Over the years we have come to realise that the cheapest option is most often not the easier alternative. However, sometimes the extra effort to find a better deal does pay off. Our trip to Ao Nang was one of those, where we chose to forfeit the more direct ‘tourist route’ via ferry and instead opted for what seemed to be the cheaper alternative, making use of public transport. With this kind of travel there are a lot of unknowns and occasionally it can turn out more expensive. It’s a risk you have to be willing to take.
Below is an outline of our journey in comparison to the other options offered to us (marked with an x).
1. Kata Beach-Phuket Town *Public Bus B35pp xTaxi direct to station B700pp
2. Phuket Town-Bus Station #2 *Taxi B60pp (bargained & shared with another couple) xOther taxis B200pp
3. Bus Station #2-Krabi Town *Minibus B140pp xBig bus B160pp and Minibus direct to Ao Nang B370pp
4. Krabi Town-Ao Nang *White Songthaew B60pp x Taxi B200pp TOTAL SPEND: B295pp (As apposed to an B800 ferry ride that would have taken equally as long to get there)
In this case the risk was well worth it! Not only did we save, but we met a very kind Thai gentleman who waited with us till we were safely on the right bus, a young couple from Holland with whom we shared a taxi (Tee, the funniest taxi driver in Thailand whose laughter was contagious), and lastly, two girls from Malaysia who promised to take us out for “real spicy” food when we are there. SCORE! After settling into our hotel, The Nine, we took a short walk down the street and stumbled upon Macdonalds. For those of you who are into fast food, Ao Nang also has Subway, Burger King and Starbucks. We’re not usually, but Mike had been having an inexplicable craving for Macdonalds. It only took one bite of a Big Mac for him to realise why we don’t generally eat fast food!
Ao Nang is a quaint little town by the sea. Its main street, lined with shops, cafes and restaurants, runs down towards the beach, then turns right and continues parallel along the coast. It had a rather peaceful atmosphere, with the exception of the countless Indian men who stood outside restaurants and attempted to sell us their menu as we walked by. After exploring a while, we eventually stopped for lunch which bought satisfaction to at least two of the many men we had refused previously. Sadly, the Italian pizzeria-like restaurant produced very average and overpriced pizza. To make up for it we walked a few shops down to a quiet cafe and indulged in iced mocha shakes whilst we caught up on social media and other important matters. Before we knew it, blue sky had turned into a torrential downpour. My idea: stay and wait for a gap in the rain. Mike’s idea: make a run for it because supposedly there wouldn’t be a gap. I think you can see where this is going. Just two minutes after making a run for it, already drenched to the bone, the rain suddenly gave way to clear blue skies! Soaking and no longer in a rush we stopped in at a few tourist information centres to check out their tours. All of them offered four main tours: Phi Phi Islands, Four Islands, Hong Island, and an inland tour to hot springs and waterfalls. Being low season they were all willing to cut their original tour prices by half, leaving most tours priced between B400-B1200. The only catch was that most only run by long-tail boat in low season, as opposed to big boats or speed boat. We chose to go with the Andaman Krabi Hong Island tour for B650pp as we were told it offered better snorkelling.
The Hong Island tour began with a short trip to the dock in a cramped songthaew. All tours leave by long-tail boat from this point so there were a lot of other tour groups departing at the same time. Whilst the weather wasn’t bad, the sea was rough and what started out as a thrilling long-tail boat ride became rather nauseating after forty minutes. The Hong Island tour also included snorkelling at Daeng and Phang Nga Bay. Due to the rough sea we were unable to stop at Daeng Island, but Phang Nga Bay did have a small sheltered beach where we could stop to swim. The water was too cloudy to snorkel, but swimming in such a picturesque place was a wonderful experience. Back on the long-tail boat we were taken to Hong Island’s beautiful lagoon before heading around to the beach for a buffet lunch which was included in the tour. Unfortunately, while the food was very tasty, there was so little that our guide had to ask another tour for their leftovers in order to feed us all. Given an hour to relax or explore, Mike and I found a perfect place along the beach to have a short nap, whilst the others swam. When we woke it began to rain and the beach was suddenly deserted as everyone ran for shelter. We saw this as the perfect opportunity to have a swim. Swimming in the rain on Hong Island made our day. It was an unforgettable experience! I think we may have started a trend as slowly others emerged from their shelter to join us in the rain. Feeling rather content, we boarded the boat and braced ourselves for a long and bumpy ride back to Ao Nang. To round off the day we devoured the most delicious street food for dinner: battered prawns, spring rolls, pad thai, fruit shakes and Thai banana and nutella pancakes. If you are ever in Ao Nang be sure to take a walk down the main street and find these guys for the cheapest meal in town. They are usually situated opposite the Subway from 5pm onwards.
We loved exploring the small island of Railay and it must be one of the most beautiful islands we have visited in Thailand! East Railay is rocky and mostly covered in mangrove so is not suitable for swimming. By contrast, West Railay has a long beach and crystal clear water flanked by high limestone cliffs on either side.
To get to the island we purchased a long-tail boat ticket to East Railay from a sales booth along Ao Nang Beach (B200pp). Confusion at the jetty resulted in us being dropped off on West Railay instead, which in hindsight was probably for the best. From here we could explore using paved paths that take you to different parts of the island, or hire a kayak. Mentioned in every tour brochure we had come across was Phra Nang Cave, a must-see attraction when visiting Railay, and of course our first destination. After searching for the cheapest price, we hired a kayak for two hours (B250) from a tourist information shop on Walking Street and kayaked our way around to Phra Nang Beach. They will all tell you it takes 30 minutes, but it took us 15. Phra Nang Beach, or as we like to call it, “Railay South”, is a stunning, quiet beach great for a peaceful picnic. The cave, located at the east end of the beach, didn’t appear to stretch deep into the cliffs, but was still beautiful and majestic.
With our kayak back in the water, we set off to visit East Railay further round the island. Taking the opportunity to be intrepid, we chose a route between two small islands not far from the beach. However, as we attempted to kayak through, we were faced with some pretty daunting waves being channeled between them, resulting in me having a minor panic attack. We made it through alright, but looking ahead at the rising swell and unsure of the distance we had yet to cover, we decided to head back to the more sheltered West Railay. Adventure #1!
After returning the kayak in one piece, we went in search of an affordable lunch. There are only a few resorts and cafes on the island, most of which are situated on Railay West and are quite pricey. However, if you’re looking for more local cuisine you’ll find it at East Railay. We bought a cheap lunch from a food cart down Walking Street and ate it on the beach before having a swim. Tanks full, we were ready to continue exploring the island. This time we opted for the island’s numerous paths, a much safer route. It took less than fifteen minutes to get to the east side of the island, even though we stopped off to explore a cave we spotted along the way (B40pp).
After taking in the rugged yet stunning views, we decided to tackle the climb to the viewpoint over the lagoon. It was literally a free rock climb, straight up, using roots and rocks as grips. Sturdy shoes are advisable, but we only had flip-flops. After making the 15-minute climb to the top we only had time to walk to the viewpoint. However, the view was quickly obscured as it began to pour with rain. Our guide in Khao Sok had warned, once it rains the path becomes a river … in our case, a small waterfall. Knowing we had to get down somehow, we slowly and carefully began our slippery descent. Each and every move had to be carefully thought out to avoid slipping on the sharp rocks. Drenched and covered from head to toe in orange mud, we managed to make it down safely. It was an adrenaline high we will never forget! Adventure #2!
High on excitement, we couldn’t help but talk about our experiences on the boat ride back to Ao Nang, as people curiously questioned our now orange attire. Reflecting on our experience of Ao Nang and the surrounding areas we visited, we can safely say we would choose it over its neighbouring competitor, Phuket, any day. It has the right combination of beautiful scenery, relaxation and adventure which makes it perfectly suited to every kind of traveller, from the luxury holiday-maker to the budget backpacker. For more on Krabi Province, check out our upcoming post on Koh Lanta.