Mar 24, 2015

Krabi island-hopping experience

Our long-tail boat

I've always been fascinated by the enchanting beauty and paradise-like portrayal of the islands of Thailand. The notion is propagated further more by Hollywood motion pictures bombarding us with the fantasy of 'come to Thailand, it's much more than sex trade haven and polite people'. Case in point: the movie The Beach where Leonardo DiCaprio was one of the main acting roles (although the film didn't fare well critically, there were lots of praises in regards to its beautiful cinematography, which was shot mainly in Krabi's Ko Phi Phi. That, alongside with super affordable flight tickets booked a year in advance (Air Asia's tagline Now Everybody Can Fly could never resonate better in this case), were among the reasons I chose Krabi as my next destination to explore.

Entrance to Krabi Tipa Resort

Krabi, as most of us know, is a resort town located in the southern province of Thailand. This time around the Krabi trip was accompanied by my sisters, my brother-in-law and my cousins. The trip itinerary was essentially an unplanned one - hence tours were booked last-minute. And considering that my younger sister is pregnant at 20 weeks, we careful picked activities that we were suitable for her, at the same time not sparing the adventure factor. We had to forego Ko Phi Phi as it includes a one-hour journey on a speed boat, the bumpy ride of which is a risk that tour guides are not willing to take.

Considering the peak season it was a risky thing to do though. However, let me assure you, Krabi is a much relaxed environment and a less aggressively developed resort town in relation to the densely packed Phuket. And the prices here (from accommodation to tour groups) seem much more affordable than the latter. Staying in a 3.5 star hotel (Krabi Tipa Resort) at less than RM200 per night is unexpected - judging from the mixed reviews in Trip Advisor I'd say this is still a good place to stay by Malaysian standards haha! Good to know too that the hotel is a stone's throw away from the slightly packed Ao Nang Beach. And we managed to book an island-hopping session and outdoors activities for two separate days, costing 1800 baht in total (a much affordable fare than Phuket definitely, and apparently our price cannot be much cheaper!).

Ao Nang beach - the busiest and most popular beach in Krabi

Thai girls chilling at Ao Nang beach at 8.30 in the morning

We woke up in the morning and a pick-up was ready to bring us to Ao Nang beach to ride a long tail boat heading to a variety of islands. The guys sat on the back of the pick up truck. Luckily it was a short journey to the beach - otherwise I'd be weary of the possibility of being nauseous and whatnot...

Serving pick up truck driver swaggg ("p)

My cousin Fuad assisting for group photo session

Long tail boats like this are abundant in Ao Nang. At one point one could see rows and rows of boats 'parked' along the beach. While it is the cheapest and most accessible means of transportation in and around the islands, the noise emanating from unmuffled engine motors sadly taint the otherwise serene beach atmosphere.

Our boat named 'Chaina Town' - a deliberate (mis)spelling??? 

Heading to our first destination: Phra Nang Beach. I just found out that our first destination was a continuation southward of Ao Nang beach (only accessible by boats). And here silly me thinking that it was a separate island altogether!

My shadow on boat

A view of gigantic limestone structures is a norm when you are in Krabi. In fact, I was greeted by these magnificent rocks all the way from the airport right to my accommodation. And naturally the view of the island trip are just so rich in picturesque limestone sculptures like this one...

A sail boat-like island near Phra Nang Beach

Another angle of Phra Nang Beach. If you would like to see a 360-degree view of the spot have a look at this nifty Google Sphere image.

Visitors not allowed - a lounge area specially for Rayavadee hotel clienteles. How jealous I was that our hotel is perched up on a hill instead...

This adorable chubby boy smugly agrees for his photo to be taken by me. Look at his hat! So fashyonnn.

More natural limestone masterpiece abound on Phra Nang Beach and around Princess Cave. Some areas are popular for rock climbers as well.

Fuad taking a photo of a gigantic stalactite.

Years and years of exposure to wind and humidity created this breathtaking carved-out patterns which are simply beautiful and architecturally magnificent. These details are fashionably inspiring indeed.

 If you walk until the end of Phra Nang beach, you could find a small shrine that, at a first glance, would throw conservative minds aback. Behold, it is The Phallus Shrine tucked away in Princess Cave. The ancient belief is that a mythical sea princess lives in it. Since the olden days, fishermen, before going out to the sea, give these phallus-shaped offerings (often made of wood) as a symbol of fertility and wealth.  

One could find penises of all shapes, sizes and colours (and naturally that kind of dirty thoughts come gushing in thee hee).

A woman praying in the shrine

Our next island destination was Poda Island - a great location for snorkelling, or simply sunbathing on the pristine white sandy beach. It was my second time snorkelling in such clear water (the first experience was in Sabah) and I have to say that the fish here are more abundant. The waters are quite shallow during our visit, so I would not have to worry about drowning (I confess, I am a miserably bad swimmer)...

Crystal clear water with green-and-black striped fish

The more adventurous/better swimmers can snorkel around the limestone projections at the peripherals of Poda Island. You could also go kayaking until the edge, and climb man-made rope ladders on to the stones, and dive freely into the ocean! After Poda Island we hopped on to the boat, and somehow the captain made a turn towards the other side of the island, I think. We had our lunch here on a sandy beach - under shades, luckily - there were not many tourists around at that moment of time.

Our lunch was white Thai rice with a dish of fried egg and pieces of chicken. It was tasty (I'm a bit of a sucker for all Thai food).

Desserts were pineapple and watermelon - juicy and super sweet!

Sea artefacts near our shades - look at the ring-shaped corals!

We had a fun session covering my brother-in-law in sand - complete with exaggerated limbs, tits and all

The other long-tail boat having a rest after unloading passengers

Taking a dip in the sea water. I had to be extra careful not to touch jellyfish which were quite abundant at this moment.

Powdery sand with hairy legs

Then we headed to Chicken Island (the bobble head structure you see on the left) for another session of snorkelling. This time around the water was deeper, but as a reward: there were schools of fish swirling around our boat. We wore our safety jackets and dove in for a good snorkel

Look at them vividly coloured creatures!

Our boat captain is a young Thai guy named Soleh. He's totally cool driving the boat, looking like a seasoned pro. As you can see he's not a shy person when facing a camera (his fave pose: the thumbs up). At Chicken Island he stripped his shirt off and was the first one to dive into the cool waters; nonchalantly floated in the water and tested how deep the bottom was - therefore you can imagine how envious I was with his swimming skills :) He also gave us a leftover watermelon to feed the fish (it worked - throngs of fish 'attacked' the watermelon skin and some even bit my hand). 

Words and images by Hafidzudin Zainal/ Fuad Mohd

to be continued...

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