The Immigration process was a bit slow because only 3 or 4 counters were open and the process now requires everyone to be photographed.
People from most countries are photographed digitally in front of the immigration counter. People from some countries need to provide actual photos for their visa. There are desks before Immigration where you can get these photos done for a price. People from Europe, the USA, Australia, NZ, etc are fine and get the digital scan.
As you exit into the arrival hall it is now fairly commonplace for you to find at least one Mobile Network Company set up with a kiosk selling their simCards. At Krabi, this was the TRUE network. They were giving away free simCards (normally worth THB50) with any package that you purchased. Their one month 2GB Mobile Data Plan was selling for THB600. This included them setting it all up for you.
I decided not to buy at the airport, but wait until I had properly researched the best Mobile Network for Ko Phayam.
I did my sums and calculated that the NZ$500 ATM single transaction limit was about THB11,800.
So, at the airport ATM, I withdrew THB11,500. The ATM charged me THB180 for the privilege and spat out the cash.
Interestingly, this hit my NZ bank account as NZ$506 (which was over the NZ$500 limit). I also got charged NZ$5 at the NZ end for a Foreign ATM Fee.
This gave me an ‘effective’ exchange rate of NZ$1 = THB23.
There are no ATMs on Ko Phayam island so the next day I went to take out more money.
This ATM said that the maximum withdrawal was THB20,000. Given that the last one of NZ$506 was honoured at the NZ end, I chanced my luck…
If they were going to charge me another THB180 for the privilege, I might as well take out THB20,000. Sure enough, the ATM spat out the cash. The transaction hit my NZ$ bank account as NZ$878.
Lesson Learnt: If the ATM offers you a maximum try it… even though it may be over your ‘home bank ATM transaction limit’, it may still get honoured and you will end up with a better ‘effective’ exchange rate.
AIRPORT TO HOTEL:
Krabi airport have set up a Taxi Counter where you go to order your taxi.
There was also a large 52-seater public bus outside (charging THB90) but I had no idea where in Krabi City it was going (later, I found out that the Bus Staton is 6km out of the city center – so, I would still have needed a taxi from there to the Hotel).
The taxi to my hotel was a flat rate THB350. It was getting late and I was tired, so I took the taxi.
It was a 30 minute drive which was done in 20 minutes because the taxi driver drove like a madman. I bet he wears out his breaks really quickly. 🙂
I knew that I had a full day of travel ahead of me and that I would arrive in Krabi at about 7 in the evening. So, I decided to book a hotel online (and pay the premium) rather than turn up in Krabi and try and find a decent room ‘walking in off the street’.
As a consequence, I learnt very little about the accommodation available in Krabi; alas, I cannot advise on what sort of price you should be paying.
Krabi is a typical city with typical city accommodation: hotels, B&Bs, etc as well as properties on AirB&B.
I literally booked the room 30 minutes before catching the flight from KL to Krabi. Which meant that I was there 2 hours after the booking.
The room that I booked looked reasonable enough but, on arrival, they said that they had ‘upgraded’ me to a bigger room (I assumed that this was because my booking was so last minute that they had already sold the rooms but not had time to update the online database).
FOOD & DRINK:
It was about 8pm on my first night, so I walked down the street to see what I could find.
They had many ‘Fast Food’ meals (like Phad Thai) in the THB35-40 range. I got a Tom Yam Gai for THB80; it was OK – but I’ve had better – but, it had the most chicken in it that I have had in any chicken meal in the past 2 months.
Alas, they were pretty busy and Tom Yam Gai is not on the ‘Fast food’ menu… so I had to wait about 45 minutes.
This gave me time to sample the 3 main beers available: Chang, Leo, and Singha. A large (pint) bottle of each was THB65. I concluded that Chang tasted the best.
The next day I had breakfast on the road to Ao Nang. Two fried eggs on toast for THB60 and a Banana Lassi for THB50.
On the 2nd night I ate the night stalls again (crispy pork for THB80 with plain white rice for THB15) and drank 4 Chang Beers.
The following morning I felt like I had had 8 Changs! I was feeling more than a bit hung over. That was not right.
Lesson Learnt. I have heard from several sources that Chang put some nasty chemicals in their beer to stop it going off in the heat. Formaldehyde has been mentioned on several occasions. I am, now, tempted to believe the rumours. I will keep off the Changs. I’ll stick to Leo and Singha…
As usual, I needed to get around to ‘check the place out’ for this blog. I asked my hotel if they rented scooters. They did for THB250 per day. I said OK.
They did not actually rent scooters… they knew someone who rented scooters… he turned up 10 minutes later.
We filled in the paperwork and he asked for my passport. He wanted to keep it as security. I did not like that idea so I declined. He then asked for a THB3000 security deposit. I said that this wasn’t going to work and cancelled the deal.
I walked 5 minutes to the Night Food market area. There I found a scooter for THB200. By then I had overcome my problem in giving over my passport… I handed over my passport (no deposit required) and off I went.
I got on my scooter and toured the area – which included trying to keep to the river road(s) and make it down to the river delta / Krabi coast.
I found Krabi City unimpressive. I really do not have much more to say.
As mentioned, I did not buy a simCard at the airport. This was a good decision (for me) as my online research indicated that AIS was the best provider for Ko Phayam.
There are 3 main networks: AIS, TRUE, and DTAC. This is what I found out:
- They come in 3 basic forms, and can be topped up at any stage with either a certain amount of money, or better (and cheaper) by selecting a prepaid top-up plan
- The Prepay Talk Plan SIM: Offered by all three major phone companies, the talk plans have a greater focus on making phone calls. They have a limited amount (if any) of internet data included. You will pay extra for Data and SMS
- The Prepay Data Plan SIM: Offered by all three major phone companies, the data (or Net Plan) has a greater focus on the amount of data you can have, and have access to WiFi hotspots. You will pay extra to make calls and send SMS
- The Prepay Smart Plan SIM: Offered by all three major phone companies, the smart phone plan can be specific to a phone brand or for general phones, and provides a more even distribution of talk time and data. SMS will cost extra.
After you have purchased your simCard you can, then, purchase a monthly bulk prepaid subscription. To do this you must have a balance of credit on your phone that will allow you to purchase the various plans. Each plan is purchased by texting a phone number when required or arranging for the plan to be purchased on a recurring basis each month.
Once you are up and running, you ‘top up’ the credit on the SIM in the usual ways and, then, use that credit to purchase your next plan.
In Thailand, you can buy your simCard in a 7/11 or mobile shop (and, probably, many other places – if you can read Thai). I drove to the nearest 7/11. The counter was busy serving the normal flow of people buying goods. I got to the counter and asked if anyone spoke English. They did not… I could see that this was going to be a total waste of time as I needed help – not just the simCard. I started to think that I should have got the simCard at the airport…
Finally, I found a shopping plaza in Krabi (near my hotel). Downstairs was a suite of Mobile Phone counters. I tried 4 counters before I found someone who could speak English and was willing to help me.
I purchased the AIS Freedom Net 3G 2100 package. The SIM cost THB50. I needed to put THB450 credit on the card so that I could buy the THB399 1.5GB data only plan that had a special 3x Internet offer – to take me up to 4.5GB.
This is an unlimited data plan that falls back to 128kbps when your GBs have been used up. 128kbps is enough to ‘survive’ on but is not fast enough for heavy duty work.
About 16km south west of Krabi is the popular holiday resort of Ao Nang. I thought that I would go and check it out.
By the time that I had actually got out of Krabi and on to the highway, it took me about 30 minutes to get to Ao Nang.
I took an immediate dislike to the place. As you approach the beach the last 2kms of the main street is full of tourist shops, restaurants, bars and parked scooters / cars for as far as the eye can see.
I stopped at the beach front to see what the ‘big deal’ was but just found over-priced cafes and a crowded beach that was average at best.
Sorry Ao Nang, but there are better places in this world…
A street or two back from Krong Ka Pier, Krabi you will find a main street with shopping options, including a couple of shopping plazas.
Later in the evening, starting at about 7-8pm, a night market starts up.
The shopping seemed reasonable. I purchased 4 Adidas-type ‘sports tops’ for THB890 (i.e. less than NZ$10 each).
At Krong Ka Pier there are a couple of Tourist Offices selling tickets to places all over the region. The going rate seems to be THB400 no matter where you are going: Ranong, Ko Jum, Ko Lanta by boat, Ko Lanta by bus, etc.
I booked the Public Aircon Bus to Ranaong. This included pick up from my Hotel and the 6km taxi transport to the Krabi Bus Station. I knew that the Public Bus ticket was worth about THB200 so I thought that THB400 all up was OK.
The bus left the station at 8:30am so we arranged for me to be picked up at 7:40am.
I was ready and waiting outside my hotel at 7:30am. 7:40am came and went and so did 8:00am. At 8:05am I gave in and walked the 5 minutes down to Krong Ka Pier to the Tourist Office.
Luckily, they were open and we sorted it out. At 8:15am I was in a taxi and speeding towards the Bus Station. When I say speeding… I mean speeding…
You know those American car chase movies where someone is driving the wrong way up a 2 lane motorway? The cars coming at you all seem to be spaced perfectly so that the offending vehicle can weave left and right across the 2 lanes at high speed in and out of the gaps between cars. Well, that was how we got to the Bus Station. I had my left foot on an imaginary break all the way there!
The bus was still there and waiting. I would say that it was a 2nd Class Aircon bus – not top quality but adequate. We were off in less than 5 minutes.
With all of the trouble, I did not have time for breakfast. It was 2pm in the afternoon before I saw any food (we had a 10 minute comfort stop in the middle of nowhere and I grabbed something from a road side stall).
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