Krabi (part two) – a thousand stairs to the Tiger Cave and karst lagoons in Bhor Tor

Having enough of a beach time, we decided to venture inland and spend time in a more active way. We visited the Tiger Cave located just outside Krabi independently but went for an organised kayaking trip to the karst landscape of Bhor Tor, 50 km from Krabi.

1237 steps to the Tiger Cave temple, Krabi

I was a bit scared about driving in the city and on busy roads surrounding it. Nevertheless, we took the risk of renting a scooter in order to go to the Tiger Cave. This popular attraction was located just outside Krabi Town, on the other side of a major highway. If you don’t want to drive, it’s possible to get there cheaply by a red songthaew plying the road along the river.

A big statue of lying tiger is worshipped inside tiger cave temple in Krabi
Those are the only tigers you’ll see in the Tiger Cave

The name Tiger Cave is quite misleading since the main attraction isn’t a cave but a small shrine located on the top of the hill. There is a quite recently built temple on the bottom of the hill and a natural cave with really kitsch decorations, such as plastic, neon lit Buddha statues. However, the real attraction is the view opening after climbing 1237 steps (some of which are very steep) to the top of the hill.

Sayak standing on the steep stairs leading to top of the hill in tiger cave temple, krabi
Steep stairs leading to the top of the hill

I recommend starting as early in the morning as possible to escape the heat. All blogs warned about aggressive monkeys on the way but we saw them only near the temple, at the foot of the hill. Anyways, if you keep your belongings close to you and don’t carry food with you, you should be fine.

Few monkeys in front of the (chinese architecture) gate at the base of the tiger cave temple
We saw lots of monkeys only at the base of the hill

Covering so many stairs resulted in calf pain which didn’t subside for 2-3 days after but it was definitely worth it. A 360 degree view at the funnily shaped, forest-clad mountains on one side and the plains on the other side was breathtaking.

Few bells at the top of the tiger hill, krabi with view of karst formation in background
View from the top of the Tiger Hill

There was also a stupa and some small altars on the top. Remember to take a scarf to cover your shoulders and wear trousers until the knees. You’d need to take off your shoes just before entering the viewing platform.

A small sitting Buddha in front of a giant stupa at the top of tiger cave temple, krabi
As it’s a religious site, you should cover the knees and shoulders on the top

There was one more, hidden attraction nearby which I was determined to find. Most of the tourists didn’t even know about the existence of a path through the jungle leading to some ancient trees. The mysterious sign ‘Wonderland’ and a rather dilapidated stairs hidden behind the new Chinese temple at the end of the complex lead through an enchanting and virtually empty jungle path. I was glad the steps at the beginning of the trail didn’t deter us. There were just a couple of them and the rest of of the trail was perfectly flat.

Rock formation in the jungle of tiger cave temple, krabi
The jungle encroaching on fantastic rock formations

We first passed by some basic huts huddling in the shadow of the Tiger Hill. They were used by meditating monks. A bit further on, there were also some shallow, unlit caves which we enjoyed exploring. I really liked the contrast between the lush, green tropical jungle and the grey rocks.

Weronika standing inside a half-open cave with rock formations in the background on the base of Tiger cave, Krabi
Half-open caves on the base of the Tiger Cave

However, what made this place truly worth a visit was a large number of enormous, ancient trees. Their trunks were too wide to embrace by two people and their roots were sticking out of the ground to the waist or even chest height. The place was so peaceful!

Weronika standing in front of a huge tree in the jungle of Tiger Cave temple complex, Krabi
Those trees were HUGE

Ko Klang cancelled

We were completely covered with sweat after the climb so decided to have a shower and lunch at Krabi Town before heading further. A huge downpour (not uncommon in May) trapped us at the restaurant. The temperature dropped and it remained drizzly for the rest of the day.

Ko Klang island with few karst formations in the background and a boat in Krabi river from a vantage point,Krabi
Ko Klang island seen from a vantage point in Krabi

We were considering shortly taking a scooter across the river to Ko Klang– a rural island inhabited by a Muslim fishermen community. I had my long clothes on, knowing that unlike most of Thailand, the revealing outfit would be frown upon. However, once we saw the ‘ferry’, we changed our minds. The locals were using a narrow steep plank to get their motorcycles onto a small and rather precarious looking long tail boat. It must have taken quite a lot of skill and control to get the bike safely onboard.

A small boat with people and scooters in Krabi river with houses in Ko Klang, Krabi in the background
Getting a scooter on board this tiny boat was just a bit too much of a risk to take

Travelling standing on the long tail boat with lots of people and vehicles looked a tad too dangerous for us so we decided to skip it. It would be possible to cross the river without a vehicle but Ko Klang was too big to cover on foot and hiring any form of transportation there would be expensive. Instead, we drove around Krabi and found a viewpoint overlooking Ko Klang.

Kayaking through the karst landscape

Suffering from the calf pain, we decided to give a rest to our legs and use our arms instead. The following day we went for a kayaking trip to Bhor Tor, famous for the lagoons hidden in karst rocks and the caves with prehistoric paintings. It was an expensive trip but to be fair, riding a distance of 50 km in a minivan, kayaking for 3 hours and having a lunch included for 950 baht wasn’t such a terribly bad deal, especially that our group was just 8 people strong.

River with mangrove and beautiful karst formations in background in Krabi
It was still just a drizzle when we arrived at a kayak pier

Sadly, we had very bad luck with the weather. It started raining shortly after we got on the car. We had to put up with a continuous downpour for almost the entire trip. The heavy rain turned into a drizzle only when we were finishing.

Weronika is kayaking through a cave with waterproof jacket on, in Krabi, Thailand
Kayaking in a pouring rain wasn’t that much fun

Perhaps thanks to the rain, we were the only people on the water that day. It was a really beautiful route but I’d undoubtedly enjoy it more if it wasn’t raining. The water level was high enough for us to explore one hong– a hidden lagoon. Instead of a turquoise water we were expecting we saw a brown, very muddy water body which didn’t encourage us to get off the kayaks.

A muddy lagoon with jungle and rocks in the background in Krabi, Thailand
A muddy lagoon

We then moved to a short, tunnel- shaped cave which we swam through. Apart from enjoying the experience of kayaking in the cave, having an opportunity to hide from the rain was an extra advantage.

River passing through a cave, light and mangroves on the other side in Krabi, Thailand
Passing through a cave

At the next stop, we got out of the kayaks to walk through a cave with well-preserved prehistorical paintings. Sadly, our guide couldn’t tell us much about their meaning or the people who drew them.

Prehistoric drawings inside a cave seen with a torchlight in Krabi
Mysterious, prehistoric drawings

Finally, we paddled back to the pier where we had a simple meal and where we spotted a huge Bengal water monitor (a kind of lizard). Unless it’s a very hot day and you love swimming I wouldn’t recommend a whole day version of this trip. The only difference would be a more abundant lunch and swimming in a fresh water pond quite near Ao Nang  beach (and a long drive from the kayaking spot).

A monitor lizard in the mud, going towards water in front of an orange kayak in Krabi
A monitor lizard which we spotted from the pier

PRACTICALITIES

How to get to Krabi?
In the peak season, you can get to Krabi by ferry from most of the islands of the Andaman coast, like Ko Lanta, Ko Phi Phi, Phuket and more. All those ferries stop running between May and September.
Krabi is not very convenient to get to from Bangkok: a journey by bus is 11 hours long and it costs minimum 400 THB. The journey from the east coast takes similar amount of time but is much cheaper- 150 THB for a bus from Surat Thani to Krabi Town. The short bus journeys include also Phang Nga Town, Khao Lak and Phuket.
The tourist minivans would drop you off at your hotel but if you’re using a public bus, be aware you’d need to take a songthaew from the bus station to the town centre.

Prices in Krabi [in Thai baht as of May 2018]:

900 THB a half-day kayaking trip to Bhor Tor
300 THB return long tail boat to Railay beach
300 THB minivan Koh Lanta- Krabi Town
200 THB scooter rental for one day
200 THB a large double room with en-suite bathroom and hot water
70 THB dinner with a drink at the night market
35 THB lunch at a Chinese vegetarian eatery
20 THB songthaew from the town centre to the bus station
20 THB fresh coconut
5 THB one pineapple at the morning market
5 THB postcard

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