Krabi Leisure Island

Krabi's riveting topography of white sand beaches, coral reefs and faintly sinister mountains jutting out of the ocean makes it a nature lover's paradise as well as the perfect family-friendly destination
Krabi Leisure Island
Krabi Leisure Island

Thailand&rsquos Krabi province has a slogan of its own. It goes like this Krabi, the liveable city, friendly people. It&rsquos not very catchy as slogans go, but it neatly sums up the spirit of this paradise that looks straight out of a movie set.

This strip of the Andaman Sea coast is possibly the last remaining stretch of undisturbed white-sand beaches and sparkling waters. Phuket, not too far away, serves as a grim reminder of the ugly side of mindless tourism mercifully, Ao Nang hasn&rsquot followed suit.

This town started off as a small fishing village and now it&rsquos a pleasant succession of pretty caf&eacutes, beachfront bars and neat tree-lined avenues. Ao Nang has an infectious, laidback charm that&rsquos hard to shake off but I found it harder to resist the pull of Krabi&rsquos inviting natural landscape.

Starting at the beachfront the coastline of Krabi is beautiful in an exotic and excep&shytionally dramatic way. The ocean unfurls in shades of blue that would make aqua&shymarine and azure seem lacklustre. The colours can be seen in distinct bands, and if you dive below, you&rsquoll discover an equally colourful underwater kingdom.

However, the most iconic image of Krabi&rsquos landscape comes from the solitary rocks that jut out spookily from the ocean. These limestone karsts have a faintly men&shyacing air about them, like a giant&rsquos teeth. I thought they would make a great location for the hideout of a James Bond movie villain before discovering that the folks at the James Bond franchise have already had this brainwave and shot a movie here way back in the 1970s.

Ao Nang is the gateway to a clutch of secluded islands that lie just off the Thai coast. The only acceptable way to explore all the languid bays and lagoons hidden here is to hire one of the delightful local long-tail boats and embark on a slow-paced marathon of a few weeks, but I had only three days, so I opted for the day-long 4-Island Boat Tour. It promised me the tourist highlights&mdashThap Island, Mo Island, Poda Island and Chicken Island, the last of which gets its name from the uncanny chicken-head formation at the top of the mountain.

As our speedboat raced on the water, the hulking mossy shapes of the limestone formations far out in the ocean started to loom larger. As they came into clear view, I spotted rock climbers clinging to the cliff face or precariously dangling on ropes high above water. A few karsts are barren and rocky, but most are covered in thick forests that make for popular hiking trails.

Krabi attracts a diverse cross-section of international tourists, evidenced by my group of fellow passengers on the speedboat&mdasha family of four from Norway, a mother&ndashdaughter duo from China and a newly married couple from Malaysia. As we passed Viking Island, the tour guide pointed to ghostly shipwrecks drifting near the island and informed the be&shymused family from Norway, &ldquoYou people, you left this here.&rdquo

Krabi&rsquos reputation for a family-friendly destination stems from its multitude of out&shydoor activities for grown-ups and children alike, the most popular of which are diving and snorkelling. The best location for these is the Phi Phi islands, another day-long excursion. This group of six islands is sur&shyrounded with gorgeous corals. Boats moor in the ocean and schools of gaily coloured fish flock to feed on breadcrumbs, darting past you in a whirl of glimmering fins and scales. A must visit is the crescent-shaped Maya Bay, where Leonardo DiCaprio&rsquos The Beach was filmed. I can vouchsafe that the movie&rsquos cinematographer didn&rsquot do justice to its powder-white sands and natural splendour. Nearby Phileh lagoon is another peaceful haven of breathtaking wonder, where time seems to stand still.

After an exhilarating but tiring day, I was glad to return to the Holiday Inn Resort that is wonderfully located at the centre of Ao Nang&rsquos pretty beachfront. The excellent thing about the resort is that it brings the outdoors right to your doorstep, without missing a beat. The song of the waves carries to your bedroom window and lush, land&shyscaped lawns match the local flora. There is direct entry to the endless pools from your private balcony, which might not be the same as a beach, but you can wade your way to the bar and that is never a bad thing.

The resort hosts daylong activities to keep children entertained and evenings make way for live music and barbeque dinners.

The Holiday Inn pulls off a rare feat by enticing you to lounge in the hotel when picture postcard vistas are framed perma&shynently in your windows and you can taste the salty sea breeze on your skin. You can enjoy Krabi snorkelling, rock-climbing, splashing around in the brilliant blue wa&shyters... or simply lounging in your balcony.

The information

Location 123 Moo3, Ao Nang Beach, Muang, Krabi, Thailand

Accommodation 173 rooms and suites, including Superior Rooms, Deluxe Rooms, Garden and Pool Rooms, Family Suites, Kids Suites, Penthouse Suites

Tariff Approx. THB 5,000 (Superior and Garden Room), THB 5,000 (Pool View), THB 8,000 (Deluxe Room), THB 10,000 (Kids and Family Suites), TBH 11,000 (Penthouse Suites)

CONTACT 66-75-810888,

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