Krabi province offers a multitude of stunning scenic attractions
PHI PHI ISLANDS: If you’ve seen Danny Boyle’s 2000 film The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, then you’ve seen Phi Phi Islands—especially the stunningly beautiful Maya Bay where many of the lagoon scenes were filmed. Since its cinematic debut this region of Thailand has become internationally known, which has proved both a blessing (for the local economy) and a curse (for the marine ecosystem). A number of years ago the islands, together with the nearby Noppharat Thara Beach, were established as a national park, with a total area of 390 sq.km, and more recently it was announced that Maya Bay would be closed to tourists for 120 days a year; from June to September. Currently, up to 4,000 visitors a day flock to this once pristine strip of white sand, surrounded by turquoise waters and dramatic limestone cliffs, so new the ban on boats arriving here will put a dent in the local tourism trade, but it will help the corals regenerate… hopefully.
But there’s more to this tropical paradise than just Leonardo’s legacy. The area known as the Phi Phi Islands covers six islets altogether, the most visited of which are Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Le. The larger of the two is Phi Phi Don, which offers beautiful beaches plus an assortment of accommodation facilities along the two beautiful curved bays, Ton Sai Bay and Lodalam Bay. To the south is Phi Phi Le Island, which has no beaches and is uninhabited. However, the scenic coves of the island are favourite places for snorkellers and divers.
To get to Phi Phi from the Krabi mainland, visitors can take a boat at Chao Fa Pier or Klong Jilad Pier. The trip takes about 1.5 to 2.5 hours, depending on whether it is an express boat or standard boat.
THAN BOK KHORANI NATIONAL PARK: Located in the northern end of Krabi province— around 50 km from Krabi Town—Than Bok Khorani National Park spans a ridge of limestone mountains and coastal mangrove forest, encompassing over 100 sq.km. The scenery is stunning and if you like kayaking, this is an ideal spot for a great day trip.
From the visitor centre, near the town of Ao Luek, a nature trail leads straight to the park’s main attraction, the Than Bok Khorani Waterfall. Locals flock here to relax and swim in pools that are believed to have therapeutic qualities. A few kms south is Baan Bor Thor, a small village set amid the inland mangroves where much of the local economy centres around taking tourists on longtail boat rides, or guided kayaking trips. If you have the time, opt for the latter, as it is a much more peaceful way to enjoy the undisturbed natural scenery. The main attraction here is a dramatic cave—accessible by water—known as Tham Phi Hua To, or ‘Ghost Head Cave’. Back in the 1950s prehistoric human remains were uncovered here, along with 238 cave-wall paintings that are found throughout the complex. Not much is known about the cave dwellers themselves other than they inhabited these parts about 3,000 years ago.
High up on one wall is Khun Lai Sen, an eerie kangaroo-like, horned figure with a striped body. The painting most likely depicts a shaman wearing some sort of costume, as it is believed that the cave was used mainly for religious purposes, like a kind of ancient cathedral. Depictions and statues of this mystic figure can be spotted throughout this area of Krabi province, as it has become something of an unofficial mascot here. Other cave painting subject matters include birds, fish, lizards and a pair of human hands—one of them with six fingers.
The park is open daily from 8:30am till 4:30pm. It has no accommodation, but a handful of small resorts and homestays are found in the area, and a few floating seafood restaurants are located near the kayak rental offices.
THA POM KHLONG SONG NAM: The coastal areas of Krabi province are filigreed with an intricate network of winding waterways, and one of the most charming is Tha Pom Khlong Song Nam, or ‘Two Water Canal’, located south of the Than Bok Khorani National Park. The park’s ecology includes abundant mangrove and banyan trees, but the main feature is the fresh water that pours off a nearby limestone mountain and mixes with saltwater as it heads towards the ocean. The effect is crystal -clear, emerald-tinged river water that flows through a surreal course of twisted tree roots that look like something taken directly out of one of Walt Kelly’s illustrations for the classic comic strip Pogo. A raised wooden walkway leads visitors along the circular path through the park, and stopping to dip your feet into the cool clear slightly salty water breaks up the leisurely trek. And at the end of the trail there’s a small natural pool for swimming. Overall it’s a very peaceful oasis, but surprisingly very few foreign travellers make the journey here.
THE EMERALD POOL: In the Klong Thom district of southern Krabi, near the Khao Phra Bang Khram Nature Reserve, are a series of thermal hot springs, originating in deep underground volcanic chambers. For tourists the aptly named Emerald Pool is the main draw here, and you reach it via a network of trails that wind through the serenely beautiful Khao Nor Chu Chi forest. The Emerald Pool is suitable for swimming, and as such it is usually noisy and crowded (but still loads of fun).
If time permits, a short 600-metre hike takes you to the eerily beautiful Blue pool, a natural, shaded pool that looks entrancing but is actually filled with hot thermal spring water and surrounded by quicksand. Another popular site in this area is the is the Klong Thom Hot Springs, a series of naturally hollowed-out “bathtubs” in the smooth stone, filled to the brim with fresh running spring water at a pleasant 35-42°C. Admission to the nature reserve is B200 and the grounds are open daily from 8:30am till 5pm.
Where to Stay
Folk wisdom maintains that the mineral salts contained in the hot spring waters of southern Krabi are said to ease a number of ailments, including rheumatism, sciatica, and skin complaints. For a more luxurious mineral water experience the Wareeraksa Hot Spring Retreat is both a day spa and an overnight resort. Here a network of small, man-made (but natural looking) free-form rock pools are filled with thermal spring water of various temperatures. It’s like an elaborate outdoor onsen with outdoor massage salas on the side. Accommodations consist of villa suites, deluxe rooms and bamboo cottages, while the onsite facilities include a restaurant, botanical garden, meditation zone, nature trail, and tea room.