Krabi, deep in the south of Thailand. Rainy season but thankfully for us non-farming off-peak tourists, very little rain. White sandy beaches, warm seas, endless sunshine and ice cold beer. Long tail boats to islands, deserted beaches, peace and tranquility. Krabi is like Phuket of 25 years ago or Kho Samui some 20 years ago. It's not 'unspoilt', but it's at a stage of development that unlike Phuket and Kho Samui, still represents a good compromise between tranquility and entertainment. Unbelievable beaches that you see featured in magazines and movies, will either be in the expensive Seychelles or here in good value Thailand. Sand, white and pure against a sea so blue that you can't help but feel has been freshly painted in anticipation of your arrival. It's August, the low end of the low-season and everything is cheap. At the Ao Nang Beach Resort Hotel, we have adjoining mini suites overlooking the beach, rooms that cost a large fortune during the peak periods are ours for just £10 per night.
From the beautiful Ao Nang beach, a few pounds takes us to the nearby islands on a long tail taxi boat. Poda and Chicken Islands are a few minutes away, Kho Phi Phi Don and Kho Phi Phi Lei are a little further and slightly more expensive. Sadly, Kho Phi Phi Don, featured in 'The Man with the Golden Gun', and Kho Phi Phi Lei, featured in 'The Beach', have risen in popularity and unless you arrive really early in the morning, you'll be sharing your small piece of tranquility with a million other tourists and a flotila of taxi-boats, even in the low season.
For the first time in my life, I paddled a sea kayak. An unsinkable boat designed for two people. The purveyor of these craft turned out to be from Isaan. Everywhere that we go Tassaneeya seems to meet somebody that she knows and advantageous deals are constantly being negotiated. The craft was suddenly suitable for three people, but it seemed that I had the only paddle that ever got wet. It was hard work paddling against the current, but entering the mangrove swamps where macaque monkeys jumped down onto the kayak and hitched short rides made it well worth the effort. We didn't encounter any crocodiles but paddling on still waters beneath high canyon walls was quite an experience.
Later in the day, we visit an elephant sanctuary where once again, Tassaneeya strikes up a conversation in the language of her village. Within minutes, the three of us are aboard an elephant called 'Chang Bung-Shwee' (Mr Helpful Elephant). I struggle with the whole concept of animals being kept in captivity and had it not been for Hannah, I would never have done this. Reluctantly I'd agreed to take a trek through the forests and with hindsight, I'm pleased that I did. We wandered the forests for an hour, taking it in turns to ride the elephant, sitting on it's shoulders and steering with small strokes on it's ears. Meanwhile, the Isaan mahout's walk around us and a constant stream of jokes flow, mostly at my expense. It was actually great fun, Hannah's highlight of the entire holiday. Chang Bung-Shwee didn't seem to notice that we were there, he simply wandered where he wanted, drank half a stream, ate any leaf that took his fancy, pee'd a small reservoir and poo'd a whole mountain of crap. I'm not sure that I'd ride another elephant, but at least these elephants have escaped the trauma's of wandering the streets of Bangkok for the entertainment of other tourists. All in all it was a really good day.
I'll definately return to Krabi in the future, if not for the beauty of it's beaches, then simply for the magnificence of its sunsets.