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Koh Klang: Krabi’s little secret

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Southern Thailand

Joanna Horanin

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Last updated at 16/06/2024, 11:15

Hi, I'm Joanna, the author of The Blond Travels. In the worlds of Thailand and Portugal, I feel like a fish in water - and it's no coincidence! I've been exploring Thailand for over a decade, and I've settled in Portugal for 6 years now. My mission is to support Dreamers - just like you - in discovering these fascinating countries and helping those in love with them find their own place on Earth, preferably for good! Let's uncover these unique corners of the world together.

This post has been created in collaboration with AirAsia and Find Folk who together created Journey D. The project aims to elevate local communities and bring them closer to visiting tourists.

On the other side of the river from Krabi Town you can see and witness a completely different world. The Koh Klang island is a haven for those who are looking for peace and quiet and don’t want to follow the crowd. This is the place to go if you want to recharge and rest from the hustle and bustle of the tourist places in Thailand.

I think that when you are on holiday in the Land of Smiles, it’s very easy to get lost in the offers of tours, trips and activities. Sometimes, even if you don’t want to take part in the mass tourism, you end up doing just that. Normally, visitors don’t know the local language and don’t know where to look for information on places that are a little further from the most popular spots. So, they see the same things as everyone else does, try to rest on overcrowded beaches and, by the time they leave, they are discouraged and don’t want to go back to Thailand anymore.

Of course, that’s an extreme. Many people keep coming back and they are happy with what they get. However, if you really want to see tranquil places, make friends with the locals and learn something invaluable, look no further than Koh Klang. This is the place to be for those that are keen to see Thailand off the beaten path.

an empty road surrounded by palm trees on koh klang, krabi, thailand
This is a tranquil place, so different from neighbouring Krabi Town.

Community Based Tourism, Koh Klang and Journey D

Kho Klang is taking part in the Community Based Tourism project, or CBT, which aims to elevate local communities and bring them more business opportunities while, at the same time, promoting eco and sustainable tourism.

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    CBT is the main focus of Journey D, a project created by AirAsia and Find Folk, which together are trying to bring visitors to the less known parts of Thailand. Their trips and activities are targeted towards more conscious travellers, who would like to see the unknown and less frequented parts of Thailand.

    a tourist woman cuts rice on a rice field with thai women watching and a thai man speaking to her
    Community Based Tourism is all about connecting with locals and getting to know them better.

    I was asked to try out two of the tours of Journey D – one with Promlok Community in Nakhon Si Thammarat, the other on Koh Klang, in Krabi Province.

    I spent two amazing days there.

    Koh Klang – Basic Information

    Before I tell you all about my stay on the island, I would like to introduce you to the area.

    Koh Klang is about 70 km long, so it’s not that big. There are approximately 5,000 people living there. Mostly they are farmers and some of them produce handicrafts.

    The island is located just opposite Krabi Town. If you are there, go to the pier and look to the other side. The huts you’ll see belong to the inhabitants of Koh Klang.

    a row of bamboo huts seen from the top of a long tail boat on a river in krabi, koh klang.
    The huts and the pier are visible from Krabi Town’s river bank.

    People living there are mostly Muslims, so the island is slightly different from other parts of the country. There are no Buddhist temples, but 7 mosques. Alcohol and pork products are not allowed on the island and visitors are asked to dress modestly.

    The locals here are lovely though and they welcome tourists with open arms. It’s worth spending here a couple of days to get to know the community and make some friends.

    Day 1 on Koh Klang

    I was picked up from Krabi Town by Mat – a local guide. We took a boat from one of the piers.

    First, he took me to a cave, which is not that far from the main village of the island.

    Khao Khanabnam is a well known cave among the locals. It is located in one of the rocks, visible from Krabi Town. This place used to be the gate to the port some years ago. Now, it’s a quiet spot with a few tourist coming here to visit.

    a long tail boat sails among the rocks in krabi province
    These rocks are also visible from the pier in Krabi Town.
    a woman stands in front of a sing at kanabnam cave, krabi province
    The place is quiet and you can roam around for a long time.

    The cave is not that big, but it’s a lovely attraction, one that I would recommend. The stairs leading to the cave are quite new, even though they look like they are hundreds of years old. Jackie Chan made a movie here once and built wooden stairs. After the film crew moved, the stairs stayed. After a couple of years they fell apart and the local government replaced them with something more sturdy. Now, the entrance is safe and the visitors are welcome to come.

    staircase in kanabnam cave, krabi province
    These stairs look very old, but in fact they are new and very safe to climb.

    In the cave you can see displays of archeological artefacts that were once found in the area. Don’t get too excited, though. They are all fake and they are there to illustrate what was once found.

    rocks in kanabnam cave in krabi province
    The cave also played an important part in the war. The Japanese used to hide here during that time.

    In one point you will see a giant skeleton. No, that’s not a real human. These bones were placed there as a piece of art. They show the famous Thai legend of a giant fighting with a monster. When it was constructed there, the press published an article in a national newspaper claiming that it was real. Thai people got really excited and some were quite upset after finding out that it was all an art installation.

    Outside the cave, watch out for the monkeys! They don’t seem to be bothered by people, but if you start approaching them, you might get into trouble. They like to steal and if they get annoyed, they can bite you. Be careful. You don’t want to end up in a hospital.

    From there we sailed to the village. The more popular and more touristy entrance to the island leads through a mangrove forest. I really like these mysterious forests with light shining through the trees and reflecting in the water. I could sail like that for ages!

    mangrove forest leading to koh klang village
    This mysterious mangrove forest leads to the village.
    A woman sitting in a long tail boat sailing through mangrove forest in krabi, thailand.
    The sail was very relaxing and peaceful.
    A village seen from a mangrove forest in krabi, thailand.
    The mangrove forest transports you from the loud and busy Krabi Town to a quiet village on Koh Klang.

    Apparently, the locals call the forest ‘the time machine’ as it leads from one world to another. It’s true! You get from a very modern place, with lots of bars and tourists, to a quiet and tranquil village. Just at the shore there are some restaurants selling the freshest fish and seafood and further down you get to the streets of Koh Klang.

    huts seen from a long tail boat on a river in krabi, thailand.
    These huts are visible as soon as you leave the mangrove forest.

    Mat put me in a taxi rickshaw and first we went to a homestay, where I was going to stay overnight. The owner, a very cheerful gentleman called Man, greeted me with a wide smile. He asked me to sit in his garden and we chatted for a while. We exchanged views on the local lifestyle and the island. He mentioned that later in the evening we would dinner together and he will prepare something really special for me. I couldn’t wait!

    a muslim woman driving a rickshaw with two passangers in krabi, thailand.
    Rickshaws are the main mode of transportation on Koh Klang.

    Man is an owner of the Nisarin Homestay on Koh Klang. It’s extremely clean and the rooms are large and comfortable. There are no private bathrooms, but the shared ones are clean, too and of a good size. Man and his family organise lots of activities for their guests, including shopping at a local market and cooking dinner together. I highly recommend his place.

    Before the excursion, we went for lunch to a local restaurant, located on the shores of the river. The main seating area is constructed so you actually float on the water. The menu was long, but the waiter spoke excellent English, so I could ask him for some recommendations. I fancied grilled fish, but it turned out that there was a 40 minute wait and as I didn’t have enough time, I went for half fish cooked in garlic and the other half deep fried served with plum sauce.

    men fishing out large fish on a farm on koh klang, krabi, thailand.
    This fish is as fresh as it gets. Locals claim it’s the freshest in the area.
    papaya salad and fish on a plate in a restaurant on koh klang, thailand.
    If you are vegetarian, you can also go for a papaya salad.

    The fish comes from the restaurant’s farm and it’s fished out in front of you. For those that are more sensitive I wouldn’t recommend this place. If you don’t mind it, then I would say – visit one of the restaurants at the river. It doesn’t matter which one. They all have the freshest produce and the food is excellent.

    Once full, I went back to the rickshaw. First I was taken to the rice centre, where a family runs not only a rice farm, but also a workshop, where they fix boats. I could go into the sheds, see how they separate rice grains and what tools they use to fix boats.

    a tourist woman tries to make rice on a rice farm in koh klang, thailand.
    I could try some of the old tools they used to use for making rice. It wasn’t easy at all!
    two Thai men are making rice with old tools.
    Mat and our driver showed us how to use all of the available tools.
    two thai men show a foreign woman old rice making tools in koh klang thailand.
    We were invited to have a look at the modern machines the farmers now use for rice making.
    a tourist woman checks out a long tail boat in a workshop in koh klang thailand.
    Behind the rice centre there is a small workshop, where the long tail boats are made.

    Just right next to the house we stopped to admire the green rice paddies. They look amazing in the sunny weather. However, a few things made me sad. One was that it hadn’t rain for months, even during the rainy season, so the rice was slowly dying. The ladies there, who tried to save what was left of it, earned a bag of rice a day worth 300 Baht – and that was the second thing that was really depressing. The fact that they smiled and joked and even invited me to join them at work didn’t change the uneasy feeling and an impression of unfairness. Throughout the trip I was thinking of them….I still am. We Europeans really don’t appreciate what we have.

    a foreign woman dressed in a flowery blouse stands among rice fields carrying an umbrella.
    The rice fields look really lovely in the sunny weather.
    a foreign woman stands with her back to the camera among rice fields. She carries an umbrella that protects her from the sun.
    If it’s the harvest season, you can walk among the rice fields.
    green and yellow rice wheat growing on koh klang, krabi, thailand.
    Some grains were still green despite the dry weather.
    a group of women collecting rice on the rice fields in thailand, krabi, koh klang. they are wearing hats and have tanaka paste on their faces.
    As you can see, most of the field was yellow. The rice was slowly dying out and the women were trying to collect as much as possible.
    a Thai woman dressed in long shirt and trousers, wearing a hat, cuts rice with a metal tool.
    These women work 8 hours in a scorching sun for a bag of rice a day.
    a group of thai women working on a rice fields in koh klang, thailand. they are wearing hats and long sleeved shirts. they put rice in white plastic bags.
    The women were very friendly and allowed me to work with them for a little while. I kept thinking of their hard work and how little they were paid.

    That day, similarly to the trip in Promlok, I was going to do something creative. Some of the people on the island make handicrafts and Thai dye is something it is famous for. Even AirAsia orders some merchandise from the locals here!
    So, we went to one of the homes by the side of the road and the ladies there showed me how to make Thai dye clothes. I wasn’t very good…In fact, I was rubbish and most of the things were made for me. I still had fun though and enjoyed interacting with the locals. You will also be pleased to know that all the dye there is made locally from plants and spices. Due to lack of chemicals, the colours usually fade a little, but it’s still such a great souvenir for you, or someone at home.

    a foreign woman looks at colourful scarves in a thai village in koh klang, krabi, thailand.
    You first choose what type of clothes you want to dye and then choose the pattern you want to make.
    a thai woman sits on a yellow, flowery matt, on the floor. she is folding a material. she is wearing a red scarf and a flowery blouse.
    Then you have to fold the material correctly using elastic bands.
    a thai woman is making dye using natural ingredients. she is holding a plastic bucket and pouring water in a bowl. thailand, krabi, koh klang.
    The dye is made using natural ingredients, like bark of a tree. It is made by boiling the bark and then adding it to water.
    a thai woman is sitting on a floor covered with a yellow matt. she is holding a white material and rolling it on a plastic tube. thailand, krabi, koh klang.
    Some patterns are made by rolling the material on a plastic tube.
    a thai woman sitting on a floor is rolling a white material on a plastic tube.
    Everything needs to be done precisely. Small mistake and you will not get your desired effect.
    a thai woman and foreign woman are sitting on a floor and folding a white material.
    Other designs are done by folding the material into small pieces and binding it with elastic bands.
    white material held with a metal tool being boiled in green, dirty water in a metal bowl.
    The material is then put in the dye and held there for at least 30 minutes.
    a thai women sitting on the floor washing red material in a red bowl.
    After soaking it for a while, the material is taken out, unfolded and then washed in fresh water.
    a woman dressed in a flowery blouse holding a scarf with yellow patterns. she smiles. thailand, krabi, koh klang, thai dye.
    This is my final creation. Pretty neat, right?

    The rest of the day I spent riding around in the rickshaw, visiting farms, workshops and little shops. I wasn’t forced or encouraged to buy something (although I did buy myself a pair of earrings made out of a coconut) and I never felt that I had to participate in some activities I didn’t find interesting.

    a muslim woman and a foreign woman are making roti together in koh klang.
    I tried to make my own roti.
    a thai man dressed in a sarong fishing at a small pond on koh klang, krabi, thailand.
    We also went to a farm, where we saw how fish and crabs are farmed for the local restaurants.
    a man and a woman walking through a fish farm on koh klang, thailand.
    We walked through the farm and found out about the local production of seafood and fish.
    a group of bees on a white wood.
    The farm has also a few bee hives. The honey is sold locally.
    a view over a desserted beach on koh klang, thailand.
    There is a view point from where you can see some islands nearby, Krabi and the ocean.

    Mat was a very patient guide and he explained everything with his fluent English. We found out more about his heritage – he is Thai, but has Malaysian grandparents – and about his culture. He stressed all the time how important it was for the locals to preserve their way of life. They didn’t want mass tourism on the island, nor loud bars and souvenir stalls. Everyone there wants what they’ve had so far and if they can earn extra money from the incoming tourist, then that’s a bonus.

    It’s worth to mention here that Koh Klang is a community of people trying to keep their identity. Therefore, alcohol and pork products are prohibited as well as skimpy clothes revealing knees and arms – and that also refers to men!

    When I came back to the homestay, I had an hour to rest and just before the sunset I was treated with a real Thai dinner. I ate with the other guests – a lovely French couple – and with the hosts. We sat on bamboo matts and shared lots of small dishes. None of them, however, were traditional. Mostly there were fish in all kinds of shape and form, seafood salads and lots of fresh vegetables. After that we had sweet bananas and tea made out of herbs grown in the Man’s garden.

    Five plats with soup, fish and chilli sauce set up on a bamboo matt.
    The egg soup was made by Man and it was really good! There were also some small fish in coconut sauce, which I also enjoyed.

    Day 2 on Koh Klang

    The breakfast was also a beautiful affair. This time it waited for us on a table, in the back yard. Everything was so beautifully prepared and decorated, it was a shame to eat it!

    Again, the snacks and dishes served weren’t very traditional. They all looked and tasted completely different. I don’t know any of their names, or how they were made, but I can tell you that they were all slightly sweet and very fulfilling.

    After breakfast I was picked up by Matt and we set off to see some of the local houses. He took me to his favourite one – all made out of wood with bird cages hanging around the veranda and children observing us from the windows with interest. Mat said that it was na authentic Thai style house and he would love to paint it one day.

    a thai house made of wood and bamboo standing among palm trees on koh klang, thailand.
    A typical yard on Koh Klang.
    a man and a woman standing next to a small bamboo hut on koh klang, thailand.
    These small huts can be seen near the houses, or in the rice fields. Their main purpose is for people to relax and eat in them.

    And speaking of painting – Mat is very talented. He had studied architecture and now he has his homestay on Koh Klang. Along with his lovely wife, Muna, he rents rooms to tourists and organises lots of activities for them. One of the things you can do at his home, except totally relaxing, is painting your own postcard with natural colours.
    He collects flowers, spices and coffee beans to make beautiful paints. He also provides nice paper and with his help you can create your own postcard. I tried to paint a beach with a boat….Well, it turned out quite rubbish, but I thought the painting process was lovely.

    hands holding peaflower next to a small set of bowls with natural colours.
    Mat makes some colours out of flowers.
    a woman painting a postcard with natural colours in koh klang, thailand.
    I really enjoyed the creative process.
    a smiling woman holding a postcard painted with natural colours in koh klang, thailand.
    I was very proud of my creation!

    Mat’s wife prepared an amazing lunch – kao soi and spaghetti with green curry. After that I was treated to a home made lemonade. Wow! I couldn’t be more happy!

    a plat of khao soi on a white plate.
    Khao soi is one of the best Thai dishes. I was so happy to eat it for lunch!
    a glass of home made lemonade standing on a table. the water is blud, purpule and white. It has a green leaf and some pink flowers.
    This lemonade was not only pretty, but also very delicious.

    It was very sad to leave the island and Mat and Muna. I felt like it was an amazing experience, one that I will never forget. I really need to go back there some other time!

    a muslim woman and a muslim man standing in front of a guest house with a foreign woman. they smile at the camera.
    Muna and Mat were very lovely hosts.
    a woman in a white shirt sitting on a wooden bench among green trees. she looks up and smiles a little.
    Mat and Muna have a beautiful garden, where the guests can rest and relax.
    boats standing at huts on stills on a river in koh klang, thailand.
    The main peer offers great views over the river and the village.

    Stay on Koh Klang – Transport, food, accommodation

    • You can easily get from Krabi Town to Koh Klang. The transport is included in the Journey D trip. The guide will pick you up and then arrange a boat for you. If you want to do it yourself, the trip there costs 10 Baht.
    • There is a plenty of accommodation on the island. I recommend two homestays: Nisarin and Kid Thung. If you are going with Journey D, you will stay in one of them and the booking is arranged for you.
    • People on the island don’t eat typical Thai dishes you might know from other places. They love fish and here, it’s the freshest in the region. If you want to eat seafood and fish, go to the restaurant at the pier. Your homestay owners will also cook for you. If you’re going with Journey D, you will have your food provided – lunch, dinner and breakfast the next day.

    How to book your stay?

    You can book your trip through Journey D site. There are additional things you can add to your trip or take them off. The tours can be costumed to your interests and needs.

    Additional information

    Remember that these trips are slightly different. You are someone’s guest. Please be considerate. I would encourage you to ask questions, be friendly and treat your guide as a friend, be curious and opened to the new culture and you’ll have the most amazing time!

    Do you have any questions? Would you like to share your experiences or your point of view? Don’t be shy! Leave a comment!