Location: Krabi, Thailand
To be honest I’m dragging my feet on writing this one. My first time in Krabi was idyllic and I was so confident that on my return almost three years later, it would still be the amazing beach and climbing paradise I remembered; however, that was not to be. My experience in Krabi this time was hampered by a many things including the hostel loosing my booking, being stranded out in the middle of nowhere in the dark on a broken down long tail boat, the unpredictable downpours and the overall change in the once peaceful atmosphere. Krabi isn’t the same as what I remember, but it happens, it happens all the time; and I’m not surprised it happened to Krabi.
The things that are still great about Krabi are the beaches and the food. Krabi Town still has the amazing array of street food and food markets that I remembered on my first trip and is worth a short stay if you’re torn between Ao Nang and Krabi Town. I also found that climbing the 1243 odd steps up to the top of the Tiger Cave Temple was a highlight for the spectacular views over Krabi and out to sea. On the half day tour I visited the hot springs (overcrowded) and the Emerald Pool (worth going to) but was hampered by rain, although we still swam in the warm waters of the Emerald Pool. As for Ao Nang and Railay, the paradise that I remembered is definitely gone; with more luxury resorts and tourists, as well as more touts and vendors yelling at you to buy at/eat at/ride with whatever it is they are offering – it was hard to find any peace in the area!
The beachside areas are all more developed, and the prices have also increased as a result. Development does bring in more choice, however, a lot of the budget options seem to be getting squeezed out and there isn’t as much bargaining power as you would expect with an increase in competition. The island hopping tour I did was ok, however, I felt cheated with the promise of 7 islands (blink and you’d miss them), deep water soloing (which felt extremely unsafe and this is coming from a rock climber), a seafood buffet dinner (with no seafood) and a fire show (which again I questioned the safety of it after I had gasoline sprayed all over me) all crammed into an afternoon on a overcrowd boat that not only ran late, but also broke down in the dark on the way back to shore with no communication from the crew; we were left there bewildered as to what was going on and if we were going to be rescued.
On the flip side to the less than savory experiences with the island hopping tour and our hostel losing our booking, we did manage to rock climb (albeit with a lot of waiting around for the climbing schools to stop leaving unused ropes on routes so we could climb), and renting a kayak for half a day to explore the areas around Railay, and was the best things that we did whilst staying in the Ao Nang area.
If you’re thinking of heading to Krabi I would still recommend you go and check it out, its not quite Phuket (and eve then Phuket is currently getting a facelift!), but it will definitely head that way in the future; so get there before it all goes down that path. If I were to return, I would be making it a point to stay out of Ao Nang and up in the mountains or on one of the less popular beaches, and just ride into town when I felt the need. I would also definitely pay the extra to hire out private guides and do more kayaking to see the area instead of booking in with the group tours.
I didn’t have a negative experience here, overall it was good but just be aware that paradise is now elsewhere, and if you find it, please let me know!
Featured photography by Auyeung Photography, all others by Jelena Stipanicev.