Thailand,  Travel

Koh Klang in Krabi, Thailand | A Photo Essay of An Island Life

The island of Koh Klang, approximately 814 kms away from Bangkok

Koh Klang is a small fishing island on the Andaman Sea and is covered by thousands of acres of mangrove forest. Koh means island, Klang means middle and Koh Klang is situated in the middle, just at the mouth of the Krabi river as it opens up into the Andaman Seas. Located in the Krabi province on the west coast of southern Thailand, this is an idyllic island with smiling locals overwhelming the tourists in an inspirational way. The local people are involved in developing eco-tourism on the island with the help of the local government. Most of the population are Muslims and engaged in either coastal fishing or growing the organic Sang Yot rice or building the long tail boats – the Hua Tong boats. Koh Klang is in fact the birth place for Hua Tong boats, which are now recognized as the symbol of South of Thailand, specially Krabi. Totally car-free, Koh Klang can only be reached from Krabi town by crossing the Krabi river in long tail boats. We took a long tail boat from Tara pier on the Krabi mainland, to cross the Krabi river and reach the Tha-Lay pier in the island. The landscape along the banks change with the tides – the long tail boats stand stranded in the muddy swamp during the low tide and wait for the high tide to return (pictures below). The sea being the prinary resource here, these long tail boats are worshipped and bright flower garlands wrap the helms with love and respect. My photo essay of Koh Klang thus begins with the first point of entry to the island – the Tha-Lay Pier…

The Formula One cars of Koh Klang – the Skylabs

The Skylabs or the motorcycle Tuk Tuks soon became our only mode of transportation within the island. As we visited the various parts of the island to experience the local village life, I realised that the real heroes of this island are these Skylab drivers and each one can teach Michael Schumachar or Sebastian Vettel a lesson or two in hi-speed driving. These are the lusty, sexy Formula One drivers with even more sexier vehicles – while some have Liverpool stickers attached to them, others have bright florescent neon paints to brighten up the rides. What is a Skylab? An auxiliary wagon with seating, complete with wheels and a shade, is attached to a motor cycle or a scooter. While the Skylab driver can offer a pillion ride on the back of the motorcycle, four more passengers can comfortably (!) sit in the auxiliary wagon. A Skylab ride can be more adventurous than sitting on a roller-coaster. I can go on and on. After all, I do have a long standing relationship with Tuk Tuks or the Auto Rickshaws. Yes, I admit falling in love with these Skylabs (and their drivers)!

Riding the tides with Shallow-water Fishing

From the Tha-Hin pier we take a long tail boat and sail along the Krabi river to the high seas to learn about Shallow Water Fishing. The fish nets are stuck to wooden planks and form a giant V-shaped trap in the seas (below). At the base of the V, there are dense nets in which the fish gets caught during the high tide. It is from these net traps that the local fishermen catch the fish using submerged baskets. The pictures below show the dense netted area (around which our boats have gathered). Here too, the landscape changes during the low tide – the fishing nets stick out from the ground and the fishermen can walk upto these long distances, provided they can negotiate with the sting rays!15

The first two times the basket was submerged, brings in leaves and silt and soon, a treasure chest opens up. Every time the fish basket is submerged, it brings up a huge quantity of fish. Did you know that fish makes sounds like birds’ chirping? I am shocked as the fish scattered on the boat flutters and chirps loudly (moments of contemplation when I think I’ll be turning veg!). Ozzie (below), our Local Wisdom group guide, tells us all about the different types of fish, releasing the ones that cannot be eaten back into the water. A huge fish (looked like a Pomfret to me, shown below) gave him a real hard time – escaping from his grip every now and then. The squid that Ozzie holds, was good for barbequing, we were told (I’m off to my dream mode as I light the fire in a barbeque pit!). He tells us that because of pollution and over-exploitation, many varieties of fish are depleting. Despite this, there are still many fish that are available in abundance – for example, Milkfish, Barramundi, Grouper etc. As I’ve said before, the local life here juggles between the high tide and the low tide and our boat was already getting stuck with the fast receding water and needed a bit of push from the boatman (further below).

Digging into the ground for treasure – Shellfish hunting

The entire island is covered with extensive mangrove forests. There are mangrove swamps even within the island where the local villagers hunt for shellfish. The heat was getting too much for me and I left my group for the comforts of a shade as the members aimlessly dug into the ground, trying to come up with treasure. I resorted to photographing the unique and peculiar landscape where the roots of the mangrove shrubs protrude out of the ground and spread over the ground, thereby creating what I like to describe as nature art. The mangroves in this island fconstitutes an important part in the bio-diversity of the island’s eco system. Learning to co-exist with the mangroves and educating the locals and the tourists how to preserve the mangroves and chalking out activities around them – kayaking, shellfishing etc, therefore forms an important aspect of sustainable tourism here. (What are Mangroves?)

Living in amazing houses floating on water – life along the Krabi river

While I couldn’t capture any shellfish during the shellfish hunting, I did capture a local fisherman with his enormous sized prized capture – the crab which later went into the Crab dish that was served to us for lunch (below). The life along the Krabi river seemed different. With floating restaurants having their own fish farms on water, catching fresh fish and cooking them to serve to the diners… the experience was different (my next post is on that). Not to mention the beautiful houses of the local fishermen which float on the Krabi river, with the help of tyres and empty plastic jars. I also took a fancy to the advertisements of the energy drink that were stuck on the boats – SHARK, the cool bite. I have been working in advertising for long, but never had I come across such a direct branding with a even more direct tagline!

Tailing the Long tail boats

Koh Klang is also the place where the long tail boats or the traditional Hua Tong boats originate. We visit the boat making workshop in Moo 2, Ban Klong Prasong (Moo is Group; Ban is Village). It’s amazing how the same technique with which these small model boats are made, is also used to make the big boats that float on the Krabi river. The Hua Tong boat today has become a symbol of Krabi province. I feel proud that I took exactly 5 minutes to make a model boat. Oh, did I mention that there are DIY packs available for tourists, which translate roughly into just-add-superglue-to-the-cut-pieces!

Pounding and grinding with the Rice Farmers – Earning our meals

There are only two places in Thailand where Sangyod (or Sang Yot) Rice are produced and these are Koh Klang and Pattalung. The canals on the island of Koh Klang make it ideal for rice cultivation. Sangyod Rice is a purple coloured, high quality, fragrant organic rice, having a very high fibre content. Traditionally, Sangyod rice used to be cooked during special occasions or to usher in important guests. A bit of pounding (indigenous milling) leaves us drained while the women who are engaged here, do such arduous pounding throughout the day – all with a pinch of smile! We were served Sangyod rice in one of our lunches (pic further down) – it tastes a bit salty because of the salt water in which the rice farms are sometimes submerged in.

I found my grandmother in the Batik workshop

The people on the island are very friendly, always smiling at us – the Farangs (the foreigners). This is a 100% crime free island and we roam around till late, hiking rides on the Skylabs and chatting to the Skylab drivers. The grand dame at the Batik farm (below) takes the cake in hospitality and I have a sense of déja vu as she roams around explaining the processes of Batik printing in her local language. She looks like my grandmother in a different avatar. I have done Batik in school but here the designs seem very intricate and the white borders that are left behind once the wax melts, seem to be really thin. The metal design blocks are dipped into hot wax and pressed onto the cloth. As they cool off, different colours are added into different areas of the design having a wax fencing – so that colour from one area don’t mingle into the colour from another area. Eventually, the textile goes through five different phases of wash in different chemicals so that the dyes won’t fast. The wax melts off leaving behind a maze of wonder. The Emirati group of students accompanying me gets their hands on this handicraft form as the grand dame guides on.


Underneath an island house – a separate life of its own

I was intrigued by the life underneath each house in the island. Houses here are made up of wood and is raised over the ground on erected planks – an evidence of Tsunami or flood that probably hits the island from time to time. Bicycles, colourful clothes being dried, scattered toys, hens and chicks trotting around, pet cats and dogs snoozing in the cool shade – the area underneath each house narrates its own story.

Life in the island is frozen in a different time frame

The little girl here reminded me of Big Z. I had left the Z-Sisters back in Dubai and I was continuously missing them. I felt that the women in this island were independent, roaming around in their bikes or scooters. They were so fashionable, in their own subtle way – tiny broaches, lovely head scarfs, colourful dresses, beautiful sandals. The community is close-knit, with a maximum of 5,000 people living on the island. The children are used to tourists as they mingle with them at ease, including them in their evening games of football or kite-flying. The small stalls selling vegetables and other things in the local markets lining the streets are also predominantly managed by women. The different sauces being sold in sealed transparent plastics seem irresistible and tempting. Life here seems to be frozen in a different time period, far away from hustle and bustle of urban life and I feel lucky to have fitted into it, even if it’s for a while.


I ate too but this post is not about the standard meals that fed me

While my earlier post, Ruen Mai Restaurant In Krabi | A Tantalising First Experience Of Thai Food {In Thailand, That is!} reeks of spicy Thai food, the future posts would probably do that too. The following pictures are from the mini breaks that refuelled us – Chilled freshly squeezed Sugarcane juice; the Khao tom mat or the sticky rice and banana wrapped in banana leaf; Sarim or pink coloured (often they are multi-colored) mung bean flour noodles in sweetened coconut milk served with crushed ice. While I sneaked in an extra bottle of the Sugarcane juice, I slightly avoided the Khao tom mat as I am not very fond of Bananas and sipped onto the Sarim thirstily only to be choked with the noodle strands going into my throat. 


Islanda Eco Village Resort

Thai Village styled Eco Resort; On Koh Klang, Krabi

In the recent years, we have been trying to travel responsibly and checking into the Islanda Eco Village Resort just adds to the gradually growing list of the Eco Resorts that we’ve visited so far. Submerged mangroves, loud chirping of birds, the lazy sunset over the Andaman seas and the water seeping through the fishing traps and bamboo fences into the resort grounds – the entire island practices sustainable tourism. Islanda is an eco-resort, with the accommodation originally styled after Thai village huts (conical structures) that wouldn’t require any air conditioning. Bio-degradable detergent is used for the laundry and the dish washing. Practically, the entire staff is from the island and while the water treatment facilitates the resort’s waste management, the salt in the water is not favourable for growing the resort’s vegetable garden. Despite that, the resort has it’s own vegetable garden at it’s backyard. All fresh produce is bought from the local markets on the island, (a tick mark on my current favourite topic of Locavorism) and fish is brought from the local fishermen. This is the only resort in the island and it completely blends into the surrounding environment without disrupting the island’s unique eco-system. The smiling faces of the resort staff adds to the charm.

Tel No: 083-636 7887; Location: Moo 3 T. Klong Pra-Song (Koh Klang) A. Maung Krabi, Nong Thale, Mueang Krabi, Krabi 81000, Thailand

Islanda Eco Village Resort: Website; Facebook Page; Instagram


Apart from me and my fellow Fooderati friend, Debbie who writes Coffee Cakes and Running, the Dubai team consisted of six Emirati students (three girls and three boys) who had topped their respective classes in their universities. Koh Klang gave these young students a glimpse into a world which is so different from the urban landscape that they have been living in. I also made a friend in Claudia, who writes an inspirational blog (in Deutsch), met Kay from the UK, who’s a cook, consultant, writer and presenter. I learnt how to count my hours from observing the tides. I also learnt how to be just happy – a smile at a stranger is all it takes. And before I sign off, I must tell you that apart from the smiling people of Koh Klang, the other person who stole my heart was this particular Johny Depp (below), lugging at the oars as he suddenly appeared from the sunset in the horizon!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Disclaimer: The Thailand Academy trip was an invite from the Tourism Authorities of Thailand Middle East and Aviareps Group. However, the opinions stated here are my own and are independent. I do hope you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals. Please do not use any material from this post. You can see more pictures of my travel and food journey here.   


You may enjoy my other Oriental journeys:

Posts from other members who were in the trip:

A Culinary Travel Blog by a Bong Gourmet. From Dubai, Kolkata & the world beyond, street food to fine dining, recipes to chef talks, it pens down experiences. With 2 kids in tow!


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