When people think of Krabi, they don’t think of much.
It’s a quick place to stop off before heading to Phi Phi, or an overnight before a trip to Koh Samui or Phuket, and little else beyond that. But for those of us who live here, Krabi is so much more. Krabi is a way of life, and here’s what I mean by that:
Starting your day right
Krabi isn’t Bangkok, so you can expect a much more tranquil experience here than in the country’s capital. Nothing personifies this better than tai chi by the river in Krabi Town. On mornings it’s typical to find a friendly group of older ladies (with the occasional man) practising this art as the sun rises above the mangroves and the karsts that fill the horizon. Practising mindfulness while the sun glistens on the water beside you is the best way to start your day and the perfect way to recover from the night before.
Best walks in Krabi
More than just parties and bars, Krabi is one of Thailand’s most beautiful provinces, with thick forests, imposing mountains and gorgeous beaches aplenty.
The first is Tiger Cave Temple, a strenuous 1,237-step climb up and around a mountain, with a great payoff of panoramic views of Krabi and beautifully ornate Buddhist carvings and statues at the top. Located just a mile or two outside of Krabi Town, it’s not an easy task, but with ample opportunities for rest, it’s accessible for most people.
It’s typical to see monks at the top making merits, and to see muay thai fighters somehow going up and down several times as you look on in wonder and frustration from your resting point just a few hundred steps up. As climbers on their way down will assure you, it’s most definitely worth it; the views are breathtaking, stretching far beyond Krabi Town and into the sea. Just be careful of the monkeys on the way up!
The second is the Khao Ngon Nak trek, or ‘Dragon’s Crest’ as it’s also known. Located further out just past Tub Kaek beach, this trek is harder and not recommended for beginners. That said, the initial section is a gruelling uphill walk at a steep gradient but, once you have that out of the way, it’s an easier and enjoyable climb. As a bonus, birdsong, bug sounds and trickling creeks provide a soothing soundtrack.
Breaks in the trees will reveal gorgeous views of Krabi, and at the top there’s a rock ledge sticking out which makes for great shots of you hanging hundreds of metres above the ground with the luscious green valleys, mountains and forests serving as a wonderfully picturesque backdrop. Once you’ve returned to the start, Tub Kaek beach is just a couple of minutes away and this pretty, often-empty beach provides the ideal opportunity to cool down.
Both climbs are recommended early in the day to avoid the full heat of the sun, and taking plenty of drinking water is advised.
The most popular beaches in Krabi are Ao Nang beach and Maya Bay. While they are beautiful, their tendencies to become wildly overcrowded even in low season means you won’t find many locals here, or even room to put your beach towel down.
For beaches with sheer limestone rock-face backdrops (ie. perfect for selfies), no place does it quite like Railay. Cut off from the mainland by mountains, Railay is only accessible via a short boat journey and is absolutely worth it. Its Phra Nang and Tonsai beaches offer various activities, such as snorkelling, rock climbing and cave exploring, and plenty of space for visitors to bask in the heat of the sun. The sand is soft and the water is warm, and there are plenty of bars, restaurants and shops to keep you refreshed.
A little farther out is the lesser-known Hong Island. ‘Hong’ translates to ‘room’, referring to the emerald-green lagoon on the island, which is mostly surrounded by mountains, creating the impression of entering an enclosed space. Hong can get busy, but it’s possible to rent your own boat for the day, meaning you can come and go at your leisure.
There’s nothing quite like a sunset among tropical islands, and a sunset on the ride home from Hong can be breathtakingly beautiful.
For more relaxing beaches on the mainland, Klong Muang and Tub Kaek are the places to go. While they don’t boast the impressive cliffs of the other beaches mentioned, the line of trees on the edge of the white sand offers much-needed shade, and there’s a good chance that you’ll share the beach with only a handful of other people.
With no bars around the corner, these beaches are perfect for relaxing and reading a book with the comforting sounds of the sea in the background and waves lapping at your feet.
Undoubtedly the best place to eat in Krabi is the Walking Street weekend night market. The food here is the typical Thai fare you probably know such as pad thai, but there are several other delicious dishes you should try: basil chicken (pad kapow), papaya salad (somtam) and all manner of spicy curries.
Food here can be as little as a quarter of the price of eating in a restaurant, which means you can afford to be adventurous and sample several of the aromatic and spicy dishes on offer, freshly cooked in front of you and to your liking.
Tables are hard to come by, but should you find one you’ll be treated to the talented Krabi residents taking advantage of the open-mic stage. From school children showing off their Thai dancing skills, to teenagers covering The Cranberries and older folk crooning in Thai, it’s an authentic and wholesome experience with good food and good company, with both backpackers and locals filling the tables beside you.
After eating, there are market stalls selling handmade crafts, clothes and souvenirs – a perfect opportunity to purchase the quintessential backpacker elephant pants. Many of the goods on offer have a ‘Made in Krabi’ label, so you can shop knowing you’re contributing to the local economy.
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Image Credits (top to bottom): Intrepid Travel x2, iStock x2, Kyle Hulme, Intrepid Travel, iStock