The Thai Diaries: Krabi (5/6)

29th January

After three super-chilled nights on laid-back Lanta, it’s time for a change of scenery once again, so today we’re taking another ferry – this time to Krabi. Each ferry ride takes a couple of hours, costs about 350 baht per person (about £8) and includes minibus transfers to the pier.

We savour the last morning at Moonlight Exotic Bay Resort; pottering around collecting shells and watching the hermit crabs crawling across the rocks. The hotel supplies delicious-smelling organic aromatherapy bath products by a brand I’ve not heard of called Voyag, and we decide to purchase gallons of them when we check out. I’m fully aware that recreating the tranquillity and beauty of Thailand in my 2-bed terrace in Kent may take some imagination, but I’m hoping that the scents and textures will jog my memory, and if I squeeze my eyes really tight I’ll be transported back to Koh Lanta…

I’m jolted from my daydream by the horn-honking of our ride to the pier, and we squeeze into the van alongside a large Chinese family. The ferry departs at 1.30, and by 3.15pm the stunning rock formations of Krabi are coming into view…

the characteristic limestone foliage-covered formations of Krabi
the characteristic limestone foliage-covered formations of Krabi

We are staying at Railay Beach, which is only reachable by longtail boat, so we have to clamber in a most ungainly fashion over the side of the ferry and onto the much smaller boats below, which hold about ten people each. As Ali G used to say: “West siiiide is da best siiide!” and sure enough, Railay West is the best, with a white sandy beach and a stunning backdrop of cliffs all around – yet accommodation gets very booked up and more expensive on this side, so like us, most people on our longtail are staying at Railay East. Our taxi-boat owner wants to charge everyone another 200 baht each to take us over to the east side, but the loud protests indicate that nobody is prepared to pay extra since we’d all been told the price we’d already paid was direct to Railay East. This unfortunately riles our skipper, who mutters what I can only assume are Thai profanities under his breath, before stopping the boat miles from the beach and demanding we all get out. Oh.

Being the stoic (ie stubborn) Westerners that we are, we refuse to pay again; instead piling suitcases, rucksacks (and even babies in one family’s case) onto our heads and wading in the sea up to our thighs all the way to the beach. The shallows in Krabi go for miles! And the tide seems to come waaay in and out at a surprising rate. To add to the challenge, the sea is full of rocks and chunks of dead coral, leading to several stubbed toes, grazes and yelps of pain. We tentatively inch forward using our toes to feel the way before putting our full weight down – not easy when you’re carrying 15kgs of luggage above your head.

Finally, we’re back on dry land, and head over the skinny peninsula to the east side. The first thing that hits us on this mid-afternoon mission is the smell: weed.

The three amigos hit Krabi
The three amigos hit Krabi
The Black Pearl Krabi
The Black Pearl, named after the Pirates Of The Caribbean
The Black Pearl Krabi
all aboard the good ship Black Pearl

Everywhere you look there are Jamaican colours, references to Bob Marley and stoner hippy types; the unmistakable aroma of weed curls under your nose as it emanates from the shack-style bars made from wood and palm leaves. I’m slightly surprised by how brazen it is, since there are few places scarier to get caught with drugs than Thailand. Having met a few people on my travels who have experienced Thai jails, I hear that ‘Bangkok Hilton’ is not too far from reality…

Monkey Mafia: our hotel clearly hasn’t paid the protection money; the monkeys rule the ‘hood.

We pass an area we later nickname ‘Monkey Corner’ on our way to our hotel, so-called because it’s home to a large number of cheeky macaques, who flirt with tourists before attempting to steal food, sunglasses, or whatever unsecured items they can get their little mitts on. Don’t be fooled by their seduction techniques, the Monkey Mafia is responsible for most of the organised crime in Railay. Finally, we come to our hotel over on the east side and instantly see why this side’s cheaper: the beach is not so much a beach as an area of dense mangroves, and the tide is way out, revealing a kind of brown muddy silt rather than inviting white sand.

The Anyavee hotel is a world away from Lanta’s fabulous Moonlight Bay, but is directly on the beach, has a decent pool and is nice enough for our requirements for a few nights. After unpacking a bit we head back out for a mosey around, and Luke and I decide to sample The Black Pearl’s mushroom shake, washing it down with a vodka mango.

magic mushroom shake The Black Pearl
When in Railay… #shroomshake

Mum, meanwhile, is sipping a fruit shake on the beach. An hour or so later and the mushroom concoction seems to be doing its thang; I feel mildly giddy and giggly…and then completely paranoid. Time seems to slow down to a ridiculous pace – so much so that it feels like about midnight…but is actually only 8pm. Ha! We watch the sunset on the beach, surrounded by hippies, then eat Pad Thais and have a few cocktails at one of the few restaurants, before taking Mum back to the hotel room to bed.

Krabi sunset
Krabi sunset
can you spot the local hippy dude (standing up) with the huge ‘fro?

Having mocked all the cautious tourists carrying huge rolled-up umbrellas around “just in case”, they have the last laugh when the heavens open on the way back to the hotel and we are promptly soaked to the skin. When it rains in Thailand, it RAINS. We’re talking biblical proportions. We retreat to our rooms to wait for the rain to stop, and eventually it does…but the water outside my room is calf-deep, and Luke has to come and rescue me. Having seen a few snakes already in Thailand, I’m paranoid that they’ll be out in force after the downpour.

Wading back to the Black Pearl in Railay West, we order some more drinks and chat to some people as we all sit around the bar, including a dishevelled hippy couple and a pretty British actress from West London who’s travelling alone, having split from her husband. A blind Thai man approaches the bar and starts fire-dancing – which is pretty impressive in itself, as he throws the lit baton high into the air…and then he takes it to another level by balancing on a tightrope between two trees at chest-height whilst spinning his lit batons this way and that.

Feeling peckish, we go off in search of salt and vinegar crisps (Luke and I are huge fans), avoiding the bullfrogs crossing our paths, and then, slightly squiffy, eat a giant family-sized bag each in bed before falling asleep on a bed of crumbs. Stay classy! 😉

30th January

Whilst eating our breakfast with one hand and swatting away a ridiculous amount of wasps with the other (fancy putting bowls of jam out at the buffet…fail!), we spot a huge snake swimming in the sea, weaving its way towards the mangroves. I knew my snake fears were not unfounded!

Despite the dramas on Phi Phi when we trekked up to the viewing point (I was sick as a dog from food poisoning and almost collapsed in the midday sun), we decide to check out the hike to Railay’s viewpoint this morning. We make the short walk across to Ao Phra Nang beach and caves, which is where the viewpoint starts. And then we stop. The pathway up to the viewpoint is via a vertical climb up a cliff-face covered in orange clay, with only a rope for assistance. We decide to give it a miss, as we watch other tourists puffing and panting in the 35-degree heat, clinging to the rope, slippery with sweat as they search out their next foothold. There is no such thing as Health and Safety in Thailand, and I’m gobsmacked to see parents pushing terrified kids as young as three or four past the warning signs and up the cliff face, which is extra-slippery after the deluge last night. What the…?!

Ao Phra Nang Caves
Ao Phra Nang Caves

We marvel at the mystical stalactites and stalagmites of the huge caves as we follow the pathway through them. As we round the corner onto the beach, we’re taken aback: the view is breathtaking. So many times on this trip we’ve been bowled over by the outstanding natural beauty of these islands. Words simply cannot describe it. ‘Paradise’ sounds like a tired old cliché, but it’s the closest word I can think of to describe this place: gorgeous white sands and crystal clear waters set against a backdrop of limestone cliffs covered in dense green foliage. Simply unforgettable.

Ao Phra Nang Beach Krabi
Not just a pretty (cliff) face…
Local delicacies are cooked fresh on longtail boats
Local delicacies are cooked fresh on longtail boats

Obviously, we’re not the only ones who think so, and this is high season (October to March), so the beach is pretty busy, with people of all nationalities delighting in the sun, sea and scenery. Longtail boats fashioned as street food stalls are lined up along the shore, and the aromas of lemongrass and garlic fill the air.

We find ourselves a decent spot directly opposite the vast shard of rock jutting out from the ocean and Luke and I challenge ourselves to swim out to it. It’s further than it looks, and we are exhausted by the time we’ve swum there and back.

We collapse in the sun to dry off, before checking out one of the longtail food stalls for lunch. A meal is the equivalent of just a pound or two and is delicious. We wash it down with fruit shakes and spend the afternoon soaking up the sun (okay, getting burnt to a cinder). An hour or so later the tide has gone out so much that people are now able to simply wade through the sea across to the mountain we’d taken ages to swim over to earlier.

The more adventurous holidaymakers are scaling the limestone cliffs under the close supervision of skilled rock-climbers, and Luke and I go for a walk, spotting the famous fertility shrine, which is basically a series of large carved wooden phalluses strategically positioned in the opening (vagina) of a little cave. Oo-er missus!

fertility shrine Krabi
willy or won’t he…notice the fertility shrine

When the sun gets too much we go back to the hotel and chill by the pool, being entertained by a family of curious macaque monkeys who jump and cavort around in front of us. Things turn mischievous when they decide to tip the bins out looking for food, and the hotel staff are not impressed with the mess, throwing stones to try and scare them off. Our hotel obviously hasn’t paid its protection money, so the Monkey Mafia has shown up to show them who’s boss, chucking bottles and food wrappers over their shoulders as they forage around for tidbits. Eventually they’ve had enough, and move onto the next establishment, sneering over their shoulders with a look that says: “We’ll be back…”

The evening brings another ark-worthy deluge so we eat at a restaurant close to the hotel before heading off to bed, ready for an early start in the morning when we’ll hike up to the viewpoint.

31st January

The next morning the sun is shining as brightly as ever; zero evidence remains of the monsoon from the night before. Considering this is the dry season, it’s rained more (only at night, thankfully) during this trip than the times I’ve visited Thailand in the rainy season.

Did I say ‘we’ would be trekking up to the viewpoint? I meant Luke. When we arrive at the base of the muddy mountain, Mum and I look up at it dubiously…before opting to wait on the beach nearby.

The vertical climb to the viewpoint at Phra Nang
The vertical climb to the viewpoint at Phra Nang

I think we’ll just settle for seeing his pictures, I think to myself. Sure enough, Luke comes back some time later, having got covered from head to foot in red clay and leaked out several pints of sweat. We swim, sun ourselves and feast on treats from the boat sellers. Yesterday was salt and pepper shrimp; today basil chicken with vegetables.

Later, we take a longtail boat (300b) around the headland to Tonsai Bay, where a curious lizard tries to climb into Luke’s bag, before resting his weary head on a little rock. Cute!

taking a longtail to Tonsai Bay
taking a longtail to Tonsai Bay
Tonsai Bay
Tonsai Bay

lizard resting his head on a rock
just chillin’

Tonsai Bay

Then….dun dun dunnnn….disaster strikes. Mum gets ill. Like really ill. We’re sitting at a beach bar when she gets that panic-stricken look that has become all too familiar on this holiday; it either means one of us is about to throw up…or follow-through. Usually both. She scuttles off, thighs clamped together, to the loo around the back of the bar, and is violently ill. On these beaches, there’s always the grave danger of a shart attack. No that’s not a typo – sharting is a real and present danger; more likely and almost as attention-grabbing as a shark attack. We have to get her back to the hotel, but the boats have all disappeared, it’s scorching hot and we’re literally stranded on a desert island. Uh oh. Fortunately, by the time she is able to regain her composure enough to stagger along, crab-stylee, the tide has gone out again and we manage to manhandle her over the rocks and around the bay until we’re safely back at Railay. She’s sick as a dog and doesn’t leave the room again until we have to travel the next day to Phang Nga. Man down!

With Mum out of the game, Luke and I decide to stay close to the hotel and sit by the pool. We’re glad we do, as we’re once again treated to the nightly show by the troop of wild monkeys, and we have ringside seats by the bins.



Once again, they fool about, terrorising tourists, much to the fury of the staff….only this time there’s another breed of monkey as well as the mischievous macaques: the capuchins. These gorgeous creatures have smaller, rounder heads, black rings around their eyes, and are much more well behaved. If the macaques are ASBO hoodies, the capuchins are the innocent little choir boys.

capuchin monkey
capuchin monkey

Mum and baby capuchins
Mum and baby capuchins

Remember Chicaboo monkey toys in the eighties? These are real-life versions of those. They swing from the trees, playing and cuddling…and then I see possibly the cutest thing I’ve Ever. Seen. In. My. Life. A mother capuchin cradling a tiny ginger baby. Oh em geeeee! Off the charts gorgeous! I manage to capture a photo of mum and baby:

mother and baby capuchin mon keys
cuteness overload: probably the sweetest sight ever

Another night, another EPIC storm, as the black sky is illuminated by forks of lightning over the limestone cliffs. At least the sound of the rain hitting the tin roof next door drowns out the sounds of Mum’s death-throe groans. Luke and I venture out for pizza and Changs, before hitting the hay, ready for the (400b) mission of a trip to Phang Nga in the morning, involving a longtail boat and no less than three buses…

Published tomorrow:

The Thai Diaries: Phang Nga Bay (6/6)

Sam x

Sam’s other blogs:

If You Booze, You Lose
Costa Rica Chica 

Life: A Bird’s Eye View

No Emotional Thais: Sam Goes Solo
Mummy Mission
World Wide Walsh: Around the World in 180 Days
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