Ao Nang, Thailand
Located along the eastern shore of Phang Nga Bay, Ao Nang is a popular beach town and seagoing gateway to Krabi, a bustling little city that lies just a few miles up the Krabi River from the coast. The longtime backpacker haven — which suffered major damage during the tsunami of 2004 — has rebounded in recent years and has a wide variety of land and water activities.
What We Love
Ao Nang Stadium: This small indoor arena specializes in Thai-style kickboxing. Grab one of the ringside black sofa seats for 1,400 baht (approximately 40 US dollars) and sip Thai beer as you watch the whirl of arms and legs. Buy your own Thai boxing gear at the stadium store.
Tiger Cave Temple: Etched into a karst (limestone) cliff face on the outskirts of Krabi, this atmospheric jungle shrine (also called Wat Tham Sua) offers a wondrous pastiche of Buddhist art and architecture, as well as a clifftop trail to vertigo-inducing views.
Best Known For
Phra Nang Cave Beach: Flanked by towering karst cliffs, Ao Nang's most popular strand is a feast for both the eye and the palate — a strip of beachfront eateries that serve popular Thai dishes like tom yum gai (chicken coconut curry soup), yum pla muk (spicy squid salad), and pad thai noddles.
Daytrips to Ko Phi Phi: One of the most scenic spots in Asia, these small jungle-draped islands rise straight up from the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea. Swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking — or just staring at the gorgeous scenery — are the main activities. You can reach the islands by public ferry or by private speedboat trips from Ao Nang.
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Who It's Best For
Beach Bums: Between Ao Nang's main beach, Phra Nang, Railay, Klong Muang and the outlying islands, the Krabi area might just have the best collection of sand in all of Thailand.
Food Lovers: In addition to a great selection of modest yet yummy Thai eateries and a food-filled night market, the Ao Nang-Krabi area has several visitor-friendly cooking schools with half-day workshops that teach you how to make your favorite Thai dishes.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
It's spread out: The harbor area at the mouth of the Krabi River lies some distance from the town. But plenty of taxis, buses, and trucks are standing by to whisk you off to beaches, restaurants, or temples.
Don't feed the monkeys: Although they seem cute at first sight, the long-tailed macaques (a.k.a. crab-eating monkeys) that inhabit the area are often mean and aggressive.
Joe Yogerst is a California-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Travel + Leisure.