I had meant to go to Krabi Town, but on a whim ended up in Railay Beach for a few days. The trip – by boat and bus – was longer than I’d expected, but thankfully I was able to sleep most of the time (I booked at 5:20 a.m. trip which made for an early morning). Going across so much land made me realize that I wasn’t quite ready to give up the beach. I showed up in Railay without a hotel, and decided to splurge a bit on a good spot in desirable Railay West. In my two days in Railay I trekked a lot of the area. The beach on Railay West is the nicest – the best water, smoothest sand, longest sun exposure, and only direct view of the setting sun. The eastern beach is all mangroves and you really can’t swim there. It’s kinda trashed actually, but it’s a short walk to the western beach on the other side of this narrow peninsula. The other option, also on the West side, is Hat Ton Sai. It’s a good beach (the sand is just a bit rockier) but gets shady before sunset given its position. It’s also decidedly more rustic and seemed to be a bit of a hippie paradise.
Railay is a big rock climbing spot, given all the picturesque limestone cliffs. And there are a few viewpoints that I’d read you “have to see.” Of course no one says how to hike to these places, and the map from the local travel agent had no roads or trails marked – i.e., not very helpful! So I decided to see what I could find. I walked to the end of the Railay West beach and found a promising-looking trail behind the fence of the final resort. So I started up the slope. I quickly lost the trail and went in circles a few times trying to make sense of things. I eventually happen upon a rope tied over a boulder, so I figured that was a good sign that I’m on the right track. But after that there is again no sign of a trail.
So I looked for well-worn rocks and tree roots and just keep heading upwards. Finally I came to a part that is more clearly the trail. This trail is steep and at times a bit slippery given the loose dirt and leaves. There then comes a point with ropes up the side of a craggy limestone face. I read about ropes, so I figure – okay, I can handle this, NBD. Grateful for my intro to bouldering (although there are no mats here to cushion a fall) I made it up two levels of the ropes, curious to see if there was anything resembling a semi-horizontal hiking trail in the next phase. Of course there was not – the ropes actually continued diagonally across the face of the rock cliff. At this point I’d made it above most of the tree line, so I call it a success and decide to head down before I fall off. I’m “climbing” in a pair of Tom’s, which aren’t really made for this, but the rock is really easy to grab onto so it was a pretty easy surface hold onto. Coming down I ran into a German couple at the bottom of the rope portion who were getting out their climbing harnesses to tie into the ropes. While they were impressed with my ability to get down so easily, I realized I was right to come back down when I did!
I later hiked over to Hat Ton Sai beach to check it out (and saw the Tham Pranangnai cave and some monkeys on my way). I ran into a nice Canadian family (whose son happens to also be living in Singapore, what a funny coincidence) and we chat about home, our impressions of Singapore, and our Thailand travel plans. They convinced me that I can surely still get back over to Railay West by walking along the shallow water at the shore. Of course by then the tide had come in and I didn’t want to get my camera wet. So again I did some rock climbing (in flip flops this time) when the water got a bit too deep. It was slow going, but I did eventually make it back around to the west beach and even caught another beautiful sunset!
Overall I really enjoyed Railay Beach – the cliffs and hiking were a nice change from the other islands and I couldn’t take enough photos of that picturesque scenery!