Thailand - Krabi
Huge limestone karsts soaring spectacularly towards the sky are a characteristic feature of peninsula Thailand from roughly Phattalung province in the south to Phang Nga province in the north. One such karst in Phang Nga was a key feature in the James Bond film, 'The Man With The Golden Gun', and brought Thailand's limestone karsts to the attention of the world in 1974. They are a geological feature that all visitors to southern Thailand should make an effort to see.
Krabi province has many. It also has some spectacular inland scenery and 160 kilometres of pretty coastline on the Andaman (west) coast of the peninsula, which is far more attractive than the coastline on the Gulf of Thailand.
It is perfect for tourists but, as I write in 2016, it still attracts far fewer tourists than places such as Phuket and Pattaya. This isn't to say that the situation won't change. I visited Krabi in 2004, 2010 and 2016 and with each subsequent visit I have seen lots of development.
Limestone karst, Krabi
I much prefer Krabi to Thailand's other well-known tourist resorts. Tourism still hasn't reached 'mass tourism' levels and so far there isn't all the crass commercialism, prostitution and sex tourism that exists in some other places. The province certainly attracts a different type of tourist compared to those attracted to Phuket and Pattaya.
The only blot on the landscape is Ao Nang, which is where most foreign tourists are drawn. I find this type of tourist location quite depressing, where absolutely every business is targeted at tourists, but it is still a long way from being as ugly as Patong.
If you are a single man looking to indulge in Thailand's euphemistically termed 'nightlife' or a group of beer-swilling Australian males on a stag tour, then Phuket or Pattaya will probably be a better choice.
If you love nature and/or are travelling as a family, Krabi has a huge amount to offer.
Krabi locals consist of Buddhist Thais, Muslim Thais, Chinese Thais and even Sea Gypsies. Some areas are dominated by Muslim Thais and there are a number of mosques in Krabi province, including quite a spectacular mosque at Ao Nang.
In 2016 I stayed at Klong Muang Beach and one of the hotel staff, herself a Krabi native, told me that the population in Klong Muang is 80% Muslim.
There has been huge economic migration in Thailand, especially from the Northeast Isaan region, which is the poorest region of Thailand. There is so little work there that people just can't afford to live and they go elsewhere in Thailand to find work. If you talk to Bangkok taxi drivers or workers in one of Thailand's popular tourist resorts you will often find that they come from Isaan, as do the vast majority of prostitutes in Thailand.
Also, since 2004 when the southern insurgency flared up again, there has been a lot of migration from the three southernmost regions of Thailand - Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat.
While staying at the Krabi Sofitel in 2016 I made a point of speaking to as many Thais as I could and I asked them where they came from originally. They were from everywhere. Some were Krabi locals and others from all over Thailand including Isaan and the three southern provinces.
As wonderful as the Sofitel was, the evening buffet was quite expensive (for Thailand) and didn't look that appealing. Therefore, we chose to eat at restaurants outside. It seemed that several restaurants were owned by Indians.
I certainly didn't have any complaints because I love Indian food and there is no good Indian food where I live in provincial Thailand. I'm not sure how large the Indian population is in Krabi, but if you want to find some good Indian food it shouldn't be a problem because there are many Indian restaurants.
Many Western tourists also like to buy bespoke tailored clothes in Thailand and most tailor shops in Thailand's tourist resorts are run by Indians.
One of my pet hates in Thailand is the disastrous system of transliteration that is used and the mispronunciation of Thai words by foreigners that occurs as a result. Foreigners can't be blamed for this and before I could read Thai I also misprounced place names because the transliterated versions were so inaccurate.
I will use the standard transliteration, Krabi, but for pronunciation purposes let's look at the Thai spelling. Tip: It doesn't sound like 'crabby'.
The first letter doesn't make a 'k' sound. It makes a hard 'g' sound, as in 'grub'. It is written as 'k' in Thai without an 'h' because some people say it is an unaspirated 'k' sound, as in the 'k' in 'whisker' or 'chicken'.
Most foreigners don't realise this and to an English speaker a 'k' is an aspirated 'k'. I think that a hard 'g', as in 'gate', 'give', etc is more accurate, but the problem is that the letter 'g' can make two very different sounds in English.
These inconsistencies in English (why doesn't 'put' rhyme with 'but'?) are one of the reasons why transliteration is disastrous. If you are serious about learning to speak Thai, learn to read Thai. It is a lot easier than you might think.
The second consonant in Krabi is an 'r' sound and this is followed by a short 'uh' vowel. The 'g' and 'r' consonant sounds form a consonant cluster.
For the first syllable, just think of the English word 'grub' (not 'grab') without the 'b'. The 'uh' vowel is very short.
Now take a slight pause before the second syllable. The second syllable is just a 'b' consonant followed by a long 'ee' vowel.
The first syllable is pronounced with a mid tone. The second syllable starts with a mid-class consonant and has the first tone mark, therefore according to the tone rules it is pronounced with a low tone.
The final result: gruh (short, mid tone) bee (long, low tone).
Sorry to be pedantic about this, but there are also practical reasons why you should attempt to pronounce Thai place names correctly. If you say 'crabby' to a Thai, they won't understand what you are going on about.
My Experience Of Krabi
I haven't spent an enormous amount of time in Krabi. I visited with my Thai girlfriend in September 2004 and returned with another girlfriend (who would be my wife a few months later) in May 2010. The next visit was with our two kids in October 2016.
On the way to Phuket, I have driven through Krabi a number of times but have only stopped off at Tesco Lotus on the main road and not gone into town. I have visited Lanta Island, which is in Krabi province, but I have written about that experience separately.
Just like other places I have visited in Thailand over a number of years (Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, Samui, Khaolak, etc), I have seen a lot of change in Krabi since 2004. What is different is that some other locations have been ruined by mass tourism. Krabi is still a pleasant place to visit and whatever commercialism that exists is only present in Ao Nang, which is easily avoided.
Krabi province has an airport, airport code KBV. It's actually described as an international airport because flights arrive directly from certain foreign countries (but not many). The journey from the airport into town is about 7km.
Tourists arriving in Thailand from most destinations will land in Bangkok and will need to transfer to a domestic flight to get to Krabi.
I was quite horrified at how much hotels in Krabi want for hotel transfers to and from the airport. The prices may be reasonable for other countries, but they are expensive for Thailand.
If I was flying into Krabi I would seriously consider hiring a car. This will save you having to pay for airport transfers and it will also allow you to travel around and explore at your leisure.
While travelling between Phuket and Hat Yai by bus I have also stopped off a few times at Krabi bus station. The problem if you start your journey at Krabi is that all the buses arriving there are normally full already. They will have no qualms selling you a ticket, but this doesn't guarantee that you will have a seat.
The other alternative, of course, is to ride in one of Thailand's notorious minivans. The way these things are driven in Thailand terrifies me and accidents occur frequently. For as long as I can remember I have always tried to avoid minivans in Thailand, but sometimes they are the only option.
Locations where there are lots of Thais have lots of cheap public transport options. It's necessary to have some local knowledge (and it also helps to be able to speak and read a little Thai), but transport is very cheap. In Hat Yai I can get from almost anywhere to anywhere else for Bt20.
I have noticed that this isn't normally the case in locations that are populated mainly by tourists, and I think it is deliberate. Most foreign tourists in Thailand don't have cars and if they want to get anywhere they are forced to use expensive taxis, which is a handy source of income for the locals. Krabi is no exception.
These high taxi fares that foreigners are willing to pay make it a very lucrative business for local Thais and Thais will just put 'Taxi' signs on their cars in order to get a slice of the pie.
Taxi service, Krabi
Reading reviews of the Sofitel in Krabi, which is in quite an isolated location, one of the complaints was that if guests want to go anywhere outside the hotel they had to pay Bt900, or more, for a taxi. Taxis just a couple of kilometres from the Sofital were asking Bt200 to go back to the hotel. These prices may seem cheap to foreigners, but they are very high for Thailand.
I know that there are cheap local transport options in Krabi, but I don't think there are a lot. As I suggested above, I would recommend hiring a car when you arrive. This will stop you from getting ripped off by greedy taxi drivers and you will have the flexibility of having your own transport.
Another option - if you don't have young children - would be to hire a motorbike, but be careful. Thailand is the number one country in the world for motorbike accidents and the number two country for road fatalities. Some drivers are maniacs and some of the worst drivers are those driving large trucks. Be very, very careful if you choose this option.
Motorbike for rent, Krabi
Maritime Park & Spa Resort
This is where I stayed with my future wife in 2010 a few months before we were married. I wished to avoid Ao Nang beach and was looking for somewhere comfortable in a relaxing location. It doesn't bother me not being near the sea.
This hotel has large, beautiful grounds and if you like birdwatching you can see some exotic Asian bird life withount even having to leave the hotel. It's a really nice place, but it's not near the beach. I know that many visitors to Thailand insist on staying near the beach.
It's near Krabi town, which I like a lot. It's interesting, there are some good restaurants, and there aren't too many tourists.
Grounds at the Maritime Park & Spa Resort, Krabi
Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort
Children change everything. My life before kids was all about choosing things that I wanted. Since children arrived, every decision that has to be made has to be made with them in mind.
After my wife decided that she wanted to go to Krabi it was left to me to choose a hotel that was child-friendly. This one certainly seemed to fit the bill and the large grounds and natural setting were things that appealed to me as well.
It was a great choice.
I have paid Bt3,000 a night for ordinary hotels in Bangkok to find that the rooms are small, the hotel has no facilities and the staff - without actually being rude - are quite surly.
Five star luxury hotels in Thailand are completely opposite and the fact that you only have to pay about 50% more (around Bt4,500 per night) makes them an absolute bargain.
Upon arriving at the hotel's huge lobby we were greeted by very friendly staff and given drinks and cold flannels. One member of staff took a long time making sure that we had everything we needed.
The hotel is quite isolated, which is exactly what I wanted, but if you wish to go to Ao Nang and have no transport the hotel has a free minivan shuttle service.
Vans from the hotel to Ao Nang leave at 10:30, 11:30, 14:00, 16:30, 19:00.
Vans from Ao Nang back to the hotel leave at 11:00, 12:00, 14:30, 17:00, 19:30, 22:30.
To use the shuttle service you must make a reservation in advance at the front desk to ensure seating and availability.
Lobby, Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort, Krabi
We were then taken to our room and this was the view from the balcony.
View from bedroom, Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort, Krabi
Bathroom, Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort, Krabi
I booked a room that included breakfast and breakfast was superb. If you pay separately it costs Bt690 per person. You can choose from an English style cooked breakfast, an Asian breakfast consisting of rice, noodles and curry, or a European style breakfast with several different kinds of bread, cheese and cold cuts of meat.
You will also find cereals, fresh fruit, fruit juices, cakes, and Danish pastries, etc. The choice is huge, the quality excellent, and I ate so much that I didn't need lunch. I would highly recommend booking a room that includes breakfast.
Preparing breakfast, Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort, Krabi
For those people who wish to work out, there is a well-equipped gym that is free for guests to use. Located in the gym is also a sauna and steam room.
Gym, Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort, Krabi
The hotel tennis court is free for guests to use, but it must be reserved in advance.
Tennis court, Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort, Krabi
As the name of the hotel implies, golf is also available. The 9-hole course is well maintained, but real golfers might be a little disappointed with the scale. From what I saw, all of the holes were par 3's of about 130 yards and in the UK this would be described as a pitch-and-putt course.
I saw one guest pulling a trolley with a full set of clubs, but all you will need is a 7 iron, a putter, and maybe a wedge or a sand wedge. The green fees are Bt500 and hiring clubs costs Bt700.
Golf course, Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort, Krabi
Golf course, Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort, Krabi
One of the main reasons for choosing this hotel was the Kids' Club because I have two young children. The Kids' Club is free to use, but if you want the staff to take care of children under four years of age you must pay Bt300 per child per hour. If the children are older and can take care of themselves or if you stay in attendance there is no need to pay.
Some of the organised activities involve materials and a charge is made to cover the materials. Other activities are free. There are toys inside and outside, and also outside is a sand pit as well as a slide and swing.
There is a sleeping area for young children and Play Stations are available for older children. The female staff who run the Kids' Club are very friendly and very good with children, as you might expect.
Kids' Club, Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort, Krabi
Kids' Club, Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort, Krabi
Kids' Club, Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort, Krabi
The following hotel activities for guests may or not be available during your stay at the hotel and prices may be different. Ask the staff.
- Thai Cooking Class - Bt1,000 In five hours you will learn to cook four Thai dishes
- Meditation At A Local Temple - Bt250
- Yoga Initiation - Complimentary
- Fruit Carving - Complimentary
- Archery Class - Bt400
- Thai Boxing - Bt300
- Golf Lesson - Bt300
- Kayak Tour - Bt300
- Sailing Lesson - Bt300
- Cycling Tour - Bt300
- Football Tennis - Complimentary
- Sunset Stretching - Complimentary
- Society Game - Complimentary
- Bingo Party - Complimentary
- Spa Treatment Training Class - Complimentary
- Tennis Lesson - Bt200
- Garland Making - Bt200
- Beach Volleyball - Complimentary
- Beach Soccer - Complimentary
- Volleyball - Complimentary
- Badminton - Complimentary
- Power Walk - Complimentary
- Aerobic Dance - Complimentary
- Aqua Aerobics - Complimentary
- Pilates - Complimentary
- Tai Chi - Complimentary
- Movie Night - Complimentary (21:00 - 23:00)
The hotel also arranges excursions to various places, but the prices are quite high.
There are also several Kids' Club activities. As with the adult activities, not all activities may be available during your stay and prices may change. Also, some activities may not be possible during rainy weather.
- 3-D Art Making - Complimentary
- Thai Lessons - Complimentary
- Thai Boxing - Bt200
- Plaster Character Painting - Bt200
- Flower Making - Complimentary
- Photo Frame Decorating - Bt300
- Create Your Own Waffle - Bt200
- Balloon Twister - Complimentary
- Movie Night - Complimentary (19:00 - 20:30)
- Weave A Fish - Complimentary
- Bracelet Making - Complimentary
- Cup Cake Decoration - Bt300
- Colour Sand Art - Bt200
- Nature Hunt - Complimentary
- Hide And Seek - Complimentary
- Gel Candle Making - Bt200
- Archery Lesson - Bt200
- Kids' Yoga - Complimentary
- Pandanus Rose Making - Complimentary
- Origami - Complimentary
- Umbrella Painting - Bt400
- Nail Painting - Complimentary
- Bag Painting - Bt200
- Ice Cream - Bt200
- Thai Dancing With Costume - Complimentary
- Tennis Lesson - Bt300
- T-Shirt Painting - Bt400
- Bookmark Design - Complimentary
- Paper Roll Crafts - Complimentary
- Mosaic Frame Making - Bt300
- Beach Tour - Complimentary
- Play Doh - Complimentary
- Mask Making - Complimentary
- Handbag Making - Bt300
- Hanging Mobile Making - Bt300
- Pancakes - Bt200
- Kids' Aerobics - Complimentary
- Batik Painting - Bt300
- Face Painting - Complimentary
- Papier Mache - Complimentary
- Animal Towel Creation - Complimentary
- Gardening Workshop - Complimentary
- Talking Card Making - Complimentary
- Olympic Games - Complimentary
You can also sign your children up for a 'My Kid Package' and this will include two free paid-activities.
Ao Nang beach is the most popular and well-known beach in Krabi. This is where most tourists to Krabi head for, but it is the only area of Krabi that I don't like. Is it just me? Am I abnormal? Have I lived in Thailand for too long?
The beach there is OK. It's not the most beautiful beach I have seen in Thailand, but it is far from being the worst.
When I stayed in Krabi in 2004 I stayed in Ao Nang and there was very little. I went back to Ao Nang in 2010 and it was a bit more developed, but there still wasn't a lot. In 2016 it was full. Every piece of beachfront property was occupied or was being built on.
As you drive into Krabi there are lots of roadside signs offering expensive condominium buildings. Foreigners can own condominiums in Thailand and the pricing indicates that they are targeted very much at foreigners. Property prices have soared in Krabi in recent years.
My conversational Thai is quite fleunt and I was talking to some of the staff at the Sofitel where I stayed. They told me that five years ago you could buy a condo for Bt1 million, whereas now (2016) the same places are going for over Bt3 million.
The type of establishments in Ao Nang are the same kind of establishments that are found in every other Thai tourist resort. There is a branch of McDonalds and some other junk food chains, some very expensive foreign ice cream shops, Irish pubs, tourist restaurants, massage shops, tattoo shops, shops selling tourist trinkets, etc.
Shop in Ao Nang selling typical tacky tourist trinkets
It's all very one-dimensional, very boring, and completely removed from the real world in Thailand. Oustide every massage shop and restaurant are staff attempting to drum up business by accosting passing strangers. This happens in many places, even Singapore, but I find it quite annoying. I am quite capable of choosing myself without needing anyone to coax me in. I also find it irritating when I have just eaten and people are trying to get me into their restaurants.
There is very little parking and parking spaces are extremely difficult to find. When I was lucky enough to find a space I returned to my car only to find that a Thai had double parked behind my car so that I couldn't get out. This is quite typical and has happened to me many times in Thailand. Before you can leave you first have to find the owner of the offending vehicle.
Anyway, I'm probably being too hard. The fact that Ao Nang is so popular confirms that this is what most tourists want. They aren't interesting in real Thailand, they just want McDonalds, Haagen Daaz, and tacky tourist trinket shops.
That's fine and Ao Nang has all they need. If, on the other hand, you want to see the real Thailand you might want to stay somewhere else.
I have only visited Railay Beach once - on my 2004 trip to Krabi. In 2016 my wife wanted to go, but the weather was against us. Many foreigners seem to know about Railay and mention it whenever they talk about Krabi.
Railay Beach is on the mainland, but it is like an island. Just like an island it isn't accessible by road because there is no road. It is only accessible by longtail boat and these can be boarded at Ao Nang. The journey takes between 10 and 15 minutes and the return fare is Bt200 per person.
There's not a lot there, but it's a very pretty place with an attractive beach. If you want an island experience without the inconvenience of visiting an island it's a good place to go.
If you want to stay on Railay Beach there are some hotels there too.
- Anyavee Railay Resort
- Bhu Nga Thani Resort & Spa
- Diamond Cave Resort & Spa
- Railay Bay Resort & Spa
- Railay Garden View Resort
- Railay Great View Resort
- Railay Princess Resort & Spa
- Railay Village Resort
- Sand Sea Resort
Railay Beach, Krabi
Railay Beach, Krabi
Things To Do
There are lots of things to do in Krabi, but as far as I am aware there is no go-kart track or Ripley's Believe It Or Not. If these kind of things appeal to you, go to Pattaya instead.
- Island Hopping: Phi Phi is the best known and probably the most attractive, but since the movie 'The Beach' it has been constantly overrun with tourists. When I first went there in 1996 it was amazing, but it will never be like that ever again. Hong Island is a lot closer and you will get an authentic tropical island experience.
- Scuba Diving: My scuba-diving days are over, but when I was active I did quite a few dives in the Andaman Sea, the most notable being a liveaboard trip to the Similan Islands. There is some beautiful diving to be had in this region. Even if you just snorkel around Phi Phi you will see some beautiful underwater sights.
- Rock Climbing: Those big limestone karsts can be climbed if you have the right skills and equipment. This has never been a hobby of mine, but it is popular with a lot of foreign adventure seekers.
- Mangrove Tours: There are several ways you can do this. The simplest and cheapest is just by walking along the boardwalks. To go further into the mangroves you can join a boat tour or you can go on a kayaking trip. If you choose the latter, there are also some caves you can go inside, such as the Phi Hua To Cave.
- Phang Nga Bay Tour: Not too far away and very pretty. This is where the famous James Bond Island is located.
- Markets: Like all places in Thailand, Krabi has a fresh market and also a night market. I haven't visited the markets in Krabi because they will be just like the other hundreds of markets I have visited in Thailand. However, if you haven't been to a traditional Thai market it is worth doing.
- Temples And Caves: There are quite a few of these in Krabi. Possibly, the most well-known is Tiger Cave Temple, which I visited in 2010.
- Krabi Hot Springs: These are located quite a long way from Krabi town centre.
- Nature: There are a lot of limestone karsts, lots of forest, and in Thung Teao Forest National Park there is an emerald pool.
- Birdwatching: Krabi is popular with birdwatchers and it is one of the only locations in Thailand where you will get the opportunity to see Gurney's Pitta.
- Shopping: Not a lot, but you don't go to Krabi to shop. Ao Nang and the other beach resorts just have tourist trinkets. In Krabi town the biggest shopping centre is Tesco Lotus.
Phi Phi Island is incredibly beautiful, but it is small and these days it is completely overrun with tourists
Mangrove Forest Walkway, Krabi
The choice and quality of food in Krabi is very good. Where I live in provincial Thailand there are very few farangs and therefore very little Western food. Most visiting tourists are either Muslim or ethnic Chinese and the food sold caters to their tastes.
The tourist resorts that cater to Western tourists, such as Krabi, have lots of good Western food. These places also have lots of Western expats, some of whom open restaurants. When I visited Krabi in 2010 I ate at an Italian restaurant run by Italians that had great pasta and pizza.
In 2016 I also noticed a lot of Indians running restaurants in Krabi. Like most Brits, I love Indian food and it was a real treat to be able a good Indian curry and some naan bread.
There is, of course, lots of Thai food available. Food from the northeast region of Thailand (Isaan) is popular all over Thailand and there are plenty of som-tum shops in Krabi. Krabi also has its own unique dishes that aren't widely available outside of Krabi. One of the staff at our hotel, who was a local Krabi girl, recommended a restaurant called Krua Thara.
If you wish to eat at a restaurant that sells local Krabi dishes I would suggest talking to one of the local Thais. Be aware that not all Thais you will meet will be locals. I spoke to many that were from other areas of Thailand long distances from Krabi.
Personally, I really like Krabi, but bear in mind that this is a personal preference and depending what it is you want to find in Thailand, Krabi may suit you or it may not. I am not you, you are not me, and we all have our own personal preferences.
Some of my opinions may seem a little direct, but I try to be honest so that people can make their own decisions.
I am now officially middle-aged, I have a wife and a young family, and I am not into nightlife, bars, or the commercial sex industry in any shape or form.
I have a prefernce for natural environments and tend to shun man-made attractions, especially those constructed purely to keep tourists entertained, although I have visited some man-made tourist attractions that have been very enjoyable.
Just like Pattaya and Patong, Krabi elicits mixed opinions. Some people will love Krabi while others may find it boring.
Thailand for Tourists
Living In Thailand
Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.
One of the great things about visiting Thailand is that hotels are plentiful and a lot cheaper than in most other countries. I always use Agoda to book hotels in Thailand. The company was established in Thailand and has great local knowledge, as well as a huge inventory of hotels.
If you click on one of the destinations opposite you will get a list of hotel deals from Agoda. It's generally a good idea to book on-line because you will get a good room rate and you won't suffer the disappointment of arriving at a hotel to find that it is full.
I book hotels regularly in Thailand and I have always found Agoda to be the best on-line travel agent. At times I have spent a lot of time researching hotel prices and although other deals sometimes look better at first I always end up returning to Agoda.
If you don't wish to pay for your hotel at the time of booking, Booking.com normally allows you to pay when you check in at the hotel. Some people prefer this method, but I have always found Booking.com to be more expensive than Agoda.
If you want to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined. However, you will normally find that Agoda is the cheapest and therefore you can save yourself time and money by just booking through Agoda in the first place.
Images of Thailand