The geography of Krabi is what set this province apart from other regions of the country. The province is marked by numerous vertical limestone cliffs, rocks and karsts both on land and at sea. The natural limestone structures dot the mainland’s rice paddies, create spectacular waterfalls in the national parks and provide exceptional scuba diving opportunities in the Andaman Sea.
Situated in southern Thailand, around 500 miles south of Bangkok, historians believe Krabi to be Thailand’s oldest continually settled community. The province today attracts visitors from all corners of the world, luring them in with tales of natural majesty. The main beach resort areas are Ao Pra Nang, colloquially known as Ao Nang, and nearby Railay Beach, the latter accessible only via boat.
A short longtail boat ride north of Krabi will take visitors to the two limestone karsts that have come to be regarded as symbols of the city. Despite the influx of tourists to the region in past decades, Krabi has managed to retain a great deal of its local charm, which when combined with the life-inspiring seascapes, makes for pretty convincing arguments to pay this area a visit.
Visitors seeking to immerse themselves in Thailand’s rich spiritual culture should take a trip to Wat Tham Seua, one of the most famous temples in Southern Thailand. Perched atop a hill five miles north of Krabi town, the journey to the site, also known as Tiger Cave Temple, presents an adventure in itself. Visitors have to make it up a total of 1,237 steps, but once the grueling climb is over, they are rewarded with stunning vistas of the surrounding area. The peak is also home to an impressive statue of the Buddha and a golden stupa. The temple itself is nestled in lush forest that is home to a great many monkeys that swarm through the trees, and the cave features tiger prints that are marked into the stone. In the area surrounding the temple, ancient pottery fragments and a mould for making Buddha footprints have been unearthed.
Travelers that can’t get enough of the region’s plentiful history may also enjoy a visit to Fossil Shells Beach and Tham Sadet. Susaan Hoi, also known as Fossil Shells Beach, is situated around 10 miles to the southwest of Krabi town. During the prehistoric age 40 million years ago, the beach was a freshwater swamp that was home to many types of mollusk. The mollusk fossils are now embedded in the colossal sheets of lignite littered on the shores. Tham Sadet, or Sadet Cave, is situated not too far away, and comprises a number of uniquely shaped stalactites and stalagmites.
Visitors more interested in Krabi’s natural treasures may prefer a visit to Krabi Horticultural Centre, which displays large exhibits of the area’s fruits, flora and fauna. Situated 12 miles from Krabi town, the centre promotes research and the economic development of Thai agriculture.
The abundant land and seascape of Krabi province is home to a selection of national parks, which provide a true haven for nature lovers. Hat Noppharat Thara – Mu Koh Phi Phi National Park encompasses a large portion of Krabi’s coastline, and an archipelago of around 80 islands, that are blanketed in evergreen and mangrove forests. 12 miles from Krabi is Khao Phanom Bencha National Park, which includes rugged mountain scenery, stunning craggy coastline; highlights include the tri-level Namtok Huai waterfalls and numerous hiking trails. Than Bok Khorani National Park, famed for its network of caves, is situated approximately 28 miles from Krabi town, and visitors often enjoy a refreshing dip in one of the park’s many shaded pools.
For serious shoppers, Krabi has large air-conditioned shopping malls to meet the demand of visitors to the area. The largest is Vogue Department Store on Maharat Road, which is the most traditional in the retail sense of the word. There is also an Outlet Mall, featuring heavily discounted goods from some 100 brands including the likes of Adidas and Lacoste. Big C and Tesco Lotus shopping centers are also present, with the latter also housing a box office theater.
In addition to its beachfront stalls, such as those along the vibrant Ao Nang Beach Road, Krabi is home to permanent markets. Maharaj Market is the busiest in the town, and teems with exotic spices, a rainbow of fruit and vegetables, tropical fish, homeware and clothes. The busy atmosphere of Maharaj is everything a visitor would expect from a bustling market in Asia – even before the sun rises, the traditional market is a hive of activity with life, with vendors setting up around 3 or 4 a.m. If mornings are not your thing, try the daily night markets in Krabi Town (namely the market on Maharaj Road), but best to go on an empty stomach due to the wide range of culinary delights on offer.
The town is also home to a selection of lively night markets, the most popular of which is Krabi Walking Street Market, which is held thrice weekly on Fridays to Sundays behind Vogue Department Store, from around sunset to 10 p.m.There is a similar, but smaller, walking street held mid-week in Klong Haeng village.
Like most other locations in Thailand, dining on Krabi’s street food is one of the best ways to satisfy a hungry stomach. Not only is the cost of street food very affordable, but it gives visitors a chance to explore the bustling markets areas where the best dishes are available. To get your street food fix in Krabi town, head to one of the markets on Maharaj Soi 10, Krabi Walking Street or Chao Fah Night Market. Stalls usually begin trading at about 5:00pm. There are also a selection of longtail boat vendors camped out off the beach in front of Phra Nang Cave at Railay that cook up a selection of luscious dishes.
A number of restaurants can also be found in Krabi Town. The Takola restaurant, situated two kilometers out of Krabi town on Utarakit Road, is a great place for visitors in search of exquisite Thai and Chinese food in a sit-down restaurant. Popular restaurants on Ao Nang include Carnivore Steak and Grill, Bombay Palace, and Massaman Restaurant serving western, Indian, and Thai cuisine respectively.
The vicinity surrounding Chao Fah Road in Krabi Town is also gaining popularity with foreign travellers, and is home to a number of guesthouses that double up as bars and cafés. Room 69 and Room Garden is a popular spot for visitors, and both venues, run by the same team, feature DJs and live music. In recent years, the venues have earned a reputation as a hub for Krabi’s young Thai nightlife. Chilling Bar in town is also a popular watering hole, complete with requisite large projector televisions, pool table, and an interesting mix of patrons.
There are also taxis, which operate on a fixed rate system, of THB600 (~US$20) to Ao Nang. There is al the official white-colored Krabi Airport shuttle buses, which depart five times per day to Ao Nang and Krabi Town for a maximum fare of THB 150 (~US$5) per person.
Overland trips to destinations further afield can be made by taxis or rental cars. Taxis can be thought of as chauffeured cars, and visitors should either negotiate a flat fee with the driver for the trip.
Krabi Town is also home to motorcycle sidecar taxis which are suitable for short jaunts in town.
However, due to the nature of Krabi as a province made up of coastal lands and islands, it is often necessary to use boats to get around. To cover shorter distances, the most commonly used boat is the reua hang yao, or longtail boat. The propeller at the end of the boat’s long tail makes them extremely maneuverable, even in shallow waters. As with taxis, fares should be agreed beforehand.
Thai Airways operate daily direct flights between Bangkok and Krabi, as do Air Asia from Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, a journey of just over an hour. Bangkok Airways also links Krabi to the Thai capital as well as another tropical destination – Koh Samui.
Tiger Airways also operates a direct flight from Singapore with a flight time of less than two hours.
Passengers can purchase a bus and train combination ticket that includes the overnight sleeper train from Bangkok, and the bus from Surat Thani Station to Krabi. The combined bus and train fare in a first class sleeper is approximately THB 1,500 (~US$48) while the second class sleepers fare is under THB 1,000 (~US$32).
The train journey to Surat Thani takes between nine and 12 hours (depending on which train you catch), and the bus connection from Surat Thani takes around three hours.
First class buses may take a little longer, but passengers only pay THB680 (US$21) for a seat and for the second class bus that leaves several times a day, passengers only pay around THB378 (US$12) per person.