Don’t mistake this to be a traveler’s guide to Krabi and PhiPhi islands but you can definitely read through to explore the stunning beauty of these places and my story behind it. I had visited many places in Thailand but Krabi, till date, was unexplored.
It was late evening when I landed at Krabi after a 90 minutes flight from Bangkok with a bunch of my kindergarten friends for our annual reunion pilgrimage. Another 45 minutes of drive took us to our hotel on Ao Nang Beach. It’s a reunion, but I am skipping all that happens during such trips and strictly focusing on the visual appeal of the place.
Ao Nang is Krabi’s vibrant tourist center boasting a humble 1 km long beach which can be reached by stairs along the promenade. It has the relaxed atmosphere of a small town and the beauty of a beach. The sand here is a bit rough and the water not really clear but it’s still good for a swim. All long tail boats, ferry and speed boats start from here for the island tours.
Understanding Krabi Islands: Krabi is the main town in the province of Krabi on the west coast of southern Thailand at the mouth of the Krabi River where it empties in Phang Nga Bay.
There are around 200 islands and islets around the Krabi coastline. Some are small rocky outcrops which rise precipitously out of the sea and have no landing access, others are larger and uninhabited ones with gorgeous coastlines, tiny white sand beaches, coral reefs, and intricate cave systems. An ideal place for a relaxed holiday where visitors can swim, snorkel or simply bask in the sun.
Our voyage: A group of 7 friends, we set sail for a day trip to few of these islands. As we sped past rocky islands, the intensity of the turquoise waters kept on increasing .It seemed as if we had drifted to some mystical, magical emerald land. The color splash on the clear waters made us realize that the images that we see on our computer screen are not photo-shopped.
Our first stop, Monkey Beach offered a glimpse of the incredibly warm turquoise water, towering limestone cliffs and colorful fish darting below, not to forget the mischievous monkeys. It looked so surreal that we went berserk upon arrival on the island. We lost track of the hours while we dived into the exquisite emerald water for a swim and then kicked back to sunbathe and relax on the bone-white sands of the pristine beach. Indeed a picturesque post card image that got etched in our minds for a lifetime.
The Viking Cave was no longer open for tourists but our tour boat operator stopped close by for us to take pictures. The cave is located on the eastern coast of Phi Phi Leh. The cave was so named, due to the prehistoric drawings that were found on the cave walls that resemble ancient Viking ships. It is believed that these drawings of Viking ships were drawn by sea gypsies or pirates who stopped here to shelter from the monsoon storms.
We stopped by Ko Phi Phi Don for lunch to refuel ourselves. It’s the only island with permanent inhabitants and its remarkable how it had recovered from that catastrophic devastation of the 2004 tsunami. A scrumptious meal at a local restaurant overlooking the teal waters, chilled beer and my school friends for company….. PRICELESS!
We were running late and into high tide. Our boat operator was not too keen to venture further into the deep waters. We skipped the Maya Bay and the snorkeling (I will surely revisit to experience the underwater fantasy world). We stopped near Pi Leh Bay which is an uninhabited island that lies 1.5 km off the southernmost tip of Phi Phi Don. The vertical cliffs capped with green foliage and the tropical coral seas was an ideal place for most of our personal photo shoots. A bite into fresh and juicy pineapple and watermelon that our boat man had arranged for us, seemed like a fitting end to a day full of excitement.
But, the story book still had few pages to go……
Our speed boat was speeding to reach back to the main shore and we were totally oblivious of the reasons. We asked him to take us around few other islands but he pointed to the right and said,” High tide madam and raining there”. We realized that the sky had changed colors and dark clouds were looming at the far corner. As we retraced our path, it was a dramatic change. The same sea which looked so attractive and inviting in the morning, began to look inscrutably threatening and scary. Our boat was crashing over the rough waves and the clouds got darker. We could see lighting strike at a distance…a bolt of light connecting the sky and the water (just the way I had seen in various travel series). I was unable to capture any of those in my lenses due to the vigorous rocking of the boat. It was exciting and adventurous but frightening at the same time. I still remember the moment when we saw the coastline at a distance, it was a sigh of relief, a silent prayer that we could make it back. It was not even a storm, yet it drove us nuts, so I can imagine how people feel when they are caught amidst a real storm.
Just as we started celebrating our homecoming it started to pour, but now we were in a mood to enjoy the rains, the sea and the sand. It was a perfect end to a Dreamland Trip.
Special thanks to my 6 buddies without whom this would never have been so exciting and so memorable. Love you gals to moon and back …. Rina, Sanjana, Swarachita, Monidipa, Suman and Sakhi