Krabi, Ao Nang & Railay Beach (March 19, 2002 - March 26, 2002)
New Zealand

Chiang Mai
Ayutthaya & Bangkok again


Like Guilin, the Krabi province is an area of karst limestone formations - those peculiarly shaped peaks that rise straight up from an otherwise flat landscape.

We drove from the airport to Ao Nang and got a room at the BB Hotel for two nights.

Ao Nang does not seem to be part of Thailand. It's full of western dive shops, western menu restaurants, western style resorts, and western tourists. We ate dinner on our first night and actually had a knife and fork! It was heaven as we had been puzzling our way through eating chicken legs using spoons and forks since arriving in Thailand a few weeks ago. However, I miss the food carts and small Thai restaurants... and the low prices. Food prices, while cheaper than Canadian restaurants, are significantly higher here then the rest of Thailand. 

Railay Beach and Ton Sai Beach

Ao Nang is nice, but there's not a lot to it. Mark bought a replacement mask and snorkel for the one he lost in Bali, and we bought one for Heather as a birthday present (she's 11 on March 30!).  We took a long tail boat to Railay Beach and Phra Nang Beach, and made the decision to leave Ao Nang and move to Railay Beach for a few days.

This picture is taken on Railay Beach looking towards neighbouring Ton Sai beach. 

Railay Beach is a peninsula on the mainland not far from Ao Nang, but it is cut off by mountains and can only be reached by boat. West Railay beach is spectacular but crowded. There must be 500 hotel rooms and bungalows in the area, and they were mostly all full. We stayed at the Railay Beach Bungalows (also called Railay Beach Resort). If you go there and don't mind a fan cooled room, ask for the 450 baht rooms. I think they are Railay's best kept secret as no one seems to know about them and the staff are not quick to volunteer info. They are as nice as the 850 baht fan cooled rooms. We ended up getting three rooms - Mark had one, Heather and Chloe another, and Sarah and I got to sleep together all by ourselves!  

After getting our bearings and taking a quick trip to Krabi to get our return air tickets to Bangkok, we signed up for a day of snorkeling and a day of rock climbing. Heather and Mark both had colds so we could not go diving. 

Snorkeling was very good. Visibility at both Koh Yawasam and Koh Poda was at least 20 metres. We saw a sea snake, and thousands of small fish in 5 to 8 metre deep water. Between swims, we had lunch at picturesque Chicken Island,  so named because the natural limestone chimney on one end of the island looks like a chicken's head. It is a shame we could not go diving because some of the world's best diving is in the Andaman Sea around Krabi. 

Chloe climbing

Heather Climbing

Mark climbing

Chloe on the wall

Rock Climbing was exceptional. It was the highlight of Railay for everyone except Sarah - whose highlight was simply getting her feet back on terra firma. 

There are a few climbing stores in Railay Beach, but Wee's Rock Climbing School is run out of a bungalow in Railay Bay Bungalows. It had a nice feel to it. Egk, our guide, turned out to be one of the senior climbers in the area and was known by everybody. He had lots of patience and was exceptionally good with all the kids. He even took Mark for snacks and played frisbee as well as volleyball both before and after climbing.  

All the kids climbed well. Mark is a natural climber - probably ever since the day he climbed out of his crib. Heather was a bit nervous but managed every climb she attempted and certainly improved the most over the day. Chloe, however, stole the day. When she climbed, a group would form at the bottom to watch because she is so tiny and could climb so well. It allowed me to strut around and tell everyone, "That's my daughter! She's 8!". She was absolutely fearless, a natural climber, and before too long was nicknamed Little Gecko by some of the guides. I don't know how Chloe managed some of the parts because I had to stretch to find hand and foot holds and I am about twice the height of Chloe. I think her long and narrow feet (from my Mum's side of the family) are coming in handy for something. 

We climbed cliff faces called Massage's Secrets and King Cobra in the 1-2-3 area. These are beginner climbs (rated 5 and 6a+) but with a few tough sections.  The tallest climbs were 30 metres. If you look at the bottom climbing picture and make it bigger by clicking on it, you'll see Chloe circled lightly in black just above the centre of the picture.  At this point, she was about 25 metres high, 5 metres from the top of the climb.  

The original plan was to climb for an hour or so, and then walk to a nearby cave and abseil down out of it. We ended up climbing for 5 hours and then breaking for lunch when all the kids were too tired to continue. We saw the cave in the afternoon. The next morning, Egk took them climbing again before we had to leave to catch our flight. While the kids climbed on the second day, Sarah and I visited the excellent Inner Princess Cave and looked at the quartz waterfall and impressive caverns- highly recommended for those who are less upwardly mobile.

So, it looks like we now have another hobby to take up on our return to Canada. Our Mountain Equipment Co-op membership is going to be used for something other than buying Backpacks and sleeping bags.

We had to drive to Phuket airport because the flights from Krabi to Bangkok were overbooked. After an uneventful flight, we checked into Jim's Lodge again in Bangkok.

Bright and early the next day, we left the hotel and drove to Damnoen Saduak, the floating market. This has to be the most touristy thing we have done on our trip so far - the parking lot had about 20 tour buses. However, once we got over the revulsion of doing anything so staged for tourists, it was actually quite fun. Imagine a market where all the stores are packed into small wooden canoes, or shops along the banks of the narrow canals. Tourists are paddled up and down the canals in canoes - if you see something you like, you momentarily raft the store and tourist canoes together and negotiate your purchase.  We filled up on mangoes, pomeloes, and a delicious mixture of sticky rice, coconut milk and mango slices that we bought from other boats.

After the market, we saw the Golden Buddha at Wat Traimit in Bangkok. There is an interesting story to this Buddha - it was being moved in the 1950's when an accident left a large crack in the plaster exterior of the Buddha. One of the Monks saw gleaming through the crack. When the plaster was removed, he discovered the Buddha was about 5 tons of solid gold. The plaster had been added to fool the marauding Burmese armies in the late 1700's.

One final stop at the post office to send another package home with our Thai purchases, and then we were off to the airport to catch our flight to Mumbai, India.