The idea I had of Thailand before visiting was not entirely accurate. I dreamed of a tropical retreat of cheap, delicious food, endless massages, and pristine beaches. Although it was somewhat of a tropical paradise, escaping the mainland is key to discovering the tiny, breathtaking islands that resembled my preconceived idea.
The mainland (at least the part we were in) was dirty, rundown, and organized chaos. On our way to the hotel from the airport, I was instantly memorized by the people. Pick-up trucks passed us carrying twenty people in the back and some even hanging on to the side of the truck. Scooters swooshed by with an entire family sitting behind the driver. Tangles of electrical wire created a maze in the sky above each and every building. A random cow was grazing on grass in a ditch between what I assumed was a convenience store and somebody’s home. Was this just a wild cow? Everyone had their “closet” outside of their house, clothes racks and all. Children ran around half naked. Random piles of fire burned in even more random places. And it was all set against one of the most stunning backdrops I’ve ever seen, a true jungle.
After extensive research, we decided to fly in to Krabi airport and rest our heads every night in the town Ao Nang at the beautiful Phu Pi Maan Resort & Spa. For 10 days we adventured around Ao Nang and took long tail boats to nearby islands in the Krabi Providence. Krabi is located in mid-Thailand on the west side, just opposite the peninsula of the famous Phuket area.
Fortunately, our hotel was an oasis and a retreat from the rest of the city. When food poisoning caught up with us, the hotel was there. (Side note: The food is great, but you must be weary of food poisoning and come prepared with medicine in case this happens. Unfortunately, everyone on the trip spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day locked away in the hotel rooms tending our illness.)
The main city we stayed in was called Ao Nang, it is one of the hubs for boats called long-tail boats that will taxi people to and from all of the surrounding islands. And there are so many beautiful surrounding islands! Ao Nang was typically touristy. Shops lined the “boardwalk” area selling more sarong dresses, elephant t-shirts, and beach mats than you’ve ever seen. Bars and restaurants were scattered throughout along with the indispensable 7/11 and McDonald’s. *
*Ronald McDonald was an obvious Asian. And we saw a McDonald’s built in five days. FROM THE GROUND UP. The Thai are hard-workers and this is an understatement. I believe they could also build a skyscraper from a pile of wood if given the challenge. They worked in flip-flops, shirtless, and throughout the night.
Our first night in Ao Nang, we enjoyed drinks at a restaurant on the beach (about a fifteen minute walk from our hotel) and retired early to have dinner at the hotel and await the arrival of our travel partners. On our second day in Ao Nang we decided to all have massages at one of the many massage huts along the beach and browse the mass of vendors who set up shop each day in the city.
I finally felt like I was experiencing the “island life” once we took a long-tail boat to Railay Beach. The trip was about a fifteen minute boat ride from Ao Nang and included amazing views of other surrounding islands. The boat let you off right on the beach and we were immediately in awe of the scenery. A huge cliff to our right was adorned with dense greenery and innumerable palm trees in all shapes and sizes laid about fifty feet in front of us.
We set out to explore Railay Beach and found the perfect place for lunch right by the water. Railay Beach has always been considered a “hippy” beach by locals and tourists. It was more relaxed and less crowded than Ao Nang. It’s also known as being one of the best places to rock climb in the world.
Railay Beach was also our first encounter with the monkeys. They were everywhere and impossible not to watch as they rummaged through any and everything that sparked their curiosity. Throughout the enitre trip, we were all on “monkey watch.”
Another day, another long tail boat ride – this time to the Phi Phi Islands. We visited three islands which were all part of the Phi Phi Islands. The most famous one, Maya Beach, was the filming location for the movie The Beach. On this boat ride we had a guide that took us to each island – we had plenty of time for swimming, snorkeling, and more monkey sightings.
My favorite part of the trip was the sunset kayak tour we took. This was an activity we arranged through our hotel which included a BBQ on the beach afterwards. I could have stayed in that kayak and watched the sunset forever!
We wanted to visit a Buddhist Temple while in Thailand, and about an hour drive from our hotel was Tiger Cave Temple. It sat on beautiful grounds that consisted of walking paths through the jungle and over 1,000 steps leading to the summit and a giant, gold Buddha statue.
We spent another day relaxing on Railay Beach which had many beaches to choose from. On our last day we went to Phra Nang Cave Beach. The cave on this beach has a phallic shrine dedicated to an Indian princess killed in a shipwreck. The legend is that she waited in this cave for her husband’s return. We found the shrine quite humorous, and nowadays, local boatmen leave “offerings” to ensure safe travel on the sea.
This trip was my second experience with true culture shock and I can’t wait to explore more of this beautiful country in the future.
Elephant cruelty is a huge problem in Thailand, and for this reason we avoided any and all tours/activities that included elephants. We did get these matching elephant t-shirts though!