As I have already mentioned in my previous entries, my husband and I are unintentionally last-minute people. We make plans, just last minute plans.
Therefore on the very first four-day long weekend we had in Malaysia in 2015, we found ourselves at the Pudu Bus Station in Kuala Lumpur (K.L) during lunchtime on a Friday, trying to purchase bus tickets for that very night, to Krabi and back, via road. To our surprise, almost every other person in the bus station shared similar plans as us.
Having failed to get a direct bus into Hat Yai, the said fastest mode of transport to our first stop in Thailand, we had to go with plan B which was to get a bus to Butterworth, Penang, with hopes of securing the first minivan that drives into Hat Yai at 5a.m on the next day ,31st of January 2015. This option would ensure our weekend unfolds as planned. To our dismay, bus tickets to Butterworth sold out too.
You know the old English saying, “Where there is a will, there is a way”? Well, they (whoever they were) were right.
Randomly sharing our search for an option to travel to Penang, our friends Raymond and Maryanne were planning to take a long drive for the weekend and with Penang being 5-hours away from K.L, they offered to drop us off at the Butterworth bus station.
Thankful, pleasantly surprised and feeling blessed having good friends to count on around us, we begin our journey at 11.30p.m on Friday, the 30th of January. Taking a slow drive with only two stops, one for supper at the Rawang (r&r) and another a toilet break, we arrived Butterworth a little over 5a.m, searching for the bus station which was relocated and hidden under a bridge.
Almost like a replay of the incident at Pudu Bus Station the afternoon before, the minivan leaving for Hat Yai at 6a.m was fully booked. The next available minivan was at 8.30a.m, which would mean we would arrive Krabi much later. Wasted time would also mean hours that could be spent productively at the destination of choice. The sooner we got to the beach, the better.
My husband started enquiring on all our options and it attracted the attention of a traveller from Melbourne, Australia, heading the very same direction we were. Finding out that a private car with a driver that takes us into Hat Yai’s bus station costs MYR 200 (USD 55) , dividing it by the three of us, a little less than MYR 70 (USD 19) per person became our choice. We now have with us a traveling friend, Aidan. Part of the joys of traveling would have to be meeting new people, learning of their journeys and adding on another member to that Facebook friends list. Hah!
Aidan joined us and our friends from K.L for a morning cup of tea as we waited for our driver to arrive at the food court just opposite the hidden bus station. Before you know it, we said goodbye to Raymond and Maryanne as we were introduced to a kind old man named San, our friendly driver for the day and his very well kept 7th- generation Toyota Corolla.
Driving out of Penang a little over 6a.m on the North-South Expressway, we were accompanied by a beautiful sunrise on our journey. In 1.5 hours we took a pit stop at the Naluri Aman Duty Free in Changlun, Kedah . It is compulsory to stop here as they have counters that fill up your embarkation/disembarkation card for a fee of MYR 2.00 (USD 0.55) only. This stop also has a money changer, toilets, food stalls and a little duty-free shopping if you fancy before going into Thailand.
Traveling in a private car meant time was on our side. As we wanted to get into Thailand soonest, we continued our journey towards the Malaysian – Thailand border & customs located just 30 minutes away.
Being in a private car meant a quick and swift exit out of Malaysia without having to exit the car. Crossing the border we stopped at a rather awkwardly located Duty Free mall (still within the Malaysian territory) as Naweshad needed the ATM, behind the mall is a Golf Course which tickled our thoughts.
We exit the mall and within a second went bumper first into the traffic congestion. San, our kind driver told us to leave a MYR 1.00 (USD 0.28) note in our passports along with the embarkation card. I wonder what was it for? Bribe? Or just another culture?
Culture I shall say. As per San’s advice, MYR 1 is sufficient, it is not necessary to feel generous and place an MYR 10 note in there, as he exclaimed and I quote, “you won’t get MYR 9 change”. We do what the wise man says.
As we approach the Sadao Immigration Check-Point we were told to get out of the car. The atmosphere took a rather drastic change… even the winds were much cooler. Armed Thai Army men visible everywhere around the immigrations, it made me wonder if this beach getaway by land was about to turn ugly but honestly, it was just safety precautions on their part. The lines at the immigration counters seemed endless, needing to get out of the car felt inconvenient having paid for a private vehicle however regardless of your mode of transport, you are required to join the immigration queue. In every passport, an MYR 1 note was peeping out alongside their boarding passes. Aha! Everyone has been briefed. Wait a min! I see an MYR 10 note peeping out from one of em’… I guess no one told her she wont be getting change or perhaps she was feeling generous?
A quiet and rough experience yet not damaging to the soul is how I would describe the immigrations experience. You cannot help but feel as though you have wronged the law as they take the MYR 1.00 and leave it in a basket on the side which was already overflowing with notes, a camera at the tip of my nose displays a live image of my pores up close in the cabin as the officer stamps my entry into Thailand. I lift my right hand to take my passport from the immigrations officer yet she leaves it on the side as she continue to scribble on my entry card, she looks up at me, points to my passport and sharply says, “TAKE!”. Like an innocent child that has somehow managed to escape detention, I took my passport and walked to the side waiting on Naweshad and Aidan to get done. I looked ahead and saw San waiting on us, the boys cleared immigrations and we got back into the car. Off we went towards Hat Yai, only 45 minutes away.
I opened my tired eyes and we have arrived at the Hat Yai bus stand, beside a tourist office. San has agreed to help us secure a minivan to Krabi, the cost is MYR 40 (USD 11) per person. We initially had to wait an hour for the next minivan but by luck, there was one available and it would require us to hop on a tuk-tuk (auto-rickshaw) to meet the van 5 minutes away.
The minivan is not the most comfortable mode of transport though it’s convenient and cheap. Say goodbye to leg room or any amount of space to move if you’re seated right at the back. Aidan, being blessed with long legs swapped seats with a kind man who is now seated next to Naweshad and I.
Large exaggerated speakers and air con vents “decorated” the interior of the Van. It was humid, there was barely any circulation and if you’re claustrophobic, ensure you get the front seats, never the back. Thai music was playing on the radio and it would seem alright for the first hour but no harm to have your ipod or MP3 player ready for some inspiring music to accompany your road trip. Europe’s The Final Countdown seems an apt track for the last leg of travel to Krabi.
Thankfully, the journey to Krabi has a pit stop two- hours away in Trang for 15 mins before another two- hour drive to Krabi. We were asleep the first two hours, awake drenched in our own sweat. Trang’s pit stop has Halal food, tidbits, endless supply of cake in the most flavours we have ever seen and our choice was chips and Coke. You can never go wrong with Chips and Coke.
Back in the van we continued on our journey to Krabi, refreshed by sugar and the comfort of knowing we were much closer to our destination, Naweshad and I had our headphones on when suddenly, he taps my shoulder and tells me to look over. The kind man that swapped seats with Aidan is now comfortably asleep on his shoulder. Why does such a sight tempt us to crack up? So we did.
The surrounding started to change, from empty towns filled with wild jungle we now are approaching towns where shops are being set up on the side, ads on the roads were more relatable and that signifies we’re closer to town.
When traffic starts to get busy… We know we are in Krabi town. Passing the airport, a few government offices and schools, the minivan alights us once more at a tourist office where the next destination can be easily reached by another tuk-tuk. Aidan will now head to Ao Nang with us, though Krabi town is very much the most authentic Krabi, Ao Nang is where you want to be.
Good food, the beach, bars and clubs, massage parlours, local shopping and surrounded by fellow tourist and backpackers, 400 bhat gets us a tuktuk ride into Ao Nang, 30 minutes away. 400 Bhat is around MYR 40 (USD 11), divided by three, we’re paying less than MYR 14 (USD 4) each.
Aidan will alight at the McDonalds in Ao Nang where we part ways and he continues on his month long adventure traveling around Malaysia and Thailand. We alighted at our pre-booked hotel (booked that very morning), located right by the beach, we finally arrive at the L Hotel, Ao Nang. Where’s my bed!
All that traveling and we should be tired but we truly were not. We freshened up, had our first taste of Fried Chicken Rice from the hotel which was delicious and off we went roaming the streets of Ao Nang and the beach to enquire and hopefully find our boatman to take us out fishing.
The beach in Krabi is truly something. You could just stand right by and watch the waves all day. That’s one of Thailand’s beauty that attracts tourists from all over the world. Shades of green and blue, clear skies , rock formations and famous islands up ahead, Krabi is truly a place that has so much to offer as a family and sports destination.
After much research and enquiry, there were two fishing charters that operate bringing tourists out to fish, comparing prices from around the streets, we decided to get the hotel staff to make a reservation on our behalf with Krabi Star One Fishing Tour. It was late and we called it a night, we had an early morning to fish and ample rest from the road trip was needed.
6a.m and we were up and ready to fish. The pick-up is at 7a.m and I was wondering how do we get breakfast before the trip. To our delight, the hotel staff prepared a breakfast box for us. Chicken sandwich, a muffin, brownie and grapes alongside orange juice and a bottle of water.
I am convinced this is fishing luxury. It had to be.
We board our boat at the Nopparat Thara Pier. According to our captain, we begin trolling as soon as waters are deep enough upon leaving the pier. This was around 5 minutes after passing the lighthouse. We are trolling around Krabi’s famous four islands as we take in the sights for the day. Being only a half day fishing trip, we will not be heading towards Bamboo Island, where the waters are said to be deeper and the fishes, much bigger.
Knowing that we would be trolling for the entire trip, we were delighted to learn that large boats for recreational and commercial fishing in Krabi were equipped with outriggers. Outriggers allow the boat to troll several lines in the water without getting tangled. We had five lines out attached to a variety of artificial lures. Two lines at the back of the boat were attached to a makeshift outrigger made with a snap swivel and a trusty ol’ rubber band holding on to the line. Brilliant and cost effective! The Big Game Fishing boat has a toilet, comfortable padded seats and a half-day trip includes a variety of fresh fruits. With our target species for the day being the Great Barracuda, the locals have assured us that trolling around the four islands and waters nearby will produce favourable result. In the locals we trust!
We approached Poda Island passing Railay Beach on trolling speed. Slow and steady we were able to take in the beauty of the Islands white sandy beach and crystal clear waters. We soon found ourselves in between Koh Poda and Koh Dam Khwan Island, yachts anchored nearby with rock structures having rope ladders hanging from them- evidence of an amazing rock climbing experience. We took our time and took it all in, camera’s clicking away.
A half day boat trip was only for four hours. As much as the sights were magnificent, we could not ignore that we were paying to catch fish. My husband had a quick word with the captain and soon we found ourselves crossing towards Laem Hang Nak. We made one trip around a reef structure nearby and our lines got stuck and tangled. Naweshad looked around for other areas to fish, with hopes it would save us time and asked the Captain if we could troll alongside the Laem Hang Nak Palace.
Naweshad has good knowledge on habitats and feeding habits of various species of fishes, looking at the area, he convinced our captain to troll along the Laem Hang Nak Palace, Khlong Muang beach and back. As close to shore as possible. The Captain seemed a little skeptical however Naweshad’s confidence somehow ignited a little adrenaline within us all.
In the blink of an eye, the calm on the boat turned into chaos as the Penn Senator reel screamed, music to our ears! I scrambled to record the video as Naweshad excitedly reels in, hanging on to the rod. The fish leapt out of the air with our captain exclaiming, “Barracuda!”, as he swiftly reels in the other lines. The fish nears the boat and our captain hauls it on board with a gaff. We may not have been comfortable with it however as with everywhere else, Barracudas are a tasty dinner option for the family. Especially one the size that Naweshad landed!
Gleaming under the afternoon sun, Naweshad lifts up the powerful Great Barracuda for a photograph. It was the biggest he has ever landed and that I have ever seen up close. The level of satisfaction cannot be put into words. Not only did we meet our target species in a location that Naweshad pointed us out to-we did it in the nick of time!
We only had 10 more minutes to fish. One last round and off we went back to the Nopparat Thara Pier where our pick-up was waiting to drop us back to L Hotel in Ao Nang.
A half day fishing trip meant that we had sufficient time to rest and plan a few activities for the rest of the day. There is no better way to celebrate than indulging in one of the many Thai massages available on the streets of Ao Nang. A quick change and a left turn from L Hotel left us spoilt for choice. A quick price comparison found us in a simple and beautiful massage parlours couple room.
Naweshad opted for a full body massage after an intense battle with the Barracuda and I picked a foot massage for myself, to ease the aches from wobbling around with the video camera. A touch of the masseuse hands and off I went to sleep, awaking to her signaling that I needed to sit as she pulls, twist and basically man-handled my arms behind my neck as if to ensure that I was truly awake. An hour and a half passed in a flash, Naweshad and I felt rejuvenated and hungry.
Exploring the area, we came across the Ao Nang Seafood Street and we highly recommend that you try a few of the many seafood restaurants there whilst you are in Krabi. We decided to dine at the Chaba Thai Kitchen and Restaurant. We got a seat right by the beach, in time to witness the calming sunset as we overlook the islands that we were trolling around just that morning.
The rest of our evening was spent experiencing and shopping the streets of Ao Nang before ending our night booking another half day fishing trip with Krabi Star One Fishing Tour once more… this time, on the long-tail boat.
The next morning was a repeat of the day before, a hearty breakfast box followed by pick-up from the hotel to the Nopparat Thara Pier.
The long-tail boat can be seen everywhere on the shores of Thailand. Powered by an engine from a second hand car or truck, getting on one is an excitement in itself, what else fishing on it! With it’s original purpose being to cross rivers on high speed, the canoe-like body makes balancing on one quite a challenge on the choppy Andaman sea with strong winds. Though we were concerned on how we would fight a fish in an event we caught one, a canopy offered some relief knowing we were shaded from the sun. What it lacks, it makes up for, no complains.
We were aware of what we wanted to go for on this half day trip. We began trolling out of the pier towards the Laem Hong Nak Palace where we caught the Barracuda. We decided to spend the four hours trolling back and forth along the Khlong Muang beach and Laem Hang Nak Palace. Within the first hour of trolling by the Palace, Naweshad and I both lost a Red Snapper each. Unlike the Big Game fishing boat, the long-tail boat had only two rod holders, one on each side, without being elevated- it was getting tangled and stuck on the reefs, wasting valuable time.
Whilst making a turn at Khlong Muang Beach, adjacent to the Nakamanda Resort and Spa, we spotted a few tourists spear fishing. As I stood at the back of the boat with our young Captain, learning more about spearfishing in Krabi, I was startled by his sudden leap out of his position, arms swinging above my head… Ever so silently, there was a quick take on one of the rods, he set the hook and shoved the rod over to me. It did not seem like anything was on the line but our young Captain assured me there was and firmly instructed me to reel.
Naweshad began recording as I struggle with the right-hand retrieve reel added to the fact that the boat was still moving albeit slowly, winds were blowing a cloth tied to the boat in my face and I was trying to balance as the long-tail boat was rocking. Our young Captain assisted in pulling in the lines with his hands and finally! My first fish from the Andaman sea, a teeny tiny Great Barracuda!
We wasted no time, a swift U-turn and we found ourselves in the same route and scenario once more, this time, a strong take as Naweshad grabs hold of the rod. He was battling the very same elements I was, worst still, he had a bigger fish at the end of the line. I wobbled around trying to find a solid footing to capture the moment, our Captain readies his gaff, switching from right to left and back, eyes focused on the approaching fish… A smooth swing and up comes a very decent sized Barracuda.
We tried once more, on the same route, knowing that a feeding frenzy of Barracuda’s was happening when so suddenly, a strong, abrupt and ferocious take sent the rod bending mercilessly, the line peeling, reel screaming almost in pain!
A fish!! A big one!
…A long-tail boat!
A small one. Speeding across like a bullet with our lure caught on it. Our young Captain yells out to no avail, starts the engine and off we were on a chase towards the Khlong Muang shore, hopeful to retrieve our lucky lure and make it in time. I cannot help but feel like we were on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean, chasing after an unknowing lure robber, winds smacking our faces and our legs springing from the bumps of cutting the waves as we stood up like a team of three capable sea warriors. We stopped the boat close to shore and our Captain dives in to retrieve the lure. Unfortunately, we lost it along with the feeding frenzy of Barracuda’s.
Our time was up and we headed back to the pier battling rough waves, accomplished.
Fishing on the long-tail boat was far more productive as it’s size allowed us to go closer to structure and reefs where bait fish are of abundance. Where there are bait fish, there are larger predators. However, comfort and practicality meant that the big game fishing boat reigned supreme. Both boats are able to travel similar distances to fish around Krabi, however, the big game fishing boat is able to accommodate more anglers, more rods and the convenience of an outrigger meant increasing one’s chance to catch, saving time from dealing with lines getting tangled and stuck on reefs.
Naweshad and I were very comfortable with the long-tail boat as we worked within the knowledge we had to catch a fish, not biting off more than we can chew. Half day trips on the big game fishing boat is not worth the cost, therefore if you are planning to take the big game boat, opt for a full day trip, complete with lunch and a variety of species to catch as they travel further out to Bamboo Island.
We travelled back to our hotel on a tuktuk, along with the two Barracudas we caught which we promised to gift to a kind staff at the L Hotel. The rest of our evening was spent packing and relaxing, my husband even managed to squeeze in a two hour massage in the hotel room, winding down our trip relaxing in Krabi, the way one should. We were heading back to Kuala Lumpur in the morning.
During our time walking around Ao Nang, we came across private vehicles that were willing to drive tourists to various locations within Thailand. We needed a transport back to Hat Yai where our trusty private driver was waiting to take us back into Penang before we board our coach to KL. It was during one of our walks that we came across a pleasant gentleman named Mr. Nong and his Toyota Fortuner. Seating seven comfortably, having only the two of us meant a lot of space and comfort in comparison to the Thai Minivan which was a rather claustrophobic experience. The cost of renting his private vehicle from Krabi to Hatyai is MYR 500 (5000 bhat / USD 138) and is ideal if you’re travelling in a 5-7 person group. Sharing the cost by 5, each person will only be paying MYR100 (USD 28), a minivan will cost you MYR 40 (USD 11), however the difference is a small price to pay for comfort and convenience on the 4-hour journey.
Mr. Nong picked us up at 7.30am and even brought us to a few souvenir shops for some last minute shopping. As we were driving off to Hat Yai, he noticed something amiss with his right rear tyre. Very calmly, he stopped by a petrol station for a quick check, true enough, a nail has found it’s way into the tyre. Again, very calmly, he drove to a nearby Michelin Tyre shop that was on the way. He apologized and enquired if he could have a few minutes to fix the tyre, all in all, it took them 30 minutes to have the tyre ready to go. We stood by looking at the entire process and was intrigued at the level of efficiency and perfection that went towards fixing the tyre. We were very impressed.
One thing we noticed about the Thai people is how they kept their word and were always on time. On top of that, they were some of the warmest people i’ve met traveling.
We continued on our journey back to Hat Yai, where we were dropped off right by the vehicle that takes us into Malaysia. The cost for the private vehicle still stands at MYR 200 (USD55) and it sits 4 people.
The same immigrations policy applies, out of the car at the Sadao Immigrations Check-point with a MYR 1 note slipped into the passport. We were lucky that the immigrations check-point was not busy that morning. The Malaysian immigration was comfortable as we get to stay in the car whilst they stamp our entry back into Malaysia. We enquired with San, our driver, why we needed to step out of the car and stand in line at the Thai immigrations. He chuckled and replied, “they built the post too high for the drivers to be able to pass the passport, so everyone needs to come out”.
Well. That explains it.
The journey to Penang island was smooth, arriving at the bus station where we had pre-booked the Nice Bus (Nice being the name of the bus company) to Kuala Lumpur, equipped with movies to accompany us on our 5-hour journey.
If you have yet to try out the trip to Thailand from Malaysia by road, we highly recommend it. If you plan to head to Krabi, we insist you try out the Krabi Star One Fishing Tours, which includes snorkelling and island hopping as well. If you would like to know more and require assistance on planning your road trip to Thailand, do not hesitate to leave us a comment below and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
Need more inspiration for that fishing trip? Check out our video below.