Travel: Our Macau/Hong Kong Getaway (6D/6N)!

Follow our 6 day, 6 night adventure in these lands of amazing food, awesome culture and astounding sights. See how we ate, shopped and laughed our way through Macau and Hong Kong! :)

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Travel: Our Top 10 Things to do in Krabi, Thailand

Krabi is one of the southernmost provinces on that little strip of land connecting Peninsular Malaysia and the mainland of Thailand. It is becoming increasingly popular as a tourist destinations because of its close location to some lovely beaches and islands, relatively cheap and less commercialised than its popular cousin Phuket, and for us Malaysians, also close enough for a quick long weekend getaway.

Our other post on where we stayed in Krabi - Ao Nang Phu Petra Resort

We first got our first Krabi experience in 2010 (before we even started blogging!) and enjoyed our idyllic holiday so much that we planned another longer holiday there earlier last year in June. Here's a list of our top 10 things to do in Krabi compiled over our two visits. Enjoy!


1. Have some really awesome Thai grub


Spiciest tom yam we've ever tasted - Ruen Mai in Krabi Town

My favourite part about a holiday to Thailand has to be the food. Southern Thai cuisine, in particular, is known for having rather intense flavours. If it's spicy, it's really spicy. During our recent trip, we had some of the spiciest tom yam we've ever tasted! Besides that, Krabi's close proximity to the ocean also ensures that seafood is featured quite prominently on the menu.

Admittedly, we paid much more attention to the food ever since we started blogging. On our second trip to Krabi, Drops was already in full swing, so we didn't want to miss out on opportunities to try recommended Thai food :D

The lovely setting of Ruen Mai, a few mins drive away from Krabi Town night market


Green curry, full of meat and vegetables...and flavour!
Ruen Mai was one such place recommended by some bloggers, so we made it a point to seek it out during our trip there. The ambiance is nice, not unlike something like Subak in KL, but be prepared for the mozzies! Food-wise, some of the dishes are a real acquired taste, but others like the green curry are just like what we get at home, albeit with a lot fresher ingredients especially with the herbs, like basil leaves. 


Ruen Mai
No. 315/5, Maharaj Road,
Krabi Town 81000, 
Krabi, Thailand
Tel: +6675 63179


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Streetside, there's also some really awesome food to be found from peddlers. Everything from pad thai stir-fried noodles and tom yum, to fried chicken can be found, to just name a few. One of my favourites was the pancake, with a texture very similar to our Malaysian roti canai with a wide variety of fillings and toppings. We chose the nutella and banana, and it was so so good!


2. Island hop... hop... hopping!


At the Ao Nang pier, you can buy tickets to any of the nearby islands - a common island hopping trip usually consists of the Phi Phi islands or the James Bond Island.

Adam had been before when he visited Phuket (the islands are also just as accessible from Phuket) and so we chose Railay (pronounced as rye-lee) Beach as our destination instead.




Railay Beach is quite a popular destination amongst sunbathers, so you may not get much privacy if that's what you're after. It's a nice long strip of beach though, flanked by some majestic limestone hills on either side.


Longtail boats docked on Railay Beach.


The longtail boats literally "hop" - the rides can get pretty bumpy and exhilirating (and wet!)

Longtail boats are available from the Ao Nang pier, and Railay Beach is about a 20 minute boat ride away. You'll be given your return tickets as well, so do hang on to them to take your longtail boat back to Ao Nang. It also helps to clarify with your boat driver to see if he will be the same one taking you home later in the day, if so, settle on a time for pick up and recognize his face and boat!


#throwback pic: Adam still had braces during our first trip in 2010 :D


Further up from the beach, there's also a small lane lined with souvenir shops and beach necessities. Also present are some (pricey) cafes for when you need to get out of the sun. Remember to lather up on sunscreen!


3. Hitch a ride on an elephant


During our first trip to Krabi, we took a day trip including items 3, 4, 5 & 6 below- quite a common combination looking at the various leaflets. Our first stop was riding elephants!



Our elephant guides were quite cheeky, leading our elephants through some swampy areas and through overgrown plants where the elephants stopped to feed, giving us a bumpy adventure that we remember till today. All part of the charm, we say.



After the ride, we also got the chance to buy some bananas to feed an adorable baby elephant. Definitely one of my favourite experiences in Krabi. :)


4. Climb up the Tiger Cave Temple (or not)


For animal-lovers, you'll be disappointed to know that there are no tigers here. Instead, some say this temple complex made out of a maze of caves, got its name from its rock outgrowth that resembles a giant tiger's clow. Others, on the other hand, believe that there once used to be tigers residing deep within these caves.


A pagoda within the grounds of the Tiger Cave Temple.

Folklore aside, this site some 5 km from Krabi Town, is a common stopover for many a Krabi day-tour. You'll see tourists with cameras milling amongst local Buddists who consider this a sacred site.

At the start of the climb!

However, to get to the main temple attraction and the beautiful view promised, you must first brave 1,272 steps.



We were convinced we would get to the top but we only made it as far as 275 steps before giving up but the steps were narrow and small, making it a very difficult climb, especially for those not fond of heights. :p

Still, those who have succeeded recommend it for the tranquility and amazing panoramic views at the peak. Attempt if you're in tiptop fitness. :p


5. Soak in the clear waters of the Emerald Pool


The Emerald Pool (Sra Morakot) is about an hour's drive away from Ao Nang and until today, remains one of Adam's and my favourite experiences to date.



There are two ways to get to the main Emerald Pool, a easier 1.4 km walk on a sandy trail or a more scenic 1.8 km route through the mangroves and forest. Our guide's choice was the easier walk - she didn't give us a choice! So, it wasn't us that was lazy ok.



After a short 15 minute walk, we reached the first stream that was a clear green in colour. We were already pretty amazed with the sight, wondering it was it. Our guide told us that we weren't, and told us to walk further in... and then we saw the Pool. It was absolutely gorgeous!

The water in the Emerald Pool has an enchanting blue-green hue to it, plus it's strikingly clear. It sounds like the stuff of fantasy movies, but we can tell you, it's right there in Krabi. According to our guide, the content of the bacteria and algae as well as the day's temperature makes a difference to the shade of the water.



The sides of the pool are really slippery because of algae and calcium carbonate deposit, so be careful...don't wanna have a premature end to your Krabi holiday! It can be a bit tricky getting out, but I see most of the guides hanging around with a ready arm to pull their tour groups out of the water, so you should be in good hands.




As beautiful as it is, the serenity can get a little compromised if there are lots of noisy visitors there as well.  We had a bunch of rowdy teenagers who kept on catapulting into the pool again and again - also a bit dangerous in my opinion, because the pool isn't that deep (I was still able to stand with my chin above water right in the middle of the pool).



There is no proper changing facility at the pool itself (though there is at the main entrance of the trail), so do come prepared with your swimwear under your clothes... and enjoy your afternoon basking in the lovely waters of the Emerald Pool!


6. Immerse yourself in hot springs


As part of our day tour, we stopped by at the hot springs after our visit to the Emerald Pool. The Hot Springs (Namtok Ron) aren't far off from the Emerald Pool, and before we knew it, we found ourselves at the bubbling springs, in the midst of dense forestry.



We'd never been to any natural hot springs before, so this was a genuinely interesting experience. Hot springs are rich with minerals and are supposed to bear healing qualities for skin-related ailments and other health issues like rheumatism. 



While we can't vouch for its magic, we can instead vouch for its heat. Only I went into the springs because Adam had suffered from a pretty bad sun burn the day before at Railay Beach. To my surprise, the gushing water at the top of the springs was extremely hot! Adam tried to at least dip his feet in (see above pic :p) but it got pretty uncomfortable after awhile. 

Enjoying my jacuzzi :p
Thankfully, the temperature drops to a more pleasant warmth the further you are from the source of the water. What was interesting was that the hot springs had formed terrace-like "steps", and in each step was some natural jacuzzi-like enclaves. You could just find your own "tub" and just enjoy the warm soak, while the hot water gushes against your back. It doesn't get anymore natural than this! Thankfully the surrounding stone is also very smooth, no jagged or rough edges that you need to watch out for.

Pic credit to: http://thailandforvisitors.com.
The water gushes down past the natural enclaves to lead to a river below, where some like to also dip in but I would recommend staying near the top, as the water is far cleaner. Remember not to stay longer than the advised time of 20 minutes (or even earlier if you feel dizzy)!


7. Cook some tom yum!


On our first trip, I spotted cooking classes but we didn't have enough time to go for one. For our second trip, I made sure to do my research and book us a class before we went... so Adam had to endure a cooking experience that didn't include maggi mee and deep frying nuggets. :p

I made bookings on their website about a week before we went to Krabi, and the response was quick and satisfactory. I had chosen a morning Smart Short Class for THB 1,200 per person (approximately RM 120/US$ 40) that ran from 9am-1pm. A pickup truck comes in the morning to get you from the doorstep of your hotel and sends you back after the class.




Clockwise from left - Our choices for the class, fresh greens & herbs, our tom yum simmering on the stove

Our young instructor, Bunny, was extremely efficient and perky, sharing funny anecdotes while guiding us through the chopping and frying of each dish with ease and experience. We got to select an appetizer, salad, soup, curry (including the actual pounding of the paste), a stir-fry like pad thai or chicken with cashews, curry, and dessert off their classroom menu.



Clockwise from left - Getting ready to pound some green curry paste, adding few spoons of this, and a few of that; and voila! green curry in progress

Be sure to skip breakfast if you took the morning session like we did, because you'll get to select 5 dishes to learn and cook...and eat. We had a great morning of fun, and were completely and utterly stuffed by the time class was over. I think we just became beached whales for the rest of the day...



What I really liked is that they provide you with an entire recipe book, even including those items you didn't  choose from their menu. Have yet to practice the recipes since we got home though... soon, soon!


Yes, we made all that, and more!


Smart Cook Thai Cookery School | Site
No. 32/1, Moo 5 T. Aonang Muang,
Krabi, 81000 Thailand
Tel & Fax: +66 (0) 75661147
Mobile : +66 (0) 861863468
E-mail : smartcookthailand@yahoo.com


8. Massage your weary feet and back


The two main streets of Ao Nang are dotted with massage parlours offering various types of massages. After a long day on your feet, an hour-long foot reflexology massage is just about the best thing to do. If you like a full body massage and have a high tolerance for pain & twisting, you could go for a Thai massage instead.

At the time of our last trip (June 2012), an hour-long massage session averaged about THB 200 (RM 20 / USD 6-7).





On our recent trip though, we stumbled across Let's Sea: Let's Relax. Rates are just a little higher (starting from THB 250 / RM 25 / USD 8) but the ambience is a lot better compared to the other massage parlours.

Where the massage happens. It's usually a lot dimmer and zen-like, but I asked them to turn the lights up so I could take a pic.
The setting is calming and comfy, with soothing music playing in the background. I thought the massage was pretty good, with just enough pressure for me, especially on my back.



If you're like me, who likes having cheery nails on holiday, you'll be pleased to know that they also do manicures and pedicures using Skin Food polish.



Let's Sea: Let's Relax is located opposited McDonald's. Look for the stone grey entrance, and take the stairs down.

Let's Sea: Let's Relax | Site
Opposite McDonald's in Ao Nang
No. 86/2 Moo2, Ao Nang Muang,
Krabi, 81000 Thailand
Tel: +66(0) 81-8239123, +66(0) 89-9225513
Email: lets_sea_relax@yahoo.com
Opening Hours: Daily, 10am-10pm


9. See, smell, taste at the night market


Most tourists will commonly stay in Ao Nang, rarely venturing out other than island hopping. The (real) Krabi Town actually lies some 30 minutes away, and on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, comes alive with the night market.



Like all other night markets, peddlers can be found flouting their goods for sale; from clothes to art to beadwork jewellery.



Clockwise from top left - traditional Thai dance by children, a bouncy castle to tire the kids out and the dining area

A topless man acting as a status, allowing everyone to paint over him.

There's also an entire area filled to the brim with food (no prizes for guessing where we spent the most time) with a space filled with tables and chairs. That weekend, there was a stage and a bouncy castle set up while we were there - you'll be entertained with performances while you buy your food from nearby stalls.



Clockwise from top left - skewer of your choice, fried noodles & rice, grilling meat to perfection


Clockwise from top left - fried quail's eggs, salted crusted grilled fish, coconut ice cream, deep fried chicken skin (!!)

Our favourite part was looking at all the various street food being prepared. Favourites were the grilled meat (so well marinated with a lovely smoky flavour from the grill) and the coconut ice cream (with bits of coconut flesh and served in a husk - so refreshing!) :D


10. Rent a motorbike


Traffic is quite relaxed in Ao Nang and most of Krabi, and a favourite mode of transportation for many tourists is the locals' choice as well: a motorbike! 



Bikes are available for rent along the main streets of Ao Nang, generally going for about THB 150-250  (RM 15-25/USD 5-8) per day, depending on the type of bike, its size and cc, et cetera. You'll usually have to leave your passport with the shop but you can also try to negotiate for just a cash deposit.



You can also try getting your hotel to arrange the rental for you: when we told our receptionist at Ao Nang Phu Petra that we were thinking of renting one, she offered to call one straight to the doorstep of the hotel.

The guy then proceed to give Adam some lessons as well... though it didn't quite go as planned for us, (I think we may have died at the rate Adam was learning so we decided to cancel the rental instead - we did give the teacher some good laughs in the process though) we've seen many tourists zipping around Krabi in great fun on bikes! 


Outside of the top 10: The above list don't float your fancy? There's really more to Krabi that we haven't explored yet. We hear rock climbing is pretty good there and we've also seen many day tours offer other more extreme activities like trekking through Krabi's national parks and water rafting. There is also a Factory Outlet on the way to the airport. Ask your hotel for more recommendations or drop by one of the many tour agencies dotting the main streets of Ao Nang.


Here's to a great holiday and many memorable moments exploring Krabi, from the both of us! :)


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