Twenty-two hours and three flights later, we made it to Thailand. I have just spent the last three months completing my regional work in Australia and was in desperate need of a good holiday! Based on that point alone, we decided to skip the madness of Bangkok and head straight to the Thai islands for a slice of paradise. First stop, Krabi!
Though not an actual island, Krabi is used as a gateway to the Thai islands a lot of backpackers use this province to begin their island hopping adventure. I began my adventure to Krabi in mid-June, which means the rainy season is approaching and low season is now in action.
I was pleasantly surprised to find amazing weather with minimal crowds, our kinda place! The sun beat down every morning and afternoon,with a couple intense showers in the evenings. We stayed in Ao Nang on the coast, just a fifteen minute taxi boat to Railay Beach.
How to Get There
Once we touched down in Bangkok, we stayed in the airport and hopped on a connecting flight (1.5 hrs) to Krabi. We always use Skyscanner to book domestic flights. From the airport we hopped in a taxi with other tourists and drove thirty minute to Ao Nang. The trip cost THB150 (AUD5.80/EUR4) each.
Where to Stay
Our budget is a lot tighter than usual as we have a lot to pay for this summer (flights home to Ireland, flights to Australia, a second-year visa, etc). We’ve just spent the last three months living in a hostel with sixty other backpackers while doing our regional work in Australia. On that note, I was dying to leave the hostel in search of some peace and quiet for a cheap price.
We stayed in the Krabi Forest Homestay in Ao Nang for three nights. At less than AUD10 (THB256/ EUR6.75) a night, this place was a steal. Right next to the beach, it was quick and easy to access Railay. It was quiet but close to all the action and the women at reception were more than willing to help with any tours/questions. We booked a day trip based on one of the girl’s recommendations and it was amazing! There’s also a 7/11 right around the corner, perfect for backpackers like us feasting on a budget!
Ao Nang is small and we walked everywhere to get to restaurants/bars/shops. There’s plenty of cheap tuk-tuks should you need them and longtail boats are easily accessible. We hired one for THB100 each (EUR2.64/AUD3.90) to bring us to Railay. You’ll generally have to wait for more people to fill up the boat, or else offer more money to go with a smaller crowd and skip the waiting.
For tours we booked them with locals at stands. You can choose to go by longtail or speed boat. Speed boats are about TBH300 more expensive but will whizz you around a lot quicker in comfort.
What To Do
We stayed in Ao Nang for three nights and after three months of farm work, all we wanted to do was chill! We did an island hopping tour our first day and what a way to kick off our first day! We did the Hong Islands tour, you can also do the Four Islands Tour. A six-hour tour on a speed boat, with all the main stop-offs, and lunch included, should cost about THB700 (AUD27/EUR18). If you have the time and money, I definitely recommend doing both on separate days, there’s nothing like the islands on the west! Keep in mind you will be required to pay an additional THB300 to get onto Hong Island as it is a national park.
Also a day trip to Railay Beach is a must-do. Here chill out on West Railay Beach, explore the Phra Nang Caves and Phra Nang Cave Beach, and marvel at the fertility shrine here (basically hundreds of wooden carved penises all sheltered in a huge cave). Hit the viewpoint if you’re fit and able (no easy task!) and rent a kayak to explore all the nooks and crannies around Railay (more in-depth post of Railay later).
Food and Nightlife
The restaurant scene in Ao Nang is great quality, though a lot more expensive. As for bars and clubs, stay away from Ao Nang if you’re looking to really party. It’s very family-orientated, but I loved sitting outside the restaurants sipping on beers and watching the drag queens sell tickets to their cabaret shows!
As this was our first stop in Thailand we immediately compared it to our recent trip around Indonesia. Bali is more expensive but in the greater scheme of things, not by a whole lot. It’s off-season right now so things are cheaper. The exchange rate for Europeans is excellent at EUR1=TBH38, but for us we are using Australian dollar which is coming in at AUD1=THB26.
Ao Nang is a little pricer than the islands, but this is expected as things are slightly more high scale to accommodate families and older tourists. A good search on Agoda for decent priced accommodation, breakfasts in 7/11, a few beach beers rather than restaurants, and good haggling skills kept our budget in line!
If you’re looking to ease yourself into the island-hopping life, Ao Nang is the place to start! Many backpackers skip over it in favour of Phuket, however after hearing stories of Phuket and its sex industry I wasn’t too keen on adding it to my dream holiday.
I spent a month in Thailand so had plenty of time to visit Krabi. Three nights was the perfect amount of time to spend here, with an early ferry out on the fourth day.
If you have limited time on the Thai islands, Krabi may be one to give a miss. If two weeks or less is all you can manage, head straight to Phi Phi or Koh Phangan and being your island hopping adventure there!
Krabi was definitely a huge highlight of my Thai islands trip, it’s got the Sun Scribes seal of approval and should be put of your bucket list ASAP!
Here’s a few more pictures from my trip to Ao Nang and the surrounding islands to whet your Thailand appetite: