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Ao Nang

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In a nutshell

Ao Nang isn't ashamed of being the tourism epicentre of Krabi province. The beach doesn't sparkle like many others in the area, but as a convenient and lively holiday home base, Ao Nang gets it done.

Ao Nang is the centre of tourism in Krabi province. That means pushy touts, tailor shops, travel offices, massive resorts, cheap guesthouses, Western style watering holes, chain restaurants and tourist-oriented cafes serving overpriced food. Sound tempting?

Still, Ao Nang is not as in-your-face as Ko Phi Phi, which courts a younger party crowd, and it's not as seedy as the most popular beaches on Phuket. It does have nightlife, but you won't see strings of go-go bars here. The atmosphere is not as low key as Khao Lak, but it's perhaps suitable for families seeking a lively and comfortable holiday. If you get away from the main tourist drag, the surrounding area is dotted with shaggy limestone cliffs and is quite scenic.

Ao Nang's beach, however, leaves something to be desired. The sand is a grainy tan, the water a deep blue during high season and a murky brown in the slower months, and the shore is often so packed with longtail boats that it's tough to find an open patch for a swim. It's deep enough to swim at high tide, but at low tide you're restricted to a waist high wade for the first 300 metres. If your travel agent tells you the beach here is a white sand paradise, you need to find a new travel agent.

Even so, the beach is a fantastic spot to catch the sunset, and the truly spectacular beaches of Railay, Ko Poda and Ko Hong are only a day trip away. Haad Nopphara Thara also offers a more attractive and relaxed beach just a short bicycle or boat ride to the northwest.

First and foremost, Ao Nang is a tourist town -- even the songthaew routes and times are posted in English. Every local and their brother runs a travel office, making it exceedingly easy to arrange tours and onward travel. Activities around Ao Nang include the usual tourist driven stuff: cooking classes, elephant rides, snake farm, lady boy cabaret, shooting range, muay Thai, fishing, kayak and speedboat tours.

While it's perfectly accessible for independent travellers, Ao Nang's tourism industry is focused mainly on package holidays -- good deals on decent rooms for long-stays are the speciality. During high season, the majority of tourists taking advantage of such deals are Scandinavian, Russian and continental European, so Anglophones might feel a little out of place. Ao Nang attracts people of all ages, though it's especially popular with the middle aged and older set.

The beach faces west and overlooks Phra Nang bay, named after the legendary Thai spirit-goddess that's also the namesake of Phra Nang beach on Railay and its cave shrine filled with hand carved phallices. Across the surf you can see the Poda islands and Chicken Island further out. To the east sits a majestic limestone mountain that lends Ao Nang much of its scenic character. The mountain is protected by the National Park service and is off limits to climbing and hiking. At its base lies the five-star Centara Grand Beach Resort.

Route 4203, also known as Ao Nang Rd or Moo 2, is the main thoroughfare through town. It runs directly alongside the beach before cutting east through the main tourist drag. It's along this strip that you'll find the widest array of restaurants, bars, cheap guesthouses and shops selling beach tourist tat. Some of the most interesting accommodation is located down the side streets that stray from Ao Nang Rd into some very pleasant stretches of countryside.

Between Ao Nang beach and Nopphara Thara beach, Khlong Hang Rd shoots northeast and is home to a second, higher end strip of restaurants and hotels. Continue north on 4203 and you'll hit Haad Nopphara Thara itself, which almost feels like a sleepier extension of Ao Nang -- it's close enough to easily walk from one to the other, but the best part of Nopphara Thara beach is further north and would be a hike on foot. Luckily, songthaews pass by every two minutes.

A couple of health clinics (they claim to be "international clinics") are located on Ao Nang Rd, but the closest proper hospital is 15 km away in Krabi town. The Ao Nang police station is in the heart of the tourist strip a short walk from the beach. The post office is a good kilometre east up Ao Nang Rd, just past Full Moon guesthouse. Most guesthouses and resorts offer internet stations and WiFi is readily available at cafes. Several banks offering currency exchange and plenty of ATMs are scattered around the area.

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Our recommendations

Though it's unabashedly touristic, there's no doubt that Ao Nang is a convenient and fun beach town, particularly after the sun sets and the holidaymakers let loose. With that said, this is one place where it's essential to stay in control while indulging in the nightlife. Scammers, thieves, rapists and other ill-intentioned people -- both Thai and foreign -- have been known to take advantage of the inexperienced, naive travellers that Ao Nang tends to draw.

Don't leave your drink unattended or accept a drink from a stranger unless it passes only from the bartender's hand to yours. Be wary of exceedingly friendly strangers, and never accept a ride or otherwise leave a bar alone with someone you don't know, especially if you're a female. Always keep a cool head -- verbal confrontations can spiral out of control quicker in Thailand than you might be used to -- and otherwise use good common sense.

Accommodation-wise, we'd be inclined to settle into one of the inexpensive guesthouses or bungalow joints set back from the beach. The big beach resorts are pricey, and most are actually located across the road from what is, after all, not the greatest beach in Thailand. Ao Nang works best as a home base for exploring the surrounding area. Don't miss out on day trips to Railay, Ko Hong, Than Bok Kharani and Khao Phanom Bencha national parks, to name a few. A motorbike ride to the more chilled out northern beaches is also a must. For more info on the area, also check out the Krabi town page.

Text and/or map last updated on 20th February, 2014.

Last reviewed by:
Usually found exploring Bangkok's side streets or south Thailand's islands, David Luekens is an American freelance writer & photographer who finds everyday life in Asia to be extraordinary. You can follow his travails here.

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Ao Nang - Just about OK for a few days
By Tennouji, 25 January 2011
2.0  stars

Ao Nang
By Krabiman, 12 January 2011
4.0  stars

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