The aquamarine waters lapped on the ivory white sandy shore. The leaves of the lone tamarind tree rustled in the gentle breeze that wafted down from the heights of the coconut palms lining the beach.
The enchanting blue sky sprinkled with magnificent clouds and the horizon lined with silhouettes of distant limestone cliffs completed the picture of tranquility on Phi Phi Island in Krabi Province, located along the Andaman coast in southern Thailand.
Two suitcases with airline tags and left under the tamarind tree on one side and tourists relaxing on lounge chairs in the shade of canary yellow parasols on the other summed up the essence of Krabi, one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Enchanting land and seascapes, world-class diving amenities, national parks and eco-tours are among the attractions of Krabi, located on the south-west coast of Thailand and 800km from the capital, Bangkok. A population of less than 400,000 in an area of almost 5,000sq km means there is plenty of pristine land.
The popular family destination has now become closer to Qatar residents, with the new four times weekly service launched earlier this month by Qatar Airways. It is a non-stop, six-and-a-half hour flight to Krabi from Doha. Krabi international airport is just a 15-minute drive from Krabi town.
Crystal clear water which allows you to see a long way into the sea, well-maintained beaches and majestic limestone cliffs dot the 160km long coastline, create stunning picture postcard views of the tropical islands.
A paradise for sun-seeking, adventure-bound travellers from across the world, Krabi is now one of Thailand’s top tourism destinations. Any visitor should take a tour of at least a few of the nearly 200 islands along the coastline. Many are small rocky outcrops that rise out of the sea and have no landing access. Others are larger and uninhabited, with fine sandy beaches, coral reefs and intricate cave systems. Some islands have resident populations of monkeys, too.
There are several options for those wanting to explore this beautiful province, as recommended by the five-star Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort. From rock climbing on the tall limestone cliffs to snorkelling in the crystal waters of the Andaman Sea around stunningly beautiful small islands or elephant trekking through the lush vegetation of the rainforest, there is something for every visitor.
Island hopping is a must. Rent a local boat from Krabi Town, Ao Nang or Railey. Or explore the idyllic islands with a guide and take a trip that includes snorkelling or kayaking. The best season to visit Krabi is November to April. Not all islands can be visited in the monsoon season from May to October when weather can be unpredictable.
The scenic Hong Island, which is within 10 minutes by speedboat from Sofitel Krabi, has several spectacular beaches as well as a hidden lagoon which, at low tide, reveals stunning coral and tropical fish. The fabulous Phi Phi Island is about 45 minutes from Hong Island by speedboat. The ride is quite fast, touching a speed of 60km.
From a very quiet place until the late 1990s when the acclaimed British filmmaker Danny Boyle shot his big-budget The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead, the National Park has exploded in popularity subsequently. Though the film bombed, Phi Phi Island took off! On a good weather day, the Maya Bay, the location for many scenes in the film, is crowded with tourists.
The remarkable variety of dive sites concentrated in a small area, particularly off Phi Phi Don island, adds to Krabi’s uniqueness. Krabi is a great place to learn diving. The limestone cliffs are a paradise for rock climbers. Over 650 routes have been developed since the late 1980s when Krabi first welcomed mountain climbers. One witnessed an awesome sight of free climbing by a man who went up nearly 50m and then descended without any safety equipment!
Krabi is an outstanding destination for kayaking too. Paddling along a coastline of soaring limestone cliffs, discovering hidden caves, lagoons and unique eco-systems is an enchanting experience, when the tide is just right.
(Gulf Times was flown to Krabi by Qatar Airways and Tourism Authority of Thailand. Qatar Airways flies from Doha to Krabi and back on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. Flight QR824 departs Doha at 5.30am and arrives in Krabi at 4.20pm. Flight QR825 departs Krabi at 5.20pm and arrives in Doha at 8.45pm. Krabi, GMT +7, is four hours ahead of Doha).
ROOM WITH A VIEW: On the way to Hong Island. Photos by Bonnie James