Izzy and I headed off at 7:30 am on Saturday 13th December for Krabi, pronounced Cru-bee by the locals, which is located almost directly to the East of Phuket. We were collected by the tour company and taken through the bowels of Phuket to the port, not surprisingly it was right near Sa ha hin, that local beach I discovered – no wonder I couldn’t swim there – it was right near a port! Anyway, my only experience of travelling on a ferry is a ferry I took in Mozambique across to the mainland of Maputo, on a family trip when I must have been about 8 years old. I remember my parents’ panic-stricken faces when they saw us and the rest of Mozambique climb onto the creaking concoction of diesel-smelling rusting metal they called ‘the ferry’. My mum took us to the top of the ferry and sat us down with a look more serious than the ‘birds and the bees’ talk expression and she said to us in a voice firmer than I care to remember, “Listen VERY carefully, most of the people on this boat cannot swim, if this boat sinks, you jump as far away from the boat as you can and you swim as hard and as fast as you can away from everyone, in that direction.” I am glad to say we miraculously got across fine and vowed never to use it again… So, honestly, that is what I was expecting when I booked my ferry ticket to Krabi. I was a little reserved in breaking the news to my mum as to how I planned to get there and as soon as I did, I had to laugh when she said, “Right, do you remember the ferry rules…?” We arrived at the port and we climbed aboard a large, luxurious, beautifully kept speedboat and we made our way to the front of the boat where we found “our spot” – right in the bow of the boat, Izzy described us as Kate and Leo in Titanic!
The two hour boat trip was smooth and intoxicating. We passed several islands on the way and suntanned and took photographs along with the rest of the tourists on board. Despite this borrowed luxury, nothing could have prepared us for the sights that lay just around the headland’s bend…lush forests, soaring limestone towers and extensive shimmering sapphire waters…
For the next three days I walked around with my mouth hanging open and it is just as well there wasn’t a breath of wind, for if there was, in my grandmother’s words, my face would have stayed like that! I just could not get enough of the raw beauty. We had found some budget accommodation nearby called ‘J Guesthouse‘, which comes recommended, which had brightly coloured yellow and turquoise walls and comical writing on the outside. It was all we needed as we were not planning on spending any time, apart from bedtime, in our room. It was a short walk from Nopharat Thara Beach along a quiet road next to a mangrove swamp. We decided to take a long-tail boat (the old traditional wooded Thai boats with a small engine and a long plank extending out at the front of the boat, which wouldn’t be complete without the Thai flag proudly displayed) to a place called Railey Beach, I still couldn’t close my mouth…this was more of a cove caressed by limestone cliffs than the long stretch of white beaches that make up Ao Nang. We spent the day relaxing in the sun, swimming in the glittering waters and staring at the perfect views. As I looked down Railey beach at the row of long tail boats sitting in the sand while the water barely rolled up on the shore with the emerald green forests dripping down the limestone cliffs reaching up to the sky and my life stopped for a second…I have always known there are beautiful places in the world but I remember thinking to myself that I found the beauty quiet surreal. I was mesmerized by the splendour of the scene to the point of feeling lethargic.
The following day we headed off on a tour that did ‘island hopping’ to four islands. The first island we visited was called Tup Island which joins its neighbouring island by a short bar of white sand which can be crossed at low tide. We spent an hour lying on the beach, swimming and discussing our itineraries for when/if friends and family came to visit us. Every now and then throughout the day we would just gasp at the attractiveness around us…we couldn’t believe our eyes. After about an hour, we went on to our next spot, passing a comparatively large island called Chicken Island named after a protruding rock that is shaped like a chicken head. We then threw anchor down at a purely limestone island, meaning, there was no sand or anywhere to walk, where we could jump off and snorkel. I was now transported to a completely different version of ‘paradise’. It has been years since I have snorkelled but I was surprised to find it was much like riding a bike – I hadn’t forgotten too much…I am always in awe of the abundance of life found in the ocean. There was also a nearby cave we could swim into that is famous amongst rock climbers who go to the centre of the cave where there is a small opening and sunlight beams into the dark water below, past the walls of the inside of the island that climbers ascend. I had to laugh, most of you know, I’m a pretty expressive person and I battle to see something attractive without smiling and the first couple of fish I saw, I couldn’t help but smile which made water pour in my mask. It was quiet funny – I told you I was rusty…the other thing was that Izzy and I were swimming round together when I happened to hear her burst into a fit of laughter, I came up to hear the joke and she said I had swum past her and smacked her right across the face, so her mask was completely dislodged – the funniest part was I didn’t feel a thing… I don’t think the nearby fishermen appreciated us roaring with laughter near all their fish!
The second island we went to was Chicken Island (the one we’d passed before) where we had lunch which was yummy soup and chicken fried rice. Shortly after lunch, we moved on to Pranang Island which was embraced by a cave riddled with stalactites and a calm pool formed by the cave in the corner. We went to the cave to hear the ‘story of the island’, we were told that you can make a wish at that cave because over 400 years ago when the island belonged solely to the local people of Thailand, a queen came there because she could not fall pregnant and she made a wish there to have a baby and she then fell pregnant, when the princess (the baby) was fully grown she was never happy – at this point my guides voice got lost in the cave – next thing I picked up was that she came back there many years later and she was buried there or something. It has now become a shrine and people leave gifts when their wishes have been granted. When I first went there, I was so consumed by this ancient tale (Izzy had long since lost interest and was now lying on the beach) I remember looking at the rather promiscuous looking phallic sculptures and thinking, no…surely they wouldn’t have such a bizarre thing to worship, but sure enough, due to the origin of the wishes being about fertility, the sculptures were in fact…wait for it…the male organ….it wasn’t pretty! I suppose it’s a touristy thing – I was far more concerned about the little kids that had joined us on the tour but hopefully these graphic sculptures were not as clear to them. We spent the next hour on that beach and by now the sun was searing. I nearly finished my entire bottle of sun cream in that day!
The final island we went to was called Poda island, again, picture postcard stuff… I just couldn’t get enough of it. There are monkeys on this island but they asked us not to get too close to them as the day before a monkey had hopped on a girl’s shoulder and bit her ear! It was from here that I lazily put down my book and snapped yet another photograph on the gorgeous warm waters on the white sand with a limestone island in the background, not realising what an iconic Thailand picture it was at the time. It has come to be one of my favourite photos of my time in Thailand.
We were finished by the time we got back, so we went straight to dinner and then headed to the beach to watch the sunset…it was magnificent. The tide sucks right back and the locals head out to collect something – I assume its muscles or some other seafood and them, together with the mountains and islands and the crimson sunset makes a stunning view. We bumped into a British guy who runs a guesthouse and he invited us over to a bunch of friends of his – some were staying at his guesthouse, others were locals. One of them was a South African. I got so excited – we were able to reminisce about nothing in particular – mostly braais and weather and what not. Izzy said it sounded like we were talking a different language – she battles to understand my accent and I hers, mostly because she talks so fast – our vocabulary is very different too, what I call a packet she calls a bag and so on, so we often ask each other to repeat something a few times and then just get over it. Its quite funny.
On Monday, we slept in and then went for a delicious breakfast and just about rolled onto the nearby beach. The weather was perfect, not a breath of wind and the waves literally creep onto the shore – there are no waves – the sea is so still it is like a lake. So we spent the day on the beach and then headed back to the hotel to be collected for our luxurious trip home. We were lucky enough to find ‘our spot’ on the boat again and we lay looking up at the clouds after a really good get away.
I realised that when I came to Phuket, I found myself ‘not convinced’ somehow and I couldn’t figure out why. When I was looking at the scenery around me, on the first day in Krabi, it suddenly dawned on me that this was what I was expecting when I thought I was coming to live in Thailand – lush bush, aqua-marine waters, long tail boats, lazy lifestyle and friendly people. If I was not convinced by Phuket as Thailand, I am selling Krabi as Thailand…this exquisiteness can simply not be described in words and the pictures simply do not do it justice. Take it from me – every single one of you who have not been to Thailand HAVE to do it…if not now, plan for it sometime in the future. It is not expensive once you are here – I was on a tight budget when I came but we did this three day weekend for easily a reasonable amount and we didn’t hold back once we saw how reasonable everything was. It is so charming. The tour that we did included the snorkelling gear, lunch, drinking water, fresh fruits and visiting the four islands which cost around R100. And if you still need convincing, have a look at the pictures again.