Ao Nang Adventures
With its cornucopia of beaches, warm waters, and rocky islands smattering the horizon,
Ao Nang made me truly fall under the oft-cited spell of southern Thailand
The next stop on my Thailand tour around the Andaman Sea is Krabi, a province on the southern mainland of Thailand. It's a quick two-hour ferry from Phuket across calm waters dotted with small, lush, mountainous islands. While still in Patong, we booked a resort in Ao Nang, a beach city along Krabi's coast known for being a cool town and a great place to base yourself and explore the surrounding area. J2B resort looked great: individual bungalows, inexpensive, calm atmosphere, private beach, and it seemed central. When we got off the ferry and the taxi asked where we were staying, he and his friends threw back their heads and cackled when they heard the name. We thought this must be due to some kind of language/cultural barrier, but as soon as we turned on to the unpaved, rough, half-flooded road, we knew exactly why they laughed. While the beach is physically super close to the action, a long canal separates J2B from the rest of Ao Nang so if you follow the (poorly maintained) roads, it takes about 20 minutes and the taxis don't want to mess up their cars.
That aside, look at how gorgeous this resort is:
After coming from ultra-touristy Patong and the hordes of crowded streets and beaches that accompany it, J2B's secluded beach is exactly what I wanted. There's truly not more than five people at a time as far as you can see across the winding cove, and the sand is beautiful. It's like stepping onto a mound of powdered sugar sprinkled with soft pink and orange sea shells. Plus, there aren't many boats so it's quieter, cleaner, and the water less murky. Lounging here is really relaxing, and to get to the main town, we walk down the beach a bit and flag down a passing long boat to take us across the canal, sometimes for a small fee, sometimes for free if we can jump in with a tour group. The ride takes less than a minute.
On our first day, after settling in to the resort, we walked Ao Nang beach a couple kilometers down and grabbed a longboat to take us to Railay Beach. It's a pretty well-known cove beach accessible only by boat, as it's surrounded by exotically tall dramatic cliffs. We got there with a couple hours to enjoy the sun, warm water, and picturesque scenery. It's a relatively small beach and does get busy but never to the point where it's unpleasant; if you want it pretty much to yourself, get there before 9am, it seemed like the crowds came around 11 or 12.
At Railay, it's easy to feel so far away from the rest of the world. This thrill seems almost at odds with how the gentle waves and beating sun anchor you down into the sand where you can enjoy yourself.
We watched the sun slink its way around storm clouds and an obstacle course of islands until it finally slipped into the sea along the horizon.
On our longboat home, we barely had enough time to cram everything we had into a waterproof bag before it started to rain. Rain is an understatement- it poured. In a matter of minutes we were soaked to the point of dripping long after we found a place to eat and dunk out of the downpour. No taxi would take us like this, and when we got to the canal all the boats were docked for the night, so we swam across the canal. We were soaked anyway and had to get home, so why not? We surfaced on our beach exhilarated by our latest travel escapade, having to literally swim home because our resort was so secluded, but this soon lost its charm when we had to swim home the following night as well.
On a sunnier day, we returned to Railay to kayak around the coast. I've been sea kayaking once before in the bitterly cold and stormy sea around Ireland and did not have a pleasant experience so I had a sour taste in my mouth that quickly dissipated when Dain and I started rowing out. It was a little windy at times but not too hard to get to navigate through a few islands to get to Phra Nang Beach, another beach only accessible by water and home to caves carved out from where the cliffs meet the shoreline.
Kayaking was certainly a highlight of the Ao Nang trip and the opportunity to get some exercise and be out in the ocean was most welcomed. Plus, never hurts to get another spectacular beach or cave under your belt. Caves, beaches, and waterfalls are quickly becoming daily sights, and I can't say I mind that.
Surprisingly, the town of Ao Nang is built up but not over-the-top crowded or touristy. There are still plenty of cheap, delicious eats among the dozens of restaurants all blasting "Eye of the Tiger" over the stereo. It was a low-key beach town but there was also plenty to do, so I'm very happy Dain suggested we come.