Hitting the Beaches of Southern Thailand: Part I

by Brian Carroll on January 24, 2013

Post image for Hitting the Beaches of Southern Thailand: Part I Crystal-clear (warm) water. Soft sand. Unmatched diving and snorkeling opportunities. Partying to the wee hours of the morning. Fire dancing. Beautiful women (and men, if that's your thing). These are just some of the ways that one could describe the beaches and islands of Thailand. No matter your interest, there is likely a beach or island in Thailand to suit you, as the number of options at times seems limitless. Knowing that I didn't want to hit all the beach destinations in one visit (i.e. an excuse to return in the future) I chose to dedicate my time to a couple specific areas, starting with the town of Ao Nang.  Found in the Krabi province Ao Nang is a ten minute boat ride from a number of well-regarded beaches including Railay and Phra Nang beach. As a sidenote, one reason I decided to visit Southeast Asia in January & February was because this was one of the more temperate times of the year - basically the weather is warm but not uncomfortably hot or humid. Just as expected, the weather was absolutely perfect and if I had to find one thing to complain about, it'd be that the water was too warm. Yeah, I know, you can tell me to shut-up now... As for Ao Nang, here's some quick highlights from my stay around there:

That red arrow was coincidentally on the rock face...

1. What is unique to Ao Nang (and Railay Beach more specifically) are these humongous limestone cliffs that overlook the ocean. I had seen them in pictures leading up to my trip, and honestly they didn't seem that remarkable.  But among other things I've realized during my travels, seeing a site in person is the best judge of its true impressiveness. Anyways, because of these enormous limestone faces, the area is essentially known as a mecca for rock climbers. Essentially, rock climbers from all over the world come to this area to climb these rocks overlooking the ocean. Plus there are even spots here where climbers "free-climb" (i.e. no ropes) due to the fact that if they fall, they just land in the water. It's pretty wild!

A long row of longtails

2. This was my first time on the “long-tail” boats that are such iconic images within Thailand. Ao Nang and the nearby Railay and Phra Nang beaches are actually on the same piece of land, but to actually get to the latter beaches, one can only access them by boat. These longtails quickly became a common mode of transportation as I traveled among the islands in Thailand.  

Monkeys snatching some food

3. The best way I spent my days was relaxing on Railay and Phra Nang beaches. Both are beautiful and feature wild monkeys leaping from trees in the background. Pretty surreal to say the least. 4. I continued to find that the best way to eat (especially when traveling alone) is by food cart. Essentially, these carts are lined all over the streets offering a variety of freshly cooked thai dishes (pad thai, variations of fried rice, etc...) for $1-$3 max.

Ladyboys in action

5. For nightlife, your best bet is Ao Nang. It is not overwhelming, but there are enough bars and tourists to have a good time. During my time there, I actually met a couple other fellas originally from the US (Detroit, Chicago and one living in Japan) and we all went out to grab drinks. In our time there, I also had my first run-in with a group of “ladyboys.” After my intro to the beaches of Thailand, I hopped on another boat to the tourist-laden, movie-promoted (“The Beach) island known as Ko Phi Phi.

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