Recently I discovered the Anantara in Si Kao – near Trang and Krabi, a 5-star hotel right on the beach with its own pier.
The best way to get there is to fly to Trang, a small airport in the south with only a couple of runways. When we got there, there was no other airplane in sight and we walked across the tarmac to the main building. I think the airlines just shuttle people in and take off immediately after that with the tourists who have “island” (cabin) fever or have to return home. There are at least two low-cost carriers AirAsia and NOK Air that have several flights a day going there on very reasonable airfares. I paid less than USD 60 for a return ticket to Bangkok.
Once you arrive, there are several transportation options from renting your own car to hopping on a bus to the small city or to grab a taxi or van for the coast. We were picked up by a van that was arranged through the hotel. The coast is about 40 minutes away which is a great time to shake off the Bangkok rush, the traffic jams, the noises, the smells, the pollution etc. There were almost no cars on the road and roads were in great condition – nothing else to do than relax.
Due to some last minute changes, I got to the hotel way ahead of the initial schedule. My room was not yet ready, but I got served fresh fruit juice and was seated in a nice, comfy chair in the reception area. A few minutes later, I transferred downstairs to the Beachhouse restaurant, where I logged on to the internet, drank some water and pretended to work while gazing out at the sea.
My room was in the northern part of the hotel area, close to the infinity pool and the spa center. But I didn’t venture out to use any of these facilities. I had a huge room with balcony and a nice sitting area where I enjoyed the first afternoon of my stay with a great book.
In the evening our group ventured out to Krukit restaurant, a local place, to taste the southern sea food and we were not disappointed. Dish after dish came out and the Thai people in the group who knew what we were served, didn’t stop making appreciative noises. As a foreigner, I was just busy trying all the new dishes without getting into trouble eating something that was too spicy or too weird.
The next morning, we had an early start as we were participating in the corporate social responsibility activity (CSR) to plant sea grass at the shore. I thought it would be just a short walk out of the hotel, as the beach stretches for miles and miles from there and still seems total undisturbed.
However, we got in a van and drove for at least twenty minutes to another beach. The tide was really low before eight in the morning and we could walk a long way out to the sea – it almost seemed that we could reach the outlying islands if we would just continue walking.
The beach was covered with broken sea shells which made walking barefoot along the beach a lot less fun than I imagined. But soon after, we walked out into the water and followed the guide to a specific spot which was – for our untrained eyes – unmarked. There we learnt about the sea grass and the damage that was done to the environment when the tsunami hit the Thai coast in 2006. The flora and fauna still have not recovered. We staked out our little patches in the water and planted a few hundred young sea grass plants that will serve as nutrition for some animals and rejuvenate the area.
Although it started out as a nice cool experience early in the morning, with the rising tide and the sun, it soon got quite warm and I was glad to return to the van and the air conditioning. I think I am turning into a Thai or Asian.
Back at the hotel, we only had a few minutes to change and grab our stuff for the day. A quick breakfast on the go was all to be had, before we took off from the hotel pier. The group was split up into several speed boats that raced to Koh Mook where the emerald cave was waiting for us…
Well, not just for us, but for a few hundred other tourists as well. We got in line with the boats and were instructed that under no circumstances, we were allowed to take off our life vests. Even the good swimmers among us were strapped in. Once in the water, we were not allowed to swim on our own, but had to hold on to the person’s life vest in front of us paddling awkwardly towards the mouth of the 70-meter long cave. Every attempt to break free from the line was met with yelling and wild gestures from the guides.
Not to cause any trouble, I let the other people in my group do the paddling and tried to float along and just let go of any selfish thoughts of how beautiful it would be to swim through the clear blue water in the cave towards the other end where the light reflected on the water’s surface and the foliage tinted it a shade of green.
We made it to the “secret” beach in the cave without incident. I didn’t find it so secret as the small stretch of sand was quite crowded with about a hundred people either splashing in the water, arriving or getting ready to leave. A few guides loudly explained the history of the cave and that the pirates had hidden treasures in the bay and later weapons. It was all explained in Thai – for foreigners, as we were informed, there was a sign at the end of the beach where the jungle started where we could go and read about it.
We didn’t stay long and the return trip to the boat was as much an exercise of letting go of one’s own ego as the inward journey. Back on the boat, we raced off to a good snorkeling spot. Again, the guides would have preferred that everyone was wearing the life vests, but some of the foreigners got overboard before the instructions were finished. We hung out for about half an hour before we were hurdled back into the boat to the next destination.
The Anantara hotel has a private restaurant and bar at Koh Kradan, one of the uninhabited exotic islands. The beach is a bit narrower than at the hotel and steeper, but it is beautifully white and bare of any deck chairs or umbrellas. We didn’t really come for the beach, but for the lunch buffet that was set out in the Beach Club. After lunch, we relaxed for a little bit in the garden and beach area before returning to the hotel. We had to leave early in the afternoon as the tide is dictating the schedule of the excursions – unless one wants to be stuck on the island for a few hours, you leave when the water starts changing.
The afternoon I devoted to discover more about the hotel and relax in my great room. Others went to play tennis or got some spa treatments or just sat down by the beach with a nice drink.
In the evening we met for a dinner banquet at the beach. It was absolutely fantastic and felt like it was right out of a movie. The food was yummy and plentiful, including freshly made banana roti that one usually buys by the side of the road and other delicacies that are famous in the south.
The next day was already time to say good-by to a wonderful, still undisturbed spot on the map. I was fortunate that I could continue my mini adventure for a few more days and left the Anantara hotel by longtail boat to my next destination.