January 26, 2016
We left Railay yesterday and arrived in Ko Lanta. I have been thinking about what to write about Railay for the last few days.
Our departure from Ko Samui was an early morning for us. We were supposed to have a hotel pick-up between 6:30 and 7:00. We got up just before 6:00 and just about ready to walk out of the room at 6:20 when the front desk called and told us our ride was there. So we did have a golf cart arrive shortly thereafter arrive to take us and our bags to reception to checkout and load up on the van for our ride to the dock.
This trip I did something different from in the past. Whereas with most of trips with Shannon I have booked everything staging with the hotel, this time I booked most of our rooms through Expedia. I had booked our flight through Expedia because it was cheapest and then was offered 20% off rooms that I booked in the next few weeks. When I was a backpacker, travel was the greatest expense on a trip. Now that we have gone slightly more upscale, and no longer stay in hostels, hotels have become the greatest expense. Saving 20% on these was nice since we have been able to stay at slightly nicer places for what I had budgeted. There has also been a side benefit in that I paid for most of them at that time. Checkout is now just covering any minibar or restaurant expenses which is kind of nice.
Ko Samui was pretty quiet other than all of these white vans everywhere. I really hadn't noticed them before since we hadn’t gotten out and explored the island at all, but there where a lot of these white vans shuttling tourists around.
We hadn't, in large pat, explored the island because there really wasn’t much to do. We enjoyed our time on Ko Samui, but there really just aren't the attractions there that make you want to leave the area you are at. I don't actually think it is someplace I will go back to.
After stopping at a few other hotels and hostels we drove to the both end and the other pier on the island. After waiting for about a half an hour with more people arriving, they had us move to the end of the pier. The first pier we went to at the southern end of the island was strictly for ferries. This one included a lot of larger fishing boats. We finally found the right ferry and this time it was much smaller, only people and no cars.
We had about an hour and 15 minute ferry ride and then were pointed to the bus going to Krabi. Krabi is the main hub on the southwest coast of Thailand. We again drove across the Thai country side. I made a post to Facebook during this time that travel has changed. Back in the day I would have have a paperback book that I would need to ration. Book exchanges existed at hostels, restaurants and some stand alone businesses but you never knew what you would find. Now I had 3G service on my trip and it left me more out of the moment since I could be distracted by whatever online.
In many ways the drive could have been in any tropical country as the landscape looked similar to a lot of Central America.Parts of the road were actually 4 lanes. In Thailand they drive on the left which means that the left hand lane has slower traffic and you pass on the right. We almost wee in an accident when a car was going very slow (like 10-15 mph) and a car was overtaking us on the right. The bus driver laid on the horn and then actually pulled the bus diagonally in front of the car that was driving slowly. Both the bus drive and his assistant got out and exchanged words with the driver of the car. We were then back on our way.
About an hour and a half in to our journey and just 5 or 10 miles outside of Krabi we stopped and then bus backed down a dirt road. It was kind of odd, but there was a late covered area with picnics tables and it was this companies bus stop. We were given stickers to put on our shirts based on our destinations. People going to Krabi, Ko Phi Phi, Ao Nang and then Railay. The other groups left and we waited. Another bus shows up and new people arrive, this time people headed to where we had come from.
Finally there are about 8 of us left going to Railay. It was about a 15 minute ride to Ao Nang. Once we got to Ao Nang were were taken slightly outside of town to the farther end of their rather long beach. We knew that we needed to wade out to a long tail boat. The problem was it was low tide. The driver leads us to a ticket booth and we gather a few more people and they head down the embankment.
The boats were about a quarter of a mile out across the muddy sand. My bag looks like a large duffle bag but it has backpack straps on it. I had it slung over one shoulder and my other daypack over the other. Shannon has a large wheeled bag that also has backpack straps. The boat guy took off and we felt like we were in a little bit too much of a hurry and weren't prepared. Shannon tried wheeling her bag, but that didn’t work well. So she started taking the steps out and puts it on her back. I set my large bag down and put it on both shoulders. We move out in to the water and once we are in water over our knees and I almost fall over I realize that my phone, wallet, passport are all in my pockets so I get them out and give them to Shannon. We spend about 5 minutes standing there waiting on the worlds laziest boat taxi driver. We finally have to climb up in the boat. We finally get out stuff in and climb in, I help people get their things in and then we wait as more people arrive.
We were on the biggest version of a long tail, with benches running down both sides and capable of holding 15 or so people and their luggage. They we called long tails because the motor is mounted on a long rod – 6’ or so that goes to the prop which is then quite a ways behind the boat. They we used throughout SE Asia.
The boat finally takes off going south along the beach. Tall cliffs then start and loom over the left hand side of the boat. The cliffs then come to a point and we turn left, and come into one of the most beautiful spots in the world.
Railay is land locked. The cliffs are several hundred feet tall and are vertical. This is a big rock climbing area and you can watch climbers all over the area. Railay proper is a sandy area probably ¼ by ½ mile.
The ¼ mile side is between the beach we were going to, West Railay and the beach on the other side East Railay. East Railay isn't really much of a beach, it is mainly mangrove swamps.
The ½ mile side is between the cliffs on the peninsula and then a large rock outcropping. Most everything is built on that can be. There is a small field between where some of the locals live and the main walking street that has been built on but most every other inch has been.
There are no cars, just golf carts, a few mopeds with sidecar like platforms and a few tractors (used to haul people and goods to long tails on East Railay).
Railay really is the most beautiful tropical place I have ever been to.
The problem is there are too many people in to small of a space. There are people everywhere. It isn’t quite as bad as being in an urban tourist destination like Las Ramblas in Barcelona or the Old Town in Prague but it is a lot in a place where you really don't want to see anyone else and that you want all to yourself.
We got there ought after the people had won the $1.5 billion lottery and I told Shannon that if I ever won something like that I would buy all of Railay, tear down everything and build myself a nice little 30,000-40,000 square foot house.
Our hotel was nice, but bothering spectacular. We stayed at the Railay Bay Resort and Spa. West Railay is the desirable place to be because of the beach. This hotel is big enough to run for West Railay all the way to East Railay. We were closer to East Railay than West, and our room was on something like a private lane that ran off of the main path through the hotel from East to West.
There are so many people moving through Railay that the service is just ok. I think everyone working there is burned out from dealing with so many people. They weren't at all as nice as the place we stayed at on Ko Samui. Food poising is rampant on Railay. Both Shannon and I were lucky and never had a problem but Trip Advisor is filled with food positioning comments. There is no such thing as a good restaurant on Railay. The best place is an Indian/pasta/pizza restaurant that we ate at twice. The service was pretty good as was the food. Most other places either had very bad service (like waiting an hour for food) and/or a high likely hood for food poisoning.
We spent one day on the beach on Railay West. We spent another at one of the 2 pools our hotel had and a third at Phra nang beach which is a beach in the rock walls at the point of Railay.
Phra Nang has been rated as one of the best beaches in the world and it is. But loads of people come by long tail and the day we laid there at times you could see several hundred people in front of you, to your left and right. There is an alter for the love goddess filled with hundreds of phalluses in every imaginable shape and size. A few were 4 feet tall.
The path to Phra Nang has crab eating Macaques that we very used to people.
Shannon had both a teen aged and baby jump into her arms – the mother of the baby came up screaming at her and bared her teeth, but was well behaved when her baby jumped down and continued to eat her piece of fruit.
There is also a viewpoint up above the trail. One morning I climbed it. It wasn't a technical climb but it was a climb, up rocks and through clay.
It was a nice little workout both going up and going down but the view was pretty spectacular.
We could have taken excursions to other islands, that were just as beautiful and filled with just as many people. We did go back to Ao Nang and explored a little one day but there wasn't much of interest there. Just the same old bars, souvenir shops and other tourist oriented businesses.
I loved our time at Railay and would go back again. The whole area around Krabi is phenomenally beautiful and worth more exploration. You just have to be surrounded by people.