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Krabi is a great place if you’re looking to dip your toe into southern Thailand’s beach scene without being overwhelmed, or you’re looking for the Phuket experience without all the hype and bother.

Krabi town is not terribly exciting but has nice markets
Krabi town is not terribly exciting but has nice markets

I tend to mention Krabi and Ao Nang together because Krabi is the place you go to get to Ao Nang. Krabi is the jumping off point, the service town, the nearest airport. Ao Nang is the laid back beach town, gateway to the Ko Phi Phi island group and nearby dive spots. They kind of go together for most travellers.

The wharf at Krabi is a great spot to eat after dark
The wharf at Krabi is a great spot to eat after dark

The main attraction of Krabi/Ao Nang area is the stunning coastal scenery which easily compares with Ha Long Bay in Vietnam and Yangshuo in south-west China, except that here you can often find secluded little beaches and have them all to yourselves.

Krabi town

One of the great things about Krabi is that you can pick up your Thai souvenirs and gifts here much cheaper than almost anywhere else in southern Thailand. And the food and drink in Krabi is cheaper than most as well. There is a market in the town centre on weekends from 5-10pm where you can hunt down some bargains (and it has a good “food court” too), or get yourself out to the Tesco Lotus or the Big C shopping centres for bargain department store shopping (also with good food halls).The city of Krabi itself hardly rates the title, with a population of less than 20,000 people. It doesn’t have any beaches of its own, but it’s still worth spending a day to explore before you head off to enjoy the beach resorts nearby. It’s also the way most people arrive in the area, either by bus from Bangkok or via Krabi airport (from Bangkok or even direct from Malaysia on Air Asia or Singapore on Tiger Airways) . If you’re arriving by plane, the town is just 10 minutes from the airport so the fare is about 200B into the town centre, or 1000B directly to Ao Nang. Many hotels in Krabi also offer a pickup service at the airport. If you come in on the bus, the drop-off point is close to the centre of town.

But the real action in Krabi is by the riverside after the sun goes down. Although it’s a little expensive in parts, the riverside market has some fantastic art and crafts to buy and some fantastic places to eat … I highly recommend the banana roti for dessert.

There is also a covered market each morning on Maharat Soi 10 if you’re an early riser (it’s pretty much all over by 8AM) which has lots of fresh fruit and vegies and local delicacies like sticky rice.

And in the evenings, if you walk in the opposite direction from the riverside markets there’s a lovely little Muslim eating area down at the riverside park where you can get great curries and noodle dishes and extremely friendly service (but not much English) at very cheap prices. They don’t get a lot of tourists there (at least not westerners, anyway). It’s pretty basic, but we love it. No alcohol here, but there’s a couple of bars nearby if you really want a drink.

Krabi River Hotel

When in Krabi, we stay at the Krabi River Hotel, which is right on the river front near the main pier. It’s quite small with only about a dozen or so rooms but very nice and very friendly too.

Rooms at Krabi River Hotel are large and very comfortable
Rooms at Krabi River Hotel are large and very comfortable

If you can manage to get into one of the riverside rooms, they are very flash and have a great view of the river. They can be a little noisy at times with the long-tail boats zinging past, but you get used to that. I really love the huge bed and the huge bathroom, and I don’t mind the cable TV either.

I am led to believe some of the rooms toward the front of the hotel can be a bit pokey and horrible, so maybe ask to see your room before you hand over your money.

The hotel has a nice “cocktail lounge” on the river side with a “self serve” drinks fridge  where you can enjoy a quiet (and very cheap) drink, chat to other travellers, catch up on your blogging or email, or just relax and read one of the many books or travel guides left by previous guests.

The owner, Somchai, can organise almost anything for you and will even drive you to the airport when you leave. For about 1000 Bt per night including breakfast, it’s a great place.

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10 things to see and do in Krabi