Spotlight: Krabi Town (a splash of local Thai life)
In January 2023, I had a chance to visit Thailand and finally took it. My first time in an Asian country other than Japan; it surprised me how familiar and blending of other places it appeared to be, on the surface. At least initially in Bangkok, I felt some similarities to the feeling of walking around Los Angeles, as cars zipped by (though along with many more motorcycles and tuk-tuk's), taking Grab as if taking Uber ... yet able to jump on the BTS trains and have air-conditioning similar to a train in Osaka. People were up before the crack of dawn setting up their food stalls, somewhat like the Mexican taco trucks I'd see near North Hollywood Metro, but the smells of pandan leaf, river shrimp and coconut being a key difference. And temples in the skyline at certain points, along with towering skyscrapers interspersed throughout. And perhaps more Japanese restaurants in one area than I remember seeing in Japan: familiar and yet so much my first time in Thailand.
Yet I ramble - as the title suggests, this is about how I wanted to visit a bit of non-tourist Thailand. Not just the beautiful beaches, but also a slice into how locals may live. I may have seen a smaller slice of that at the floating river market (Khlong Bang Luang) in Bangkok, but got a much better feel during my time further south, the Krabi Town, the main town in the province of Krabi.
The first evening in Krabi Town, I had read about Koh Klang, an island with a traditional fishing community, and wanted to try a restaurant there listed on Google Maps as 'Krabi Koh Klang Seafood Restaurant on Farm'. After calling them and being told to wait for a longtail boat driver, a ten minute boat journey brought us dockside to the restaurant. The owner was very friendly, and had several fishing nets built into the floor that housed several type of fish. He even had stories of one he had been keeping for a long time, almost like a pet!
The dinner was excellent, though in hindsight perhaps before dusk would have been better for keeping bugs at bay, and seeing the sights - however it truly felt as if we were having dinner at the edge of wilderness and nature.
**Other places of interest visited included The Emerald Pool & Hot Stream, and climbing the steep stairs to the Tiger Cave Temple, all relatively easy to get to (the stairs weren't easy) with a car, but unfortunately I managed to get water damage in my phone, so don't have too many pictures from that section.**
After a few days visiting Koh Lanta, an island further south with more resort type amenities and activities, there were a few more days back in Krabi Town before heading back to Bangkok, and after briefly glimpsing the mangrove forests when initially visiting Koh Klang, decided to take a 'Mangrove Walk to the Khao Khanap Cliffs' (as listed on Google Maps), though in January 2023, this path ended with a view of the cliffs in the distance, but no way to actually walk there.
Returning from the walk, and meeting a longtail boat driver named Mitsu (nicknamed after his Mitsubishi motor), he agreed to bring us to the Khao Khanap Cliffs and Cave as well as show us some of the mangrove forest from his boat. Khao Khanap Nam (the two mountains) are regarded as the symbol of Krabi, and the caves inside have beautiful stalactites and stalagmites.
When going through the mangrove forest, at one point the water was so low the longtail boat had to turn around, but overall was a great time; Mitsu also was very good at spotting birds, lizards and crabs that were indigenous to the area. Great experience and thankful for his knowledge. On a later date we saw him walking around town having lunch as well!
From talking with the hotel reception staff, it was mentioned that a 'bus' could be taken to visit Ao Nang, and from there, a longtail boat ride away - Railay. The 'bus' was something I believe to be called a Songthaews, a type of converted pickup truck that can hold several people in the bed of the truck, which is covered and has railings to hold on to. It was relatively inexpensive at 50-100 Thai Baht and arrived in Ao Nang in roughly half an hour.
From Ao Nang, which felt much more designed for tourists, (I did have a nice drink in a coffee house with strong air conditioning and nice sandwiches), taking the only mode of transport, the longtail boat, but this time with breathtaking views of cliffs and islands ... we arrived at Railay Beach, and visited the Princess Cave and Phra Nang Cave Beach.
One moment I found interesting was when initially a bit confused which way to head, an resort employee driving a golf cart stopped to offer us a ride. Assuming they had mistaken us for guests at the resort, and also assuming they would want a monetary tip for the ride, I politely declined. Still, the employee seemed wanting to give the ride, so I gave in, and got out some money to tip at the end. They seemed genuinely surprised by this, and perhaps even a bit offended. After awkwardly putting my money back, I found it hard to accept that someone would do something out of kindness, and not for monetary gain. Truly, it did make me think about what I put value towards, and how I act in life as well.
After also visiting DIamond Cave (Phra Nang Nai), seeing monkeys walking alongside, and grabbing a great bowl of noodles and a coconut at Railay Beach Cafe & Noodles, took the longtail back, walked a bit more in the hot sun back in Ao Nang, then returned by Songthaews to Krabi Town to finish off our final day in Krabi. I hope to return one day to visit further, and to see how the area has changed.