Krabi is both the name of the idyllic province of outstanding beauty on the Andaman Coast of Southern Thailand and its provincial capital. The province covers an area of 4,707 square kilometers and is some 814kms south of Bangkok. Until recently the closest airports were Phuket 176kms west of Surat Thani 211kms north. From either airport, the drive was more than two hours and was not that comfortable due the connecting roads. Now Krabi International Airport has opened and both Thai Airways International and PB Air operating direct flights from Bangkok. Opening of the airport has made Krabi more accessible and it is now firmly on the International Tourist Map.
Krabi's main attractions are the numerous and yet unspoiled beaches nearby that offer a wealth of snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities. The most important is Hat Noppharat Thara-Ko Phi Phi National Park, better known as Phi-Phi Island, due west and south of Phuket Town. The park contains extensive mainland beaches, over 80 lesser islands, and two islands of outstanding physical yet contrasting beauty which have become the symbol of the perfect tropical island. The boat ride to Phi Phi Lea and Phi Phi Don from Krabi Town's Chao Fah Bridge Pier, at the right time of year, November to April, is a pleasant journey and can take anything from an hour and a quarter to three hours depending on the size of boat taken. The rest of the year conditions in the Andaman Sea can be choppy and the weather can cause involuntary changes of travel plans while at sea.
Phi Phi Lea covers an area of just six square kilometer and is characterized by rugged, steep and lightly vegetated cliffs rising from the seabed, hidden bays concealing small pristine beaches and calm clear water whose colour is a kaleidoscope of greens and blues. Its Viking Caves gets its name from the ancient murals depicting Viking-like sailing vessels. The caves are home to sea swallows whose nests are much sort after for the Chinese delicacy Birds Nest Soup.
Two kilometers north is the larger Phi Phi Don covering an area of 28 square kilometers. The island is famed for its palm fringed white sand beaches protected by the mountain masses. Beach side bungalows and chalets are available. The area immediately adjacent to a Muslim fishing village contains bars with live music; restaurants specializing in western and Thai cuisine; cabarets; souvenir shops; dive shops and charter boat operators offering game fishing and day trips to Ko Paid (Bamboo Island) a half an hour boat ride from Phi Phi Don and claimed by many locals to be one of the most beautiful and unspoiled, uninhabited islands in the area.
Yachtmen and scuba divers that can discover and enjoy peaceful anchorage, tranquility and privacy in various locations favouring the Phi Phi group of islands. It has become the start and finishing point for Phuket's prestigious King's Cup yacht race each December. And was recently the location for the film "The Beach" staring Leonardo di Caprio.
THE OTHER ISLANDS
Muh Ko Lanta Marine National Park is a one and a half-hour boat ride east of Phi Phi Don and comprises many islands; several fringed with spectacular coral reef. Those who seek idyllic peace and tranquillity increasingly favour the major island, Koh Lanta. Resort accommodation is available on the northwestern coastline. The 26 kilometre long, from four to six kilometres wide, contains many unspoiled beaches with golden sands and rugged headlands. The park office on the southern extremity of the island, and only accessible by boat, is situated near to the village of Chao Lay or sea gypsies who sustain an existence on mainly fishing for seafood.
Hat Noppharat Thara, some 18 kilometres west of Krabi Town is an extensively scenic beach lined with casurina trees, and offering a commanding view of offshore islands. The beach is popular with those who prefer swimming and sun bathing in tranquil surroundings.
A few kilometres south, the palm fringed Ao Phra Nang Beach is fronted by resort accommodation, guest houses and bungalow complexes, dive shops and restaurants that offer Swiss, Italian, Thai and Chinese food, windsurfing clubs and souvenir shops. This beach is popular for snorkeling and wind surfing.
Due south and only accessible by boat, is the secluded Ao Phra Nang Bay. A mountain cave, containing a shrine to the spirit of a resident goddess (Phra Nang) marks the southern extremity. The beach is a popular venue for swimming and sunbathing, for rock climbers who scale the sheer limestone mountain for the exhilarating views.
Two noteworthy islands are Ko Poda and Ko Gai. They can be reached in half an hour from Ao Phra Nang Bay by long tail boat or in an hour by fishing boat from Krabi Town. Ko Poda is fringed by clear waters, and offers chalet accommodation nestling amid palm trees, with beach side bar and restaurant facilities. Ko Gai, twenty minutes to the west has excellent waters for snorkeling and diving.
Susan Hoi Shell Cemetery is some 17 kilometers from Krabi Town and, comprises of granite-like slabs of grey fossilized shells, estimated to be 75 million years old and the only one of its kind in Asia.
The name can be confusing to western visitors. There never was a woman called Susan Hoi who built a shell cemetery 75 million years ago. The two words Su San are the English translation of the Thai word meaning cemetery. Once someone happened to write them together unaware that they read as Susan a western girl name.
WATERFALLS & CAVES
Khao Khanap Nam has caves filled with stalactites and stalacmites, and can be reached by longtail boat from the pier in Krabi Town.
Tam Sua (Tiger Cave) is nine kilometres from Krabi town and home to a meditation monastery. It has a collection of Thai Buddhist and Chinese objects.
Khao Phanom Bencha National Park covers an area of 50 square kilometres of forested mountains, streams and waterfalls. It is a 30-minute drive from Krabi Town
Two waterfalls, Namtok Huai Sad and Nomtok Huai To, number among the major park attractions. A popular cave, Tam Khao Phung, is filled with stalagmites and stalactities.
Nature lovers will also enjoy the Tam Bok Korani Arboretum, a 40-minute drive from Krabi town. This natural reservoir home to hundreds of birds provides an ideal setting for picnics and swimming.
HOW TO GET TO KRABI
Since the opening of Krabi International Airport in August 1999, Thai Airways and PB Air have operated direct flights to and from Krabi to Bangkok. In November 1999 Bangkok Airways will be flying into Krabi from Samui
[ THE BANGKOK -KRABI TIME TABLE FROM DOMESTIC FLIGHT SCHEDULES ]
- Drive from Bangkok on Highway 4 via Phetchaburi, Prachuab Khiri Khan- Chumphon - Ranong - Phang Nga to Krabi, a total distance of 946 kilometers.
- Drive from Bangkok on Highway 4 to Chumphon then turn to Highway 41 via Lang Suan, Chaiya, Surat Thani and Wiang Sac before changing to Highway 4035 to Ao Luk and then return to Highway 4 to Krabi. This route distance is just 814 kilometers
- Buses leave daily from Bangkok to Krabi from Bangkok's Southern Bus Station.
- Buses leave Phuket for Krabi at 10.50am, 12.50pm and 2.30pm and fare is Baht 38.
Travelling by train is not the easiest way to reach Krabi. The nearest railway station in Trang. From there one would have to travel to Krabi either by bus or taxi.