KRABI AND THE ISLANDS, OFFBEAT TEMPLES AND BEACHES NEAR IT

KRABI

KRABI (180 kilometers from Phuket) is where the limestone formation theme is manifested on land. There isn't much in the town of Krabi other than a pleasant river front and a tidal river lined by mangroves. To the east of this town there is a beautiful 20 mile section of road that winds through an amazing array of fantastic vegetation-covered rocks. Krabi’s Au Nang and Raily Bay are centers for trill seekers and adventure tourists,

Krabi province embraces labyrinthine archipelagos with more than 130 islands, secluded beaches only accessible by colorfully adorned long tail boats and a myriad of bays and coves have sheltered pirates, merchants, and sea gypsies for thousands of years and archaeological evidence indicates that Krabi was originally inhabited as early as 25,000 - 35,000 years ago! Attractions include hot springs, a wildlife sanctuary, sea caves, flourishing coral reefs and exotic marine life, limestone cliffs that draw rock climbing enthusiasts from around the world, and national parks that include the island paradises of Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta.

Few tourists spend time in the Krabi town, which has its share of cozy cafes and inexpensive restaurants. Authentic Thai cuisine is also served at an outdoor, riverside evening market. . “Town” to most visitors is Ao Nang, a seaside strip of guesthouses, hotels, bars, restaurants, and souvenir shops that continues to grow as tourist arrivals increase, now spreading north into Noppharat Thara, whose quiet, shady beach is part of the national park that includes the Phi Phi Islands. Ao Nang is the major launching point for boat trips to nearby islands and the isolated beaches of Phra Nang Cape, where the famous former hippie enclave of Railey Beach is located.

Tourist Office and Website: Tourism Authority of Thailand , Krabi Office, Maharat Road , Amphoe Mueang, Krabi 81000, Tel. +66 7562 2163, +66 7561 2811 - 2, Fax. +66 7562 2164. E-mail Address: tatkrabi@tat.or.th, Website: www.tourismthailand.org/krabi . Accommodation: Krabi Town has a number of budget and mid range hotels while Ao Nang Beach has a wide selection of accommodation options from budget guesthouses to boutique bungalows and spa-resorts both along the sea and on the hillside overlooking the nearby islands. The spectacular Ao Nang Cape, where Railey Beach is located, features budget bungalows for backpackers, a variety of mid-range hotels and resorts, and one of the finest retreats in Thailand, the Rayavadee Resort. Visitors are advised to make early reservations (up to a year in advance) for accommodation during the peak season from late December to early January because of the popularity of the Krabi and its attractions.

KRABI TRANSPORTATION

Getting Around in Krabi: By Bus: From Krabi Bus Terminal, located in Talat Kao, buses arrive and depart between 6.00am and 5.00pm Local red buses into and around Krabi town costs 10 baht per ride. For travel to Ao Nang and Haad Noppharat Thara, local white buses leave from Maharat Road in Krabi town and cost 20 baht per journey. An air conditioned Airport Bus service connects the airport to Krabi town and Ao Nang for approximately 90 and150 baht respectively. Tuk tuks can be chartered for trips around Krabi town and Ao Nang for flat rates that should be negotiated and agreed upon prior to travel.

Songtaew rides from Krabi town to the Krabi Bus Terminal cost around 10 baht per person. From Krabi Town most Songtaews hang out in front of the 7-11 on Maharat Road. Destinations and approximate fares include Ao Leuk (20 baht), Ao Nam Mao (40 baht), Ao Nang (20 baht), Haad Noppharat Thara (20 baht) and Su San Hoi-Shell Cemetery (40 baht). In Ao Nang songtaews travel up and down the beach road and passengers can get on and off at any point along the route for a fixed rate that should be agreed upon before climbing aboard.

Car and motorbike rental: It is possible to rent a car in Krabi Town or from Krabi Airport to travel around town and to nearby provinces. In addition to international car rental companies, such as National Car Rental and Budget Car Rental, several private agencies and guesthouses provide car and motorcycle rental for 800-1,200 baht/day and 150-250 baht/day respectively. Be aware that only Commercial First Class Insurance provides full coverage on rental cars (as opposed to limited personal or third party only insurance). Most international car rental agencies will offer this insurance (some only for those with a valid international driver’s license) while local companies may or may not. You may wish to request a copy of their insurance policy and ensure that it states "For Commercial Use". Regardless, inspect rental vehicles prior to rental and drive with caution, particularly as traffic in Thailand can be quite confusing, especially the habit of Thai motorcycles drivers to drive on the wrong side of the road. Be sure to inspect motorbikes prior to rental and drive with extreme caution as rental motorbikes are not normally insured and accidents are frequent. Helmets are required by Thai law.

By Boat: Long-tailed boats depart regularly from Krabi’s Saphan Jao Fah Pier to East Railey Beach while boats from Ao Nang serve West Railey Beach with frequency. When traveling by ferry to islands around Krabi, it may be preferable to purchase only a one way ticket so that your trip can be more easily altered and you can more easily arrange your departure. By Taxi: Motorcycle taxis are available at Krabi airport and around Krabi town. Krabi Limousine has a desk inside the Krabi Airport and provides "limousine taxi" (using large air-conditioned sedans) transport to Krabi town for around 500 baht; Ao Nang for 800 baht; and Phuket for 2500 baht.Krabi.com offers taxi and minibus at more inexpensive rates but travelers must make a credit card deposit of 200 baht online.

Getting to Krabi: Both getting to and getting around in Krabi is quite easy. Visitors to Krabi may arrive by air, bus, car, or boat from destinations both north and south of Krabi, as well as from Phuket and Phang Nga provinces to the west of Krabi. Taxis, songtaews, and tuk-tuks are easily found in both Krabi town and Ao Nang and are reasonably priced for those who wish to explore the nearby attractions, though visitors may also rent cars, motorbikes, and even bicycles to tour the area on their own. The only way to get to Ao Nang Cape, including East and West Railey and Phra Nang Beach, is via boat from Krabi Town, Ao Nang, Koh Phi Phi, or Koh Lanta. There are no roads leading to or around Ao Nang Cape, which can only be explored by foot or kayak.

By Train: There is no train service to Krabi. The nearest train stations are in Surat Thani and Trang, where visitors can transfer to buses to Krabi. By Bus: There are both government run air-conditioned and non air-conditioned buses that connect Bangkok, Phuket, Phang Nga, Trang, Hat Yai, and Surat Thani (Samui) to Krabi Bus Terminal. The bus from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal to Krabi takes approximately 12 hours. In addition to these buses, many private bus companies and travel agencies provide air-conditioned buses or vans to and from Krabi and these other provinces. Bus-boat packages between Krabi and Koh Samui should take no more than three hours, though some unscrupulous private bus companies have made this a lengthy ordeal in order to rip off passengers and their stored baggage. There is a more reliable government run bus service between Krabi and Surat Thani which requires bus or tuk tuk transfer to or from the pier that services Koh Samui.

By Air: The Krabi International Airport (KBV) is about 10 kilometers from the city limits, 15 kilometers from the city center, and 40 kilometers from Ao Nang. Krabi is serviced by Thai Airways from Bangkok, Bangkok Airways from Koh Samui, and Thai AirAsia from both Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. There is a regular shuttle bus service between Krabi and Phuket airports, which are roughly 2 hours apart. Krabi Bus Terminal is located 4 kilometers north of town at Talat Kao. For schedules and additional information contact the Krabi Bus Terminal at (66) 0 7561 1804

SIGHTS NEAR KRABI

SIGHTS NEAR KRABI includes nearby Hua Galok Cave, with 5000-year-old cave paintings, and Lod Cave, which has a navigable stream that runs through it. At Klong Thom there are natural hot springs in the jungle. About ten miles outside of town is Fossil Shell beach, famous for its slabs of rock with 75-million-year-old fossilized seashells. Koh Hong and Koh Phak Bia are two islands with tidal chambers surrounded by steep cliffs where birds nests for soup are collected. Klog Muang, a new resort area north of Krabi has a number of five-star and boutique resorts, A short boat journey will take you to some some prime snorkeling and kayaking spots around Hong Island.

Wat Tham Seua (eight kilometers northeast of Krabi) is the most famous of southern Thailand’s forest temples. According to Lonely Planet: The main wíha(an (hall) is built into a long, shallow limestone cave. On either side of the cave, dozens of kùtì (monastic cells) are built into various cliffs and caves. You may see a troop of monkeys roaming the grounds. The most shocking thing about Wat Tham Seua is found in the large main cave. Alongside large portraits of Ajahn Jamnien Silasettho, the wat’s abbot who has allowed a rather obvious personality cult to develop around him, are close-up pictures of human entrails and internal organs, which are meant to remind guests of the impermanence of the body. Skulls and skeletons scattered around the grounds are meant to serve the same educational purpose.

Ajahn Jamnien, who is well known as a teacher of Vipassana (insight meditation) and Metta (loving kindness), is said to have been apprenticed at an early age to a blind lay priest and astrologer who practised folk medicine, and has been celibate his entire life. On the inside of his outer robe, and on an inner vest, hang scores of talismans presented to him by his followers – altogether they must weigh several kilograms, a weight Ajahn Jamnien bears to take on his followers’ karma. Many young women come to Wat Tham Seua to practise as eight-precept nuns.

The best part of the temple grounds can be found in a little valley behind the ridge where the bòt (central sanctuary) is located. Walk beyond the main temple building keeping the cliff on your left and you’ll come to a pair of steep stairways. The first leads to a truly arduous climb of over 1200 steps – some of them extremely steep – to the top of a 600m karst peak. The fit and fearless will be rewarded with a Buddha statue, a gilded stupa and great views of the surrounding area; on a clear day you can see well out to sea.

The second stairway, next to a large statue of Kuan Yin (the Mahayana Buddhist Goddess of Mercy), leads over a gap in the ridge and into a valley of tall trees and limestone caves. Enter the caves on your left and look for light switches on the walls – the network of caves is wired so that you can light your way, chamber by chamber, through the labyrinth until you rejoin the path on the other side. If you go to the temple, please dress modestly: pants down to the ankles, shirts covering the shoulders and nothing too tight. Travellers in beachwear at Thai temples don’t realise how offensive they are and how embarrassed they should be

Tha Pom (30 kilometers from Krabi) is a unique stream with of two currents. The special feature of this two-current stream occurs from the 12th day of waxing moon to the 5th day of waning moon when there is a massive influx of seawater into Tha Pom and waterways. It is a natural phenomenon known among locals as Nam Yai. It mixes with freshwater in the stream resulting in a light blue color of brackish water that remains muddy for not too long. After the tide of seawater drops, the clear freshwater flows in. Such clarity is due to its origin from limestone mountains full of Calcium Carbonate which potentially precipitates sediments. Once the water flows through the limestone, this chemical substance dissolves and causes a sedimentation effect. Consequently, the water becomes so clear that fish and aquatic plants can be seen very easily.

This stream of two currents is located at Ban Nong Jik, Moo 2, Khao Khram sub district which is approximately thirty kilometers from Krabi. To get there, drive along state Highway no.4 (Krabi to Ao Luek) until you reach the 127th kilometer post. Then make a turn to Pa Pru – Tha Pom Road that heads to Ban Nong Jik. Once you pass Nong Jik temple, keep going towards the road’s end at the peat swamp forest of Tha Pom, the stream of two currents. The entrance to the nature study trail requires tourists to walk along the arranged wooden bridge. This peat swamp forest is open to tourists all year round. However, the best time to visit is during the lower tide season, as most details of aquatic life are visible, even when looking from the wooden bridge.

Saphan Yung Thermal Waterfalls originate from hot subterranean water that springs up in the woods. Then the current flows through a Zalacca forest down to Klong Saphan Yung and transforms into the thermal waterfalls. The whole region is covered by the relaxing atmosphere of pleasant shady forest. The waterfalls themselves are not that grand in size. The height is about three meters in three layers. However, the particularly special feature is the shallow basins that look quite similar to bathtubs in each waterfall layer. The sedimentary process of limestone in the hot water causes four to five basins of approximately 1 to 1.5 meters in depth. The water is comfortably warm with the temperature of 40-50 degrees Celsius. The pools are situated in the middle of a scrub forest and a channel of running water that bends along the geographical features. At some point, you may notice milky whirls and thick piles of limestone sedimentation, especially around the decelerated surface where the thermal water drains into Klong Thom, where they seem to cause small layers of waterfalls. The place is perfect of hot water bathing because it is surrounded by various kinds of plants in lush woods with a cool wind. On holidays, the locals often come here to enjoy the waterfalls. So if you prefer having a peaceful moment, arrange any weekday for a visit.

KHAO PHANOM BENCHA NATIONAL PARK

KHAO PHANOM BENCHA NATIONAL PARK (20 kilometers from Krabi) covers a total area of 31,325 rai and is Krabi’s only on land National Park. It offers pristine, lush forest with mountain ranges running north to south. Khao Phanom Bencha, the highest elevation of Krabi, stands at 1,397 meters above sea level. Its marvellous scenery is enhanced by streams, waterfalls, caves, and wild animals such as Asian tapir, Sumatran serow, Asiatic black bear, and Fishing cat. In addition to this, it boasts more than 218 species of birds such as eagles, hornbills, and woodpeckers.

Other attractions include: Namtok Huai To - Originating from Khao Phanom Bencha, this waterfall is composed of 5 cascades, each with its own name, such as Wang Sam Hap, Wang Chong Loi, Wang Doi Prong, Wang Thewada, and Wang Ton Phrio. Namtok Huai To eventually flows to Khlong Krabi Yai in Amphoe Mueang, Krabi. Namtok Huai Sade - Located some 300 meters from the park’s office, this waterfall is composed of 3 cascades with a crystal clear pool. It eventually flows to Khlong Ton and Khlong Krabi Yai.Trekking to the peak of the Khao Phanom Bencha is another highlight.

Two main hiking routes are available. First route: This route takes 4 days and 3 nights starting from Namtok Huai To, which is located 300 meters from the park’s office. Visitors climb 5 cascades and at the top walk further towards the stream. Take a left turn at the large dipterocarpus Yang tree and stay overnight at Khao Luk Chang. The next morning continue walking and stay overnight at Khuan Namkhang. Then, keep trekking towards the foot of Khao Phanom Bencha. The next day, visitors can trek to its peak and stay one more night.Second route: Commute by car towards Bang San Operational Base. This route is 60 kilometers and takes 3 days and 2 nights. Trekking starts by walking from the said base heading for Khao Phanom Bencha’s peak, which takes the whole day. Stay overnight. Proceed downhill the following day and stay at Khuan Namkhang. Trekking continues the next morning towards the park’s office. Either route, tourists will experience the beauty of flora and fauna, caves, cliffs, waterfalls, streams, sea of fog, panoramic view of Krabi, and cool weather all year- round.

Fees, Contact, Accommodation and Transport Info: Getting the necessary information beforehand is recommended. Rental tents are available (2 – 8 people) at a rate of baht 150 – 600/night. Alternatively, tourists may bring their own and pay a fee of baht 30/tent/night. Contact Khao Phanom Bencha National Park, P.O. Box 26, Amphoe Mueang, Krabi, 81000, Tel. 0 7662 9013, 08 9893 6455. In addition to this, contact the Department of National Park, Wild Life, and Flora, Tel. 0 2562 0760 or visit www.dnp.go.th, e-mail: phanombencha_np@yahoo.co.th.Admossion: Adult 100 bath Child 50 bathTo get there from the provincial town of Krabi, proceed along Phetchakasem Road for 1 kilometer towards Ban Talat Kao T-junction. Take a left turn onto the Talat Kao – Ban Huai To route. The total distance to the National Park is 20 kilometers.

BEACHES AND ISLANDS NEAR KRABI

Ao Nang (6 kilometers from Hat Noppharat Thara and 20 kilometers from the town of Krabi) is a large bay with scenic beaches and 83 small islands, Ao Nang has several famous beaches which include East Rai Le, West Rai Le and Tham Phra Nang (cave) which stretches to the foot of a prominent limestone range. A boat from Ao Nang Village can be hired for sightseeing excursions around Ao Nang, Hat Tham Phra Nang and Hat Nam Mao, all of which are only accessible by foot. Other offshore isles such as Ko Poda, Ko Kai, Ko Mo and Ko Thap, are popular destinations that can be reached by a rented boat from Ao Nang. An abundance of colorful coral reefs and lovely cartoon fishes make these islands ideal for diving and snorkeling.

Mu Koh Hong is one of the most striking and noteworthy unique rock formations. About 12 islets lay in line vertically stretching from the north to the south of Phang-nga and the Krabi sea. Amongst the numerous islands of the area, one large island seems to be constantly filled with travellers. The island has only a few beaches but offers plenty of room for travellers to set off on their kayaks, as they embark upon a sea adventure they will never forget with majestic limestone rocks as their backdrop. The place to be is a large lagoon nestled amongst the embrace of the surrounding mountains. The mountains encircling the lagoon are what gave this island its name, "Hong", (which translates to "room" in Thai language).

Mu Koh Poda (south of Ao Nang, 8 kilometers offshore) is fringed by clear waters, and offers white sandy beaches, as well as, pristine coral reefs. This is why it is a year-round attraction and an excellent place for fishing because it is not affected so much by the monsoon. Raileh (half hour by water taxi from Krabi) is a lovely beach surrounded by spectacular limestone rock formations. Catering mainly to backpackers, it features thatch-roof cottages, snorkeling trips, kayaking tours and other activities can be enjoyed in the area. The area is particularly famous among rock climber. The beach is beautiful at high tide but it becomes a mud flat at low tide.

Phra Nang Beach (accessible from Krabi and Phuket) features two main caverns, cave-lined hiking areas, rock climbing cliffs and a jungle of virgin coconut trees. There are gibbons, monitrr lizards and a wide variety of birds and butterflies in the trees. Offshore are two islands that have been dubbed the Happy Isles. At low tide one can wander through the water to hidden beaches and sea caves. By climbing into the Tham Phranang you can reach a large salt water lagoon., the Sra Phranang, which surges twice a day. There are also some good snorkeling and diving spots.

In the old days this was a favorite hiding place for pirates that raided ships that ventured into the nearby waters. Development is limited because the beach is surrounded by a national park. It is also a little difficult to get o. Even though it is located on a peninsula it is blocked by towering limestone formations and can be reached only by boat from Phuket or a minibus and launch from Krabi. Phra nang Beach doesn’t attract as many backpackers as other areas and many “Please be Quiet” signs are prominently posted. Some have described the place as a paradise,

KOH LANTA

KOH LANTA (70 kilometers south of Krabi) is a 25 kilometers -long island off the Andaman coast of Thailand, south of Phuket and Krabi. Renowned for its long beaches, quiet seclusion, and natural beauty both above and below the water, Koh Lanta is a beach lover’s and scuba diver’s paradise. Koh Lanta features a pair of large islands so close to the Thai mainland that it not inconceivable that bridges will someday be built to connect them to each other and to the mainland.

Koh Lanta is an island province consisting of 52 islands. Technically a group of islands including the two largest, Koh Lanta Noi and Koh Lanta Yai, Koh Lanta is technically the name of an administrative district in Krabi Province, though when referring to Koh Lanta most people mean Koh Lanta Yai, where most of the nicest beaches and tourist attractions are located. The prime attractions on Koh Lanta are its long beaches, clear water, and laid back atmosphere. Even after a decade of development that has resulted in the construction of a few of the finest beach resorts in Thailand, the sheer size of Koh Lanta’s west coast ensures that there is plenty of space for visitors to enjoy a relaxing holiday even in the height of peak season in late December and early January. The west coast of Koh Lanta features nine beaches along its 25 kilometers shore, most which are great for swimming and ideal for long, romantic walks and sunset views. It’s a great place for a family vacation or a romantic escape.

The most developed areas of the island are on the northwest shore, particularly the beaches of Klong Dao and Long Beach (Phra Ae). These beaches feature the highest density of resorts and tourist services, though this is still a relative term as they are well distributed along the beach and up on the main road. Farther south the beaches become more secluded and the road terminates at a national marine park. In fact, beach hopping from north to south, either by rental car, motorbike, or long-tail boat is one of the great attractions of Koh Lanta. The island is also a scuba diver’s paradise as there are many coral reefs, limestone outcrops, seamounts, pinnacles, and undersea caves around Koh Lanta and nearby islands. The main tourist office on Koh Lanta is located at Baan Saladan, where visitors arriving via car-ferry or boat first arrive. Baan Saladan has the highest concentration of banks, dive shops, markets, medical clinics, and motorbike rental services. Koh Lanta’s post office is located in the east coast of Koh Lanta, in Baan Koh Lanta (Lanta Old Town), which serves as the islands capital.

Koh Lanta is an island province consisting of 52 islands. Koh Lanta Yai, the largest of the islands, is located approximately 70 kilometers from Krabi town and can be visited either by car-ferry from the mainland or boat from Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, or Phuket. Koh Lanta Yai is 6 kilometers wide and over 25 kilometers long, featuring nine golden sand beaches and a diverse terrain, including mangroves, waterfalls, and forested hills. A paved road runs from the north to the south of the island, parallel to the coast, and provides access to the headquarters of the Mu Koh Lanta National Park and the lighthouse on the southern tip. Just south of Koh Lanta Yai lay the islands of Koh Ngai, Koh Kradan and Koh Muk, all of which offer equally stunning beaches and snorkeling and even greater seclusion. The smaller islands in and around Mu Koh Lanta National Park, including Koh Ma, Koh Hai, Koh Rok, Kong Hin Daeng - Kong Hin Muang, and Koh Haa, are typically closed during the monsoon season from May through October.

TRANG

TRANG (south of Krabi) is the jumping off point for the Andaman Islands and trips to jungles of southern Thailand. Located on the Trang River, it was once the main port of the west coast until floods caused it the coast and the ocean to 50 kilometers away. There are more 20 waterfalls near Trang, including 880-foot-high Tonteh falls, about 50 kilometers outside the city. To get to the nearby islands you generally tale a pick up truck to Chao Mai Beach and catch a boat there.

Trang Province lies in a coastal area with a long, beautiful shoreline that stretches 199 kilometers along the Andaman Sea. In addition, the province has two major rivers flowing through it, the Trang River, which originates in the Khao Luang Mountain Range, and Maenam Palian, which flows from the Banthat Mountain Range. Despite the fact that Trang City plays a key role in facilitating trade to Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand's southern commercial hub, Trang is a province infrequently visited by tourists. It was only recently that Trang has been poised to establish itself on the international travel map.Trang has geographical advantages similar to that of Krabi and Phang Nga. This includes striking karst formations, breathtaking islands and beaches along the coast as well as awe-inspiring inland limestone mountains. Trang has both mainland beaches and a whole string of offshore islands; the province features an archipelago in the Andaman Sea consisting of more than 46 islands. Visitors interested in light-adventure activities can cruise the coastal waters and visit notable sights, such as the enchanting Emerald Cave. Additional attractions include the nearby Mu Koh Petra National Park, where idyllic beaches and islands are perfect places to enjoy the warm, clear waters of the Andaman Sea. Some of the dive sites in the National Park are world-class. There are also wildlife sanctuaries such as Namtok Khao Chong and Khlong Lamchan Park where waterfalls, nature trails, and caves are awaiting exploration. For those looking for a relaxed, tranquil ambience, Trang is a perfect place to unwind amidst stunning scenery.

The waters off Trang have also become a refuge of the threatened dugong, the “sea cow” cousin of the manatee. Koh Libong is one of the best places to spot these docile sea mammals which have become the unofficial symbol of Trang.Trang city, the provincial capital, is a centuries-old seaport with a multicultural population of Thai, Malay, and Hokkien Chinese residents, a mixture that is best appreciated while dining on the local cuisine or mingling with the locals at a local coffee shop. The best time to visit Trang is between December and May. High and low seasons aren't clearly defined; some resorts are closed into the early high season (mid-November), while others start charging high season rates as early as October.

Tourist Office and Website: Tourism Authority of Thailand , Trang Office, 199/2 Wisetkul Road, Amphoe Mueang, Trang 92000, Tel. +66 7521 5867 , +66 7521 1058 , +66 7521 1085, Fax. +66 7521 5868, E-mail Address: tattrang@tat.or.th, Website: http://www.tourismthailand.org/trang . Accommodation: Despite its low profile on the international tourist scene, Trang is a popular destination for Thais looking for a relaxing beach holiday. Consequently, resorts and hotels are often filled during long holiday weekends and at many times throughout the high season. If you are planning to visit during one of these periods, try to book in advance. Alternatively, in the low season many resorts and hotels close for the season because so few Thais travel to the area during that time. Again, its best to book in advance, though there are offices for many resorts in Trang city so it is typically possible to book a room there before heading to a beach or island that may either be full or shut down for several months.Most accommodation in Trang city is found near the train station and along Rama IV Road, most of which is mid-range hotels with some variation in quality, though there are a few guesthouses that provide a homier atmosphere. By Air: Nok Air has daily direct flights between Bangkok and Trang Province; traveling times is 1.10 hours. For more information, call 1318 or 0 2900 9955 or visit the airline’s website at www.nokair.com

TRANG TRANSPORTATION

Getting to Trang: As a former port city of historical importance, Trang is well connected to both destinations north and south. You can arrive in Trang via boat, bus, train, car, or if you are traveling from Bangkok, by air. Once in Trang it is easy to explore the province by bus or minivan and there are regular boats to most islands that run more frequently in the high season. By Train: From Bangkok: Rapid and express trains depart from Bangkok’s Hua Lumphong Railway Station to Trang daily at 5.05pm and 6.20pm for the 15 hour, 870-kilometer journey. For more information, call 1690, 0 2223 7010, 0 2223 7020 or calling Trang Station at tel. 0 7521 8012, or visit www.railway.co.th

By Car: Route 1: From Bangkok, take Highway No. 4 (Bangkok-Chumphon) to Highway No. 41 (Surat Thani-Thung Song- Huai Yot-Trang). Total distance is 828 kilometers. Route 2: From Bangkok, take Highway No. 4 directly through Ranong, Phan Nga, and Krabi until you arrive in Trang. Total distance is 1,020 kilometers. Route 3: From Satun, take Highways No. 404 & 416 through Palian to Trang. Total distance is 140 kilometers. Route 4: From Hat Yai, take Highways No. 4 & 407 through Phatthalung to Trang. Total distance is 148 kilometers. Route 5: From Phuket, take Highways No. 4 & 402 through Phang Nga and Krabi to Trang. Total distance is 312 kilometers.

By Bus: From Bangkok: Air-conditioned buses depart from the Southern Bus Terminal in Bangkok to Trang every day. The trip takes 12 hours. For more information, please call 0 2435 1199-200 or Trang Bus Terminal at tel. 0 7521 8718 There are also regular buses to and from neighboring provinces: Hat Yai (ordinary bus), Satun (first class and ordinary buses), Krabi (first class and ordinary buses), Koh Lanta (first class bus), and Phuket (ordinary bus). Minivans leaving from various depots in Trang City link Trang to other major cities including Hat Yai (80 baht), Surat Thani (130 baht), Koh Lanta (120 baht), Hat Jao Mai (50 baht), Pak Meng (50 baht), and Sakao (25 baht).

Getting Around in Trang: By motorbike taxi and tuk tuk: The fare for motorcycle taxis around Trang City is between 10 and 20 baht, while the fare for tuk-tuks is approximately 15 baht. By Rental Motorbike: Motorbikes can be hired for around 150 to 300 baht per day from various shops around town, who will typically require you to leave your passport as a deposit. Be sure to inspect bikes prior to rental and drive with extreme caution as rental motorbikes are not normally insured and accidents are frequent. Helmets are required by Thai law.

By Bus or Minivan: To travel between the different districts within Trang, visitors can travel by bus, taxi, or minivan. There are four main terminals for traveling by bus and minivan in Trang: To go to the beaches in Sikao District, including Pak Meng Beach, Chang Lang Beach, and Ban Chao Mai, take a passenger van on Tha Klang Road opposite Tha Klaang Market. To go to Huay Yod, Rassada, or Tung Song take a passenger van from the church on Huay Yod Road near Thammarin Thana Hotel. To go to Tha Khao, Palian, Thung Yaaw, or Samran Beach take a van from Rassada Road near the sports stadium. To visit the old town in Kantang District, the passenger vans are located on Kantang Road near Trang Train Station.

By Boat to the islands: Trang has three piers that provide tourist boat service to the islands: Pak Meng Pier, Ban Chao Mai Pier, and Kuan Thung Kuu Pier. Pak Meng Pier is the most popular port, located on Pak Meng Beach, where boats depart regularly to all major islands and from which charters can be arranged to smaller islands. Ban Chao Mai and Kuan Tung Kuu Piers also have both regular and privately-for-hire boats.

ANDAMAN ISLANDS

ANDAMAN ISLANDS (accessible from Krabi and Trang) have become popular destinations in recent years among people who find Phuket and Phi Phi a little too overdeveloped. The islands have the same lovely beaches and limestone formations associated with the Krabi area and Phi Phi but are much quieter and relaxed. Forty-seven of islands lie within Hat Chao Mai National Park. Only a few are inhabited.

The best way to explore the Andaman Islands is to rent a boat for the day through one of the resorts on the islands or a travel agnecy in Trang. Prices start at around $12 a person depending on the size of the boat and how many people go along. Popular destinations include Tham Morakot (the Emerald Cave), which you can swim through, and Tham Chao Mai, a 100-foot-high cavern with prehistoric skeletal remains embedded in the limestone walls. Even if you don’t go anywhere in particular, the islands and karst scenery are stunning.

Ko Muk is the most accessible of the Andaman Islands. It covers 3½ square miles and can be reached by a one hour ferry from Kantang, Pak Meng or Hat Chao Mai, coastal towns near Trang. A couple of small resorts, with bungalows that go for between $10 and $20 a night are situated along Hat Sai Yao beach, a one-kilometer-long stretch of sand backed by dense jungle and craggy limestone cliffs. There are also some resident dugongs and a rare bird preserve. Nearby are some Muslim fishing villages. There is good snorkeling where the cliffs of the island drop into the sea.

Koh Muk (one hour ferry from Kantang, Pak Meng or Hat Chao Mai, coastal towns near Trang) is the most outstanding attraction in the Trang Sea. The island, which is nearly opposite Hat Chang Lang on the mainland, has impeccable beaches suitable for swimming and camping and lovely corals around the island that are worth exploring.In addition, The island is comprised of high and majestic cliffs facing the sea to the west, a fishing village on the east facing the mainland and swallows that make the numerous cliffs their home. To see real fishermens' daily activities, visit Ao Phangkha and the Muslim fishing village of Kua Laem, located at the southern end of the island. There is also Farang beach waiting for tourists to visit. Here you can also see other nearby islands and watch the sunset. To get to Ko Muk, tourists can take a boat from Pak Meng Pier in Amphoe Sikao for the 40-minute trip. The rental fee for the boat is approximately 1,500 bahts / day. Accommodations are available on the island.

Tham Morakot (Emerald Cave) (30 minutes by boat from Ko Muk) is hidden in the jungle, among the cliffs is the awesome Tham Morakot. The cave entrance is a small passage on the islands western side that is accessible by boat during low tide. Visitors have to swim to the entrance and discover a big chamber without a ceiling so the sunlight can shed inside this cave. The beauty that the visitors can witness inside the cave is white delicate sand with an emerald colored sea. The cave itself winds for about 80 meters to the other exit, opening onto a clean white beach with an emerald color open pool which is surrounded by high cliffs.

It takes around thirty minutes to travel from Kuan Toong Ku ferry landing to Koh Mook. The ferry will take visitors to the entrance of the cave where there is a small hollow that only small boats can enter during the ebb tide time. Tourists have to wear life vests and swim across to the other side of the cave which is 80 meters long. The tour guides have to check the daily ebb tide before bringing visitors inside. Morakot cave is compared to an emerald of the Andaman Sea.

Morakot cave is at Koh Mook, the third biggest island of the Trang Sea after Koh Libong and Koh Sukorn. This island is nine kilometers from Kuang Toong Ku ferry landing. There are two ferry landings to get to the island; Pak Meng and Kuan Toong Ku ferry landings. If tourists wish to hire a boat, they can hire a long-tailed one at Pak Meng ferry landing. On the other hand, tourists can also choose the ferry service at Tuan Koong Ku landing where there is a ferry service three times a day. It takes around thirty minutes to Sapanyao ferry landing at the entrance to Koh Mook. Visitors can also choose a one-day package tour

Talay Kao Kob Cave (near Trang) is situated in a limestone mountain which consists of many small caves, both explored and unexplored. Originally called Talay Kao Kob cave, Lay Kao Kob cave is considered one of the the most beautiful caves in Thailand because of not only the nature outside but also because of what is found inside the cave. The water is originally from Bantad Mountain and flows down to the cave which has a length of four kilometers.

The trip begins at the entrance office where are moored many paddle boats. Tourists can hire a boat with a guide at the center. One boat can contain six people. If the group has more than seven people, tourists will have to hire the whole barge.The journey through the cave is entirely by manpower, there are no motorized craft at all. The atmosphere inside each cave is quite beautiful. There is also electricity inside each cave so no flashlight is required.

The air inside is very clear not cramped like other caves in Thailand as there are seven entrances. There are many interesting caves in this area such as Kon Tun cave where there is a big area filled with many stalagmites with dewdrops on the edge which look like thousands of coffee straws attached on the ceiling. The dewdrops consisted of calcium carbonate which makes the stalagmites grow longer in each day. The cave is like the body of a dragon and as you get deeper inside the roof comes down lower and lower until visitors have to lie down whilst the boat continues through the caverns.

Other beautiful caves at Lay Kao Kob is Thong Pra Rong Cave and Rak Sai Cave which also have stalagmites that look like beautiful curtains hanging down from the ceiling. The cruising trip inside this cave will take around one to two hours. Even though a paddleboat is required for a trip to this cave, it is still convenient to visit. Apart from full serviced shops and restaurants at the entrance of the cave, there is also a tourist center managed by Kao Kob Sub district Administration Organization.

Lay Kao Kob Cave is located at Amphur Huay Yord Trang province. The cave is seven kilometers from the district office. Visitors can travel directly from the city of Trang using Highway 4 (Trang-Huayyord) passing Amphur Huayyord for around seven kilometers and passing the left intersection for around 700 meters and they will arrive at the cave. It is open for visits all year.

Chao Mai Beach National Park (near Trang) covers a vast area of land and is home to several interesting tourist attractions. Kradan Island is only twelve kilometers or approximately one hour away. The island is named after its oblong shape of five contiguous mountain ranges, and its clear water allows nature lovers to enjoy corals and sea fans. Chueak Island is made of two conjoining islands. It features complete coral reefs for shallow water diving.

Muk (or Mook) Island is another large island around the coastline of Trang surrounded by white sandy beaches and clear sea for tourists to enjoy. The cliff on the west is the hiding place of a mysteriously beautiful cave, known as Nam (water) cave or Morakot (emerald) cave. The entrance is so narrow that boats can pass through only when the tide is low. The thrilling sensation of the adventure along 80 kilometers of sinuous passage inside is replaced by excitement once you reach the other opening end of the cave, where natural beauties of emerald green seawater and white beach await visitors.

Chao Mai cave has a complex structure with multi levels of caverns. The lower ground is a vast cave chamber where there are stalactites and stalagmites stretching from floor to ceiling. To get to the upper level, just climb up the cliff to the right for about 100 meters, and admire the fossil of seashells covering the cave wall. In addition, there is a basin of cold water before the entrance to the inner cave. Thermal springs where the water is 70 degrees celsius and fuming bubbles send out light scent of sulphur. The surrounding area is designated a nature trail and is a more peaceful landscape.

Chao Mai beach stretches out and is suitable for camping and swimming in the finest quality of seawater. The view from the front part of the beach shows a neighbouring island called Libong, while at the back is a thick forest of pine trees. The coast of Chao Mai beach is also full of sea grass the food of Dugong (sea cows). Pak Meng is the name of a crescent-shaped beach. The first impression of this place is the massive rock in the middle of sea that is similar to a figure of a man lying on his back. On the north of this rock is Khao Meng or Meng Island. Here is a white, sandy and unspoilt beach with ranges of pine trees. When the tide is low, it reveals broad seashore, the habitat of leather donax clams.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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