Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Trip To Krabi, Thailand: Phi Phi Islands - Maya Bay + Viking Cave + Snorkeling At Loh Samah Bay

Photo By: Elin Chow

Included in the Aonang Cliff Beach Resort's Krabi Romance package which we had booked for our Krabi trip, my husband and I were given the option to visit either the Phi Phi islands or the Hong islands by speed boat. After much discussion, we decided to go for a full day island hopping tour to Phi Phi islands due to its reputation of being one of the most naturally beautiful islands group in the world.

Phi Phi Islands

Phi Phi islands are a group of six islands located in Krabi province, off the south-west coast of Thailand. The six islands are namely, Koh Phi Phi Don, Koh Phi Phi Leh, Bida Nok, Bida Noi, Bamboo island (Koh Mai Phai) and Mosquito island (Ko Yung). 

All-inclusive tour

We were surprised to learnt that Aonang Cliff Beach Resort actually booked us an all-inclusive tour trip from Ao Nang to Phi Phi islands, which included tour guide, 6 different stops around Phi Phi islands, unlimited flow of iced refreshments, lunch at Phi Phi Don, snorkel usage, insurance and round trip transfers between the pier and hotel.

Tour itinerary 

Maya Bay > Pi Leh Bay > Viking Cave > Snorkeling at Loh Samah Bay  > Lunch at Phi Phi Don > Snorkeling at Hin Klang > Bamboo Island

For easy reading, I will be breaking my visit to the Phi Phi islands into two different blog posts. My first blog post will cover my trip to Maya Bay, Pi Leh Bay, Viking Cave and Loh Samah Bay. I shall cover the rest of my visit to Phi Phi Don, Hin Klang and Bamboo island in my second blog post.

Things to bring along

- Water proof bag
- Sunscreen lotion
- Towels
- Sunglasses 
- Flip fops / Sandals
- Extra clothes
- Camera

After confirming our booking, a four-wheeled truck picked us up from Ao Nang Cliff Beach Resort at 8 am sharp in the morning and transferred us to the pier to board a speed boat.

After a brief introduction by the tour operator, we proceeded to board the boat that carried about 30 + tourists from all over the world. Once everyone is seated in the boat, the tour guide greeted us warmly while the boat set sail for our first stop of the day - Maya Bay.

Be prepared to get wet or even drenched as the ride can get a little bumpy at times. Do not expect to stay dry on a speed boat even if you do not intend to jump into the waters. Thus, I would advise you to keep your camera in the dry storage underneath the passenger's seat to keep it safe from the waters.

However, I was even more concerned about sea sickness on choppy waters. For people who are susceptible to sea sickness, I would strongly recommend you to take some motion sickness pills several hours before your trip.

How to minimize sea motion sickness

To minimize sea sickness, I would advise:

1. Sleep well
Having insufficient sleep or feeling exhausted actually makes you more susceptible to motion sickness. So be sure to rest well on the night before your trip. Try to relax and look far at the horizon while you are travelling on the speed boat.

2. Stay hydrated

Remember to take frequent sips of water to avoid dehydration while you out in the middle of the sea. However, avoid any excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption before your trip.

3. Have a light breakfast
Having a greasy and heavy breakfast is definitely not advisable. It is always best to eat something light and bland before you depart for your trip.

Maya Bay

Enclosed by 100-metre high cliffs on three sides, Maya Bay is an beautiful uninhabited bay consisting of several small beaches. The main beach boasts a 200-metres long coastline with fine white sands.

Famed for its stunning landscapes, Maya Bay has become one of the main tourist attraction of Phi Phi island, especially after 'The Beach', starring Leonardo Dicaprio was filmed here in 1999.

How to get there

As there is no accommodation on the island, Maya Bay is only accessible in the day by boat. From Ao Nang, you could either hire a long-tailed boat (90 minutes ride) or speed boat (45 minutes ride) to the Bay. Alternatively, you can also book a half-day or full day island hopping trip with your hotel or one of the many tour operator located on the Ao Nang Walking Street which will visit the Bay along with other few attractions in Phi Phi islands.

The best time to visit the Maya Bay is between November to April, when the sea tends to be calmer, thus allowing easier access to the Bay.

Toilets are located about 5 minutes walk away from the beach, but you would only want to use them when you are extremely desperate. I could not really describe how stinky and dirty the entire place were. It was just horrific!

Just in case you have to use them, go through the short-cut entrance located beside the Maya Bay signboard and continue on a brief jungle trail. You should be able to spot the toilets located at the end of the trails.

I could not describe how much I love everything in Maya Bay. From the fine, white sandy beach, the impressive and breath-taking rocks formation to the clear and turquoise blue sea water. For a moment, I felt as if I had arrived in paradise!

Unfortunately, this place is not peaceful or secluded at all. In fact, we were feeling really disappointed to find the entire place crowded with tourists from all over the world. 

During the peak seasons, do not be surprised to see as much as 50 boats carrying thousands of tourists arrive at the small beach everyday! 

I am actually glad that we arrived early, around 9.30 am in the morning. Although the Bay was already crowded with people, it was still not too bad. So, if you wish to avoid the crowds and enjoy some tranquility on the beach, do visit before 9 am. however, in order to do that, you might have to throw in more money to book yourself a private boat instead.

There are nothing much you can do at the beach except swimming, sunbathing or just enjoy laying out on the warm and soft sands. Take your time to admire the beautiful scenery before your eyes and snap as many photos as your heart desires.

Of course, it was really hard to get a nice photograph of the place without having someone else in it. So I figured it out that it will be nice to snap a photograph of my feet buried in the sands too.

Although crowded, Maya Bay is still worth a visit. But still, I found the island a little over-rated. Without the intense crowds, I believe I would have enjoy and love this place so much more.  

We were given an hour to explore and relax on the beach before moving on to the next attraction of the day.

Almost every tourist who visited were busily taking tons of quick selfies with the stunning landscapes. I wish we could feel the same excitement as the other tourists. But we could not. We hate the crowds, the hoards of boats docking at the shore and all the trash which the people have brought to the island. So we were actually glad that we left the place after an hour, just before the beach got extremely crowded.

Leaving Maya Bay, we proceeded to the next stop at Phi Leh Bay, where our boat stopped briefly for us to snap some quick photographs. Please remember to bring your trash with you before you leave the place. Do not leave them on the beach.

Phi Leh Bay

Located on the western side of Maya Bay is Phi Leh Bay, a small lagoon that is only accessible to speed boats and long-tailed boats. Just like Maya Bay, Phi Leh Bay is also surrounded by 100-meters high limestone cliffs on 3 sides.

It was a pity that we did not managed to snap any photograph as we did not stop here for long. Or at least long enough for me to retrieve my camera from the dry storage underneath the passenger's seat.

Viking Cave

Tham Phaya Nak, most commonly known as the Viking Cave, is a cave located on the northern side of Phi Ley Bay. Its name was derived from the ancient cave paintings of long boats, resembling that of the Viking, which can be found on the eastern and southern walls of the cave.

The cave is also home to thousands of Swifts, where they built their nests with their glue-like saliva. Matured Swifts' nests are then harvested in large number to make Bird's Nest soup, a famous Chinese delicacy that command a ridiculously high price in the market.

Unfortunately, to protect the paintings and swifts' nests, the Viking Cave is not open to tourists to visit. Most of the tour boats operators would stop close to the entrance of the cave for tourists to see inside and snap some photos.

In order to harvest the Bird's Nests, bamboo scaffolding has been erected within the cave to enable the locals to climb and reach the 100-meters high ceiling.

On the eastern side of Phi Phi Ley, we arrived at Loh Samah Bay, a popular dive site for snorkeling and night diving trips.

Sanitized snorkeling equipment was provided as part of the tour, but if you prefer to use your own ones, please feel free to bring it along with you. 

The tour guide also brought along some bread to feed the fishes as to attract them to the snorkelers. Such fish feeding is a common practice that should be strictly discouraged or banned as it is proven to have caused serious disruption to the natural marine ecosystems.

Avoid any contacts with the delicate corals while you snorkel. Even a soft touch from you can cause irreversible damages to the corals.

We were given about 30 minutes to snorkel at Loh Samah Bay before we headed off to Phi Phi Don for lunch. So, stay tuned for my next blog post for more of my island-hopping adventures at Phi Phi islands!

Be sure to follow me on my Facebook or Twitter to get the latest updates on my travel adventures! Also, do not forget to share my blog posts with your family and friends if you find them helpful. In the meantime, you might also want to check My Wanderlust page for some of my other travel adventures.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Trip To Krabi, Thailand: Exploring Ao Nang Walking Streets

Photo By: Elin Chow

A central point of the coastal province of Krabi, Thailand, Ao Nang is a small resort town consisting of a main street, which is dominated by a wide range of restaurants, shops, massage centres, pubs, and other amenities that are specifically targeted at tourists. The town main beach, Ao Nang Beach, serves as a departure point for long-tailed boats to several of its surrounding beaches and nearby islands. Ao Nang, a simple and small town with everything at your fingertips.

Ao Nang has no shopping malls or supermarkets, but there are plenty of lively convenience stores, roadside stalls and other small shops selling mostly similar things from beach wear, bags, clothing and even shoes. Do not be surprised to find differences in prices for same items in different shops. So be prepared to bargain for the lowest price if you are intending to do some shopping at the Ao Nang walking streets.

For us, we did not managed to bring back anything home from these shops. We bought some souvenirs like keychains and fridge magnets from a roadside stall near our resort. The roadside stalls are undoubtedly the best place where you can get some really cheap souvenirs.

A vast majority of the shops are lined neatly along the beachfront road, with minority of them tucked away down the side alley, off the main beach road.

We were really surprised to find that most of the restaurants in Ao Nang not only employed a large number of Indian employees, but also included several Indian cuisines in their menu. While strolling down the streets, we were constantly harassed by some of these Indian staffs standing on the pavement, as they tried hard to lure us into the restaurants which they are working for. It was such an annoying and unpleasant experience!

Seriously, why would we want to eat Indian food in Thailand? We should be trying out a mountain of Thai cuisines in Thailand instead! Unfortunately, we could not find many restaurants that serve only Thai food on the streets. Most of the restaurants in Ao Nang  generally serve a mix of Thai/Indian, Thai/Italian or Thai/Western cuisines. That also explained why we decided to dine in at our resort most of the time. 

Daytime in Ao Nang tends to be quiet and relaxed. As most people go off on tours and island-hopping trips in the day, thus the streets are not overly crowded. Night-time in Ao Nang is busier, especially on the main beach road, with its concentration of shops, bars and restaurants. This is when most people return to rest and relax after a tiring day trip. As such, the streets will be more bustling after the sky falls dark.

Tuk Tuk are the fastest and easiest way to navigate around Krabi, hence I would really recommend taking one of these rather than a taxi. Furthermore, they are plentifully available everywhere, especially along the main beach road, at a flat rate of 30 baht per passenger and 60 baht for single passenger for trips around the town. 

Alternatively, you might want to hop on a Songthaew (shared pick-up truck/taxi) to get around and explore Krabi. Songthaew are color coded according to destination, so make sure you double check with the driver before boarding one. 

Songthaew services generally runs to and from Ao Nang beach and krabi town everyday, with designated stops along Ao Nang beach main road. Even so, you are free to hop on and off  almost anywhere you like. 

Located right across the road is Ao Nang beach, which offers an amazing sunset view. So do not forget to catch a sunset at the beach while you are in Ao Nang, Krabi.

While strolling back to our resort, we happened to chance upon a group of ladyboys parading along and handing out flyers along the main beach road every night, trying to attract and bring in more customers to their cabaret show. If you are keen, you may find any 'lady' who you think is pretty and snap a keepsake photograph with her for free. 

We got most of our essentials like sunblock lotion, snacks and bottled mineral water from the 7-Eleven underneath our resort. This is the ultimate convenience of staying with Aonang Cliff Beach Resort.

Final Thoughts

We love the fact that Ao Nang is a small beach town that is not so packed with tourists. It was very easy to navigate around the town by foot. 

Although food and accommodation are slightly more expensive, everything is still reasonably priced in Ao Nang. The absence of raucous nightlife makes Ao Nang an ideal place for relaxation, especially for people who prefer peace and tranquility.

Be sure to follow me on my Facebook or Twitter to get the latest updates on my travel adventures! Also, do not forget to share my blog posts with your family and friends if you find them helpful. In the meantime, you might also want to check My Wanderlust page for some of my other travel adventures.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Trip To Krabi, Thailand: Ao Nang Beach

Photo By: Elin Chow

During our recent trip to Krabi, Thailand, my husband and I spent most of our time at Ao Nang Beach - one of our favorite place to be!

Ao Nang Beach
Ao Phra Nang, or commonly known as Ao Nang, is the most 'westernized' and busiest beach in Krabi, Thailand. A backpacker hotspot and a tourist alcove, Ao Nang is a relatively small town with one main beach, Thus, it can get really crowded during the peak season.

Ao Nang Beach is located just 5 to 10 minutes walking distance away from Ao Nang Cliff Beach Resort. The street that leads to the beach is lined up with a wide array of shops, restaurants, travel agencies and different accommodation options.

Ao Nang beach, although not as scenic as Railay or Koh Phi Phi, it is still a great and relaxing place to unwind and recharge your batteries. The beach boasts a long coastline with sky blue water and fine, golden-hued sands. Located at the southern end of the beach, the magnificent limestone cliffs provides a wonderful backdrop to the blue waters of the Andaman Sea.

While at the beach, you can spend your day here swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling or enjoying a drink at a nearby cafe. For us, we spent most of our day sitting on the benches, enjoying the cooling sea breeze and the warmth of the sun.

The centre portion of beach serves as a docking point for the long-tailed boats running to and from Railay beach everyday.

As the shore is often packed with long-tailed boats, it can be relatively difficult to find an open patch of water at the beach for a swim. Even if you could find, I would not recommend anyone going for a swim either as there are simply just too much boat traffic.

Ao Nang beach is definitely not a peaceful place to relax due to the level of noise pollution arising from the endless streams of long-tailed boats arriving and departing throughout the day. You might want to consider hopping onto a long-tailed boat to Railay beach instead if you prefer a more quieter and peaceful atmosphere.

For kids, the clean beach and extremely fine sands makes it perfectly ideal for sand-castle building.

Besides that, Ao Nang Beach is known to be a fantastic spot to catch a sunset. Every evening, hundreds of people, both locals and tourists flock and gather at the beach to watch the sun disappear into the Andaman Sea.

We spent most of our evening sitting on the beach, waiting for the sun to set. Unfortunately, during the cloudy days, there was nothing spectacular about the sunset. It was extremely frustrating to see the sun just disappear behind some clouds above the horizon. 

Although the experience was disappointing, we were back to the beach again the next day. We were really glad that luck was on our side this time as we managed to witness a breathtaking sunset over the horizon.

As the sun began to disappear behind the hills, I quickly took out my camera to capture that beautiful moment. To me, a great sunset photo has to have people, or at least something that will stand out in silhouette  against the beautiful setting sun. I am glad that I have managed to capture some very nice photos of the sunset on my trip to Krabi this time.

In the next instant, before we realized it, the sun just disappeared beyond the horizon, leaving behind its fire-red glow.

Final Thoughts

Ao Nang beach is one of the perfect place for people looking for peace and tranquility. Unlike most other popular beach destinations in Thailand, Krabi is actually more suited for families vacations and couples seeking for a romantic getaway. We could barely spot any bars and pubs alongside the beach. Most of the nightlife in Ao Nang are located off the main street, hidden away behind the beachfront shops.

Be sure to follow me on my Facebook or Twitter to get the latest updates on my travel adventures! Also, do not forget to share my blog posts with your family and friends if you find them helpful. In the meantime, you might also want to check My Wanderlust page for some of my other travel adventures.