The views of Koh Phi Phi Le were spectacular as our ferry departed the Ton Sai Bay pier. Looking back at the isthmus and curving Ao Ton Sai Bay on Phi Phi Don, where we had been staying, I felt sad to be leaving.
We arrived at the mainland on the peninsula of Krabi to a squabble of pushy taxi drivers chirping a chorus of ‘where you go?’ It turned out that the sign saying ‘free transfer with ferry ticket’ was a lie, but no matter. For 150 Baht each we climbed aboard a Thai minibus-equivalent with far too many people squeezed in the back. Luckily by virtue of being last to arrive we got to sit up front with the friendly driver. The drive was gorgeous, the breathtaking limestone karats dominating the inland skyline as well as they did on the islands. Any regrets I and for leaving Phi Phi were swept away by the hot wind rushing past my face as we drove through yet another page of paradise.
A remark. In Thailand, motorbikes are housed within the tuk-tuks; that is, they are all one unit. In Cambodia, the ‘remarks’ comprise two separate units: the motorbike, and the tuk-tuk trailer attachment. In Vietnam they’ve done away with the tuk nonsense and it’s all bikes and mopeds (very 80s).
We got dropped off and hauled our bags up a hill in Ao Nang in sweltering heat. Mercifully we found our hotel after enlisting the help and directions of a Scottish dive tour salesman we happened to past. The room was deluxe and luxurious – very comfortable. We also had access to a luxury swimming pool at Anantaburin Resort across town, which we used the following day. We showered and headed to the beach, which was stunning. Gigantic karsts stood their ground at either end bookmarking the beauty of the bay. I swam as the sun set and it was still wonderfully warm. The natural beauty of this lush tropical region is almost magical. The food is just as divine – we had fantastic Halal street food including seafood, crab, spring rolls and fried rice.
Disaster struck the next morning when the pancake stall lady was out of gas so we had to go to the bakery instead. We bought tickets to Railay Beach, further round the coast and inaccessible by land. We waited until there were enough passengers to fill a boat, then got driven down the road to the longboats under the bridge we had walked over the day before.
The boat ride was spectacular over gorgeous clear blue waters, passing magnificent limestone karats. The beach was gorgeous too but we had come in on the west beach and were excited to explore the other side of the peninsula. We walked around through jungle and under caves at the bottom of the karats. The stalactites were spectacular, formed from calcium carbonate reacting with the air. They grow at up to 3mm per year, if the water is particularly fast flowing.
The east beach was similar to the west beach so we ploughed on, electing not to climb the sheer cliff face by rope to the viewpoint on the advice of a rock climbing tour guide. We came out on to Pranang Beach in the southwest of the peninsula, perhaps the most spectacular mainland beach yet. Not only was there a limestone cliff on the edge of the pristine sand and utopian blue clear waters, but a karst stood proudly from the waters just feet from the shore connected by a spit of sand shallow enough to traverse by foot should you wish.
Longtail boats bobbed harmoniously on the shoreline foreground with the iconic karst behind, creating the perfect Thai paradise postcard shot. We swam, sunbathed, drew in the sand and bought food from a cafe on a longtail boat. Idyllic doesn’t even cover it.
Monkeys roamed the area by the bins by late afternoon and having heard of the girl in Vietnam’s monkey bite, we were a bit trepidatious of getting too close to the bins they are notoriously territorial of. Our longtail boat driver took us back at 4pm and the return journey was just as glorious. Just another day in paradise…