I cannot recount the innumerable times in all these years I have been living in Krabi, that I was asked if there was any restaurant right on the beach? I mean, one of those with tables and chairs on the sand. And how many times, at the height of frustration, I had to answer sadly that no, of these kind of restaurants, in Krabi there were none.
Krabi has recently filled this gap by establishing a place where a dozen local restaurants, simple huts mostly made up of wood and bamboo, have sprung. Each of these small restaurants has its own specialities, though their trend is quite similar: they serve a good array of Thai food, plus some Western cuisine dish amongst which mostly hamburgers, chicken baguettes, pizza and spaghetti. But their most popular item on the menu is the fresh fish and seafood, grilled, fried or cooked on the spot in Thai style, flavoured by their aromatic sauces.
Koh Kwang Beach, a continuation of the more popular beach Klong Muang, from which it is separated only by a small promontory that in low tide times conveniently connects the two bays, is a mere fifteen minutes drive to Ao Nang.
The scenery is idyllic to say the least: powdery clear sand where crabs of various sizes run far and wide as if they were playing hide and seek; the sea, gaining or losing ground under the influence of the moon; the traditional ‘long tail boats’, lulled by the surf of the tide, are abandoned in a sleepy motion, almost to the rhythm of a lullaby sung by the waves.
And how about the stunning background? Tens of islands, some sharp in the foreground, other faded on the horizon, among which stands out the characteristic silhouette of Koh Hong. With a limestone stack towering over its left side, Koh Hong is renowned for having one of the most beautiful beaches of the Krabi province, as well as a mangrove lagoon that charms visitors at first sight.
But the best times come at sunset, when the colours fade and infinite shades of red paint the sky; when from the the sea rises a light breeze that gives relief after the heat of the day; when there is that ultimate desire to sip a cool cocktail and enjoy the eternal spectacle of nature: the darkness that takes over the light, and the night that slowly and inexorably occupies those spaces that until recently were the domain of the day. The time when some fishermen cast their nets to make a modest gain, and when some children, recently returned from school, waves goodbye to the day by jumping into the sea.
It is at this time that the beach seems to come to a new life. The restaurants on the beach glow of a thousand lights of various colours, and if we imagine snow in the place of sand, we would be seeing quite an original nativity scene.
Patrons, who until a few hours earlier were enjoying the sea and the sun, move in dribs and drabs, some filling chairs and booking tables of their favourite restaurant, other venturing to explore new tastes and new flavors. Clouds of smoke raise from those restaurant where fresh fish is exposed on a special counter, and the air is permeated by the smell of fish cooked over charcoal. Little further down the beach, curry is the king, with its variations and unconventional flavours. At every establishment, tireless staff serves a mix of Tom Yam, national pride the inevitable Pad Thai, tasty and spicy Som Tam.
It is an atmosphere of holiday and of relaxation that stretches over this little corner of Thailand, inviting you to dream…
UPDATE, MARCH 2021:
The dining scene in Klong Muang has changed since this article was written: due to the Covid pandemic that hit hard the Thai Tourism industry, several restaurants and beach bars have been forced to close, some temporarily, some for ever. Nevertheless, despite the once-lively stretch of beach in Koh Kwang being somehow run down and sadly empty at the moment, in the last six months a few new dining venues have opened, and the location still maintains its potential. I’m sure that as soon as the foreign travellers come back to Thailand, Koh Kwang and Klong Muang will be ready to welcome them with food, beverages and that chilled and genuine hospitality that make them so special in Krabi.