After an 18 hour flight to Bangkok, the 1.5 hour flight to Krabi was a piece of cake.
We were delighted at the unique form of transportation the Long Boat provided to Railay Beach from Krabi Pier.
Instantly, our somewhat ordinary vacation had become a unique adventure. The rickety Long Boat was decorated with faded colorful flags. Our Driver did not speak, but smiled and nodded. The water was warm and clear in shades of light green and deep blue. Ah, we had finally arrived into our Thailand Fantasy.
Railay Beach is a very small peninsula with an East & West side. Railay East seems to have been established early on as it has older buildings, mismatched shacks and a seemingly more rustic infrastructure. A few of the older resorts are currently getting remodels. Railay West’s resorts are a bit newer and also more expensive. Railay West is also known as Sunset Beach. Most evenings you will find a group of locals and visitor engaged in a friendly game of beach soccer and a score of visitors relaxing and watching the sunset.
Railay East has the only foot access to Phra Nang Cave Beach. In my opinion, the most beautiful beach on the Peninsula. The walking path from Railay East is paved and weaves along some rock outcroppings with stalactites and stalagmites. The shade from the rocks is cool and a nice relief from the heat. You find a few monkeys also hanging round the walkway as visitors have fed them over time and some can be aggressive. Don’t feed the monkeys. When you reach Phra Nang Beach you will be spellbound by its beauty and contrast of water and rock. The world class rock climbing wall falls into the clear light green water. The white sand tickles your toes and there is no hesitation about jumping into the water. As close to Paradise as it comes.
We arrived at Railay Beach about 11am. We lucked out because our long boat dropped us off right at the walkway to our Resort. Note the tides are diurnal. Which means that the the tide cycles once a day between low & high tide. When the tide is low, visitors and workers must walk about 200 yards or 182 meters to shore from the boat taxis (Long Boats) . The ocean floor is an uneven sticky clay with rocks, debris and trash to navigate. Flip-flops aren’t preferred, but do-able.
We stayed at the Railay Garden View Resort ($47 per bungalow). It is the 2nd to the last resort on Railay East. To access, you must climb up a set of very steep and uneven flight of stairs, but at the top you will find a private little clean oasis with great views and lovely gardens. The grounds are pretty with trees, shrubs, flowers and smooth concrete walking paths. There is a simple, but lovely eating area where breakfast is served that has amazing views and a nice breeze. Unlimited water, coffee and tea is also available and should be noted as a special treat. The bungalows are simple with fans, small bathroom & shower (no hot water) and good size porches. The beds are solid, firm and comfy. There are screens in windows with shades. The cool water showers are perfect and what you need. A little shocking at first, but very refreshing. An was the on-site manager during out stay. He and a crew of 5 took care of the maintenance of the resort, cleaning, cooking and customer service. An is a male from Krabi who has lived on Railay for sometime. He is an amazing rock climber who always has a smile on his face and is happy to help.
Daily we would make the trip to various areas of the peninsula to swim, climb or eat a meal. These daily routes brought us by some very unsettling scenes within this paradise. It is quite clear that the growth of tourism, construction and the remoteness of the location have taken its toll on this beautiful area. The common tourist routes have trash baskets and there is an effort to keep those areas clean, but look a bit closer or take a local’s route and it become quite obvious there is a problem with trash and sewer. You can’t ignore the odors of raw sewage as you walk down the main pathway of Railey East. Piles of plastic bottles & bags, construction debris can be seen behind buildings, in wooded areas and floating the ocean. It will break your heart. Unless Railay Beach can get a handle on it’s waste issues, their tourism will likely be affected and this paradise will be lost.
Despite the unsettling waste issues, we had only good experiences at the eateries. Food is one of our biggest expenses being a group/ family of 4. With breakfast included at our resort, we were responsible for the rest. You can find most Thai meals for about 80 bhts and some going up to as much as 180 bhts. Water & Soda ranges from 20 to 50 bhts. Drinks with booze are the most costly. A small Singha beer 70 bhts and a cocktail is 120bhts. Yes, as much as a meal. It was easy for us to spend 1000bhts ($32) for dinner with drinks.
Me and my girls waited until the end of our trip to get a Thai massage. The massage salons are everywhere. You are solicited on the street for a massage and some how the abundance of all these massage opportunities takes away from the “pamper” novelty we have in the States. But it is SO cheap! For 300bhts ($10) you can get an hour Thai massage. Somehow in my mind, it just couldn’t be as good as $100 massage in the states. So one night after dinner we stopped at the Last Bar Massage . This is the last Massage salon on our route back to the resort. We each opt’d for Back & Shoulders Thai massage. We were directed up a very steep flight of stairs to an air conditioned room with a built up floor with neat and clean mats and curtains. We were put on mats next to each other.
This was Carly’s first massage so I wanted to keep an eye on her. The massage was outstanding and more then we had hoped for. It was very deep and included our entire body not just our back and shoulders. The masseuses were very professional with a bit of humor. We were all happily sore and satisfied. Even Carly said she would do it again.
Ultimately, Railay Beach was a good experience for all of us. Our hearts were a little heavy as we left early on a Long Boat for Koh Tao as we were all wondering if we would ever be back again. Not only because Thailand is on the other side of the planet from were we live, but also because we probably won’t choose Railey Beach as a destination unless something radical happens with their waste management. Sad to say, but honest none the less. Enjoying the Climb!