Sadly again, we leave The Sukhothai. We are headed today for Krabi, a coastal area in the Andaman Sea, about 1 hour south by plane from Bangkok and about a 2 hour drive east from Phuket. Krabi City itself was spared the devastation of the Christmas Tsunami as it is up river. Other areas were no so fortunate. Other areas in Krabi Province include Ao Nang, which suffered a bit of damage to the seaside seafood restaurants and some hotels, Koh Lanta, which saw some great devastation on its northern tip and Koh Phi Phi. Phi Phi suffered some of the worst damage as it is an unprotected island right in the middle of the sea. It is actually comprised of two island joined together by a tenuous stretch of sand. Before the Tsunami, this stretch of sand was densely packed bungalows, hotels and restaurants. When the Tsunami hit, there were washed away as the wave hit one side of the isthmus first and then hit the other side minutes later. People who were running to escape the way on one beach were greeted on the other by a much bigger wave. While this area does not suffer the scars that parts of The Northern Coast have, it is still apparent that the Tsunami has had an effect. One of the biggest effects is a lack of tourists. Without a source of income, many places, rebuilt or not, cannot attract enough visitors in order to survive. Quite sad as this is a lovely and very friendly part of Thailand.
Also, as an FYI, there had been no major [anything over 3.0 on the Richter scale] tremors in the Andaman Sea since January 2006. Of course, what would a vacation for Allan and Joel been without a bit of drama. Since March 9th, there have been 33 tremors based in the Andaman Sea, all over 3.0 and some reaching 5.5. Good Times!
We flew into Krabi around 1:30 and we were immediately greeted by the smiling driver for our hotel, The Central Krabi Resort.
The Krabi Central Resort, a five star resort, is situated in a small bay just directly south of Ao Nang but before Railey [actually its called Phai Plong] which are all situated on a inaccessible [by car] spit of land called Laem Phra Nang which is surrounded by shear cliff and all sides. Only boats can reach the beaches of West and East Railey, Ao Tonsai, and Phai Plong. You could actually wade from Ao Nang to Phai Plong during low tide, but then you would be wet. It is a brand new set of low profile buildings that stretch under some pretty impressive cliff and around a nice band of golden sand. It has two pools, four restaurants, a club lounge [which we get access to - can you say free food and drinks], a spa, well landscaped grounds, an activities centre and a very nice poolside bar where they serve complementary sunset drinks every night [when it isn't raining] from 6 to 7.
The rooms are very nice, with an outdoor living space, another balcony for the lounge chair and a view of one of the limestone karsts in the bay. A bid comfy bed, very nice bathroom with a rain style shower, lots of wood inlay, a desk that lights from underneath, internet access, cordless phones, and lots of huge wooded blinds.
Architecturally, the resort is great. They use a great deal of Thai building style, like peaked tile roofs, lots of flowing water and open seating areas. They also add some interesting modern touched such as granite, curving wooden walls and glass everywhere to give a feeling of light. The rooms are built into the hillside and a road winds around the resort to access the living spaces as well as the villas in the back of the property. Most rooms have a very nice view of the bay, some better than others but all still very nice.
It is also a new hotel, opened in Dec 2005, which is a bit behind in being finished. As a result, they are currently having a "soft opening" to discover what is wrong and help to train the staff. One benefit of this is that we got this really nice room at a really nice resort for 153USD including club access, free internet, some free laundry, a complimentary message each, 25USD a day food credit and free sunset drinks. Kinda of nice.
There are however draw backs. First, the staff has a lot of learning to do. The language barrier is part of the problem but another is that most have never worked in a hotel before. They try really hard but sometimes just miss the mark. While a woman did walk us through the property upon our very nice, professional check-in, she forgot to tell us how club access worked. It took a few calls to actually get an answer from people about what exactly club access was or what we had to do to use it. We sort of understood why as, every time we would go to the club, there were never more that four people in it. All requests are handles through a "call centre" and we quickly learned that by-passing the call center solved a number of frustrations as the staff there did not have a clue about anything. Other minor annoyance were the maiming of a [pricy] piece of Kobe beef in the Japanese restaurant, trying to get someone to acknowledge that the internet in the room did not work [that took 4 days to fix], the poor design of the wooden shutters in the room [impossible for anyone to pull up, which you had to do in order to get out of the room] and just the general confusion caused by simple requests such as "do you have ice" or "when does the shuttle to Ao Nang leave". All in all, once you get past the minor annoyance and learn the quirks, it was a fine place to stay. Great view, decent food and very friendly staff.
Of course, being a bit isolated, there is very little to do but lie on the beach, eat and drink or go to the spa [which is amazingly nice]. So Sad.
Dinner was pretty disappointing. The Japanese restaurant still had some kinks to work out and, although the staff was very friendly, the cook managed to completely maim a very good piece of meat. Afterwards, we stopped by The Club to check it out and the woman who was there had some problems determining if we should really be there. Good Times.