beach also lives up to its reputation as a party place as weed is available all over the place. Marijuana may not be legal, but it is definitely available for those who want it. (& no, I didn’t partake.)

Nearby Krabi are two other not-to-miss sites.  The first is the Elephant Sanctuary, a rescue shelter for six females who worked in the logging industry for decades. This is not a place to ride the elephants, but rather to feed them bananas, hug them, give them mud baths, and finally scrub them clean in the river. They are not chained or held captive in anyway, but rather meander throughout the grounds at will. It is an amazing experience to stand next to one of these intelligent beings and hug them knowing that they are perfectly capable of trampling one at any given moment. It is only possible to get to the sanctuary by booking one of their tours, but it is well worth it.  We only did the half day as none of us had any interest in making paper out of elephant poop, which was on the agenda for the afternoon portion. The other must-do experience in the region is to climb up the 1260 uneven steps to the Tiger Cave Temple.  It is a bit of a workout but doesn’t take all that long, and the view from the summit is incredible. Karst mountains on one side and flat rice fields on another with the sea in front.  A large golden Buddha surveys the region, while smaller Buddha figures, an Indra and a Ganesha statue, have their own shrines. There is even a place for the Buddha’s footprints, though the prints look to be almost a meter in length, so I don’t think they mean Sakyamuni’s.

Like in most beach resort towns, cocktails are de rigueur, and Ao Nang has its share of shore bars serving everything imaginable.  It also has an international cuisine, with Italian, French, Swiss, Irish as well as Thai restaurants and the ubiquitous Burger King, McDonalds and KFC along with 7-11s on just about every corner, with a Starbucks thrown in for good measure. In case one doesn’t want to stumble back to the hotel, there are tuktuks available for transportation.

Thailand is justifiably known for its masseuses and Ao Nang has several massage places right along the beach.  I got an energizing foot massage during a storm one night.  Lightning lit up the sky and thunderclaps overrode people’s chatter while my calf muscles were being kneaded as if they were dough. It felt good afterwards.

We went in to Krabi town for a day, but got caught in a storm, so didn’t have much chance to explore. We went in search of a bookstore, and while we found one, they only had Thai books.  This was something that I had noticed elsewhere on this extended trip – bookstores are hard to find, and even in the major cities, it is difficult to find ones with even a few English or international books. I was also amazed that the resort hotels don’t normally have a book exchange rack for their vacationers. They do have international channels on the t.v., though. Russian, Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese, Singaporean, British, Australian, Middle Eastern and U.S. news along with local Thai channels are available.

Krabi and Ao Nang appear to be slowly recovering from the Covid lockdown. What I especially liked about the region was its international flair.  Yes, this was because of the tourists, but as they were not all from one place it was like Thamel, though here they come to dive, snorkel and party, while in Thamel they come to climb mountains, hike, and party. The world may be changing and not necessarily for the better in the short term, but I hope that interactions among young and older (even 70 doesn’t feel old!) tourists, travelers, adventurers, and locals can foster more respect for other cultures and ways of viewing the world.

To sum up, the Krabi region is definitely worth going to!

Tags: beaches, islands, snorkeling


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