Getting Right Down To
My girlfriend immediately booked us
on a five islands boat tour. I'd love to tell you the
price if I could only remember it. Prices, as I recall,
were reasonable and kids went for a half price. What
I most certainly did not forget was, at the time, when we tried
to book a private boat so that just I, the girlfriend, and her
son could go on a tour of our own making, the prices quoted
bordered on fantasy fulfillment levels for the boatman. My
brother was in the Krabi area 14 months later, and by then,
maybe the boatmen had become entrepreneurial. He booked
his own private boat for less than the commercial
trips. Okay, he didn't get a mediocre lunch included.
You're not breaking new ground doing a five islands boat
tour in the Krabi area. Consider this akin to visiting
the Eiffel Tower when you're in Paris. It's just
something you do. You don't think about it,
debate it, wonder if it's touristy. You get your ass
to the tourist location and do what's expected.
Stop trying to think you're so deep!
The five-island tour, wherever you book it or whether you take a
longtail, big boat, or speedboast, will always run something like this.
You'll get picked up at your hotel between 8 and 8:30 AM and be at the
pier just before 9 AM. You'll stop in Pakbia Island, Lading
Island, and Hong Island. On Hong, you go swimming and snorkeling
and dine on a picnic lunch that won't redefine culinary taste. On Hong, you find out that the five
islands tour is really a three islands tour. The last two islands
aren't guaranteed. Rai Island is only accessible when the
tide is low. Daeng Island is a rock coming out of the seas
and can only be visited at low tide. If we saw either of those two
islands, I am now suffering from amnesia.
another day, we rented a car and drove out to the Khao Pra-Bang Khram
Wildlife Sanctuary, home to the Emerald Pool, an all natural 25 meter in
diameter pool. The color of the water changes depending upon the
temperature and bacteria in the water. It made for a wonderful day
trip. The Wildlife Sanctuary has some hot springs, also
naturally carved into stones, quite nearby, and we bathed here until the
Once we relocated to the Centara, we had free access to their kayaks and
spent an afternoon kayaking a fair distance along the coast to Railay
Beach West. Huge cliffs cut off Railay from any road access. You
can only get in here by boat transport. Check out
the map. Back in the 90's,
accommodation on Railay was as basic as it got. Today's
Railay has its fair share of up market resorts. We stopped at one
such higher clientele restaurant for a bite to eat and some beer and then
walked among the rocks for an hour or two. The beachline was
beautiful to be sure, and I can imagine how much more amazing Railay
must've felt to the Old Skool backpacking crowd before the masses
discovered it. As we kayaked back in the direction of Ao
Nang, we stopped at the end of the beach in a cove on the other side of
the towering rocks from Ao Nang. This beach seemed to still possess some
semblance of the feel that Railay had in spades in the
Nineties. With such pretty real estate and developer's infinite
lust to exploit every square meter of anything a tourist even smiles at,
Railway will probably one day be a forty-story shopping mall and cinema
This is one of those areas of Thailand that you can't
believe you're immersed in scenery that is typically reserved for postcards.
The rock formations give the landscapes an unworldly feel. Thailand has beautiful jungles and beaches,
but you can find jungles and beaches elsewhere that can play stand in for Thailand. I bet you didn't know that the
1957 film The Bridge On The River Kwai was really filmed in Sri Lanka. The
uniqueness of the Krabi rock formations alerts one
immediately that he's in Thailand. The picturesque
islands of Ko Phi Phi and Koh Lanta are only a few hours and
a public ferry away.
reality of the area, not seen in the postcard, is the expense.
The Ao Nang area stings with markups I've never experienced
anywhere else in Thailand. An example: I've gone to Swensen's ice cream parlors from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui to Hua
Hin to Bangkok, and the prices were always identical. The
Chiang Mai menu could be brought to Bangkok and no one would
know the difference. Not in Ao Nang. In Ao Nang,
Swensen's must have their their own menu printed up, marking everything up an
additional 25%. Away from Ao Nang towards the Emerald
Pool, we stopped at a Thai shopping mall, and there, the
Swensen's prices were back to normal. 7 11 prices are usually
standard, too, but not in Ao Nang. A product which
which typically retails for 14B costs 17B in Ao Nang.
Eating in Ao Nang will be twice as costly as eating in Krabi
So what's going on here? Are businesses raising
prices in the Ao Nang area just because they can? I don't
think that explains it. A ma & pa shop will pull this
stunt with regularity, but a 7 11? A Swensen's?
These nationwide businesses are known for their consistent
prices. Why alter those prices just for Ao Nang? If
tourism influx is the reason, anywhere that's well trodden with
tourists (Phuket, Samui, Chiang Mai) should have higher prices
at the chain stores, and they don't.
Doug's Republic's theory is the area's inaccessibility
from any major warehousing center. You would think
that an island like Koh Samui would be pricier at the chain
stores, yet it's not. Big boats can ship bulk
product to the island to keep the costs down, and once on
Koh Samui, every place is easily accessible.
Everything in Ao Nang and the surrounding beaches must be
brought in from Krabi but in smaller quantities.
If Ao Nang is considered relatively inaccessible, then Railay and Phrang Na are even more so, translating into even
higher prices. Bear that in mind before you come or
you may shed so many tears, you'll destroy the picture
perfect postcard reality you're supposed to be living.