June 23, 2019 By bangkok7
I miss Krabi. Now that I’m going on 7 years as a cosmopolitan Bangkok man (Bangkoksmopolitan, copyright BKK7), I’ve started to pine for southern life. Don’t get me wrong—I love the Bangkok red-lights, and the huge malls, great restaurants, and farang-friendly fare. I’m a city boy at heart. But I have to admit, there was something uniquely appealing about the south—or at least, about the way of life down there. It’s basically the opposite of a Bangkok existence, which I suppose is why so many expats love it and choose it. The slow pace, the trend to live in the here-and-now, the soothing sound of the Andaman lapping unobtrusively on powdery white sand. It’s pure bliss. And the fact that while living there I had a Thai girlfriend—my one and only Thai girlfriend—probably adds to the rose-colored tint of my memories of that place. Our breakup was bad, but in spite of that, I look back on my time there with nostalgic wonder.
When I first arrived in Thailand, it was for work. I’d taken a job at a fake NGO in a small town about an hour from Krabi town that had a population of about 20,000, of which only 5 were farang. I was on the job and working an hour after hitting the tarmac, and didn’t really lift my head to look at the surroundings until the 3rd day. That morning, I woke up, walked outside, stepped over a cobra warming himself on my porch, and saw the sun rising above the range of karst that surrounded the town. There was green in every direction. The street was lined with coconut trees. Birds chirped. Friendly Thais smiled and said “wad-dee.” And as I walked to work, I was overcome with a fit of giggles. I literally pinched myself, because I couldn’t believe my good fortune. For the first time in decades, I felt no stress. My shoulders were remarkably knot-free. The most difficult obstacle that day was deciding whether to have eggs with my toast. Life became serene. Simple. Nothing was difficult. I stopped watching TV, stopped following the news. Nighttime activities were as follows: pop some popcorn on the stove, buy some big Leo’s, sit in the front garden and watch the sunset, smoke hand-rolled strawberry flavored cigarettes and tell stories with coworkers. Sure, they were all pseudo-hippies and fake tree-huggers but they accepted me in spite of my patchouli oil deficiency and lack of dreadlocks.
Then on that first weekend (and most weekends thereafter), we hopped a songthaew and went to Ao Nang. Ahhh, Ao Nang. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Ao Nang is a beach town with only one main road. It runs in through the town and down to the beach, where it veers right and follows the coast up to Nopparatthara National Park, then curves back in the direction of Krabi town. You can drive the length of Ao Nang on a motorbike in under 10 minutes, which means all of the glory of this lovely gem is packed into a small geographical space.
Ao Nang beach isn’t as pristine as the national park to its north, but that shouldn’t diminish its beauty, especially towards the south end, where you’ll find resorts, massage huts, The Last Fisherman’s Bar, and sometimes a colony of monkeys that hangs out where a creek empties into the Andaman. It’s—for lack of a better word—picturesque. In low season, we could waltz in on a Friday afternoon without a hotel reservation, pop into one of the cheap ones along the main road and get a room for $10 per night, and twice that in the high season (that was in 2010—I’m sure the price has gone up since then). As for what to do in Ao Nang: a whole lot of nothing, which is the point of the place. It’s where you go to slow down, kick back, make your mind blank, and watch the day go by. A packed agenda for Ao Nang would be 1—wake up late, 2—have breakfast, 3—walk on the beach, 4—have lunch, 5—take a nap, 6—swim in the ocean, 7—watch the sunset, 8—have dinner, 9—hit RCA aka Disappointment Street, aka one of only two girly bar zones in town. RCA consists of around 10 open-air bars packed with sexy, friendly girls whose singular goal is to help you enjoy your life. The top dog is Amy 69.
It’s the biggest one on the soi and the hard-rockinest, fun lovinest, crazyhorniest bar of them all. You could easily spend all your time and money in this joint and not regret it, but if you do get bored, then you can end the night with 10—a trip to the other nightlife zone, Centerpoint, on the beach road. Packed into this tiny horseshoe-shaped area are venues where you can play pool, hear live music, dance at a club, sing karaoke, listen to reggae, have dinner, and see a cabaret. Then walk back to the hotel, sleep, and repeat. Easy as she goes.
Ao Nang also has a splendid array of good eateries ranging from Thai food to all manner of foreign fare. My favorite was Spaghetti House, an Italian-owned place on the main road that offers tasty, authentic pizzas and pastas. For some reason, though, everything in the town tasted delicious, from the street pineapple to the iced coffee. I think it was because, in Ao Nang, it was impossible to have a worry or care. There was so little stress that I actually witnessed on several occasions idiot farang conjure trouble out of thin air. In fact, the only negative aspect of life was the possibility that a random expat, itchy from having nothing to fret over, would suddenly go postal. For that reason, I always carried a knife. I never needed to use it, though, except for cutting fruit.
Within a month, one of the girls at Amy’s bar staked her claim on me, and I couldn’t get lucky with any other girl in the whole of Ao Nang. Every time I tried, it was “Noooo, Sevennnn, you boyfriend Ta, I know already.” So, I started spending every 2nd and 3rd weekend in Phuket and Ko Samui respectively. More on those locations in future blogs. But while in the Nang, I belonged to Ta and Ta alone. Which was fine. If I didn’t want to get a hotel I could crash at her place. She lent me her motorbike during the day. We’d hang out at her bar in the early evening and then shoot down to Centerpoint for a few games of pool or get dinner somewhere along the beach road, then go back and bang the night away like a couple of sweaty rabbits. If I had to be tied down, Ta was fit to be tied to. She was as relaxed, easy-going, and serene as the town of Ao Nang, and the two years we hung out were among the most sublime of my life.
Now, as I’m firmly ensconced in the hustle-bustle life of BKK, with a too-large harem of lovely playmates, it’s hard to imagine that simple, insouciant life back in Krabi. Maybe in my senior years I’ll retire there, and find a sense of calm so profound I positively melt into the beach sand and disappear. Until then, though, I’ll keep my regular schedule of hitting the red light district nightly and soaking up all the delights it has to offer. Tune in on Friday for a frowback, friends, and cheers to Ta, sweet Ao Nang siren of yore, and every sultry Patpong stunner. You make my rockin’ world go round.