Hello and welcome, my last week in South East Asia and I had decided to head south from Kancharaburi to try and top up my tan ready for Australia.
My first choice was to take a train from Kancharaburi to Bangkok (100 baht) and then switch stations by Taxi, Tuk Tuk (400 Baht ) and then catch the sleeper train and minivan to Krabi which is a good base to head off from to the different beaches - Just one problem I had decided to do this at the same time the world and it's uncle were heading south to the Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan and there were no sleeper berths to be had for love or money, and I tried both, until a week later - so make sure you book well in advance if you want to do this.
My only option was fork out 500 Baht for a minivan seat, purchased to take me direct to Don Muang Airport, Bangkok, where a return ticket with Air Asia set me back 80 pounds UK return, a bargain?
The minivan turned up on time and after a pick up of 11 other passengers with their luggage, a cramped mini van headed off to Bangkok and dropped me off at Bangkok airport 90 minutes before my flight was due to take off - perfect except for one thing - I was dropped off at Suvarnabhumi Airport on the wrong side of Bangkok !!!!!!
So no panic, (believe that and you will believe anything) a mad dash to the taxi rank and hardly any bargaining on my part resulted in a promise of 600 baht if we got there in time and nothing if we didn't.
We made it with 35 minutes to spare and I made the flight which was on time and deposited me in Krabi at about 7 pm.
Now a lot of people think that if you want the beach at Krabi you go to Krabi - big mistake - having already done my research, don't pay the 600 baht for a taxi - catch a minibus to Ao Nang Beach, Krabi for 150 Baht which dropped me at the top of the road to my Hostel called Hostel GLUR which at 500 Baht a night is a little expensive for a hostel but is one of the best hostels I have stayed at for facilities and I believe there are specials available via certain sites like Agoda and Hostelbookers.
The hostel is about a 15 minute walk to the Beach at Ao Nang and a further 15 minutes will bring you to another beach equally as good called Noparathara Beach where if you like you can wade across to a small island with powder white sand and swim and snorkel in almost seclusion.
A hostel is a great place to meet people who have been to places you intend to visit or will tell you about places you haven't heard of and end up visiting because of them and on this occasion it was no different - I met a great bunch of people over seven days Stuart and his girlfriend Roxanne from Bedfordshire, Nico from Finland, Klaus from Germany, Marcus from Canada, Grant from California, Nastya from Siberia, AJ from Coventry, Ami from London, Julia from Edinburgh and Klaudia from Hungry to name but a few and they all contributed to my enjoyment of the area.
A motor scooter is a great way to explore and down in the south is no different although a lot of the beaches can only be accessed from the sea via a speedboat or a long tail boat and trips can be arranged via hotels hostels or direct from Ao Nang Pier.
If you get a motor scooter (200 Baht for 24 hours) there are some great places to visit such as "Emerald Lake" about 40 kms away and a beautiful swimming lake in a wildlife forest entry 200 baht or The Tiger Cave is nearer about 20 kms away with a cave a pagoda and another under construction with the ultimate challenge, a climb of 1,327 steps carved into a mountain to the top where there is a temple complete with Buddha and unqualified thanks to Ami who pushed, pulled, cajoled and enticed me to the top without whom I would never have made it.
Full moon celebration in Ao Nang was a mite lower key than Koh Phangang but Loi Kratong to give it the official title was celebrated here with a speech and ceremony from the local mayor, fireworks and traditional Siam dancing all on the beachfront with the traditional sending off of flower wreaths and fire lanterns.
After the ceremony and celebrations a group of us went to eat and at a place on the beach called "The Last Fisherman" we enjoyed a Fire Dance Show which is very impressive with guys wizzing flaming objects around in the air and all over their bodies - not for the squeamish.
Lucky for us the full moon was also the occasion of the lunar eclipse where the moon is like a giant eye starring down with no stars in view just the planet Jupiter beside it and due to some sort of ice blanket in the stratosphere it was accentuated and I will post pictures as it is an amazing sight.
Ao Nang beach as I have stated is a very safe and picturesque beach however it holds a secret few take the trouble to find - if you walk past all the massage shops to the cliff face you will find a wooden trellis that heads up and into the jungle - follow this and it will wind around the side of the cliff where monkeys abound and you will come out on the beach of a private hotel that is quite secluded and you are allowed to use without payment.
One trip that is available from Ao Nang Pier is a 200 Baht return to Rai lay Beach Island which is one of the safest and most picturesque of the local Islands and from the west beach there is a track through to the east beach and onwards past past spooky cave, Diamond Cave and Rai lay Cabana Resort to The Ewok Village at Tonsai Bay a beautiful beach and great sorkeling.
There are many various bars and Restaurants along the main road to the Beach with varied menus offering Thai, Indian, Italian and seafood some expensive compared with Thai prices at about 1000 Baht -20 pound Uk for two without alcohol one of which is called Thailandia.
Others will provide a meal for two for as little as 200 Baht 4 pounds UK so all budgets can be catered for - any cocktail will set you back the princely sum of 100 Baht 2 pounds UK and a large bottle of Chang Beer should cost no more than 90 Baht
As I have mentioned there are numerous boat trips that can be arranged from Ao Nang Pier to various groups of Islands and one day I and Grant one of my hostel mates managed to get together with 5 complete strangers two Spanish Couples and a Russian girl from Siberia and pooling our money hired a long Tail boat for the day for 2800 Baht - 400 each = 8 pounds UK.
On top of this we paid 50 baht each to hire a snorkel and mask for the day and set off to a group of Islands which included Hong Island, a national park, Hong Lagoon, Rai Island, Pakbia Island and Lading Island where we were not restricted by time as you would be on a scheduled trip and were able to spend as much time as we liked on each Island snorkelling swimming and sunbathing.
The Islands are quite beautiful and it is definitely something I would recommend.
Krabi is renowned for it's dive schools and Rock climbing schools and both can be found in and around the area as well as Bouts of Mai Thai - shooting ranges and Golf all catered for in the area.
Like everywhere in Thailand there is a red light area frequented by the infamous lady boys but this is restricted to three roads set back from the main road and away from the centre so not to encroach onto a good evening shopping parade intermingled with the bars and eateries.
The Islands are beautiful and I would have no hesitation in recommending Krabi as a base to set out to see the islands - if I had been here longer Koh Phi Phi (600 baht) and Koh Lantra (300 baht) would have been high on my list to visit but unfortunately my time in South East Asia is coming to an end and tomorrow morning on the king of Thailands Birthday at 10 am I shall be boarding a bus to start a journey that will take me via Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur to Western Australia and the City of Perth.
I will be sorry to leave South East Asia but I will take with me some fabulous memories and names and e-mail addresses of people I have been lucky enough to meet and share my travels with so far so until next week when I hope to be in touch with you from the land of Sheilas and cold ones so throw another shrimp on the barbie blue I'm on my way.