What You Want To Know About Southern Thailand

MusafirStarred Page By Musafir, 11th Jun 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Asia>Thailand>The Andaman Coast

You can shop, till you drop, as the saying goes; Krabi Town weekend Night Market is a must if you are in Krabi, and make sure you never let it miss you when you are there in Southern Thailand!
Or else, you will fly home with regrets; and the thought would linger to return to Krabi long after you leave, to pick up where you had left the province, not fully explored, and of course, to the Night Market you never visited, while you’re there some time ago.....

Far Beyond and Outstretched Ao Nang

If you are in Krabi, you must leave the comfort of Ao Nang or Krabi Town to experience the true charm of Krabi and its surrounding neighbouring southern provinces.

What awaits you far beyond and outstretched Ao Nang, are pleasant exploration experiences and delightful surprises.

Krabi and its surrounding neighbouring provinces can offer you much more, than the mere limiting comfort of Ao Nang.

About Krabi

Krabi is located on the south west coast of Thailand, some 800km or 10 hours ride by road or a mere 1 hour and 20 minutes flight from the capital, Bangkok. It is bounded by Phang Nga province to the north, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Surat Thani to the east, and Trang to the south.

Krabi province is divided into eight administrative districts, called Ampur in Thai. They are Ao Luk; Plai Praya; Muang (which covers Ao Nang, Railay, Krabi Town, Klong Muang and the Phi Phi Islands); Neua Klong; Klong Thom; Khao Phanom; Lam Tup and Ko Lanta.

132 islands offshore in the Andaman Sea also fall under Krabi's jurisdiction, several of which - including the Lanta Islands, Ko Phi Phi and Ko Jum - are inhabited and much commercialised.

Among the most famous island among them would indeed be Phi Phi, where the film “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio were shot several years ago and thus putting Phi Phi in the limelight of the world stage.
The province covers a total area of 4709 square kilometres. Krabi's population is almost 400,000 people, of which 60% are Buddhism in religion and the remaining 40%, Muslims.

The geographical landscape in Krabi, as in the Southern Thailand provinces elsewhere, are mountainous in nature, with pocket of interesting caves dated several thousand years ago found in the rocky limestone mountain of the province, some believed by archaeologists to have been once a shelter for prehistoric people.

Its beaches and bays are typically dotted with many luxurious and cheap hotels and resorts alike, dominating the coastal front, while several others built inwards land on higher ground with spectacular views and settings.

Khao Sok National Park, Surat Thani Province

Khao Sok National Park in Southern Thailand is an amazing place. It is located in Surat Thani province and is covered with the oldest evergreen rainforest in the world and is much diverse than the renowned Amazon Rainforest.

Its land area is 739 square kilometres, and it includes deep valleys, exciting caves, wild animals such as the Malayan Tapir, Asian Elephant, Mouse Deer, Tiger, Sambar Deer, Bear, Guar, Banteng, Serow, Wild Boar, Pig Tailed Macaque, Langur, White-handed Gibbon, Squirrel and Muntjak (or Barking Deer).

It is perhaps most famous for the Rafflesia Kerrii (or Bua Phut) which grows within the park, and one which have an awful foul-smell (of rotten meat) to attract flies for pollination. The Rafflesia is the official flower of Surat Thani province.

In addition to its exotic fauna & flora, Khao Sok is also naturally decorated with huge limestone mountains shooting straight up in the air from the breathtaking lakes.

It is perfectly situated on the mainland accessible from Phuket, Krabi, Khao Lak and Koh Samui, the most popular destinations in Southern Thailand.

Elephant trekking, trekking on foot, canoeing and jeep safaris are all possible activities at Khao Sok, which will give you and your family the experience of a lifetime.

Our Eco Adventure in Khao Sok
Our eco adventure of Khao Sok began with the wonderful one and half hour Elephant Trekking through the natural terrains of rocky creeks and robust vegetation which was simply stunning, and very much unlike those we had in the tamer park setting in the Elephant Safari of Bali. And riding the beasts in the midst of rain made it even adventurous and exciting for the little ones.

The Elephant Trekking at Khao Sok through its rough terrains made us realized why the beasts are very much revered in Thailand. It makes us wonder, what would Thailand be without its elephants?

Next, was the memorable visit and overnight stay to one of the most interesting areas in Khao Sok National Park - the Chaio Lan Lake (or sometimes spelled as Cheow Larn) in the heart of the National Park which is dammed by the Ratchaprapha Dam; it stands at 94 metres high, built in 1982 at the Khlong Saeng River, a tributary of the Phum Duang River.
Chaio Lan Lake is truly remote but stunningly beautiful, with its floating raft houses and luxury tents set up ready to accept visitors like us - eager to experience the wonders of its beauty and tranquility.

It was an eco adventure the family would treasure for a lifetime, indeed!

About Phuket

Phuket is situated off the west coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea and is one of the southern provinces (changwat) of Thailand apart from Phang Nga and Krabi; it is an island with no land boundaries.

Phuket was formerly known as Talang (orTha-Laang) or Tanjung Salang in Malay (or Cape Salang in English; in old Western sources, it can also sometime be referred as “Junk Ceylon"). The name Phuket is apparently derived from the word “bukit” in Malay which means "hill", as this is what the island appears like from a distance in the sea.

As with most part of Thailand, the majority of the population in Phuket is Buddhist but there is a significant number of Muslims (about 30%), mainly descendants of the island's original sea-dwelling people and the Malays. Chinese ancestry make up an even larger populace, many of whom having descended from tin miners who migrated to Phuket during the 19th century. Peranakans or "Phuket Babas" in the local tongue, comprise a fair share of members of the Chinese Community.

Phuket is approximately the size of Singapore, and is Thailand’s largest island. The island is connected to mainland Thailand by two bridges: the older bridge of Thep Kasatri Bridge and the newer, Sarasin Bridge. It is 170km to or from Krabi and can be reached from Krabi by chartered taxi for an average fare of 2500 baht, taking about two hours ride. It is also accessible by air or sea from Krabi.

Phuket formerly derived its wealth from tin and rubber, and enjoyed a rich and colorful history. The island was on one of the major trading routes between India and China, and was frequently mentioned in foreign ship logs of Portuguese, French, Dutch and English traders. The region now derives much of its income from tourism.

The infamous Tsunami disaster that hit Phuket on Boxing Day of December 26, 2004, destroyed several highly populated areas in the major beaches on the west coast, especially Patong, Kamala, Karon and Kata. As many as 250 people were reported dead in Phuket including foreign tourists (and as many as a thousand unreported deaths too of illegal Burmese workers building new beach resorts in the Khao Lak area).

Phuket: Round Island Trip
We reached Phuket via the Thep Kasatri Bridge after leaving Chaio Lan Lake. With a guide and a driver forming our private entourage, we were soon brought around the island trip of Phuket.

Along the drive from Thep Kasatri Bridge, we passed by several of Phuket well-known icons, including the Two Heroines Monument - a famous monument in Amphoe Thalang. It is the memorial statue of the heroines Thao Thep Kasattri and her sister, Thao Sri Sunthon who rallied the islanders in 1785 to repel Burmese invaders.

We were then rushed by Bao & Eek (our affable driver & guide respectively) to Laem Phromthep or Phromthep Cape at the most southern tip of the Island to catch the scenic sunset view at Phuket atop the view point of Pronmthep Cape. The scenic sunset view truly made up our disappointment in missing the sunrise view atop the wet Mount Kinnabalu, Sabah – just a couple of months ago.

It was breathtaking to be atop the cliff, and viewing such natural wonders of nature. The panorama was simply beautiful and picturesque. And it becomes more memorable when in the scenic view of the sun setting down, you have a durian treat, bought along the way, to top up the beautiful, lovely evening atop the charming cliff - what a special, memorable trip it has been, indeed!

The Nexy Morning
After a deserving night rest at Karon Beach Resort, we were fetched by Bao & Eek the next day for the early morning trip around the coastal road covering the infamous Patong beach which was badly hit by the 2004 Tsunami disaster but has since now recovered elegantly with its beach front charm. We also passed through Kamala Beach and other several lesser known beaches in the west coast of Phuket.

Soon after the round island trip at Phuket, we found ourselves at Phang Gha Bay, after a short stop to feed the monkeys at Monkey Caves (or also known in local Thai as Wat Suwankuha) for another spontaneous tour to the island made famous by the movie of Roger Moore’s series: "The Man with the Golden Gun".

James Bond Island & Phang Gha Bay, Phang Gha Province

Khao Phing Kan is a pair of islands on the west coast of Thailand, in the Phang Nga Bay, Andaman Sea. About 40 metres from its shores lay a 20 metres tall islet, known locally as Ko Tapu or Nail Island. These islands are part of the Ao Phang Nga National Park.

But Since 1974, when it was featured in the James Bond movie “The Man with the Golden Gun” starring Roger Moore, it is popularly referred as: James Bond Island. It was the scenic topography of the islands that helped make the film into a firm Bond favourite. It also turned the previously unknown Phang Nga Bay into a major tourist attraction.

Our longtail boat made a through pass the Viking Cave first, before reaching James Bond Island for some photography sessions. Then it was a quick sight-seeing of Ko Tapu and Khao Phing Kan from the boat without embarking, before we set off in view of the boatman’s anticipation of a cloud of storm forming, and approaching from the far edge of the sea.

Then it was to Koh Panyee, a floating Muslim fishing village for some souvenir shopping on our return to Phang Nga Bay. The rain, again, added a little excitement to our adventure aboard the floating village.

After exploring the floating fishing village with awe admiration, it was time, back to Kasom Pier, Phang Gha Bay for the continuation of our journey home to Aonang, Krabi.

Phi Phi Island Day Trip

Our original preference was Hong Island tour but as it has been raining the night before, so the tour operator claimed that the sea at Hong Island may be not be as clear as it should be, and advised us to switch trip. By sheer circumstances, we then headed for Phi Phi Island, and its surrounding islands tour.

All the whiles, our trips in Krabi and elsewhere have been that of a private tour, involving only our family or few other people. But the Phi Phi Island Tour involves a big group of tourists, thus it was not as fulfilling as we wanted it to be: forty minutes here, and forty minutes there – were all we were given for swimming and snorkeling at the Islands’ beaches and bays. The stopovers were a little too short to truly absorb the charm and beauty of the surroundings.

Still, we managed to set foot on the smaller and lesser known Bamboo Island and the acclaimed Maya Beach, on the second largest island, Koh Phi Phi Ley (or also spelled Phi Phi Leh) made famous through Leonardo Dicaprio’s movie: “The Beach” shot on the island several years ago, amidst several protest campaigns by the locals and several international watch groups.

Koh Phi Phi Ley also houses the “Viking Cave”, from which there is a thriving bird's nest soup industry which we visited before the swim at Bamboo Island.

The stopover for lunch was at the largest island of Ko Phi Phi Don: much commercialized and crowded with diving tour operators, and mainly the Caucasians and Koreans/Japanese tourists seeking for a diving adventure.

Though the Island offered souvenir shopping, it is a little expensive in comparative to Ao Nang or Krabi Town; so the one and the half hours spent on Ko Phi Phi Don was for lunch and merely sight-seeing of the souvenir’s market square/street and the bustling beach front.

Krabi River & Kohklang

Krabi River And The Symbol Of Krabi
Khao Khanab Nam is a 100 metres high hills rising from the water of the Krabi River or Canal. Kanab Mae Nam are regarded as the symbol of Krabi. It sits before the city and can be visited by longtail boat from the Chaofa Pier (or also spelled as Jao Fa Pier). Travel time is about 15 minutes.

From the boat, one can also comes ashore a bank near Khao Khanab Nam to climb a staircase, as we did, leading to a pre-historic cave with stalactites and stalagmites. Many human skeletons have been found in the area and cave. The view in the wide, vast cave is simply stunning, but not as eerie and dark as Phra Kay Petch Cave we visited in Khao Sok; we were struck in awe by it sheer surroundings and majestic beauty.

Koh Klang: The Muslim Fishing Village
Next visit destination was Koh Klang, an island located on the west coast of southern Thailand, at the mouth of Krabi River into the Andaman Sea. It is the closest island of Krabi Town, just on the right side of the Krabi River.

The island is connected only by longtail boats from two piers: Chaofa Pier (centre of Krabi Town) and Tara Pier (South of Krabi Town). Both journeys take less than 10 minutes to cross.

70% of the populations are original people of the island and 30% originate from Krabi and other districts of Thailand. The inhabitants on the island are 98% Muslim and 2% Buddhist. As a result, most of the populations follow the Islamic way of life.

Cars are not used on the Island; the locals use only motorbike, bicycle or tri-cycle bike, or tuk-tuk. It has three villages and a school in each village. It also boasts a “Pondok” or Islamic Religious School, with students coming as afar from Chaing Mai to study at the rustic boarding school.

Koh Klang is a quiet place in the Krabi province, with very few tourists. Local people are interested to develop eco-tourism on the island with the help of the local government. They provide local activities such as Batik, visiting fish farms, mangroves trip with the longtail boat, prawns catching and exploring caves. The island is rich with wildlife, and tourist can bird-watch in one of the two bird huts located off the beach. These birds’ huts also provide amazing views of the islands that surround Ko Klang, such as Chicken Island and Ko Jum.

We were fortunate to visit Koh Klang on a Sunday afternoon, consciously arranged by our Resort staff, Wann to coincide with the island communal market which offer, amongst other things, the Island traditional delicacies and cakes that are very similar to our traditional Malay kuehs. It was a treat the family would remember for a long time.

We were then brought farther apart and inwards land into the heart of Koh Klang villages on Tuk-Tuk. Tourists can choose to spend the night in the only Resort we came across the Island; or the one of the many home-stays on the island, all of whom aim to integrate their guests with the local Muslim community.

We were offered a mere 200 baht per person inclusive of breakfast and towels, for a home-stay experience which we politely declined, having not mentally prepared ourselves for such assimilating stay in the community. It was a miss we deliberately calculated without leaving much traces of regret.

Emerald Pool, Hot Spring & Tiger Cave Trip

Our last nature exploration brought us to Khao Phra Bang Khram Nature Reserve located in the Southern Khlong Thom District of Krabi, which offers us Sra Morakot or also known as the “Emerald” or “Crystal Pool”. It was, however, not up to our expectation; perhaps by then – on the eighth day of our tour – we had fizzled out in our interest, let alone to partake in a package trip with much time-constraint visit, such as that to the Emerald Pool.

Still, in Khlong Thom District, we then visited the Hot Spring there that offers us nature's own hot-tub jacuzzis. The water here comes from the thermal springs, originating deep underground in volcanic chambers. Located in the jungle, this site features naturally hollowed-out 'bathtubs' in the smooth stone, filled to the brim with running spring water at a pleasant 35-40 degrees Celsius.

After lunch, we then visited Wat Tham Seua or Tiger Cave Temple, which features natural rock impressions of tiger paws, and real tigers were said to once roamed this area.

Set in a beautiful forest, the temple is in fact a famous meditation centre. You can walk around the nature trail, visit the Tiger Cave and, for those who are fit enough, climb the 1237 steps (while others had claimed it to be at 1272 steps - which we weren’t sure of which is accurate as we did not attempted climbing it); the steps, however, as told by our guide, lead to the mountain-top shrine for a view that will really leave you breathless.

The surrounding area of the Tiger Cave, particularly in the Khiri Wong Valley, is covered with lush forest and enormous trees hundreds of years old. Mountains are on all sides and there are smaller caves in great numbers such as Tham Khonthan, Tham Lot, Tham Chang Kaeo, Tham Luk Thanu, and Tham Phra pocketed in the limestone mountain there.
Aside from being the site of a meditation centre, it is also a place of archaeological interest, dating from the prehistoric into proto-historic times. Stone tools, pottery remains, and the mold for making Buddha footprints have been found in excavations.

Beaches & The Shopping Extravagance Experience

Ao Nang Beach & Souvenir Street
The beach of Ao Nang is decent and offers a nearby swimming spot out in the sea, within proximity of your hotel or resort precinct. You could also visit the nearby Noppharat Thara Beach or the much acclaimed beautiful Railay Beach, accessible by boat.

But by far, the attraction of Ao Nang would be the Streets - which are typically dotted with souvenir shops selling you all kinds of items, souvenir and merchandise, as well as littered with bars and nightclubs/pubs, and numerous massage parlour/house that offers you affordable Traditional Thai Massage experience.

Also, restaurants and eateries, including street food-stalls/karts, are set up in numbers and offer you a variety of choice of food to sample. From cheap, local street food to expensive chic restaurants, you are put at great liberty to choose your lifestyle and spending spree there.

Ao Nang, thus being a tourist centre, is truly comfortable and convenient with resorts and hotels abounds, and so are alike the banks and ATMs facilities.

Moving around Ao Nang or to Krabi Town is convenient too; with the Tuk-Tuks or the local buses (known as Songthaews: a truck transportation vehicle, modified with side benches to ferry passengers around) you could move safely, yet cheaply, to wherever you want to go within Ao Nang or further apart to Krabi Town and the airport.

Or if you prefer, you could walk the street of Aop Nang all day or night long, till you’re heavenly, pleased at heart.

Krabi Town Night Market
We aren’t an avid shopper; still it’s hard not to be tempted to shop extravagantly when you are at the Krabi Town Night Market (or also known as the Walking Street Market) which operates on every weekend nights of Friday-Sunday from 05:00p.m. to 09:30p.m.

All sorts of merchandise – from shoes to sandals, from colourful and eye-catching designed T-Shirts to decorated bags and purses, from toys to pants and undergarments, from accessories to cosmetic jewelries, and many more items – you name it: it’s all found in the market square.
You’ would be silly not to take notice of the sight of so many affordable goods in the market!

Only fools would not fall for such bazaar of goods and merchandise of souvenir, truly.

Foods are sold in abundance too there, ranging from all kind of tidbits to local foods, from cakes to meals of different flavoured rice, from drinks to assortment of fruits – you name it again: you’ll never grow hungry in Krabi Town Night Market.

Apart from food and merchandise, you could also witness several buskers putting on a performance captivating the crowds with their act of arts, whilst others simply being an artist, would thrill you with their work of paintings and caricatures, or wonderful handicraft pieces/items.

You can shop, till you drop, as the saying goes; Krabi Town weekend Night Market is a must if you are in Krabi, and make sure you never let it miss you when you are there in Southern Thailand!

Or else, you will fly home with regrets; and the thought would linger to return to Krabi long after you leave, to pick up where you had left the province, not fully explored, and of course, to the Night Market you never visited, while you’re there some time ago.....

~ e n d of article ~


Ao Nang, Chaio Lan Lake, Emerald Pool, James Bond Island, Khao Khanab Nam, Khao Phing Kan, Khao Sok National Park, Ko Tapu, Koh Panyee, Kohklang, Krabi, Krabi River, Krabi Town, Krabi Town Night Market, Leonardo Dicaprio, Maya Beach, Patong Beach, Phang Nga, Phang Nga Bay, Phi Phi Island, Phromthep Cape, Phuket, Songthaew, Surat Thani, Thailand, The Beach, Tuk-Tuk, Viking Cave, Wat Tham Seua

Meet the author

author avatar Musafir
A traveller to a lesser known world!
Hail from Singapore, Musafir set sight to travel round the world, in particular to the lesser-known world.
Coincidentally his name "musafir" is a Malay word derived from Sanskrit that literally translated, mean...(more)

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author avatar Denise O
21st Jul 2011 (#)

You know, I have not read a whole lot about South Thailand. What a very informative and interesting read about this great country. I really enjoyed it. Congrats on the star page, it is well deserved. Thank you for sharing.:)

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