We got aggressive planning our ten day schedule with our friends. We wanted them to see as much as Thailand as possible. This included crossing over the mainland from the islands on the east to the islands on the west. While the east hosts the Full Moon Party, the west has majestic and iconic Thai beaches.
We left Koh Phangan via a 30 minute van ride to the ferry to Surat Thani, the mainland hub for transfers. The ferry took about 2.5 hours and we arranged for a mini bus to pick us up through Krabi Shuttles for $100 USD. He was waiting for us as we docked with a new AC van. This transfer across the mainland would take 3.5 hours plus a quick detour for lunch.
Once we reached the Ao Nam Mao Pier, we all piled out of the van and purchased a Long Tail Boat Ferry ticket. These boat can hold up to 10 people, so we joined other passengers and eagerly climbed in for our final 15 minute ride to Railay (Rahl-ay ) Beach.
Railay Beach is actually not an island, however you can only access it by boat because of the giant cliffs separating it from the mainland. These cliffs also make this area famous for rock climbing. We chose Railay Beach not only because its a slice of heaven but because getting to an island in this area, like the famous Koh Phi Phi, was just too far on a tight time frame.
It started to rain pretty hard as we exited the long tail boat, so we all ran down the seemingly never ending dock towards cover. We didn’t book any hotels in advance because we wanted to get the lay of the land first and weren’t sure if the weather would allow for our final boat ride to Railay.
We took cover from the rain at the first hotel near the dock and ended up booking a room there. Our friends decided to splurge on nicer hotels, one nearby us and the other right on the beach front. We split up to finalize arrangements, shower and let the rain pass.
There are no motorized vehicles on Railay and you can walk from the East side to the West side in 5 minutes along your choice of many monkey filled paths.
Delighted and stuffed to the brim with delicious food, we agreed that would not be our last time eating there. After dinner, a few people lingered for a few drinks while others turned in, tired from the 8 hours of traveling.
The next morning we woke up and went to the beach. The scenery of Railay beach is epic and can be best described with photos.
You can walk down the beach in 10 minutes. At low tide the beach stretches out for a few hundred feet before the water begins and at high tide there is no beach at all.
You can just walk into the water by stepping off the hotel or restaurant deck. It makes for fun people watching when tourists have just arrived and are carrying their bags above their heads trying to get to their hotel and avoid the wave breaking against the wall.
The water temperature is perfect and it’s waist deep for a few hundred feet which meant we could stay in and relax for hours.
A rain storm came and went as usual this time of year but it didn’t keep us from taking a boat tour. Nate negotiated to pay 1800 baht for a 2.5 hour 4 island tour for the 6 of us. We did this late in the day and brought beers onboard to make a happy hour out of it. We visited four points of interest and snorkeled, though the snorkeling is not impressive compared to some of the sites we had been to in the Philippines.
Our evening was spent enjoying the talented DJ/musician/fire dancer/fitness freak at “The Last Bar”. This guy was no doubt extremely talented at all four.
Nate’s theory was the only way someone could develop so much talent is if he was like Bill Murray in Groundhogs Day, with infinite time to perfect so many skills. The fire show was impressive and set to thumping DJ beats right on the water. The show even featured a four your old with his own flaming wand. Based on his expression, I’m pretty sure he was woken up out of bed to perform. The full day in the sun had drained any energy we had left, so after the show it was bed time.
Our second full day in Railay started exactly the same, breakfast and beach for a few hours. We also enjoyed a great lunch of wraps and shakes from an outdoor takeout counter about a one minute walk from the beach through the “town”.
We decided to be adventurous and go on a hike to a viewpoint of Railay Beach. We had read reviews that this hike is muddy, a steep climb and there is a lagoon as well that is even harder to get to. With inflated confidence, we went on our way. The start of the hike can easily be missed, as there is no signage and all you see is a muddy rock face with equally muddy ropes hanging down to assist you.
Looking up at the task ahead, we debated for a minute and went for it. This path to the top falls somewhere in between an easy vertical rock climb and a difficult hike. We passed a man heading down who tried to get to the lagoon and failed, but we kept on going up. After about 20-30 minutes of climbing we made it to the turn off point where you either keep in one direction to the lagoon or in another direction to reach the view point. Another man was coming from the lagoon’s path and also said he also failed in his attempt to complete the trail.
Nate, Craig, Gina and Merri were not deterred and chose to pursue the route to the lagoon. Alicia and I hiked 10 more minutes to the viewpoint instead, taking bets on whether they would make it to the lagoon.
About 20 minutes later our four friends came back more tired and muddy than before with defeat on their faces. The path down was slippery and treacherous. It was within their ability until the last 10 meters which required a rope-less down climb of a waterfall.
The hike down was far more challenging than the way up. You had to face the wall and act as if you were going down a ladder, except this ladder was muddy, slippery and finding the wrungs took some creativity.
The most fun (horrifying) part, when you have irrational fears, is when about thirty monkeys of all sizes decided to run up the cliff to escape the upcoming storm. If you have ever seen a monkey’s teeth you can understand that being outnumbered on a steep one way path was not ideal. We stayed calm and steadily ignored them as we climbed down the final 20 meters.
The last part of this adventure was walking to Phra Nang Beach and the Princess Caves which sits next to the beach. The Princess Cave represents the womb so couples visit this cave and leave “offerings” in the form of carved wooden penises in hopes they will get pregnant. The one married couple in our group was interested in the cave while the rest of us played on the beach instead!
Phra Nang Beach is a must see on Railay.
Out of nowhere, an aggressive storm rolled in and we ran back to our rooms, getting drenched in the process. Ahh island life in June.
We decided for a quick bite of good food at Local Thai Food. One by one our friends joined us and we took off for a night out drinking.
It took several attempts to order every drink because they would forget that you had ordered a drink in the time it took them to turn towards the bottles of booze. I still think if I went behind the bar they would have just thought that I worked there and let us make our drinks ourselves.
We gathered our belongings and took a long tail boat and van taxi combo arranged through our hotel to the Krabi airport. We had a direct flight to Chiang Mai and no idea about the challenging days ahead.