Krabi plays host to plenty of interesting sights and travel options, not all of which are on the water, for you to discover.by Dave Stamboulis
While Krabi doesn’t receive quite the accolades of its southern and eastern neighbors Phuket and Samui, it has emerged as a major holiday destination in its own right. The province is renowned for its excellent beaches and busy resort scene in Ao Nang, some 15 minutes from Krabi Town. It’s easy enough just to chill out by the pool or at the beach, and just have a do-nothing holiday, but the Krabi area plays host to plenty of interesting sights and travel options, not all of which are on the water, that are well worth an exploration.
Start your trip off with a bit of lung-and-quad busting adventure that will give you a bird’s eye view over just about every attraction in Krabi. The Wat Tham Seua Tiger Cave Temple is only a few kilometers out of downtown Krabi, but it sits right on top of a mountain looking out over the limestone peaks, and jungle surroundings, all the way out to sea. The temple, which received its name from a Vipassana practicing monk who saw tigers in a cave adjacent to the mountaintop stupa, is reached by a stout climb of 1,260 steps, which snake their way steeply up the mountainside. There’s no need to count them all, as the stairs have numbers painted into the railings every 50 times or so. However, be forewarned, if you do this trip in the afternoon heat, you’ll be counting water and Gatorade bottles in your head as you ascend, as it is a real drencher.
For something a bit more soothing, head south out of town for 45 kilometers, down to Sa Morakot, known in English as The Emerald Pool. This natural attraction is part of the pristine Khao Pra Bang Kram Wildlife Reserve, which has forest trails and abundant birdlife, including the rare Gurney’s Pitta, an endangered species of passerine bird. The main attraction of the park is the aptly-named emerald pool, which gets its brilliant turquoise color from the calcium carbonate and limestone, which interact with algae and bacteria coming from a spring that feeds the pool. Come early morning ahead of the tour groups that regularly show up, and you’ll have this gem all to yourself. You can swim in the emerald pool, but not at the crystal blue pool, known as Sa Nam Phut, which is farther up the trail and doesn’t attract as many visitors due to the additional 15-minute hike. This shaded pool is about the cleanest water you will see in all of Thailand and has an amazingly clear blue coloring. On the way here is a hermit shrine with tiger statues, as well as those that pay homage to various ascetics, who have come here to meditate and seek solitude.
Also worth a stopover right near Sa Morakot are the Khlong Thom Hot Springs, where a series of natural hot pools can be found just off the river that runs through the Khlong Thom Park. While there are some manmade pools to soak in as well, most visitors prefer the natural pools that are surrounded by rushing water. During the cool season (especially after a morning jaunt up the Tiger Cave Temple steps), the therapeutic minerals and relaxing soaking make for an excellent outing.
Not only is the Phra Nang Beach gorgeous, it is also unique. At its eastern end lies a large cave, the Princess Cave, which besides being admired for its stalactites and stalagmites, is home to the bizarre Phallus Shrine. Legend has it that a sea princess made this cave her home, and that fishermen came here to leave offerings in exchange for protection from danger, and to ensure success while they fished. While making offerings is pretty run-of-the-mill in Thailand, what sets the Princess Cave apart is that all of the offerings consist of thousands of wooden phalluses, known as phalad khik in Thai, symbolic of Hindu deity Shiva’s lingam.
Other popular sights here include the many small offshore islands that dot Krabi’s Andaman vista. Koh Gai, or Chicken Island, so named because it looks like a chicken from the backside, is often included with Phra Nang/Railay tours. Trips to nearby Koh Poda and Koh Tub, which have magical white-sand strips that emerge when the tide is out, are perfect for anyone wanting to enjoy a spot of sunbathing. The other popular draw out here, of course, is Koh Phi Phi; the fabled setting of the film “The Beach,” and one of Thailand’s most iconic spots. Phi Phi is worth far more than just a daytrip, and there are plenty of fabulous resorts to chill out in here. However, if you only have a few hours, it’s highly worthwhile to climb up the trail to the top of the island overlook, which offers a breathtaking view of both of Phi Phi’s beautiful bays, as well as the smaller Phi Phi Leh, where the famed glassy waters of the Beach’s Maya Bay are located, but are now hugely popular with dive boats and day tours.
Whether in the water, on the sand, up on the rocks, or further ashore, Krabi is the perfect spot for an adventuresome holiday, and well worth choosing as a primary Thai holiday destination.
At a Glance
The Tiger Cave Temple (Wat Tham Seua): Just a few kilometers outside of town, easily reached by taxi or chartered
Sa Morakot Emerald Pool and Khlong Thom Hot Springs: 45 kilometers south of Krabi on Highway 4 toward Trang, and then onto the 4021 for 25 kilometers.
Railay Beach, Phra Nang Beach, and Princess Cave: Best reached by a longtail boat, which depart from the beach in Ao Nang every 20-30 minutes. East Railay is also accessible from Krabi Town’s pier via a longtail.
Koh Tub, Koh Gai, and Koh Poda: All are usually visited on four island tours (also stopping on Phra Nang Beach) that depart by longtail from Ao Nang Beach. One can wait to share a boat with six people or else charter one’s own for THB 1500.
Phi Phi Island: Ferries run several times a day from Krabi, and there are also speedboats making the journey from both Krabi and Ao Nang.