Canoeing around the limestone kharsts and caves
As part of the James Bond Discovery Tour we were treated to an excellent opportunity to canoe around the mangrove swamps and limestone caves of the huges kharsts that pepper the huge bay of Ao Phang-Nga.
Our Longtail Boat docked with a large junk anchored in the shallow water of a sheltered bay. We then boarded canoes in pairs as they came up beside the the junk and spent the next 45 minutes or so being paddled around by our guide who took us to all the points of interest including taking us through the labyrinthine waterways of the mangrove swamps and the limestone caves under the huge kharsts.
Easily the most impressive part of this tour is paddling through the caves that riddle the monolithic kharsts that rise out of the surrounding waters. Depending on the tide, some parts you have to lean right back into the canoe as the stone passes literally inches above your face - definitely not for the claustrophic!
Another added bit of excitement was that near the caves the water was open to the rest of the bay and there were several occasions when our canoe was badly rocked by the wash of passing sea vessels - though I'm sure our guide had things well under control I was still feeling very paranoid about my brand new digital camera!!!
Although there were about forty or so canoes paddling around this area, there were many times that we were on our own exploring a nook here or a cranny there. One fun moment is when our guides got us all crowded into a natural 'atrium' inside one of the kharsts...
The guides were excellent and although tipping is not necessary in Thailand, we certainly made sure he knew we appreciated his efforts! A rubber inflatable 3-man canoe.
A bottle of water and hot face towel upon finishing the canoe trip.
When in Ao Nang, you can take a bus tour. To tour around this way has never appealed to me. I like to walk around, take in the sounds and smells. But if you choose to take a bus tour in Ao Nang, this is what the bus may look like!
Good cheap option on Rai Leh West
Based on Rai Leh West beachfront, all the others are based in hotels. Has a mix of Thai and western dishes, snacks, lunches. Bo bo's (a leading travel book called it this but we couldn't see a name anywhere) is a very popular place to stop for a bite to eat, it's quite cheap and the food is pretty good too. Tasty fresh burgers, good Thai food, lots of seafood and the chips are to die for.
It's a beach shack style place, so very relaxed, with a small bar serving cocktails and a little chillout area with a selection of books. You can also buy snacks to take back down to the beach, including the icecream. Didn't see toilets there but if you walk a short way up the path there are public toilets. Open tuna melt and the macadamia icecream, don't miss it!
Viewpoint and Lagoon ? Cara on 2/12/06:
We saw a sign for a viewpoint and lagoon on a mountainside and decided to go up and check it out. There were ropes to help climb because it was steep but at that point we really did not need them. At the top we found a forest. It was amazing. I was instantly transported back to Uganda. We saw many monkeys swinging and jumping from tree to tree. We hiked around for a while and found the view point then searched for the lagoon. We didn?t realize the lagoon was deep in the heart of the mountain and we had to climb down to it. The rock cliff was almost vertical in some places and we had to repel down using the rope. Railey is known to be a rock climber?s paradise and this would be a mountain that real rock climbers would scoff at but for us it seemed kind of scary considering we did not have harnesses or any idea about how to climb. We cautiously made our way down to the lagoon which was fresh water completely surrounded by the mountain. We walked around the lagoon, through a tight spot in the rock, to a cave. The path in the cave went under water so we couldn?t exit that way like we had hoped. We tried to go back the way we came around the lagoon and a man told us he had just stepped on a snake near the tight spot in the rock so we decided to go through the water instead. The jagged rocks in the water were very unpleasant but weighed against walking near a ticked-off snake seemed to be the best option. Once we got to the other side we heard the wind pick up and knew the rain was coming. It started to rain as we climbed our way out of the lagoon area and down off of the mountain making the rocks very slippery. We made it without injury and walked back to our room in the pouring rain.
Longboat island tour: Good scenery, bad transport
This was easily the worst part of my trip to Krabi. We rented a long boat operated by Phra Nang Divers for a 4 island half-day tour (9am-2pm), with the intention of getting some snorkeling in.
For starters, the seas were extremely rough, which perhaps is to be expected during the low season (in our case, July). The trip was slow and very jarring; I'm still surprised I arrived back on dry land in one peace.
We eventually made it to Tup, Poda and Chicken islands. Poda had a nice beach, but the snorkeling at each of these islands turned out to be very meager.
Recommendations from experience: For multiple island trips, I would suggest a speedboat over a longboat, simply to economize time... less time on the boat means more time on the beach. Also, if you're looking for snorkeling, avoid these islands. I've heard much better reviews about Hong, Bamboo and Lading Islands for snorkeling.... if only I had known this at the time. All in all, we rolled the dice with this longboat trip, which unfortunately turned up snake-eyes.