A kiss of Krabi and a dollup of Phi Phi

6th Feb 2015
Photo of A kiss of Krabi and a dollup of Phi Phi 1/9 by Vivek
A view of the beach leading to the Long Beach.
Photo of A kiss of Krabi and a dollup of Phi Phi 2/9 by Vivek
All set to take my dip in the clear waters
Photo of A kiss of Krabi and a dollup of Phi Phi 3/9 by Vivek
Maya Beach
Photo of A kiss of Krabi and a dollup of Phi Phi 4/9 by Vivek
The elephant trekking
Photo of A kiss of Krabi and a dollup of Phi Phi 5/9 by Vivek
Bon Appetit
Photo of A kiss of Krabi and a dollup of Phi Phi 6/9 by Vivek
Kayaking to the caves
Photo of A kiss of Krabi and a dollup of Phi Phi 7/9 by Vivek
A view from Phi Phi Viewpoint
Photo of A kiss of Krabi and a dollup of Phi Phi 8/9 by Vivek
Found this little friend on the rocks
Photo of A kiss of Krabi and a dollup of Phi Phi 9/9 by Vivek
A view from the Tiger Cave Temple

There's more to Thailand than the bustling life of Bangkok, and the touristy streets of Phuket.

For experiencing those beaches breathing fresh life with their lush green and blue waters and enjoying the freedom it induces in one’s senses, we went to Koh Phi Phi. This island, devastated in the tsunami in 2004, with almost all the infrastructure reduced to shambles, has now been restored to its former glory. It’s striking, it’s mesmerizing, and the way of life here has a lot to offer in its narrow lanes and tiny establishments.

And after the sea waters at Phi Phi Islands came the rejuvenating Ao Nang – the laid back part of our vacation. Along with some cultural bites and popular places thronged by tourists, Ao Nang amazed us with its natural beauty and friendly people. Be it the 1260 steps to Tiger Nest or canoeing to the caves of Bor Thor, it was refreshing.

Our Thailand journey started and ended in Bangkok, a restless chaotic place, never sleeping, but which has a charm of its own. In those never ending cluttered markets, though we couldn’t shop much, we thoroughly enjoyed exploring the way of the city.

Thailand is an amazing country. It has a lot to offer to those who want to live in a rich culture amidst the freedom of being. 

Go packing if you haven’t seen this one already.

Day 0 - Bangkok The two of us landed at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok at 2:30 PM after leaving from IGI Airport, Delhi at ~9:00 AM. The Visa on Arrival experience was, mildly put, frustrating. We being (self proclaimed) pro at trip planning had the required VoA form (downloaded from the Thai VFS site) filled out, and were all set to get through the formalities in no time. Little did we know that the VoA form on the site has been updated and they wouldn't accept the old ones. The long line at the Document Verification counter (2 of them, for around 200 waiting in line) snailed forward and we after an hour of ordeal had the beautiful stamp gleaming on our passports. In that one hour we had to hassle with some people cutting queues (yes, and no they were not Indians) and mild confusions with the priority queue and the regular one. Immigration eventually happened and costed us 1000 Bahts/head. We had Thai Bahts in currency notes of 1000 and the Forex counter near to luggage belt was happy to break a few them down to lower currency notes (at no charge). We had a reservation at Eastin Hotel, Makkasan. We took Airport City Line (definitely the best way to travel to and from the airport) to Ratchaprarop Airport Link Station. It took 40 Bahts/head and a little over 20 minute to reach the station. The 600 m walk to the hotel was no problem even with the luggage, thanks to the lean traffic on the service lane. At around 06:00 pm, we went out to check out the markets around Victory Memorial. (Refer http://www.bangkok.com/victory-monument). The mouth watering street food around that area, and specifically on Rang Nam road, on Century Plaza’s backside was amazing, and incredibly cost effective (it was all non-vegetarian though - but there were some veg options as well). The grilled chicken, beef sausages, meatballs, green mango salad, boat noodles at Lan Isaan Lom Yen, were just great. At that time we could only wish for bigger appetites. We retired for the day for transfer to Phi Phi Island the next day.
Day 1 - Transfer from Bangkok to Phi Phi Island. We took Thai AirAsia Flight from Don Muang Airport, Bangkok to Krabi KBV airport. (ETA - 1 hour 20 minutes). Hopped onto Airport bus to Krabi Town for 90 Bahts/person, and were there at Krabi Town at 11:00 am. Early morning flight to Krabi was cheaper, but didn't quite help to reach Phi Phi Island any sooner. The ferry to Phi Phi were timed at 10:30 am, 01:30 pm and 04:30 pm. From Krabi Town, we booked ferry transfer from Krabi Pier (Klong Jirat) to Phi Phi island. This included transfer to the Pier from town and costed 450 Bahts/head. At the pier, a tout urged us to book the ferry from Phi Phi to Ao Nang there itself for discounted rate of 400 Bahts. We didn't, and ultimately we booked that ferry transfer for 350 Bahts/head from Phi Phi itself. We landed in Tonsai Pier, Phi Phi Island at 3:00 pm. Here, one has to pay 20 bahts/head as Environmental Fees. At the pier, boat-shuttles for all major resorts and hotels collect their guests for an easy transfer. There were no motorized vehicles on the island! The motorbikes that people used were only in the outskirts of the town. It was hot, as mercury soared around 33 degrees in the day. After spending some time relaxing in the room at Bay View Resort, we went out to hike to Phi Phi View Point. It is advisable to wear shoes, take water and snacks along for this ~30 minutes hike. Signage at all major points for "Tsunami Evacuation Route" and "Viewpoint 1" can easily guide one to this mesmerizing spot. We missed the sunset, but it was beautiful up there with crimson skies and the sea beneath. Phi Phi Viewpoint entry costed 30 Bahts/head. It was a little crowded but the panoramic view was simple phenomenal. We got down at ~8:00 pm and walked around in the Phi Phi Don market, which is, yet again, a perfect hangout destination for tourists. There was great street food (a lot overpriced though), bars, restaurants and good-commotion in the narrow streets. After nibbling on some quick bites - pancakes, watermelon coolers, coconut water we tried The Rock for some dinner. It was decently priced and tasted good. One thing I liked about Phi Phi market is people walking around in streets guzzling on their beers (which definitely cost lest in family marts and 7/11s than the restaurants). The casual atmosphere at the place made it a commonplace thing. Day 2 - The day at the long beach We spent a lazy day at the Long Beach enjoying the sun, sand, beer, coolers and the snacks (I was able to finish my book "Lord of the Flies" in those 6 hours). I was able to spot some crabs on the rocky area nearby (I wanted to have them for dinner, but was pulled away). We visited the market in the evening, and booked Discover Scuba Dive Trip with Phi Phi Scuba Diving Center for next day. The decision was taken after a thorough study of many diving centers around - Princess Dives, P.P. Aquanauts Scuba etc. and based on their rating and sales pitch settled for it. We had our dinner, the native Thai cuisine, at The Garlic 1992. It was yummy, and the place is highly recommended. Day 3 - Scuba Dive with Phi Phi Scuba Diving Center We started early in the day and were driving to our first diving site by 7:30. Phew, the feeling was exhilarating. After an adventurous time discovering the diving techniques and going 12 m below the surface for ~30 minutes, we were already famished. And yes, it was phenomenal - clear water, plenty of underwater sightings, corals and fishes. Too bad I don't have anything to compare it with. As a part of the tour, we docked near the Maya Beach ('The Beach' beach) and had out food before going for the second dive. We snorkeled around a little. The second dive around Maya Beach itself was pretty good, but not as pretty as the first. After the tour we headed to the hotel, stretched our limbs and got out to the ever-amazing Phi Phi Market in the evening. We checked out the beach night life at Slinky Beach Bar/Sunflower Beach Bar/Grand PP Arcade/Blue Lagune. They had loud music, fire show and party vibe all over. Perfect for party animals, too bad we had our share of adventure in the day itself. Day 4 - Beach, and transfer to Ao Nang We spent a lazy day on the beach, before taking a ferry to Nopparat Thara Pier, Ao Nang at 03:30 pm.
Day 5 - Ao Nang At 5:00 pm, we met our AirBnb Host Martin on the Pier itself and proceeded to occupy our rooms in Poonsiri Villa, Ao Nang. Late in the evening, we hired a bike to roam around the area. The Ao Nang beach has a huge market running along its length. It is the ultimate stop for a good hang out in the area (though we preferred the Wednesday Night Market, to which I will come to later) In that market itself, we booked a tour for Emerald Pool, Hot Water Spring & Elephant Trekking for the next day. The price of the tour varies depending upon the agent, and your haggling skills (yep!). The one we booked was priced at 1400/head originally and we bargained it down to 750/head (Whoa! But we later realized that we could have done it by ourselves for even less). Day 6 - Emerald Pool, Hot Water Spring & Elephant Trekking We started at around 8 with the tour cab picking us up from our place. We proceeded to Khao Pra–Bang Khram Wildlife Sanctuary, which had Emerald Pool and Hot Water Spring. At that point we felt like we only paid for the transportation as the so called "English speaking" guide just left us at the entry and directed us to move further on our own. Hot Water Spring was a natural Jacuzzi, and it was swarming with tourists when we reached around 10. We should have started sooner. Anyway, we took a dip in it and spent some time in the hot waters. It was good fun. The Emerald pool was pretty close to the Spring, and after entering through the ticket gates we had to walk ~1km to reach the actual spot. It was breathtaking with crystal clear water shimmering in the sunlight. We spent close to one hour in the pool and loved every bit of it. After lunch, we proceeded to Elephant Trekking tour which was further away from the Sanctuary (close to an hour drive). We sat on the elephants and took a round of the forest area nearby followed by elephant dipping in the pool nearby. Honestly, it was bit of a disappointment. The 'Mahout' wielded a sickle shaped hammer to control the beast and he hit the poor animal on his skull while making him walk his way. Both of us winced at it, and asked the guy to not do it again. That pretty much ended the excursion for us. After the tour we got out in the evening to check out the Ao Nang local market (a Wednesday only thing, and not to be missed). It had gamut of stalls selling (replica) clothing, accessories, and best of all street food at throw away prices. If one wants to explore the real treat at Krabi, eating at this place is a must. Day 7 - Kayaking in Bor Thor Caves & Tiger Cave Temple Realizing that the tours can be arranged of our own if we know where to go, we set out early that day for Bor Thor Caves. at 60 km it was a long enough journey from Ao Nang, especially on the scooter that we had, but we wanted to do this tour our way. We started at 7, and after a serene ride (assisted heavily by HERE maps, and direction marker at places) we reached the area and rented a Kayak for 800 Bahts. There were two caves around - one accessible by foot where there was a caveman pic of a seahorse like thing; the other we navigated through while kayaking under it. It was a pretty sight. On our way back we saw scores of Kayaks heading to the cave - it was going to get crowded. Afterwords we headed to Wat Tham Seua a.k.a. the Tiger Cave Temple, around 1 km from Krabi town. The temple boasts a climb of 1260 steep steps to the summit, where one can get a bird's eye view of areas around and far off. It was a taxing journey which took ~40 minutes and we were rewarded with panoramic view of the spot. It was pretty awesome site, almost as great as the feeling of accomplishment climbing so much stairs brought :) After getting down from the Tiger Cave Temple we headed to Krabi Town and checked out one of the many shopping district in the area. It was not much different from Ao Nang, but still had a vibe to it. The long day ended with us enjoying a great road side meal consisting of pancakes, pad thai noodles and beer on the Ao Nang beach road. Day 8 - Transit to Bangkok Having gone through the adventure of climbing Tiger Cave Temple a day before, we had our calves hurting in the morning. We got out to our customary market near to Ao Nang Beach for our breakfast. After a lazy day, we headed back to Bangkok form KBV airport.
Day 9 - Back to Delhi We decided to spend a day exploring the infamous Pratunam Market, which was right outside our Baiyoke Sky Hotel. We thought that we will be able to do some decent shopping in that monster sized retain hub of Bangkok in 5-6 hours. Little did we know that the charms of the market would fade in the veil of bargaining skills and crazy pricing. After a disappointing attempt at shopping in Pratunam, and gorging on the Thai Street food on the last day, we left for Delhi in the night.