Krabi has a diverse history for such a small town. One part of that history is the cave on the island of KhaoKhanap Nom, in the Krabi river. This island is primarily made up of prominent karst’s that are about 100 meters high. A short 15 minutes boat ride from the Krabi docks at Chaofah pier in Krabitown, gets you to the island. At the dock, a short path leads you to a set of constructed stairs, which then take you into this amazing cave. At first, you enter a shallow cave with impressive stalactites and stalagmites all around, and then in another 10 meters it turns into a larger even more magnificent cave. It is a massive cave with ceiling heights of 10 to 15 meters. I have never been in such a place! Just to stand there and feel the power and majesty of this space is so powerful! They have set up models of prehistoric people drawing on the cave walls to demonstrate how people who had lived there may have behaved.
In the early 1960’s, Dr. Douglas D. Anderson discovered bones in the cave, which proved that it had been the dwelling site of ancient peoples from various periods in history. Evidence in the form of human skeletons, stone tools and fragments of pottery suggested that prehistoric people dwelt in these caves. Krabi’s history is very old – what an interesting thought. Evidence also shows that the Japanese used the caves during WWII.
Wandering through this cave is an experience like no other. Its enormity is hard to describe. Seeing other tourists wandering through at the same time, puts perspective on this. When we looked over and saw others walking on the opposite side of the cave, they looked tiny, indicating that it is a huge space inside the cave – it is a strange feeling to observe it this way.
After you’ve absorbed the cave history, your boat driver can take you a little further up river through the mangrove forests in the river. A small path was created for longtail boats to travel through these groves, but slow and quiet is the best way to enjoy this beautiful scenery. The mangroves’ shade offers a refreshing respite from the hot mid-day sun in Krabi. My boat driver described the difficulty in both high and low tides for this area. The tide can rise and fall a full meter and expose the gnarly tree roots that a boat motor can get caught up in. It felt like I was in a movie scene as he drove along – some monkeys and plenty of birds were enjoying this isolation. There were no sounds of Krabitown anywhere around us. We felt we were miles away from Krabitown now – as though we were deep in a remote jungle. However, we were only on the other side of the Krabi river, maybe 500 meters as the crows flies from Krabitown downtown. The high cost of building bridges, has kept this side of Krabi very undeveloped and very pristine. Access to this area is only by boat, this is a feature that makes it more interesting and enjoyable to explore.
Leaving these dense mangroves brought us to the other side of the river. Here we encountered several small fish farms floating near the riverbank. I could not tell what they were growing, but seeing these floating houses with their submerged fish areas offered an unusual perspective on the lives of some of the people living on the river here in southern Thailand. There were several floating restaurants, which are close to or even part of these floating fish farms. A dinner selection off the menu prompts the staff to grab inside one of the cages and bring it up for cooking – you won’t get fish any fresher than that! A bamboo bridge attaches the restaurant to the shore where the kitchen and restrooms are. This restaurant was a delightful way to enjoy a peaceful meal on the river with friends.
Our ride back to Krabi’s dock springs us back into reality and the busy part of the river life, here in Krabi. This is where larger boats are traveling alongside the long tail boats. If you time it well you’ll get another great sunset vista from the river, and you will have experienced yet another hidden gem of Krabi.
by Linsey Hurley