If you live in the sleepy village of Klong Muang or in lively Ao Nang, looking up inland in a north-east direction you’ll see a curious shaped mountain that looks like the back of a dolphin, a rocky fin pointing into the sky. The locals call it Ngon Nak or Dragon Crest: according to the myth it’s the head of a Naga, a dragon-like creature that lives in water streams and rivers. Locals believe that a Naga inhabits Tub Kaek: its head is on the Dragon Crest mountain, hence the name, while its belly button and tail are in Tub Kaek beach.
In the two years I’ve been living in Klong Muang I often found myself staring at that mountain (a dolphin to me, a dragon to everybody else) and thinking that one day I would climb it to the top. Being busy, or just lazy, I never went. Until last Thursday, when a family friend visiting us expressed the wish to go there. Despite my fear of thick jungles (aka the Kingdom of snakes!) I took it as an encouragement. We set up from home around 7 am and drove our car to the entrance of the Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park where the trail begins and where visitors are asked to write down their names and time of visiting: this is a precaution to avoid people getting lost without the rangers knowing (it happened a few times before).
The road to the National Park entrance is beautiful, running along the coast with some close views of Klong Muang and Tub Kaek beaches. We were a group of 5 hikers with different fitness level, and we decided to take it slow. We were carrying small backpacks with our camera, a snack and lot of water, given that there are no refilling stations along the trail.
For those who are used to go hiking in China and Japan, the “trail” at Dragon Crest can be shocking, not because of its difficulty but because it’s nothing more than a small path covered in rocks and thick vegetation: at some points huge tree trunks block it completely, and we had to climb above or below. At the beginning the path is large, like a country road, and rise gently. But don’t be fooled! Soon it becomes steeper, smaller and covered in roots, rocks and leaves. Hiking shoes are definitely recommended, as walking sticks or bamboo sticks (some can be found at the entrance of the park, left there by other visitors) because I’m no snake expert but this jungle seems to be the perfect habitat for snakes, especially now that not many tourists hike the trail.
During our hike I only spotted a few monitor lizards (a big one crossed the path just in front of me), but you want to be on the safe side and remember that help might be a few hours down the mountain, should you step on a poisonous viper.
It was a challenging hike for some of us, but starting early helped us not to be crushed by the mid-day heat: in the early morning the forest was blessed by a gentle breeze and I counted maybe 10 people in total, most of them going up while we were on our way down.
About half way to the top there is a long wooden stair, a change of pattern after the rocky path, then a second one. At about three-quarters of the trail, the path splits in two directions: one leads to the top, the other is a diversion leading to a waterfall and little pond. We decided to skip it on the way up, but changed our mind and went to see the pond on the way down. Being the dry season or so, it wasn’t really worth it: the pond is just a little puddle. Anyway, a legend says that the water dripping from the rocks above are in fact the tears of the dragon. If you make a wish at the pond, it is said, it will be granted.
Once you reach the official viewpoint, you will have an open view of some beaches (Klong Muang, Koh Kwang, Tub Kaek), the blue sea and of several oddly shaped karst peaks that make Krabi Province so unique and fascinating. However, if you have the legs and the courage, head higher by one of the few paths that lead to the peak. It’s not a clear way up, but the goal is to reach the panoramic rocks at the very top, from where you have an impressive 360-degree view of the area: other than Tub Kaek and Klong Muang beaches, you’ll see Ao Nang and Nopparatthara, the river and the islands in front.
One rock, the one you’ll see suspended in mid air on many Instagram posts about this hike, has now been closed because considered too dangerous: there is a NO TRESPASSING sign, and a fine of 2000 THB for the transgressors. It’s highly unlikely that a ranger will discover you there, but the rock IS dangerous, especially when the wind blows, so it’s better to stick to the allowed panoramic spots.
After taking videos and photos, we had a much needed snack and rest under a tree, then started our descent. One might think that going down is easier, but it’s not, or at least it wasn’t for us: we felt tired from the hike, and our knees and ankles ached with every steps, especially when we reached the part of the trail that is rocky and very steep. It took us about 2 hours to get to the bottom, and we were so relieved to finally sit down and drink some ice drinks. It was a fantastic experience, though, and I’ll probably tackle the Dragon Crest again in the future because the panorama is truly epic and it deserves more good pictures on a clearer day.
If you plan to go, and you should, my advice is: don’t underestimate the trail, and if you aren’t fit consider to start the hike as early as 7 AM, take it easy, and don’t go alone.
GOOD TO KNOW:
1 – There is no entrance fee to the Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park, you only have to sign your name down in the ranger’s book for safety reasons. Consider leaving a tip for the rangers. The park opens at 7 AM until 3 PM (this means that you can’t start hiking after 3).
2 – If you can’t or don’t want to rent a motorbike, taxis will take you to the Park’s entrance for a relatively reasonable price, but you’ll have to ask them to wait several hours for your return or agree on a pick up time. It’s not easy to get a Grab from the Park.
3 – There are no shops or markets nearby, and the small bar selling drinks at the park entrance could be close if you start your hike early, so make sure to pack snacks and water to carry with you.
4 – After the hike, if you’re on your way back to Ao Nang or Krabi Town, consider to stop for swimming and sunbathing at beautiful and secluded Tub Kaek Beach: there is an easy access next to the Tub Kaek Sunset Resort.
5 – In Koh Kwang beach you’ll find a few bars and restaurants, a great location for cocktails and sunsets. There are several accesses to the beach in front and near the Pelican Resort.