Krabi Province is a popular beach destination at the Andaman Sea in Southern Thailand. It’s a coastal province, which abounds with countless natural attractions that never fail to impress tourists, including white sandy beaches, crystal clear water, fascinating coral reefs, caves and waterfalls, as well as numerous islands. The distinguishing feature of both Krabi and neighbouring Phang Nga is the massive limestone karsts, rising vertiginously out of the flat rice paddies on land, and as islands from the sea. While less commercialized than neighbouring Phuket, Krabi Province cannot be described as undiscovered, it receives two million visitors a year, and the major tourist areas cater extensively for foreigners.
The main town of Krabi is at the mouth of the Krabi river where it opens into Phangnga Bay. The population of the town is almost 25,000.
From archaeological discoveries, it is believed that Krabi was one of the oldest communities in Thailand dating back to the prehistoric period. It is believed that this town may have taken its name after the meaning of Krabi, which is ‘sword’. This may have stemmed from a legend that an ancient sword was unearthed prior to the city’s founding.
At the start of the Rattanakosin or Bangkok period in the late eighteenth century, when the capital was finally settled at Bangkok, an elephant kraal was established in Krabi by order of Chao Phraya Nakorn, the governor of Nakhon Si Thammarat, which was by then a part of the Thai Kingdom. He sent his vizier to oversee this task, which was to ensure a regular supply of elephants for the larger town. So many followers emigrated in the steps of the vizier that soon Krabi had a large community in three different boroughs: Pakasai, Khlong Pon, and Pak Lao. In 1872, King Chulalongkorn elevated these to town status.
Krabi Province was badly hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004. Now, signs of the damage are now hard to find in many places, but in the worst hit areas (especially Koh Phi Phi and Khao Lak) reconstruction is still ongoing.
The best time to visit Krabi is between November and April, when the area’s climate is less hot than usual. During this period the island gets a lot of dry North Easterly winds, so giving dry blue skies and starry nights. Then, down on the beaches one can enjoy nice sea breezes. From June to November the area gets a lot of rainfall, more on average than the rest of the country. During this period the island gets a lot of moist South Westerly winds, so giving a mixture of dry days and wet ones. The sea stays at a warm 29°C all year round. If you don’t mind the rain, it’s cheaper to visit through this season.
Getting to Krabi can be an adventure in itself. You can fly in direct to the internal airport but there’s no railway station so many travellers arrive in Krabi by bus from Surat Thnai. If you plan a journey that includes Phuket and Krabi, it’s the opportunity to experience Thailand’s only seaplane service.
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Things to see and do
Keep it Natural
All the best things to see and do throughout Krabi province and its many islands are provided by the natural flora and fauna. You can get about by Songthaew (public passenger pick-up vehicles) or by boat, and just about every outdoor seaside activity is represented in abundance. The most common boat type for shorter trips is the long-tail boat. They are very manoeuvrable in the shallow waters but be prepared to get wet even if the water is a little choppy.
Play in the Park
Much of the province is now national parkland. The best destinations are Ao Nang, Railay, Hat Noppharat Thara and Ko Phi Phi National Park. The smaller islands number more than 80 and include those such as the Lanta and the Phi Phi islands. Day visitors from Phuket, sailing enthusiasts, divers and snorkelers all head to the islands looking for adventure.
The Ko Lanta National Park includes a number of islands fringed by coral reefs offering renowned diving sites. Koh Lanta Yai, is the largest island and home to the park’s headquarters and the fish filled waters around the island sustains the Chao Le, or sea gypsies. October through April, outside the monsoon season, are the best months to visit the islands.
The Khao Phanom Bencha National Park covers 50 square kilometres and is 20km north of Krabi. The scene is high drama with the 1350m high Khao Phanom Bencha covered in virgin rainforest. The park is punctured by waterfalls which include the amazing Huay To which drops through 11 tiers and the single drop, but no less dramatic Huay Sadeh and Khlong Haeng. Close to the entrance of the park, is Tham Pheung, a cave with an impressive show of mineral stalactites and stalagmites.
Take a Hike
Opportunities for hiking abound along trails that wind through the area. There is abundant wildlife in the park, but the thing you’re most likely to run into is a monkey. It’s popular with bird-spotters who come to see argus pheasants, various breeds of hornbills and the incredibly rare Gurney’s pitta.
Try a Temple
Wat Kaew , on the edge of town contains some interesting 19th- and early-20th-century buildings.
Hit the rocks
Krabi is a world class rock-climbing destination, with the distinctive limestone formations known as karst , offering a wide variety of climbs. Thailand’s rock climbing Mecca is Rai Leh, a craggy peninsula with several small beaches. The two limestone massifs of Khao Khanap Nam are a treat for climbers many of whom head to the caves where human skeletons were found, thought to be the ancient remains of people trapped in a flood.
Take a Dive
Krabi is a great centre for diving, with a number of excellent dive sites in the Andaman sea. There are plenty of dive shops in Ko Phi Phi and Ko Lanta to cater to all divers’ needs.
Survey the Scenery
The two predominantly mainland national parks, Khwo Phanom Bencha, and Than Bokk-horani offer wonderful scenic attractions including trekking trails, birdwatching, eco-tours, waterfalls and caves.
Eat Sleep Drink
Naturally being a coastal region, seafood features prominently on the Krabi menu. Traditional southern Thai food includes the milder coconut-milk based curries popularly associated with the whole of Thailand: Sample the dry, Malaysian-influenced Panaeng curry and the Massaman (Muslim) curry that includes potatoes and nuts. Tourism has also brought migrants from other parts of Thailand, who brought their food and cooking traditions with them. This gives for a wide variety of international cuisines throughout the resort towns.
May & Mark was one of the first restaurants to feature Western food and today they still collect recipes from helpful European visitors. Specialities include excellent freshly made breads to traditional British bangers and mash and fancy cordon bleu dishes.
The night market near the Khong Kha Pier is a major evening dining destination. The excellent food is authentic Thai but it’s easy to navigate the menus as they are written in English. You can feast on freshly caught seafood, raw papaya salad, deep fried noodles, a local speciality of a prawn and lemon grass soup with mushrooms, and many varieties of satay sticks. Finish off your meal with sweet milky Thai desserts. Watch out for those evenings when shows are put organized on small stages near to the piers.
If you want to chow down with a more local crowd there’s a market on Th Sukhon that operates day and night. If you’re an early bird, there’s an experience and a half to be had at South Thailand’s largest covered market on Maharaj Soi 9. Be ready to be upstanding for the National Anthem which rings out every morning at 8am.
Ruan Pae is an old-fashioned floating restaurant. The food isn’t the greatest here but the experience of watching the mist gather around the mangroves in the evening is worth the visit. Cover up or wear insect repellent or the mosquitoes will be enjoying their own feast –you.
Bamboo and wood inside and out, The Old West Bar is a Wild West–themed bar which booms music nightly and is one popular place for a tipple. There’s a lively scene most nights and the cocktail list is long enough to keep you sampling for a while.
Do note that tourism is still a seasonal activity in this region and during the quieter months some of the shops, restaurants and places of entertainment are closed.
When you’re looking for somewhere to stay, there’s plenty of choice. Krabi caters for every class of tourist and as you would expect boasts the usual range of hotels from 5-star luxury to budget hostels. The cheapest bungalows in the area are at Ton Sai, popular with backpackers and an easy walk from Rai Leh. Had Yao is the last untouched beach in the province, and has views of Jum Mountains and the cliff walls at Ao Nang. Ko Jum is also good for those seeking peace and quiet, as is Ko Lanta. For an up-market escape from crowds head to Klong Muang or stick to the old Krabi town for the authentic Thai experience.
Map of Krabi Province
Map of Krabi