Krabi is just over an hour’s flight away from KL and firmly on the family holiday trail. The scenery is hard to beat, but it is by no means desert island material, but very much full-on tourist territory. There are high-end resorts (like the Sofitel with a gigantic swimming pool) and more affordable hotels to choose from, and enough to do for a few days’ holiday. We went for a very quick getaway so only had time for a few things:
We booked the standard 4 Island tour through our hotel. Armed with pre-made sandwiches we were picked up from the beach in front of our hotel. While the scenery is breathtaking on the islands around Krabi, have no illusions: you will not be alone. Boats are constantly pulling in and out of the small coves and racing each other in between islands. Some islands have kiosks and toilet facilities, some don’t. Boats are covered long tail boats and typically have snorkeling gear and cold drinks, and perhaps some fruit if you are lucky.
As part of the tour we visited a beautiful lagoon – but again so did others. The chugging of engines of perhaps 20 boats circling in the small lagoon made it feel quite a bit less idyllic. If you have little kids, it may be a good idea to bring your own life jacket for the boat trips and snorkeling.
Sunset at Tub Kaek Beach
We didn’t find the beaches of Ao Nang, Nopparat Thara and Klong Muang particularly inviting – the tide reveals a muddy and rocky bottom.
Tub Kaek is a beach further north from Ao Nang, the official tourist hot spot of Krabi. This is where most of the high-end hotels are located and no wonder – the beach here is wide and views across the sea to the islands dotted around are fantastic, especially at sunset. We were on a budget so did not stay here, but came for a sunset dinner (and ended paying more for our mediocre pizzas than the room in our perfectly lovely hotel down the road). Anyway, the sunset views are top notch:
Meet an elephant
After visiting the famous Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, and reading quite a lot about the sad state of elephant tourism in Thailand, I hesitated to join our travel partners’ trip to an elephant camp. I would not recommend riding an elephant to anyone and stay clear of anything involving animals doing tricks, but the staff in Phang Nga Elephant Park raised a lot of good points on sustainable elephant tourism perhaps being they key to the survival of the Thai elephants.
European travel agents have woken up to the glaring mistreatment of elephants in Thailand and many have removed activities involving elephants from their itineraries – which sounds good but according to the folks working with elephants hree, is actually making the conditions of the animals even worse. This article by Wildlife Asia is a good read as is this calm take on the topic by two bloggers.
The elephants’ natural habitat in Thailand is rapidly being squeezed. Elephants haven’t been successfully released to the wild, we are told, so the future of the thousands of unemployed logging elephants of Thailand is looking bleak. They are expensive to keep and need a lot of exercise. According to these guys, the only realistic way to help the Thai elephant to survive is through responsible tourism. They are trying to phase out riding elephants in the seats, and move towards animal encounters and bare back riding.
We did not want to ride elephants, and opted for a “family day package” that involved a short walk with the elephants, feeding them fruit and washing them in a purpose-built pond. We felt that the animals are well-cared for and just being close to these magnificent animals was a much better experience than hobbling uncomfortably on their backs separated by a rickety chair. Then again, according to this campaign on responsible animal tourism, such activities are not recommended, either.
I still don’t know what to think about elephant tourism – obviously it would be best to see them in the wild, or not at all – like with any wild animals. It is the existence of all these “unemployed” elephants in Thailand that makes it not so black and white, I guess. Do your research and do as you feel is right. If you decide to go for an elephant experience in Krabi, Phuket or nearby, our day at the Phang Na Elephant camp convinced us that they are on the right track towards more ethical elephant tourism in Thailand. If you decide to go, we recommend the elephant experience without a ride. The camp is about 2 hours’ drive from Krabi and they can arrange a pick-up from your hotel.
What else to do in Krabi?
We originally wanted to stay at Railay Beach but after reading online about food poisonings being common, decided to skip it. However, friends have recommended rock climbing on Railay for older kids and other adventurous souls. We were not feeling very energetic on this trip, but any of the sights in Krabi listed here would be great with kids. Maybe next time! Although we found Krabi a bit too busy for our liking and may travel to one of the quieter islands next time…