Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Short Break in Krabi (Thailand)

With a few days of holiday time to spare we thought we might just drive on up to Thailand. It seemed like a plan - and then we discovered that our rental car can't be driven across the Thai border. So with Thailand so close we could almost taste it, we decided to go anyway and fly there.

Getting to Krabi.

Krabi is on the west coast of Thailand, slightly north of Phuket - as you can see from this map. The resort where we stayed is only accessible by boat, being on a peninsular among the steep cliffs and islands.

To go anywhere from Kuala Terengganu, we have to go to Kuala Lumpur first. We were delighted to find that we could fly to KL, and then to Krabi in the same day and not have to sleep over in KL.

We were met at Krabi airport by a man holding a sign with our name on it (it's always a comfort when they do that!) and whisked away in a white van through the town of Krabi.

 Clearly we weren't in Malaysia any more ... but in many ways it is very similar.
 We noticed a lot of motorbikes, as well as these vehicles

but we were a little surprised to be asked to shift out of our comfortable air-conditioned van and into one of these.

As it turned out, the tide was really really low,

And the van couldn't go along this narrow jetty to where the boats were now accessible from.

So then we caught our first sight of the long-tailed boats, the water-taxis that run all over the place here.

These boats have a tall prow - unlike the local Malay boats where the prow reaches out flat like a platform - and the owners like to decorate it with coloured cloth streamers.

The boat motor is huge like a truck motor, and sits up high spewing black smoke with accompanying loud noise. The propeller is at the end of a long shaft, about 4 metres long. But the ride is comfortable enough on the wooden seats.

We set off around the headland with a boatload of other tourists.

All around were islands and cliffs, and the ocean was beautiful and clear.

Here and there we saw tourists climbing the cliffs.

Railay Bay Resort

We had booked ourselves into a privacy chalet at the resort.

We had a lovely, spacious air-conditioned room, and a private courtyard with our own outside spa bath.

The dining area right next to the beach provided a lovely relaxing setting for meals.

The bay, surrounded by beautiful cliffs, is a great spot for swimming, with plenty of space for the long-tailed boats to come and go.

Island Hopping

We booked an island-hopping tour on the second day, visiting 7-8 islands and beaches.

 We set off in that white speed-boat with our bathers, towels, snorkels etc.

The scenery was spectacular, and we didn't mind too much that we had got wet up to our knees getting into the boat.

Our first visit was (if I remember rightly) Bamboo Island. The beach was beautiful and there was hardly anyone there.

Except for this monitor lizard who seemed to think that we were on his turf.

Then we went on to an enclosed bit of ocean.

Dozens of boats full of tourists had already come through the narrow gap in the cliffs to have a look at this idyllic section of water called "The Room" - or "bilik".

 Just outside the "room", the boats stopped one by one to look into this cave where a number of local workers live full-time in order to get the much-coveted swallow's nests.

Then we went to see the bay where the movie "The Beach" was made (with Leonardo Di Caprio). In the movie it's a beautiful isolated place ... in real life it is packed with tourists!

It was difficult to actually find a parking space for the boat, and the beach and pathways were overrun with visitors.

A tiny swimming area was roped off, to stop swimmers mingling with speed-boats, and Peter had a bit of a dip and some face-time with local fish.

Then we went to Phi Phi Island (that's pronounced "pee pee") where we all trooped ashore for some lunch, and a wander up and down a narrow lane lined with tourist stalls - there was nothing there we wanted except we found a little air-conditioned shop selling ice-cream, out of the madding rush for a few minutes.

By now the tide was very very low. We had to wade out to the boat, and some boats had trouble getting out of the bay. We headed out just a short way, and everyone jumped in for some snorkeling. The Asian tourists grabbed life-vests because we were in fairly deep water - Peter and I float regardless.

Peter dived down with our little Lumix camera, and took some nice shots of the local life.

The coral itself wasn't madly colourful, but there were lots of colourful things in and around it.

This angel fish led Peter on quite a chase before he managed to snap it.

Our guide, Nicky had warned us about these - the sea urchins - stepping on them can give a very painful sting - and said this was why we should stay in the deeper water so we don't have accidental stings.

Then he surprised us  all by bringing one on the boat for us to have a close look at it. The thing was writhing around in his hand as he held it high and dry.

Exploring Railay Bay

That evening there was a delightful sunset to watch looking out from our restaurant.

The next morning we went walking across to the other side of the peninsular, and then down another path to a third beach at the end of the peninsular hidden between the rocky cliffs. We had just settled into the warm, clear water at the deserted beach, when the tourist boats arrived with hundreds of Asian tourists visiting a cave with some sort of a shrine in it.

We disappeared into a watery cave for a lovely swim.

There are a number of little islands and caves right close to Railay Bay,  so we rented a canoe and went for a bit of a paddle around.

After all the climbing in and out of boats and swimming and walking I was beginning to feel my age (aagghh!) and Peter persuaded me to make use of the spa - I had a relaxing massage with this delightful little Thai lady!

The tide went out again, too far to even allow a decent swim in our own bay. So we retired to our chalet and our private spa for a few hours.

In the morning it was time to get up and head back to Malaysia,

Yeah, it would be nice to visit Krabi again some time!

And it's nice to be back in Terengganu.