Krabi s forgotten treasures

Krabi has some of Thailand’s most dramatic scenery

Krabi has some of Thailand’s most dramatic scenery

By Andrew Bond

No province in Thailand is more blessed with natural beauty than Krabi. It’s the home of the world famous Phi Phi islands, the stunning Railay Beach, unique Hong Island and lovely Koh Lanta. These are all on the water, yet the incredible karst topography stretches across miles of hinterland, offering plenty of other treasures that few foreign tourists ever get to.

Within an hour’s drive of Krabi Town or Ao Nang beach are national parks and extraordinary scenery which begs to be discovered by hired car or moped. For a day away from the beach, make time in your itinerary for these gorgeous sites;

Tiger Cave Temple: this is one of the more popular inland attractions in Krabi which gets a steady stream of tourists. Most come to see the cave temple, rather than meditate, but few dare to climb the 1,200 steep stairs to the top of this karst pillar to find the chedi with the best views of any Buddhist site in Thailand. Climbing to the chedi is a great way to get an aerial view of the karst landscape. There are no tigers, but it is famous among Thais based on a personality cult of abbot Ajarn Jamnien. The grounds are surrounded by towering rainforest dipterocarps. It’s located northwest of Krabi Town; turn off the airport road. Minimal entrance charge.

Than Bokkharani National Park: is possibly one of the most delightful nature spots in the region, when it isn’t crowded with locals who like to come and bathe in the many ponds here. Sandwiched between two 50 foot cliffs, this grove consists of a series of pools that cascade into each other, with the water emerging from a mysterious looking cave at the rear. As a result of the limestone, the water is an aqua colour and the cascades calcified so they’re not slippery. A series of pathways and boardwalks meander among the ponds, streams and lush vegetation - certainly worth the 200 baht entrance fee, and with restaurants on hand. It’s great for kids in their swimsuits, but avoid the busy weekends. Turn off to Ao Luek after 40 minutes drive on the Pha Nga/Phuket main highway.

A must-see stop en-route between Phuket and Krabi

A must-see stop en-route between Phuket and Krabi

Tha Pom Mangrove boardwark: less seen by foreigners than Thais, who have been beating a path to this new attraction since it was featured in the Unseen Thailand travel series. A limestone spring flows through the mangrove among the hilly landscape to create two symbiotic eco-systems and an interesting crystal clear water course. A boardwalk takes you on a 500m tour of a real mangrove. This site is a bit tricky to find, though signposted as you drive away from Krabi towards Phuket - just follow the directions into the dense karst hills. Entrance is 100 baht.

Phanom Bencha National Park: one of the main national parks in Krabi and easily reachable just north of Krabi Town and Ao Nang. It comprises of 50km2 of virgin rainforest over a hilly landscape (up to 1,530m) and includes camping facilities, picnic spots, a couple of lofty waterfalls and some nature trails. Several species of native animals and lots of birds and reptiles can be spotted if you have an eagle eye. Entrance is 200 baht.

Crystal Lagoon: part of a much recommended tour that includes the Tiger Temple and hot springs/waterfall, this is a charming pool formed by the volcanic activity (hot springs) in the area, and offers a refreshing dip in its aqua coloured waters which are surrounded by mangrove and forest vegetation. The rocks form a natural pool and it’s an ideal lunch stop when travelling around the nearby sites in the heat of the day. Turn off at Klong Thom, 30 minutes drive south of Krabi heading towards Koh Lanta. Entrance is 100 baht.

Hot stream waterfall: one of many hot springs in the region, but with a difference. This particular hot water pool comes with a natural waterfall for an added difference, and is set in a lovely environment of gushing water and forest. It’s also featured in the Unseen Thailand series so expect to find lots of Thai tourists here. Located on the same turnoff as the Crystal Lagoon. Entrance is 100 baht.

Caving: with so many limestone karst pillars scattered across Krabi province, it’s not surprising that there are endless caves to be explored. Most of the good ones are located among the really stark landscape found near Ao Luek and beyond in Pha Nga. It’s best to pick them out on a local tourist map. Even if you do get lost, it will be among some remarkable scenery. Forty minutes drive north, towards Pha Nga and Phuket, mostly free.

So you see, there’s a lot more to Krabi than its lovely beaches and seascapes.

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