The plastic containers were loaded with water, food, and all the necessities for the 4 Islands full day trip. The boat was a longtail, traditional yet nicely equipped with a proper canvas cover, floored all over with good polished wood, and complete of cushioned seats. At its command, an experienced boatman and fisherman for 15 years from Klong Prasong who claims to know these seas like his pockets. The smiling and articulate tour guide told us about the program of the day while our bare-breasted Captain started a shining brand new engine and got us going. In spite of the heavy rain that had fallen the day before, it was turning into a nice day; the morning towering clouds were quickly and conveniently swept away by a gentle and consistent breeze. The morning sun rays hit the mountains on the coastline creating a blurry haze that would dissipate once the sun rose further up in the sky…
The shapes of Krabi’s most popular islands got closer and closer as we sailed. We passed Koh Poda, cruising nearby rocks modeled by the sea and by mildly acidic rain over the centuries, and observing the hundreds of stalactites the boat was passing under. The boat docked in Koh Tub, a popular and highly visited spot where 3 islands are connected by a sandy path that crosses the immensity of the sea. Due to the high tide, the sandy path to Koh Khai, or Chicken Island, was under 50 cm of water, and could only be crossed by carefully wading and taking care of the strong undersea currents. As for why they call it Chicken Island, it is enough to look at it: from most points it does indeed have the shape of a hen, with rocks resembling neck, head and beak.
The sun stroke our bodies and a gentle breeze kept us cool. Wherever we turned, massive limestone outcrops emerged from the waters, bare and vertical, their tops covered by thick vegetation. Some of the biggest islands like Poda or Khai are nearly entirely covered in lush vegetation. Boats came and went, parked and unloaded tourists, and the place quickly crowded up. The area is part of the Noppharat Thara National Park, and there is a counter where the Rangers who live on the island collect the entrance fees from the tourists. We passed boatmen resting in the shade of trees and climbed an easy path that took us to a 100 meters high viewpoint from which we enjoyed the surrounding views.
This classic tour, branded “4 islands”, is misnomer some would say, as the last place we will visit, Railay, the fourth destination, is in fact a peninsula only reachable by boat but still part of the land. We were given a different explanation of the tour name by the guide: the 4 islands are in fact our next destination, four rocky outcrops one near the other called Koh Sii (in Thai, koh means island and sii means four). This is one of the best sites for diving in Krabi, the guide told us. On the top of one of the rocks, some black herons boringly stared at tourists. We stopped to do some snorkeling, while the crew of our longtail boat fed bread to the thousands of yellow and black striped tiger fish that populate these seas and that rushed and fought for a breadcrumb. Our longtail boat left for Koh Poda; there, we docked in a beautiful deserted spot. On the beach, the staff was busy preparing the settings for our lunch. Giant bamboos umbrellas were placed on the hot sand, and they provided an excellent shaded area where some wicker mats were positioned and lunch was served.
We were given a generous free time to wander around the island; we walked the length of a circular beach lined with casuarina trees and reached the restaurant area, crowded with tourists. Some were coming and going as part of a day tour, while others had chartered their own longtail boat and spent the full day here. There is a group of small and finely decorated temples standing on a wide marble slab, some of them guarded by elephant statues. There, incense is continuously burning on the altars. The whole scenery is idyllic; a massive stony outcrop emerges from the sea in front of us, only a few meters away from Poda. People used the shaded area for relaxing and picnicking, and it was easy enough to find a quiet corner from which to enjoy the magnificent views and breathing the healthy sea breeze.
At 2 pm we were off to the last destination of the day. Phra Nang Bay, part of the Railay peninsula, is indeed a popular spot easily reachable by longtail boat from Ao Nang. It is there that we enjoyed the last swim of the day; we paid a quick visit to the Nang’s cave, dwelling place of a legendary lady contended by two men at the beginning of the times. It is here that fishermen bring offerings: carved images of phalluses to placate her fury and seek her protection.
We contemplated the sea from the stunning Phra Nang beach, the perfect spot to end a marvelous trip out at sea, to the magic beauties of Krabi.