The flights within the country are short and cheap, something I am envious of in the US. I would travel way more if this were the case.
Krabi is on the southwestern coast of Thailand, about an eight hour drive south of Bangkok [or an hour flight]. From there, we took a bus to Ao Nang, which is right on the coast. It’s supposed to be more touristy, but you could hardly tell in low season. You tell the driver what hotel you’re staying at when you board and they drop you off right in front. It’s about as easy at it gets. One thing you do miss by flying is all of the scenery, and I realized that immensely on this short drive, but saving time was huge. Maximizing our days were more important so we could spend time IN the city, not just getting there.
We booked a couple of nights at Red Ginger Chic Resort. It was a little off the main road, but not far from the beach at all. The accomodations were really nice. I’d stay there again in a heartbeat. The staff was super, super friendly, and not even half of the rooms were booked. The lobby and restaurant were all open air, and they overlooked the pool and pool bar in the center of the hotel.
We spent the rest of the first day in the pool and eating at an Indian restaurant at the end of the road. Half of their restaurant was in complete construction, the kitchen was separated from the dining area by a sheet, and we were the only people dining. This was such a theme in low season. We befriended the server who had moved to Ao Nang to support his family back in India. It was interesting to get his take on life in the place we were only just getting to know.
Because the restaurant was open air, it made eating the hotel breakfast pretty awesome. The sun filtered in. The breeze was still around. For being “rainy season,” it usually only happened at night. By morning, you’d never really know it happened. Nearly all of the hotels we stayed in had a breakfast buffet of some sort, generally catering to both Western [eggs, bacon, sausage, toast] and Asian tastes [fried rice, noodles, porridge] and was always rounded off with a pile of fresh fruit [passion fruit, watermelon, cantaloupe, bananas]. I generally stayed away from the Western food. I was in Asia after all. The only hang up was that I had developed some sort of stomach bug in Bangkok that would last for at least a week. It had to happen eventually, right? Good thing I had a bunch of bread, bananas, and rice at my disposal every morning. After another pool session before the sun got too high in the sky to burn my pasty pale skin [that happened later], we were off to the beach.
The walk to Ao Nang beach from the hotel was along the main road. Shops and restaurants flanked each side. You could have your pick of travel agents, tailors, and pharmacies. I swear you could get a fruit shake or a coconut every ten feet. I eventually picked up a ridiculous sun hat after Andrew’s mad negotiating skills. The relentless heat and sun was going to kill me otherwise. The beach was virtually indescribable. It looks absolutely like a photograph. It doesn’t seem real, but then you step on the pebbly and broken shelly beach, and realize that it is. Because it was low season, there were maybe 30 people out on the beach with us. Boats swayed with the tide, docked out in the deeper parts of the water. Families played in the ocean with their dogs. No one really laid out on the beach to tan. I don’t know if that was a timing thing or an uncomfortable beach thing.
We ate again at a little Thai restaurant on the beach. I ordered the spiciest Tom Kah soup I’ve ever eaten. I ordered it in a delusional panic. It was loaded with woody lemongrass and the fire of a thousand chilies. Not exactly ideal on an already vulnerable stomach, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t taste good. It was deliciously complex despite being an inferno on my taste buds and stomach. I’d like to think the mango sticky rice and tons of water counteracted it all. Considering I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening in and out of sleep back at the hotel while Andrew did his own thing [aka swimming in the pool and watching bats], I’d say it counteracted nothing. He went out and foraged some of the best Pad Thai I’ve ever eaten and a Gatorade that I watered down for some electrolytes. My hero.
The next morning, after another trip down carb and banana lane at breakfast, we booked a very last minute trip to Koh Phi Phi to the Holiday Inn Resort. So last minute that we had about 10 minutes to throw our stuff in the backpacks and meet the taxi out front in order to make the ferry on time. The drive was quick and crazy, picking up other folks along the way. It’s funny how people get very insecure about the amount of luggage they carry. People felt the need to justify their suitcases when we were only carrying normal backpacks. It’s a matter of personal preference. Everyone has their thing.
The trip on the ferry was glorious. It was such a beautiful ride. I developed one hell of a sunburn despite my sunblock efforts, but it was totally worth it. Well, minus the part where I was afraid my tour sticker would fly off my shirt so I stuck it to my forearm. That led to a sweet forearm burn with a white sticker outline. Brilliant. The ferry docked at a pier where we’d need to arrange our own long boat to the part of the island our hotel was on. It was tourist.com there. Everyone hawking something to eat, wear, or do whether it was snorkeling, diving or getting a taxi. After another generous helping of Pad Thai [still trying to take it easy on my stomach at this point] and iced coffee, we took a private long boat out. Again, glorious. The most crystal clear blue waters the whole way. The whole thing felt like a dream, just like it looks in any photos you’ve seen.
The hotel looks like no Holiday Inn I’ve ever been in. It’s tropical bungalows on the beach. Literally. We upgraded to a beach front one, and it just so happened to place us right next to the adult-only infinity pool. Perfect for when I get too freaked out about not being able to see the bottom of the ocean [I'm weird, I know]. We totally laid low for the rest of the afternoon. Lots of walking on the beach and playing in the ocean and pool. We happened to catch Thai buffet night [!!] so we tried that. You can only eat hotel food here, which actually wasn’t a bad thing despite being hotel prices. It was seriously good. The buffet would have been better if I wasn’t viciously attacked by mosquitos, but what are you going to do? A flashlight lit walk on the beach after dark yielded all kinds of crazy critters. Did I mention that there was a house band in the bar playing Hotel California? Yeah, that happened.
The next day was more of the same, but with a little bit of snorkeling in the ocean. It had started to get stormy so it was really hard to see things in the coral sometimes. We were followed by a lot of fish, which was awesome. I have a new affinity for life jackets. They just make life easier. That night we had a beach front table for two, eating Thai food [I'll pass on the weird cheese stuffed chicken breast, thanks] and these crazy coffee cocktails. Think Thai coffee meets Spanish coffee meets Long Island. So much delicious flaming booze. The walk back that night was not beachy or critter filled. We didn’t hear Hotel California either. Bummer.
We had to check out the next morning. It was even more stormy than the previous day, and somehow it’s just not as cool as the Oregon coast. Oregon coast and stormy go together. Tropical coast and stormy, not so much. We decided to take the ferry to Phuket, which was about 90 minutes away, and then catch a flight up to Chiang Mai. The ferry turned into a mini sight-seeing tour along the way because of The Beach that was filmed out in those islands. Huge rock formations jutted out of the water. Little coves opened up to display vacant beaches. It was quiet and stormy. They played Skyfall on the trip. Fitting considering James Bond Beach is in the area. The taxi ride through Phuket from the pier dispelled any feelings of hesitancy we had about not staying the night. It was rainy, dirty, touristy. I was anxious to get on to Chiang Mai.