I am spending the last stretch of my Thailand trip down in the islands. I have so far planned 3 nights in Ko Phi phi followed by 5 nights at Railay East. Here are my questions:
1) Do you recommend getting to Phi Phi via Krabi or Phuket? (I'll be taking a bus from Surat Thani )
2) Is it hard to get a bus out of Surat Thani during December high season right after the overnight train arrives?
3) We will have three nights to spend elsewhere. Any suggestions for a short visit? Ko Lanta, Krabi Town, Phuket? Keep in mind, only three nights and I'll need to hightail it back to Bangkok after this.
Thanks a metric ton!
#1 Goodmango has been a member since 21/11/2011. Posts: 14
1 - Out of Surathani, Krabi is the natural to Phi Phi - way shorter.
I would personally do Railay first - you will feel like an immediate break and there is a direct boat Ao Nang to Phi Phi which stops mid-bay off West Railay and picks people up from lontgail shuttles off the beach. f you are staying on East Railay it's a simple 400m walk across the isthmus to West Railay.
2 - Haven't done the bus in peak peak season so I can only go by other times. My experience is that buses out of Surathani town call by the train station which is maybe 5-6km further west. My experience too is that travellers mainly take the minibus connectionsbetween coasts so they don't tend to overcrowd the buses.
Time of arrival may be important - if the train gets in before say 0900 there won't be too many travellers on the bus.
A point about the minibuses - you will find small travel agents in the station area can sell you a ticket and ring up the minibus to ensure it calls around - last time I caught a minibus into Krabi it went to the longtail pier in town from where you can get a longtail directly to East Railay.
I gotta say that a direct overnight bus to Krabi is my favoured access from Bangkok - but I don't care about missed sleep. For those who do, the sleeper train to Surathani is a good option.
I reckon the two best values out of Phi Phi-Railay are Lanta and Ko Jum. Both are part of a nice circuit - you could do Krabi-Jum-Phi Phi because there is now a high season ferry from Jum to Phi Phi (and a Ko Lanta ferry out of Ao Nang/Railay/Ton Sai which drops off at Jum).
Krabi-Lanta-Phi Phi - good high season connection between all.
But it depends a bit on exit-strategy - Raily-Phi Phi- Phuket is a good one here. It's a lot easier to get back to Bangkok from Phuket than from Jum, Lanta or Phi Phi. And if you can afford to fly there are far more discounted flights out of Phuket than out of Krabi airports.
Thing is, Phuket is a big island and has a beach for all types of travellers from party goers to laid back backpackers.
I've been thinking about exit strategy and your obvious preference for sleeper train entry.
There are two sleeper trains from Bangkok into Trang south of Lanta. TT Travel directly across from Trang railway station runs minibuses all around the place including several daily right onto Lanta via the vehicle punts. They tend to time the departure of morning minibuses to one of the trains' arrival - the 1000 one from memory.
It's a reasonable haul from Trang onto Lanta but considerably less than Surathani-Krabi and last time I took one of these minibuses it dropped passengers off at quite a few of the resorts on Lanta.
If you used this train the route for best exit to Bangkok would be Lanta-Phi Phi-Railay.
I can not thank you enough for your thoughtful replies. I have given all your pointers some serious thought.
I wish I posted this question earlier, as I already have accommodation booked first at Phi Phi (3 nights), then Railay (5 nights). So I'm kind of stuck doing it in that order. The only reason I picked Railay over Lanta was that there was still some budget accommodation available. I'll be in the south right over Christmas time so I thought it would be best to book ahead anyway.
I didn't realize you could take a train straight to Trang. Do you think that would be a better option if I am first going to Phi Phi?
I will be flying back to Bangkok after all this and am debating between spending my last three nights somewhere near Krabi/Railay (fly from Krabi) or head to Phuket then fly from there.
There aren't many flights left available so I'll have to make my decision soon. Is there anywhere else you could recommend very close to Ao Nang/Krabi/Railay or do you think I should just head up to Phuket?
Thanks again Tezza and I am now reading the heck out of your blog right now for some more tips. Starting with Ko Jum!
(only problem is my internet has been in and out every five minutes for the past week! And they say Korea has the best internet in the world... Liars!)
#4 Goodmango has been a member since 21/11/2011. Posts: 14
Phi Phi via Trang is not a good idea - much more travel involved. Via the Ao Nang /Railay ferry is by far the shortest, most direct and cheapest route.
You have many options for your remaining 3 nights:
You can still do Lanta - there are regular Lanta to Krabi and Lanta to Phuket minibuses can drop you near the airport. Krabi airport is the closer by a good 2 hours - and the terminal is only a 400m walk from the main road. The minibuses might even be taking people into the terminal these days - I think I saw a post suggesting this. Phuket airport is 2-3km off the main road - last time I did this the minibus wasn't prepared to go to the airport. I later thought this may be because it didn't want to pay the airport vehicle fee - but next time I'll offer the driver 100baht extra to drive me across to the airport and drop me outside the gates. There is a bus stop on the main road about 400m past the airport intersection where motorcycle taxis wait to take people across to the airport.
You can still do Jum. This is closer to both Krabi and Phuket airports but maybe no more convenient to access. I think the Lanta-Jum-Krabi ferry leaves quite early in the day - if this doesn't fit into your timing you could take the public longtail ferry across to Laem Kraut pier on the mainland from where public songthaews run into Krabi, going past the airport. This is a shorter trip than off Lanta.
You could go from Railay to Ko Yao Noi. Cheapest is a public songthaew from Krabi town to the pier at Ao Thalen from where 2 public longtail ferries per day leave for Yao Noi. (there are also some to adjacent Yao Yai). In past seasons there has been a more expensive speedboat service from Ao Nang direct to Yao Noi (and I think it will drop off at Yao Yai) but I don't know much about timing. Small travel desks around Railay and Ao Nang will.
You could go to Phuket. As said there are beaches for everyone. If you want a beach in the south there is a dircect Ao Nang/Railay ferry goes to the main pier near Phuket town. When I caught this ferry last year they were offering inclusive van transfers to most of the popular beaches - and way up to the airport some 35km away which I thought was outstanding value.
If you want a relaxed budget joint right on the beach near the airport google Seaside Cottages at Mai Khao. This is probably best accessed from Krabi by a public bus - get them to drop you off at the intersection of side road 3016 pretty soon after the bus goes thru the security checkpoint in the north of the island. Seaside Cottages is a few km along this route - there is a good GETTING THERE section on their website. If you have a phone the best bet would be to ring Mal and ask him to come down and pick you up.
If you think 3 days in Phuket is a bit much you could jump off the bus from Krabi in Phang Nga town, walk into Mr Kean's office in the bus station and arrange to do a Phang Nga Bay trip. However you may have to leave the Krabi area early to make the start of the full day trip - although I think Mr Kean and other tour operators can also arrange afternoon half day trips.
A late start from the Krabi area might find it better to stay ovenight in Phang Nga town, do the day trip next day and perhaps spend the night on Ko Panyi, the sea gypsy fishing village on stilts in the bay. That leaves one more night somewhere in Phuket (I think 2 nights on the fishing village might be overkill).