KRABI, Thailand ― Krabi province is Thailand’s representative resort area. Unfortunately, it’s not as easily accessible as other tourist spots in Thailand. Unlike Phuket, you have to arrange flights, jeep rides and boats to get around. Yet the area is one of the most desired destinations in Thailand, a true “hidden gem” that remains untouched by mass tourism.
We started the tour by taking Thai Airways International from Bangkok to Phuket. Working our way to the northwest coast of Phuket, we arrived at Mai Khao Beach, where we unpacked our luggage at a holiday resort.
The next morning, we set off for the Similan Islands. The national park is open from November to April when the waters are clear and the monsoon stays far away. It takes an hour and a half to get from Tap Lamu Pier to the Similan Islands ― the hammering sound of the speedboat engine almost drove our crew crazy. However, before the noise damaged our ears, we soon arrived at the elusive beach that we had been chasing for what seemed like forever.
Nine islands make up this archipelago. The main islands are often referred to by number ― from numbers 1 to 9 ― for convenience. Island 4, Koh Meang, and Island 8, Koh Similan, are outstanding snorkeling destinations with an incredible variety of tropical fish and bright corals in different shapes and sizes. Diving into the center, it feels as if you are in a giant aquarium ― the variety and amount of marine life leaves no time for boredom.
|Tourists sunbathe on the powder white beach which slopes down to emerald green water in Koh Hong Island. (Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald)|
The island is enveloped by fine talcum powder-like sand encrusted with different corals. Clear turquoise waters lap the serene white sand. For those who want to feast their eyes on the island’s spectacular scenery, all you need to do is climb a rocky granite boulder to take a good look around the pristine beauty of the islands.
The next day we departed for Krabi. It takes just two hours by car to go to Ao Nang, the center of Krabi. The road is laden with karst topography, three-dimensional landscapes characterized by numerous caves, sinkholes, fissures, and underground streams. The two-hour ride is no time for a nap. Date palms and rubber trees line the sides of the road providing grand scenery, while strangely shaped stones make the journey resemble a roller coaster ride.
The tour guide of our crew Pay, from the Tourist Authority of Krabi, said, “Compared to Phuket, Krabi is blessed with an array of world-class natural attractions, untouched by human influence.” The Ao Nang beach attracts some 2.6 million from all over the world each year.
|A traditional longboat glides through the silent waters with deep green mangrove forests on both sides. (Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald)|
One of the must-do things in Krabi is to go on an Island Hopping Tour. A unique way of exploring Krabi, the tour is strictly private, organized exclusively for a small number of people. Traveling in your own traditional long-tailed boat with local experienced boat men you can glide into mangrove forests alongside the limestone islands that Krabi people consider another local natural wonder.
There are 11 islands that access is allowed to, and the islands in the Koh Hong group are rightly considered to be among the most beautiful in Krabi Province. The Hong Island tour consists of Islands Koh Poda, Koh Kai, Koh Mo and Koh Thap. Gliding through the waterways of the mangrove swamps in the bay, the trip is recommended for nature lovers as it allows you to enter the lagoon, caves and crescents of powdery sand, where you can enjoy scuba diving, snorkeling and tanning.
For those who love adventure excursions like rock climbing, Railay Bay is recommended. Attracting climbers from all over the world, the cliff gives climbers a panoramic view of the famous Phra Nang Cave with amazing beachfronts, and great coves and bays.
You can also go kayaking at Ban Bor Thor. The caves at Ban Bor Thor are only accessible by kayak and are rich in archeological treasures of cave paintings that are 3,000 years old. The expedition also includes a tour around narrow, winding mangrove swamps and beautiful lagoons.
There is no direct flight to Krabi from Korea. To go to Krabi you can take a direct flight to Phuket and transfer to a bus. An alternative is to take Thai Air from Incheon International Airport to Bangkok, where you can take a domestic flight to Krabi year round.
The Four-Islands Hopping Tour in Krabi costs 1,200 baht (43,000 won). The tour lasts seven hours, from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm. A standard packed lunch of Thai fried rice and drinks will be provided.
By Chung Hee-cho, Korea Herald correspondent
Intern reporter Bae Soo-min contributed to this report. ― Ed.