Krabi in southern Thailand holds many secrets in its sea caves, limestone clefts, hidden sandbars, and ancient beaches. We unravel a few little-known yet stunning wonders of this tropical town with Travel+Leisure India & South Asia’s cover star Rakul Preet Singh.
Produced by Chirag Mohanty Samal
Assisted by Ishika Laul
Photographed by Taras Taraporevala
Assisted by Mitesh Mirchandani
Styled by Divyak D’souza
Assisted by Brinda Patel and Kumar Abhishek
Make-up by Salim Sayyed
Hair by Tina Mukharjee
Location: Krabi, Thailand
First impressions can be an immediate deal breaker, they linger like the cloying effect of a decadent dessert. Krabi with its tourmaline seas, white-sand beaches, mangrove forests, limestone rock formations, hidden caves, and secret channels made quite an impact on my maiden rendezvous. The image that I had in my head prior to my arrival in the southern Thailand tropical town was that of an intriguing, unspoilt, beautiful destination—almost like a primordial netherworld where mystery and mysticism collided. An image that popular Hollywood movies like Around the World in Eighty Days, Mortal Kombat, The Beach, and Tomorrow Never Dies had constructed. But as I languorously drift across the waters of the Andaman Sea on a traditional longtail boat, the initial image dug its heels deeper, but added to it was a sense of new-age optimism visible in the swanky, state-of-the-art resorts and the hordes of global tourists either sunbathing, surfing, kayaking, or indulging in many of the sophisticated water sports that Krabi offers now. The town has a gleaming, salubrious yet oddly peaceful vibe to it.
Exploring Krabi with Rakul Preet Singh
Nature and its many attractions
Near Koh Poda island, I spot a familiar looking limestone formation jutting out of the ocean and piercing the calming blue sky above. A sense of déjà vu engulfs me. My local guide quickly offers the missing piece of the puzzle with information that actor Hrithik Roshan’s debut movie’s title song was shot here. Things fall into place immediately like the colour patterns of a Rubik cube. I picture a tall and lanky Hrithik romancing Amisha Patel to the tunes of Kaho Na Pyar Hai.
The connection between Bollywood and scenic destinations is undeniable. It is this magnetic attraction that laid the ground for my visit to Krabi—I am here along with actor Rakul Preet Singh for our March cover shoot.
In our search for the perfect location, we whizz past many rock formations, tree-lined limestone islands, and stop the boat mid-water as an island sculptured into a chicken’s neck and head surfaces. This unique formation bears a descriptive name—Chicken Island, also known as Koh Kai in Thai. What makes this island special is that during low tide, a sandbar emerges connecting Koh Kai to two islands called Koh Mor and Koh Tup. This sandbar that offers panoramic views of the sea, mountains, and the coastline of Krabi is known as Thale Waek.
There are many good beaches facing Phang Nga Bay, the body of water that separates Krabi Province from Phuket. But the most stunning ones are Phra Nang and Railay beaches that are only accessible by boat. Phra Nang beach has a cave temple set into a limestone cleft at the water’s edge. The entrance to the cave is punctuated with stalactites resembling gothic chandeliers. We take our first shot here with Singh and for the next one, walk a little farther to Railay beach that is anchored by towering limestone cliffs and calm, blue waters. In between shots, Singh tells us, “I love beaches, and Krabi has some of the most beautiful beaches. I have shot here earlier but love coming back each time.”
These beaches are predominantly frequented by the guests of Rayavadee Resort, where bungalows are positioned like mushrooms amid coconut palms and lotus pools. We stop by the resort to get our cover star ready for the next shot. You can’t miss the resort’s swish international guests playing volleyball, throwing frisbee, kayaking, snorkelling, or rock climbing at the nearby beaches.
An idyllic getaway
When in Thailand, a massage is the best cure for long haul flights and hectic shoot days. After getting our shots at Railay Beach we head back to Sofitel Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort, where Singh and the crew are staying. The luxury, 5-star property enjoys a prime setting on Klong Muang Beach, near the resort town of Ao Nang, and combines modern luxury with a warm and gentle Thai ambience. The resort also has a luxury spa—So SPA with L’Occitane—a cocoon of tranquility that offers the best of ancient and modern therapies with the finest quality ingredients and a holistic wellness approach. Singh finishes the last few shots and heads to the spa to drive away the aches of the tiring day.
The typical body-folding, sharp-elbowed techniques of Thai massage have been added to UNESCO’s prestigious heritage list. It’s ubiquitous in Krabi, be it at upscale 5-star resorts, beachfront shacks, or modest street-side shops. While the Thai massage brand is booming globally with various spa chains latching on, there’s nothing like getting a local masseuse or masseur to fix a sore back and feet, headache, and stress with a few turns of fingers and elbows.
Another big highlight of a trip to Krabi is its dynamic food landscape that consists of both local haunts as well as a slew of international restaurants headed by expats keen on showcasing their home country’s cuisine in this Thai town. We, however, decide to solely savour southern Thai cuisine, which as per locals is spicier than its northern counterpart. We head to the waterfront Wang Sai Seafood Restaurant located in the bustling Ao Nang market for a super early supper and to catch the best sunset in town. Food here is fresh, comes in large portions, and is reasonably priced. Unlike in European cuisine, soup here isn’t an appetiser. It’s spicy and is meant to be eaten with rice to balance the fiery flavours. From raw mango salad, tom yum soup to crab fried rice, fried fish and the southern yellow curry, each has a distinct flavour. We step out hours later with our bellies and hearts full.
The Last Fisherman Bar, is another popular beach-facing restaurant in Ao Nang that besides serving delectable local food also puts up an impressive fire show for its guests. Care for a spectacle while you dine? Head here but don’t forget to book in advance or you may end up waiting for an hour before you are ushered in.
Post dinner, you can take a leisurely walk down the bustling lanes of Ao Nang market, where you will come across several pubs with lively music and a buzzing dance floor. When it comes to nightlife, Krabi is much quieter compared to Phuket, but it has a charm of its own.
There are several night markets that stay open till the wee hours of morning and you can pick souvenirs and as well as fashion accessories at reasonable prices. It’s in these markets that you can gauge the pulse of the town. Though foreign trends have made inroads, it’s the distinctively local best-selling crafts that narrate the tale of the region without succumbing to Western diktats.
Thai Airways operates direct flights to Bangkok from multiple Indian cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, and Bangalore. Thai Smile Airways connects Indian cities like Jaipur and Ahmedabad with Bangkok. The airline also connects Bangkok to various cities in Thailand.
Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort is a luxurious tropical oasis–a minute’s walk away from the captivating golden beach. The resort offers everything from luxury spas to a nine-hole golf course and the largest free-form swimming pool in Thailand. All rooms and suites come with their own balcony or terrace with views of the jungle, limestone cliffs, and the sea. Doubles from INR 24,652
Rayavadee is situated in the heart of Krabi’s beautiful Phranang Peninsula, an area known for its natural beauty and marine life. The resort’s 94 two-storey pavilions and 7 luxurious villas are dotted throughout tropical gardens and coconut groves just a few minutes’ walk from Railay and Phranang Beaches, and feature fully equipped, spacious accommodation. Doubles start from INR 1,31, 735
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Related: A Guide To The Best Places To Visit In Krabi And Other Things To Do