JANUARY – From the Haad Tian resort on the island of Koh Phangan it’s just a 15 or 20 minute drive along the southwest coast to get to the Thongsala pier. After a great five nights on Koh Phangan, we had an early wake up so we could catch our ride down to the pier. Our goal was to head across the mainland to Krabi on the west side of Thailand, from where we would then hopefully travel on to Koh Phi Phi and perhaps Railey, depending how our time in Krabi and Phi Phi went. Knowing that after New Year’s there would probably be a mass exodus off the island, we decided to go ahead and buy our boat/bus tickets all the way through to Krabi from our hotel the night prior. I don’t recall the cost, but I remember figuring it after the fact, and we only paid a small surcharge to get them from the hotel as opposed to having to wait at the ticket counters, so definately worth it.
The boat ride back to Surat Thani seemed to go much quicker than on the way out to the island five days prior, and before we knew it we were back at the terminal where we quickly boarded a bus en route to Krabi. I still never really figured out how their bus system worked, it seemed every bus trip we took had an unplanned stop halfway through where everyone would deboard and then wait indefinately for another bus to finish the journey. Also, during the stops there were people trying to book you into hotels at your destiation, so I suspect it’s some tourist rip off thing. On the other hand though, it is helpful if you’re travelling during high season since you can secure your hotel without having to stress upon arrival. If you already have a hotel booked, it also seemed that once you arrive in the destination city’s bus terminal that you then get some sort of transport into town as well at no extra charge. From what I could gather, when booking hotels this way the prices seemed to still be on par with the ones presented at the destinations, so I guess it just depends on your style.
This trip was no different in this regard, so from Surat Thani the bus took us part of the way and then stopped. Even though I do admit it seemed like a fair enough process, personally I didn’t feel comfortable booking this way. I’d rather be able to choose a place on sight upon arrival, or research the destination and secure ahead of time. So knowing it was still peak travel time a couple days after New Years, we booked a night in Krabi while we were still in Koh Phangan. And it seems that once you tell the hotel hawkers that you have a reservation, they leave you alone. The other way to do it is to not book anything, and then just lie. You can be sure they’ll ask you at some point, so just tell them you’ve got arrangements and be firm if you don’t want to deal with them. Though having a hotel name for backup will make it easier when you get into town, as you can probably grab a free ride from the bus terminal into town that way.
So as expected upon arrival in Krabi Town, they shuttled us straight over to the Baan Andamaan Hotel, where we were happy to chcek in and have some down time for the rest of the day. Even though most people know Krabi as simply a stopping point on the way to Railey or Koh Phi Phi, we had decided that a night spent in town would break up the travel, and give us time to explore Krabi Town itself, while still catching a good sleep to be ready for the early ferry to Koh Phi Phi in the morning.
Though Krabi Town itself small, there was a great night market right on the main street where we stayed which is definitely worth checking out. It seemed to be a locals market, and there were few other Westerners there. We spent the evening at the market walking around, trying the local treats, and even trying some fried crickets. If you’ve got the time, I think Krabi Town is definitely worthwhile for at least an overnight. Even if you don’t find it very stimulating, it at least gives you a break from the tourist hordes you’ll likely encounter when you travel on.
Getting around in Krabi Town, to and from the stations and such, seemed pretty easy. Much of what you need is walking distance, but it also seemed as though there was always a shuttle roaming around town, and a simple request at any hotel can get you set up if you don’t see one. For local transport in the main area, there are songthaews that drive up and down the street and will pick up up or drop you off where ever you need to go. The next morning was no exception; we got up, had our complimentary breakfast, then grabbed the shuttle to the boat terminal where we purchased our tickets to Koh Phi Phi and just barely made it onto the boat before it left.
Koh Phi Phi was definitely a place we were looking forward to going to, and since it the guidebook gave the impression of plenty of places to stay, we didn’t make any reservations since we knew everything was walking disatance from the pier. The boat ride out from Krabi offers scenery that I’d have to say is pretty much unmatched anywhere, and arriving in Phi Phi was equally stunning. With sweeping cliffs rising up on each side of the island, the pier is located right in the center, at essentially the only flat part of the island. The island is well known as one of the islands that suffered the brunt of the 2004 tsunami, but the development at the pier didn’t give any indication as such.
Even though hotels are plentiful, we actually did have a bit of a tough time finding a room, especially with the horde of people who arrived on the same boat with us quickly filling the town. Evntually we found a cheap place located rightin the center of town, but behind a nightclub. We were apprehensive, but with the lack of rooms and the town filling up, we went with it. It turned out to be fine, truly not a very nice room, but not too noisy, which was our biggest concern.
After checking in, we had the rest of the day free, so we decided to hit the beach. The main beach is located directly across the island from the pier on the other side of the thin strip of land that makes up most of the town, probably just a 10 or 15 minute walk, and only 5 from our hotel. Though way overcrowded, the beach is stunning. It sweeps out to each side for maybe a quarter mile or so, and then rises up and extends out into the Andamaan Sea, creating a nearly fully protected beach and lagoon.
Between our initial walk around looking for a room, and our jaunt over to the beach, we quickly learned that although extremely beautiful, Phi Phi is definitely a tourist trap. Even sitting under an umbrella on the beach cost us. But it turned out that it was a worth the few baht, since without an umbrella the midday sun would have promtly knocked me out.
After a day of destressing at the beach, it was back to the room to clean up, and then time to head out to find dinner. Next up, our second day in Phi Phi, and then heading back to Krabi Town for an attempt at visiting Railey.
- Koh Phangan after New Years
- Getting to Koh Phangan from Bangkok, thru Surat Thani
- New Year’s Eve Full Moon Party, Koh Phangan
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Originally posted on Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011 at 6:06 AM .