‘Thailand… Too touristy!’ some say. I always disagree. For me Thailand is still one the most beautiful, diverse and travel friendliest destinations in the world. Two Thai island towns that I have yet to visit are Ao Nang and Krabi. Fortunately, world traveler and writer Mari did have a chance to visit and she explains why you should add Ao Nang and Krabi to your Thailand itinerary. Read her ‘Top things to do in Ao Nang and Krabi’!
Written by Mari Bunkova.
Things to do in Ao Nang and Krabi
When I first arrived at roaring Bangkok, which was full of sounds and people, of delicious smells and smiling faces I wasn’t sure which places in the country I wanted to visit. All I knew about Thailand I learnt from one really long article, about an adventurer, who set out to Koh Samui in search of the perfect beach. As I was walking nervously back and forth at the train platform in the middle of Bangkok, I knew that there was more to Thailand than Koh Samui, beaches and parties. Or at least I was promised that, when I planned and booked my whole stay, with the help of the workers at the Thailand Tourism Board.
And I have to be honest, if it wasn’t for these guys, I was going to end up not visiting Krabi. But instead I fell in love with the tranquil provinces of southern Thailand and I kept coming back to its natural beauty, rich cultural landscape and kind people. Continue reading if you have a hard time thinking of a reason why you should visit the picturesque Krabi and Ao Nang (and even if you don’t, continue reading to find interesting suggestions of what to do.)
Elephant Trekking in Ao Nang / Krabi
I had the opportunity to experience elephant riding both in Chang Mai and in Krabi and I must say that the better experience was the one in Krabi. Before you rush into making any conclusions about me, I am an animal lover and I would never participate in anything that promote or is cruel against the animals.
There is a lot of controversy going on around about the various companies that work with elephants in Thailand. But the Huay Tho Waterfall Safari in Krabi, part of the Asian Elephant Foundation of Thailand is one of the few that actually work towards their preservation.
The safari camp is situated at Huay Tho, which is a short drive away from Ao Nang. Here you can enjoy a long trek through the dense jungle, follow a stream and take a refreshing bath with the elephants. Besides this you will learn interesting facts about these gentle animals and what it is like to be a mahout.
Update Bunch of Backpackers February 2018: Personally, I do not support any type of tourist interaction with elephants: especially no riding, but also no bathing/walking. However, I’m sure some of these parks are doing great work. Read more about my thoughts on animals & tourism in this post.
The best beaches of Ao Nang
Let’s face it, Ao Nang is not the best beach that you will see in your life. Fret not, as there are many great options only a short longtail boat ride away.
Koh Hong ‘The hollow island’
If you have enough time to spend, make sure to visit Koh Hong, the hollow island. The center of the island is an enclosed lagoon with shallow, crystal clear waters. During the high tide, the longtail boats can enter the lagoon to go further inside, revealing a magnificent view of white sand beaches, lush greenery and exotic birds. If islands are not your thing, but you still want to visit some of them, go for the closer islands like the Chicken Island, Koh Poda or Railay (the last one is not actually an island.)
Koh Poda is the largest island among a formation of four small islands -Koh Poda, Koh Kai, Koh Thab and Koh Mo. It was endless stretches of white sand beaches and beautiful turquoise waters. It is only twenty minutes away from Ao Nang, but the atmosphere is nothing like it.
Once you see the Chicken Island, there is no question where the name is coming from. The place is also ideal for snorkeling but if you already have snorkeling experience, the variety you get there can be a little disappointing. However, snorkeling novices will have a memorable experience swimming among the colourful corals and fishes.
Railay is located between the city of Krabi and Ao Nang. It is accessible only by boat due to the high limestone cliffs that cuts off the mainland access. Railay is famous for its beautiful beaches, longtail boat vendors and massive overhanging caves. It can get quite overcrowded, but if you walk a little further from the rock formations you will find almost untouched stretches of beach. As a bonus, the visitors of Railay get to meet wild long-tailed macaques, one of the local visitors to the beach.
One of the best places for seashells lovers I have seen is the …beach at Ao Nang. The beach can be accessed only during the low tide and makes for an unforgettable experience (digging into the sand, stepping on sharp shells and getting a headache while staring into the sand for too long.) Ok, all of the listed can be experienced only if you are REALLY obsessed with sea shells.
A visit to Ao Nang will be nothing without some adrenaline bumping encounters with the local wildlife. You don’t need to go all the way to Railay to meet the native long-tailed macaques. All you need to do is to buy a bunch of bananas (probably not the best advise) and to go for a walk (to read: climb) on the Monkey Trail from Ao Nang to Centara resort. The steep way up the mountain features narrow wooden steps and it gets nuclear hot during the day.
The best thing however is you won’t have to climb back across the monkey trail if you return in the afternoon. During the low tide, the path between Centara beach and Ao Nang is cleared and this path offers a more pleasurable walk in the heat.
Hiking up Hang Nak Mountain
Krabi province had a number of great hikes with Hang Nak being one of the most famous. Hang Nak or Ngorn Nak, offers a strenuous hike, but you don’t need to be a professional hiker to complete it. It is a 3.7 kilometers hike up to the summit, from where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the forest and the beach lagoons.
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About the author
Mari Bunkova is a travel blogger and native Bulgarian. She quit her job in 2011, at age 21, and decided to travel the world. She went to Aarhus Denmark to pursue her bachelor degree, but quickly realized that she wasn’t happy with losing all feeling in her face during the long and cold winter. Last year she won National Geographic Best Travel Award for her travel stories about Cambodia and Hong Kong. You can follow her adventures on her blog Lifeswanderlust.You can also connect with her on Facebook.
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