Sunday, 3 May 2015

Making a decision; staying in Krabi, Ton Sai or Rai Leh?

Long before I could cross to Thailand (I was then in Malaysia volunteering) I was already dreaming with being back in Thailand. There is something in the air that creates certain addiction to all the things Thai.

My memory brought back moments of intense happiness experienced in Thailand; turquoise waters, little river villages and ruins full of history. Of course, as we all know, the years benefit that memories come back to us polished minus any dramas or challenges.

To bring a dose of reality here, Thailand is neither the country of smiles that is defined for nor is the cheap budget destination it used to be, however many good things about this fascinating country still remain and I feel happily trapped into this place that welcomes you mostly with a smile but slaps you often enough to keep you awake and alert.

Luckily for me, being from Spain I could get a whole month flying into the country (if we cross to Thailand by land we only get fifteen days). Sadly, Spain is not considered by international standards as a wealthy European  country.

I suppose Thailand thinks that we, poor Spanish, if we ever enter the land of the smiles, we would only eat one meal per day and sleep in hostels with fifteen other people, so they make it only a tiny bit more difficult for us to get in :(

If they just knew how much I have spent so far here they would open all the borders to all of us Spanish in a matter of seconds! I feel I’m contributing to the Thai economy big time since I got here L

Not defeated by this, I purchased my flight ticket with Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur and arrived safely into Krabi after a really short flight.

Many people suggest to not even spend a night there but I highly recommend that you do. It is a charming small town with a beautiful temple right in the center and several charming coffee shops spread around, where to sit just sipping coffee and seeing life passing by, disoriented backpackers and locals doing their stuff, not to mention a great food night market near the pier that takes place every day with great prices and meals to try in a super relaxed atmosphere.


In the town center you can take a red minivan (local town buses)to get to the Tiger Temple which is a really enjoyable visit as long as you don’t mind walking up more than 1000 steps,. I really recommend you to go and believe me, it's totally worth it once you get to the top.

Below is a pic of the temple located inside Krabi Town  

In Krabi airport you have a couple of ATM’s that work perfectly, get some cash to get you around.

From inside the airport they sell bus tickets to get you to town (the ticket is a fixed price of 90THB and drops you pretty much wherever you want in town. Also, from the airport you can purchase other transfers to Ao Nang, Phi Phi, etc…) Prices clearly will vary depending on the final destination.

First shock of arriving back to Thailand after 5 years is that no accommodation seems to offer anymore single rooms for 200THB and the cheapest I found was a nice GH with a great clean room and free WiFi for 250THB (he asked initially 300) but guess what? Walking around town I saw a couple of signs for rooms at 180 TBH…it was too late for me.
I stayed two nights in Krabi just because is a town with a good feeling and I like that and besides, there was a great vibe as the Songkram was still on in other parts of the region and many festivities were taking place. If locals were happy, I was happy.

Below is a pic of my room in Krabi. This Guest House was not too far away from the pier and cost me 250TBH per night but to be fair, I saw a couple of signs near Westerner coffee places advertising rooms for 150TBH. Alternatively, hostels can also be found in Krabi town.

For the first time, I decided that instead of taking day boats from Krabi to visit Rai Leh or other popular beach destinations near Krabi, I would actually stay in one of them.

Out of the two nearby and very famous beach spots to visit; Ton Sai and Rai Leh, I decided I would stay in Ton Sai, currently known as the budget destination out of the two of them and a paradise for rock climbers (NO, I’m not one of them but I would not let that stop you from staying in Tonsai and enjoying the fascinating rock sights falling deep into the Adaman Sea)

From Krabi I took one of the red minivans available at the town center to Ao Nang (50TBH). Once in Ao Nang, the driver dropped me near the “pier” (note that there is no pier in Ao Nang, Ton Sai or Lai Leh) and there is no pier to reach the boat, therefore you have to make your way to the boat by walking into the sea and then making acrobatics to get in or out of the boat while carrying your backpack.

TIP: wear sandals!!! And ideally short trousers, too.

The boat from Ao Nang to Ton Sai cost 100THB.

After struggling to get out of the boat and almost dropping my big backpack into the sea, not to mention getting my leggings completely get, I got to the beach and the boat continued onto the next beach, Rai Leh, just around the corner, to drop tourist visiting for a few hours.

I was the only one getting off in Ton Sai as most of the tourists prefer Rai Leh as it congregates better (more expensive) accommodation.

Better than describing the Ton Sai beach and the views you get from there, below you can see some pics I took during my time there that they visually describe the place much better than words.

The first thing you notice are the massive rocks around the beach. They are not only very big and tall, but incredibly beautiful and very rough, helping the landscape to create a stunning landscape hard to describe.
If you are standing in the Ton Sai beach with the sea on your back, you can walk to either end (on one side are the boat men sitting waiting for clients, on the other end you find a couple of restaurants)

Whichever end you choose, you will have to walk straight up the "street" to get to the area where the “cheap accommodation” (bungalows) are located (see pic on the left of the street you must walk up to reach the bungalows)

Once you get to the “street” (not a proper one, you get the idea) you will start seeing them, plenty of very rustic, simple bungalows and also many bars  and restaurants predominantly all built with wood and bamboo.

After checking a few bungalows, I decided to stay in the “Ya-Ya Resort” at 300THB per night. That is the cheapest price you will find for a single occupant. I was also very determined to find a bungalow built with cement because I saw enough "animals" in Langkawi  to scare me for a lifetime so I though with cement I would have more chances to see less of them and well, besides giant cockroaches at night on the wall and some small ones, I did no see anything else. Bless the mosquito net for the protection of not only mosquitoes...

Pics below of my accommodation in Tonsai


A few facts for you to be aware before you set food there:

There is only electricity from 6pm to 6am so put an alarm clock if you have to in order to rush to your room and charge everything that is chargeable!

All the big bottles of water (everywhere) cost 40THB in comparison with the standard 14THB that cost anywhere inland…

 A morning coffee anywhere will set you back 90TBH and if you want to go crazy and also have a basic breakfast of cereals and fruit, then prepare to pay about 130THB.

And that is for Ton Sai, which is known as the budget side of the area. I don't even want to know the prices in Rai Leh…I can only confirm for you that water keeps costing 40TBH in both beaches. 

I had dinner every night of my three days stay there for about 100-130THB per meal and given that it was way over my daily budget for meals, I decided to eliminate lunch for the remaining of my stay there. Nerveless to say that when I got back to Krabi, I head straight to the &-Eleven!

After noticing the massive cliffs everywhere, the next thing you notice are the rock climbers. They are EVERYWHERE; from all nationalities, ages and they all look so bloody fit…! It certainly makes you wonder what the hell are you doing there! I was praying to the sky that no one would start a conversation with me and ask me which rock I was going to climb the next day….haha

I tried to ignore them and console myself with “I’m a nature lover” and I can also enjoy being here without climbing!  The truth is, if you want to get into climbing, there are Climbing Schools also everywhere (both Ton Sai and Rai Leh); advance, beginner, very beginner…you name it.

For the less adventurous, in Rai Leh you can rent Kayaks to go around the cliffs and admire the beauty. Even though I did not do it, I have to say that it looked quite cool and I would recommended it based on the comments I heart and the landscapes I saw.

I know you are dying to know how can I cross from Ton Sai to Rai Leh and here's how:

You can and is very easy but there a few things to consider; the main one is the daily high and low tiles depending on the hours of the day and the time of the year, moon, etc... All of these determine big time the life of the locals and also the activities. Of course, the locals know exactly when the tiles are low and high and everything runs one way or the other based on which tide is on.

There are three ways to cross from Ton Sai to Rai Leh;

At low tide (in the afternoon, about 4pm in MARCH) you can walk around the rocky outcrop which separates both beaches but be very careful of the rocks. The beach floor in this area are absolutely full of very sharp rocks so don’t ever think to go barefoot!!!

At high tide (in the morning around 9-10am in MARCH) go to the other end of the Ton Sai beach (as if you are going to walk around the outcrop and then you will see a cord, follow the cord into the jungle and up and down the rocky outcrop to come out on the other side, which is the beach of Rai Leh.
Be careful as you may get wet given that the water will be high and maybe when you get to the other side in Rai Leh, the sea will cover the whole way up to your chest (it happened to me twice but it was fine, just hold your backpack if you carry one with your arms extender up and keep walking through the sea behind careful not to be scratched with the )

This is how the way up looks like and the view you get. Not bad, uh?


And the third that I did not try it myself, is walking through the jungle. Get back where all the bungalows are located in Ton Sai and walk up the street (not the main one) where all the restaurant located, look for the path and follow it.

As soon as you step in into Rai Leh, you will notice that the crowd is different, a little bit more polished than us backpackers, more tourist than travelers and a lot more families and couples.

Below if a pic from the Rai Leh beach

Rai Leh Beach


Rai Leh beach is really beautiful before the low tide arrives in the afternoon and it makes the sea to disappear for kilometers far away in the horizon. 

On the beach you will see the kayaks to rent and also the “Walking Street” that concentrates all the shops, restaurants and bars and is literally, as you can see by the pic below, just one walking street. LITERALLY.

And finally, for me, the Jewel of the Crown of the whole area and beaches, is to be found about 30 minutes walking from this beach and is the Phra Nang Beach where the Cave Diamond is located and also the famous cave called Phra Nans Shrine, which is adorned with many colorful penises made in wood….Weird but interesting! I found out that Thai women go there to increase their fertility) 

This is how beautiful this spot is!! Judge yourself…


This was indeed my favourite spot while in Ton Sai and I can't be blame for returning here every day! I mean, who wouldn't?!

This is the very particular cave...Phra Nans Shrine

Here are some pics for you to see how impressive are the low and high tides in this side of Krabi region. Very fascinating to see and it's also a pretty amazing sight to see how the sea can retrocede kilometers in just a few hours.

Here  below there are two pics of the same landscape; the first one with high tide at around 10am and the second one with low tide at around 4pm

And other pics with low tide...

I felt that three days were enough for me here given that I am not a climber and I was not tempted to become one. Once I decided that it was time to move on, I purchased a boat ticket to Koh Lanta for 500TBH in one of the agencies on the Ton Sai beach and I set off to my next destination.

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