Take a beach break and visit a few local fishing and farming villages
KOH KLANG: Although it lies across the river from the mass tourism hustle and bustle of Krabi Town, the district known as Koh Klang is worlds apart in every respect—the most obvious of which is that it doesn’t see a lot of tourists. However, community based tourism is growing here—complete with homestays offered by local residents—and brave souls who do make the journey are rewarded with a glimpse into traditional Southern Thai Islamic culture (nearly all of the locals are devout Muslims).
The word “koh” in Thai means island, and Koh Klang is a flat, 26 sq.km expanse surrounded on all sides by either rivers, canals, mangrove forests, or the Andaman Sea. Most visitors arrive in the northwest, at Tha-Lay Pier, in the largest of Koh Klang’s three villages. Few if any cars are allowed on the island, but there are quite a few motorbikes and tuk tuks.
The rural landscape is blanketed with rice fields, many cultivating khao sang yod, a prized organic purple grain grown in a mix of fresh and salt waters. Koh Klang’s early seafaring residents are said to have invented the hua tong, the iconic hardwood banana-shaped vessel that nowadays graces virtually every photograph and postcard of a Thai beach. The raised “head” of the boat was designed to stand against the current while also acting as a marker for direction, and an island workshop crafts model-size versions of these ships—which make wonderful souvenirs.
Other local products for purchase include colourful hand-painted fabrics, and at the Katik Textiles Group—an enterprise run by a group of about 30 ladies—batik-clad grandmothers demonstrate the local patae (batik) technique.
LAEM SAK: Located in the far northwestern part of Krabi province, the district of Laem Sak juts out from the mainland like a curved claw, cutting into the picturesque expanse of tropical ocean water known as Phang-Nga Bay. Sadly, this area rarely gets many tourists, even though it has the same eerily beautiful limestone rock cliffs as Phang-Nga province, and the same kinds of prehistoric cave paintings found in nearby Baan Bor Thor (see pg. 47). In an attempt to correct this dearth of visitors, Laem Sak has become part of Krabi’s large scale Village Tourism Project, which allows tourists to experience the “local way of life”.
On a recent visit, courtesy of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), we were taken on an afternoon excursion by boat to check out the natural wonders of this overlooked outpost. After crossing a bamboo bridge to get to the dock area we were taken upstream to see the outdoor cultivation nursery of yellow orchids—an endangered flower variety native to this region, which is being actively replanted in the local forests.
We then turned the boat around and headed out to Phang-Nga Bay via a winding river route, passing gorgeous limestone karsts of various sizes along the way. As we entered ocean waters and began circling the bay, our guide pointed out many points of interest, including two water-access caves with mystifying ochre-coloured paintings on the walls that date back thousands of years. We also made a brief stop amidst of cluster of upright limestone karst formations—rising up at 90° angles from the emerald green depths—one of which greatly resembles the famous James Bond Rock that attracts so many tourists daily to Phang-Nga Bay. The one in Laem Sak is, admittedly, a bit smaller, but without all the crowds I’d say it’s also “better”.
We rounded out the boat tour with a stop at one of the area’s floating fish farm villages. Here the locals are raising a variety of fish, shellfish, and crustaceans, as well as caulerpa lentillifera, a species of bryopsidale green algae from coastal regions in the Indo-Pacific (although it is referred to most often by a much more appetizing name… “sea caviar”).
Our last stop was the pristine Anchovy Beach, an unspoiled stretch of sand contained within a semi-circular fortress of forest-covered limestone mountainsides. After a half-hour of sun and sand we headed back to the Laem Sak Pier, marveling at the beautiful natural scenery as we rounded each bend in our path back to shore.
NOTE: If you’re interested to explore the cultural diversity of Laem Sak—a province comprised of Buddhist, Muslim, and Chinese communities who have lived together in harmony for generations—visit the Laem Sak Community Based Tourism group online at: www.facebook.com/laemsakcbt. You can also find out about community tours offered via the website: www.krabi-tourism.com. Words and photos by Bruce Scott
Where to stay
Although humble homestays can be arranged for visitors to Laem Sak looking to truly “live like a local”, slightly more upscale accommodations can be had at the Bulan Anda Baba Resort, situated at the end of Laem Sak Cape with the spectacular views of the sea. The property’s luxurious Deluxe Rooms and Pool Villas are very contemporary in style, with all the modern amenities you’d expect (air conditioning, flatscreen TV, etc). By contrast, the resort’s beautifully preserved, bright blue showpiece lobby building is a spectacular example of the classic Chinese-influenced Peranakan—or “Baba Nyonya”—style. It’s also worth noting that the hotel is a social enterprise concept, operated with local community participation.