4 Islands Tour of Ao Nang

19th November, Ao Nang, Thailand

Ian writes:

We arrived so late yesterday in Krabi, and a little bit flustered after a 6-hour, 1-boat, 2-bus and 1-minibus journey that we hadn't been able to organise any trips to any of the local tourist attractions. On one hand I felt like having a lazy day today, or at least having a day of looking around the town and seeing what the agencies here were offering in terms of day trips. The problem with that approach is that it would basically waste a whole day, so instead I headed out at 7am and tried to book us on to a trip for today. I managed to get us on one that would pick us up at 8am, so very quickly we got ourselves ready for a 4-island excursion.

For those unfamiliar with the area of Krabi, it's a lot like Halong Bay in Vietnam and Guilin in China - large karsts (limestone formations) sticking out of the sea, in this case the Andaman Sea. We departed from Ao Nang Beach in a long-tail boat - the cheaper (half the price) option to the speed boat tours that were also on offer from all the agencies - and made our way to the first stop, Tup Island.

Tup island is connected to two other islands by a Y-shaped sand bar. It looked to be a good location for snorkelling, and indeed this is what we, and many other boats, had stopped to do. However, the weather was not perfect for swimming. The sky was clear but the wind was causing a bit of chop on the surface, and the currents were a little too strong to enjoy the water completely. It was hardly 'swept-off-to-sea' conditions, but the action of the water was sirring up all the silt. I swam around for a while before admitting defeat.

After an hour at Tup Island, we continued towards 'Chicken Island'. There's no question about how this particular rock got its name:

Chicken Island - It looks like a chicken, so why call it anything else? But does it taste like chicken?

After a brief pass-by of the island for photo-taking purposes, we headed back in to shore - under the protection of its wing, if you like - for our second snorkelling opportunity. Here the water was much calmer, and the fish were plentiful. If there hadn't been 50-60 other people in the vicinity stirring up the water, it could have been an excellent snorkelling spot. I imagine that when the tourists are not here turning the place into human soup, this could be one of the finest spots in Thailand to do a spot of breath-hold diving.

With our second soaking out of the way - and I wished we'd had an hour here and 30 minutes at Tup Island rather than the other way around - we continued by longtail boat to Poda Island. Lunch time! And for a change, the food that was included in the price was really rather good. Often you'll get some kind of instant noodles, or some insipid fruit that was cut hours earlier by an unclean kitchen worker using a rusty knife ... or at least it appears that way, but not today. We were handed little take-away cartons that contained some rice, a chicken drumstick, a little sachet of sweet chilli sauce and another bag containing some minced chicken and veg. It was the epitome of excellent Thai roadside vendor food (but without the roadside vendor - where did they get it from?). Manda and I sat and ate our luch, looking at the beautiful sights in front of us and keeping an eye open for the monkeys behind us who, no doubt, appear at the beach just when us two-legged types appear with our easily-stolen meals.

The monkeys at Poda Island could tell when lunch time had arrived - the same time as the tourists.

The final stop of the day was at Railey Bay. It was a bit of a misnomer to call the tour a '4-Islands' trip because Railey Bay was actually part of the mainland. However, it felt like an island, and it certainly looked inaccessible from the mainland, so I wasn't going to demand a 25% discount for false advertising! Further up the bay is a cave called Princess Cave. At its entrance were stacks of what looked like wooden penisis. Correction, not 'looked like' but 'were' wooden penises.

The cave is supposed to be where the spirit of a princess resides, one who watches out for the local fishermen if they make an appropriate offering. Apparantly, the appropriate offering for a spirit princess is a large, carved phallus, and those fishermen have been coming here in their hundreds and leaving a little something behind for the dead old gal.

The view from Phanang Cave over Railey Bay.

That pretty much concluded the tour, if you exclude the usual transfer boat and taxi back to home/hotel/guesthouse ... which I'm going to do. By the time we got back, both of us were very tired, I was sunburnt on my back (blame the snorkelling) and neither of us felt like doing much at all. So, we did what any other sane person would do in this scenario: we booked another trip out for more of the same tomorrow, but this time at Kho Phi Phi, an island that is now very famous, thanks to a certain Leonardo DiCaprio.