Travel Day

Today, we left Bangkok and flew to Krabi, picking up a rental car and driving to Ao Nang.

Research had indicated that Bangkok Airways was a great regional line with excellent service, and although it cost a little more, I went ahead and booked it. However, the research and ticket purchases happened last summer (June 2023). In October 2023, I started getting flight changes, not just little changes, but big ones. One flight went from the departure time of 8:00 PM to 7:00 AM! These changes required changing the hotel in Koh Lanta and finding a hotel close to the airport in Krabi, as we would no longer have time to drive it the day of the flight.

As time passed, I discovered that Bangkok Airways had financial issues, which was never a good sign. If we canceled, I’d lose the money, and the other domestic airlines either didn’t have good reviews or decent flight schedules. We stuck it out.

Boarding a Bangkok Airways plane.
Breakfast on a Bangkok Airways flight.
Safety card on a Bangkok Airways flight

Smooth Experience

The day before our flight, we were able to check in online, and the process at the airport went smoothly. The flight was on time and smooth. The flight had a flight time of 1.15 hours, not long, but we were served a complete meal. The flight attendants were fast and efficient. They even served us a vegetarian meal! We are flying Bangkok Airway for our return to Bangkok; I hope for a similar experience.

Sixth Car Rental

Once we picked up our bags, we headed to the Sixth car rental counter. There was no line, and we had three staff members helping us. Language was a bit of a barrier, but we managed through and even made a few corrections to the rental documents. I purchased every insurance policy they offered. Yes, it was expensive, but I would be driving a car sitting on the “wrong” side of the vehicle and driving on the “wrong” side of the road. I needed all the coverage I could get! I had paid extra for an automatic transmission and was grateful they had it ready for us.

With the paperwork completed, we were escorted to the parking garage to get the car. The agent helped me inspect the car for previous damage; he had a flashlight, which was helpful as the garage was dark.

Steering wheel on the right.
Driver on the right side of the car.
A reminder this is not the blinker!

Inspection completed, and we hit the road. The road around the airport was a construction zone, so our first outing was a little tricky, but we made it. It took a while to get used to sitting on the right side of the car, and I kept turning on the windshield wipers when I wanted the turn signal. Jim eventually put my sunglasses case over the lever so I wouldn’t use it. The gear shifter being on the left side is also taking a bit to get used to.

Holiday Inn Resort – Ao Nang

We arrived at the Holiday Inn Resort in Ao Nang in one piece and went to the front desk to check-in. It was still early in the day, so we anticipated having to wait a while. Luckily, our room was ready, and they let us check in at 11:00 AM.

Parking, however, was a bit of a challenge. When I was planning the trip, I sent an email to the hotel to verify that parking was available. Yes, they said, no problem, no charge. There were three parking spots in front of the hotel, and that’s all. There were just three. I asked the representative what I should do if those spots were taken, and he said more parking was available “up the hill” to the right of the hotel. The hill was steep, so I grabbed the last available spot in front of the hotel.

Climb Every Mountain…

Paperwork completed and the car parked, we were instructed to climb into a buggy/cart vehicle with places for a suitcase in the back and a couple of open-air row seats behind the driver. Up the steep hill, we went. The resort is comprised of several buildings built into a mountain. The building with our room was at the top of the resort and at the top of the hill.

Transport buggy at the Holiday Inn Resort in Ao Nang Thailand.
Room on the hill Holiday Inn Resort Ao Nang Vietnam.
Fountain in front of the Holiday Inn Resort in Ao Nang Thailand

Our driver took our bags to our room on the sixth floor of the building and said bye-bye. The buggy took us up the hill, about 5 stories worth; then, an elevator took us up the six floors to our room. Every time we left our room, we had to climb up and down 5 stories of stairs scattered about the resort. Did I mention it was 100 degrees, and Jim was hauling a few gallons of water we had purchased? We did this a couple of times before we found an elevator that took us to the third flight of steps near the pool. Then we climbed the last two flights to our building.

Pool bar at the Holiday Inn Resort, Ao Nang, Thailand.
Holiday Inn Resort, Ao Nang, Thailand grounds.
Building entry on the grounds of the Holiday Inn Resort in Ao Nang, Thailand.

Our Room

The room we were assigned was nice; it appeared new and clean, and the air conditioner worked well! We have a tiny balcony, a day bed/couch, a nice walk-in shower, and a refrigerator. My favorite amenity is the drying rack on the balcony! When we have time, we prefer to hand wash our laundry.  It has been very hot here so we are going through several sets of cloths every day. The hotels usually charge a premium ($3.50 to wash a T-shirt I paid $5 for). We have found local laundry services and used several, but it’s easier for me to get laundry soap and wash it myself. So, the drying rack on the balcony made my day.

Bedroom at the Holiday Inn, Ao Nang, Thailand.
Bathroom in the Holiday Inn Resort, Ao Nang, Thailand.
Drying rack on the balcony,

We unpacked and went out to find dinner.

Exploring & Errands

The next few days were spent exploring the town and checking out the beach. There were many options for boat rides to islands nearby, but they all looked the same, and the reviews we read said that the destinations were packed with tourists.

We took the car and headed to a local grocery store for a few items. If we stay at one location for a week or more, we like to get our own coffee and fruit for the room. We were also in need of contact solution, so we were looking for that. It was early in the morning, so traffic was not bad. Once we made it back to the hotel, I maneuvered the car up the steep hill to the small parking lot (maybe 5 spaces) closer to our building. Parking the car was a challenge as the parking spaces were tiny, and the only one available was next to a wall. Jim was great at assisting me in getting the car parked.

It’s been scorching (+100) and humid, so we tend to explore in the morning, take a break in our air-conditioned room after lunch, and then go back out at dinner time when the sun is beginning to set.

Lunch
Spring rolls
Curry

Ao Nang Landmark Market

One evening, we took a tuk-tuk to a local market. The place was filled with stalls selling everything from souvenirs to food. There was even a stage with a band getting ready to play. When we first arrived, it was pretty easy to move around and check out the shops and food, but the place became very crowded within the hour. The market is across the street from the ocean, but once everyone else showed up, you could no longer feel that wonderful ocean breeze.

Tuk-tuk ride
Ao Nang Landmark Market entry.
People at the Ao Nang Landmark Market

We bought cold drinks and sat at a table for a bit but decided it was time to find a tuk-tuk back to the hotel. The ride back was amazing; the streets had come alive since our ride to the market. The restaurants and shops along the street were all lit up, and people were everywhere. It was a very festive atmosphere, although the traffic had also picked up, so reaching our hotel took quite a while.

Another Day, Another Adventure!

After spending several days in and around Ao Nang, we decided to venture out and explore the surrounding area.

Today’s destination was Wat Bang Tong in Na Nuea, Ao Luek District of Krabi. It’s not a well-known temple, and although some tour buses come, it’s so far off the beaten path that few stop there.

With the destination plugged into Google Maps, we set off. Once I got used to the traffic and driving on the wrong side of the road, the drive was not bad. We loved traveling through the small villages but had to remain vigilant for the scooters and motorcycles that zip in, out, and between traffic.

Road in Krabi Thailand
Road in Krabi Thailand
Road in Krabi, Thailand

Google kept taking us on smaller and smaller roads, and we were a little concerned about where we would end up. At one point, we were down to a one-lane road, and we prayed no one would come the other way as there was a drop-off from the road, and I would have nowhere to go.

After a turn in the road, we saw a tall golden spire; we had arrived!

Wat Bang Tong in Thailand
Elephant statue at Wat Bang Tong in Thailand
Exterior of Wat Bang Tong in Krabi

Wat Bang Tong

It was easy to find a parking spot as only a couple of other cars were in the lot. The temple and grounds are massive. We headed to the main temple entrance, paid the foreign tourist fee, took off our shoes, and headed into the temple.

Interior of Wat Bang Ton g in Krabi, Thailand.
Interior of Wat Bang Tong temple in Krabi, Thailand,
Interior of the Wat Bang Tong temple in Krabi, Thailand.

There were a few locals inside, along with a monk who was leading some religious ritual. We respectfully stood to the side while they finished their procession and then explored the interior. Like many temples we’ve been to, it was incredibly ornate and somewhat overwhelming.

Monk leading a procession in Wat Bang Tong temple in Krabi, Thailand
Monk leading people in wat Bang Tong temple in Krabi Thailand.
Monk leading people in a ritual in the Wat Bang Tong temple in Krabi Thailand.

Chanting Monks

After our time in the main temple, we set off to explore the grounds. There were several other buildings, smaller temples, and statues sprinkled around the sprawling complex. As we passed one building, we heard chanting from the monks inside. I love the music they make; we stood for a while and listened from a distance, then moved on.

Wat Bang Tong temple
Dragon at Wat Bang Tong
Building at Wat Bang Tong

Hot and Humid – Again

Luckily, the campus had a lot of trees providing shade. We also took our sun hats, umbrellas, and plenty of water with us.

Lantern at Wat Bang Tong
Building on the campus of Wat Bang Tong
Statue on the grounds of Wat Bang Tong

As we wrapped up our visit, we started thinking about lunch. Jim looked at Google Maps, determined to find an easier way back to the hotel. I followed a small tourist van out the gate and watched him head straight instead of turning right, which was the way we had come from. Jim checked the maps and decided that although that route was slightly longer, the roads were much better.

No Name Eatery

When we pulled off to check the map, we found ourselves in front of a diner of sorts. It was more like a pole barn without sides, filled with locals. Our favorite places to eat are local hangouts, so we got out of the car and headed inside.

A lovely woman greeted us and, in broken English, asked us if we wanted to eat or drink. There were no menus, but once we said we were vegetarians, she gave us a few options, and we worked out a meal from there.

Customers at restaurant
Restaurant near Wat Bang Tong
Meal from restaurant near Wat Bang Tong.

Although there was no air conditioning, she sat us under a ceiling-mounted fan and turned the thing on high. We were grateful.

Back to the Hotel

The trip back to the hotel was uneventful, except for a few traffic moments. Time for showers and a little rest!

Emerald Pool

Today, we are off to Emerald Pool. It’s actually a national park, but everyone knows it as Emerald Pool, and that’s even what the sign says. The name of the national park is long and so not known. We struggled to find it on Google, so we’ll stick with Emerald Pool.

This place is a well-known tourist destination, so we set out early to beat the crowds.

Traffic was light, so the hour-and-a-half driving time was pretty uneventful. The parking area was not well marked, and we may have tried to drive into the park before we were stopped and told it was walk-in only. The guard quickly directed us to a gravel lot to park. Unfortunately, two unattended dogs lay down in the road and would not move so I could back up. Jim had to get out of the car and chase them out of the way.

The car was parked, the parking fee was paid, and the water bottle was in hand. We headed for the entrance. As entrance fees in Thailand go, this one was a little steep at 400 Bhat per person. It takes money to maintain the place, so we paid the fee and hit the trail.

Emerald pool entry
Water cascading over rocks at the Emerald Pool park in Thailand.
Paved trail in Emerald Pool Park in Thailand

Trails

Two routes are available once you enter the park; one is slightly raised from the ground and paved. The other one goes in a different direction and looks more like a gravel road. Both lead to the Emerald Pool.

We chose the paved trail going into the forest and used the gravel one coming out. We saw many small streams and small waterfalls on the paved trail, which we did not see on the gravel trail.

Crystal Pool

The area has three “pools” (in the US, we would call these ponds). After walking for about 30 minutes, we found Crystal Pool. It’s a pool formed by water that has run off from Emerald Pool. The water itself was incredibly clear, but quite a bit of algae was growing on top of the water. No swimming is allowed in Crystal Pool.

Crystal pool in Thailand
Stream feeding pools in Thailand.
Crystal pool Thailand

The Emerald Pool

Another 25 minutes past Crystal Pool, we came upon Emerald Pool. For most people, this is the featured destination. You can swim in this pond, so tourists bring their swimming gear and set up for the day. It is a beautiful place with tiny waterfalls streaming down the mountain, supplying it with water. A restroom and concessions are available, so it’s a great spot to spend the day if that is your thing.

Sign for Emerald Pool
Pool area around Emerald Pool Thailand
People swimming in Emerald Pool Thailand

Blue Pool

Although we enjoy swimming, we don’t generally sit in the sun at the pool or beach all day. We had already decided not to swim in the Emerald Pool, so we headed for the next pond, the Blue Pool.

The walk to the Blue Pool is steep and long. The paved trail ends, and you have to navigate through the forest on an uneven dirt path. For this reason, not many people were on the trail.

Hiking trail in Emerald Pool National Park in Thailand,
Beautiful tree on the hiking trail in Emerald Pool national park in Thailand.
Little lizard on tree at the Emerald Pool.

The Blue Pool is a natural spring in the forest. It is the beginning source of water for the Emerald Pool. The pool is made from a spring of geothermally heated groundwater. Swimming is not allowed in the Blue Pool.

Blue pool at Emerald Pool national park in Thailand.
Jim at the blue pool in emerald pool national park Thailand.
Blue pool at emerald pool national park in Thailand.

Although I couldn’t capture it well with a picture, you can actually see where the spring comes up at the bottom of the pool. It was a great place to relax and refresh with so few other people around.

Jim and Rosie at the blue pool in Thailand.
Blue Pool in Thailand

A Restroom Adventure

We returned to the Emerald Pool and used the restroom before heading down the gravel trail to our car.

Restrooms in Thailand (and Vietnam) have been an adventure in themselves. This one was in a forest, so my expectations were not high. Most stalls were just holes in the ground, but I found one stall with an almost toilet seat I would typically not sit on. I squatted and took care of business. This vessel did not have a flushing mechanism; instead, a bucket with a ladle was next to it. The idea is to scoop water into the vessel until the contents clear away. There was also no toilet paper provided (always carry tissue) and a separate basket set next to the bucket for the used tissue. 

As I reached for the ladle, the sunglasses that I had hooked to the collar of my shirt fell right into the toilet. I fished them out and put them in the trash. Time for new sunglasses!

Back on the trail

We made our way back to the car and headed for the hotel. It was another hot and humid day, so the air-conditioned hotel room was a blessing.

Khao Sok National Park

We got up early, hopped in the car, and headed to Khao Sok National Park. It was a 2.5-hour drive from our hotel, with quite a few patches of road construction, but the views were spectacular.

Winging It

Our plan was not to have a plan; we didn’t reserve any tours for this destination because they all involved long hours, time on a beach, and lunch at a floating restaurant. None of that interested us; we just wanted a boat ride on the lake for a few hours.

Khoa Sok National Park
Shops at the pier at Khoa Sok National Park

Tourist Information Booth

The parking area for the tourist boat rides was well marked; we paid 40 baht and parked the car. Walking toward the pier, we found a tourist information window. We explained to the park representative that we were looking for a boat tour for 2 hours. She called a gentleman sitting in a designated area and told him what we wanted. He agreed to take us for 1,700 baht.

A Few Fees

The price was better than I had estimated (2,000 baht), so we agreed. He took us to pay the national park entrance fee (400 baht) and the pier use fee (40 baht) and instructed us to wait on the dock while he went to get the boat. All of the communication with our captain was with hand signals as he spoke almost no English (except the words bat and monkey). Official park employees checked and stamped our fee cards as we progressed to the dock.

All Aboard

As I mentioned, our captain didn’t speak English, so I have no idea what his name was, but we felt very safe in his care. He had us put on life jackets, and we headed out onto the lake.

Jim and Rosie on the boat at Khoa Sok National Park
View of the lake in Khoa Sok National Park in Thailand.

Bats!

Our first stop was in a small cove. He stopped the boat, pointed to some trees at the very top of the ridge, and said, “Bats.” At first, we didn’t know what he was talking about, but we discovered three trees full of bats after looking closer. Every now and then, one or two of the bats would fly off. It was actually pretty cool. I thought bats only lived in caves or dark spaces and only flew at night. Not here; what I thought were leaves were bats. Although most of them were hanging upside down (looking like leaves), a couple took flight (away from us, thank goodness).

Bats in the tree at Khoa Sok National Park.
Bats in the trees at Khoa Sok National Park in Thailand.

Stunning Scenery

From the bat tree cove, we cruised back out to the main part of the lake, and our captain took us to various places on the lake to enjoy the scenery. He seemed to know where all the good spots were; the sights were amazing.

View from long tail boat on the lake at Khoa Sok National Park in Thailand.
Jim and Rosie on boat at Khoa Sok National Park in Thailand
Scenic view from the lake at Khoa Sok National Park in Thailand.

We made a quick pit stop at a ranger station for a bathroom/beverage break and then headed back to the open waters. We even saw Spiderman speeding by on a mission!

View from the lake at Khoa Sok National Park in Thailand.
Ranger station on the lake at Khoa Sok National Park in Thailand.
Ragner station and floating hotel at Khoa Sok National Park in Thailand.

Things To Do…Or Not!

This National Park is non-stop beautiful. There is so much to do here; you can stay in floating bungalows for a few days if you want (we did not wish to). I’m told the hikes are incredible; you can see everything from snakes to elephants. We knew it would be hot here, but I’ll confess, it’s very hot all the time.
Although we’re not in horrible shape, we did not feel a hike would be in our best interest. The hikes are about 4 hours long, and seeing snakes in the wild is not even on my bucket list. 

Floating hotel view from boat on Khoa Sok National Park Lake.
Pretty view from the boat in the lake at Khoa Sok National Park.
Rock formations in Khoa Sok National Park lake,

Pristine Environment

Compared to other places we have recently visited, this area is clean and not overcrowded. We saw one plastic bottle the entire time out on the lake, and our captain retrieved it to take it to the trash. There were several longtail boats on the lake but nothing large carrying huge groups of people. We were the only boat in many of the coves we cruised to.

Beautiful scenery at Khoa Sok National Park lake in Thailand.
People kayaking on the lake at Khoa Sok National Park in Thailand.
Beautiful view of rock formations in the lake at Khoa Sok National Park in Thailand.

When our cruise was over, we stopped at a little restaurant near the pier for lunch, then had an interesting road trip home, thanks to Mr. Google!

Jim eating lunch at Khoa Sok National Park in Thailand,
Restaurant by the pier in Khoa Sok National Park.
Shop by the pier at Khoa Sok National Park in Thailand.

Ao Nang, Krabi - Wrap Up

We had a few rest days before hitting the road for our next adventure. We spent them doing laundry, catching up on other errands, and watching the wildlife from our balcony!

Watching the monkeys from out hotel balcony.
Monkey watching from our hotel in Ao Nang, Krabi, Thailand.
Forest outside our hotel in Ao Nang, Krabi, Thailand.