KRABI, THAILAND — It seemed a good idea at the time: take a long-tail boat to an essentially deserted island in Thailand, then cross over by foot on a sandbar to the other sexy island nearby, lounge on the beach for an hour or two, then catch a longtail boat out to another island of your choosing. If only it were so simple. Or maybe we just failed in our planning. Either way, I’m bitter.
Long-tail boats will take you on the 15-minute joyride to Chicken Island from Ao Nang Beach in Krabi, Thailand, for an attractively low price (plus a “national park” fee that basically doubles that price), and it’s one of the nearest islands to Krabi (great for those hangover or nauseous food-poisoned days in Krabi, much like I was experiencing that day), but the downside is you may have to wait a while for the long-tail boat mafia to collect enough passengers to make it worth the trip, and once you’re there you’ll be stuck there for hours (4 or 5 between long-tail boat dropoff and pickup.) Do you want to be there for that long? Are you ready for that? Should you waste a half-day of your precious Southern Thailand / Andaman Sea / Krabi time on a solitary Chicken Island adventure? Some would say yes, it’s worth the trip. We, however, won’t chicken out in our answer: hell no.
While it may be a beautiful island from afar (it can be seen from Krabi), close up, it’s nothing special. The beach looks pretty but will be crowded with tourists and loud, pollution-spewing boats coming in from various tours at various times. If you come at the right time, early enough, you get the sense of being on a deserted island, but the roar of boats and tourists (and the monkeys – more on that later) will smack you back into reality. There is a small cafe/restaurant on the island but it’s overpriced and doesn’t have anything interesting. Think an overpriced can of beer or Sprite for drinks. Bringing your own would be ideal (we weren’t smart enough for that).
Our Chicken Island plan called for a 2-for-1 deal, being able to cross the sandbar to visit a second connecting island (Tup Island) to allow for a cheap multi-island adventure. Of course, even though we arrived right at the time our research told us was low tide, we arrived just late enough to miss the last people being allowed to cross over the sandbar to the other island. The internet tide charts lie? Or perhaps we just don’t have the experience of a tour guide? You can’t swim over to the other island, either, as the parks officer on the island watches your movement and will not let you swim or in any way cross to the other island. We were stranded. For hours. With no long-tail boats to catch back. Maybe we should’ve recruited the expertise of a tour guide with a group or private tour. What stupidity on our part, we thought. We were essentially stuck on an island for hours.
Well, at least we could go swimming. Or so you’d think. Not wise, as the sand is rocky, and the bathroom on the island features an outhouse with pipes depositing directly into the water. Yes, right where you might be swimming.
Oh, and don’t forget the monkeys. Chicken Island? No, this was Monkey Island. We were essentially robbed by a mean-mugging monkey who decided to make our food and drinks his own and nearly swiped a bag and an iPhone. This little bastard thought he was King Kong. Terribly, the monkey attack was the highlight of our trip to Chicken Island. Eventually, thankfully, we spotted our long-tail boat driver and our group all convinced him to take us back early. Thank the heavens.
If you’re in Krabi and looking for an island adventure that’s not too far away from the mainland, we’d instead suggest Hong Island or one of the multiple-island tours (i.e. 4-island tours), which include Chicken Island, to see some of everything. You can visit Hong Island on your own with a long-tail boat or join a tour, and we’d say it has much more to offer. Of course, first things first, make sure you visit Railay, which is not an island but requires a boat to get to (cheap long-tail boats from Krabi abound). These tours, again, will ensure your arrival is (hopefully) timed right to walk the sandbar, which would’ve been a highlight for us. Of course, we can’t tell you much about these other excellent experiences because we chose to spend our day on Chicken Island instead.
♠ Tips if you do go: Bring a lunch and some snacks, lots of sunscreen, beer, and water. Be vigilant for monkeys strutting down the beach like they own the place and your belongings. Come at the right time to cross the sandbar by foot (like, way before low tide). Definitely climb to the viewpoint, with nice view towards Tup Island and Krabi. And bring a book.