Railay, Thailand: Picture Perfect
My first trip out of Krabi Town took me to Aonang and then on to Railay. Aonang is just a short 30 minute 50 baht ($1.60) ride on an open back van from Krabi. The small beach front strip where everyone stays is lined with cafes and restaurants with everything from fish and Thai fare to pizza, pasta, salads and sandwiches for those visitors not wishing to savor the local delicacies. Everyone from backpackers to families with small children and old couples converge here. Aonang has numerous resorts, spas and other fun things to do and offers the best touristy shopping in the area. There are numerous eateries and shops with everything you could hope to buy while in Thailand.
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If you want to spend some time in Aonang before heading off to a nearby island, check out The Moderna Resort for chic surroundings amid palm trees and with a great pool to boot. Pakasai Resort in the area is touted as the esacapist’s resort and is set up in a nearby hillside offering gorgeous views and a calm ambiance. Deevana Plaza is also a popular place to stay with a luxurious feel.
From Aonang you can hop onto a long tail boat to Railay, like I did, or Phi Phi or even Phuket to catch some rays on the beautiful beaches that everyone expects you to visit while in the country.
Railay is one of those picture perfect places in Thailand showcased in tourism photos for good reason.
There are four areas that make up Railay: Pranang, West Railay, East Railay and Tonsai. The peninsula is cut off from the main land by high cliffs and only accessible via boat which gives it an island like atmosphere. Many people go to Railay to rock climb but the beaches are worth a day or more lounging as well. This is where I made a Venezuelan friend. We were on the long tail boat ride together from Aonang and decided to spend the day together. I love backpacking around and meeting others in the same boat, literally. Our boat from Aonang landed on West Railay a gorgeous white sand beach with karsts jutting out on either side. The hotels on this side looked to be too pricey for me so we walked down the path with a signboard labeled “Walking Street” overhead and made our way inward. The path led us past shops and restaurants and then to the east side of the peninsula.
We happened upon Diamond Cave first and thought we’d have a gander before moving on. Amusingly as we stood near the sign with the amount to pay, a very small amount hardly worth mentioning, no one came to collect. There was a group of guys nearby having an afternoon siesta of sorts and though they saw us, didn’t stir. I asked if we should pay and they said yes and still didn’t move. I asked if they wanted to take my money and they said yes and finally at that point one guy came our way. I’d assumed someone would take us inside and after they said we could explore on our own I thought I’ve been living in Korea for too long if I think I always need a tour guide. In Korea, it’s hard to find a place to visit that doesn’t have rails or ropes or guides to show you around. We stepped up to the wooden planks that led us deep inside. We were the only people inside with, I can only assume, many bats because of how noisy they were overhead though we couldn’t see them. We walked by walls of red and grey, saw stalactites and stalagmites, and enjoyed twenty minutes in a chilly cavern away from the heat of the day.
I opted to stay at the Diamond Cave Resort just in front of the cave itself for a very reasonably priced room and after dropping off my bag we headed out to scope out the east side of Railay. The east side was unfortunately undergoing quite a bit of construction but as it was low season, I could understand that it has to happen sometime. East Railay is not the picture perfect beach of the west side but it does offer up some great restaurants, more reasonably priced places to stay and a Thai boxing ring. Most of the beach on this side is covered with mangrove trees and though the waves were smaller than the other side, when comparing the two, this side just wasn’t nearly as appealing. My new friend and I went back to West Railay and sunbathed for the rest of the afternoon until she had to catch her boat back to Aonang.
For other appealing options in the area, check out Bhu Nga Thani Resort & Spa for an exquisite resort that would make anyone want to stay in the resort the whole time over heading out. Railay Great View Resort and Railay Garden View Resort both offer some very appealing private bungalows to sleep in that would give anyone those island vibes.
The next day I following the boardwalk on the east side south instead of north as we’d done the day before and it dropped me on Pranang another beach located on the west side but only accessible from this east side path. The path opened up at the southernmost end where rock climbers were enjoying the walls and I found Tham Phra Nang a shrine for local fisherman. It stood out in the cave it was located in as it was so colorful and the sign explained that it was believed that the spirit of a princess goddess resided in the cave. The legend is that a barge carrying an Indian princess sank in a storm around the 3rd century BC and this cave is where the spirit of the princess came to rest. Fishermen come here to leave flowers, incense and most notably wooden phalluses to ask for good luck in their fishing for the day. Though the phalluses would lead one to believe this is a shrine for fertility, it is not.
For more photos of the shrine and of the island, check out my other post Railay, Thailand: A Picture Story.
Pranang is a gorgeous beach with huge karsts on the sides and even one in the center. In the morning the water was very high, coming up to the wall, so there wasn’t much of a beach to lie on. My friend back in Krabi said this may be due to low season tides suggesting that during high season the beach is larger and the water isn’t generally as high. The waves were also large and intensely crashing into the beach, which made me think twice about swimming out. Later in the day the water went out and people flocked to the sandy beach with their blankets and towels. The karst in the center could even be reached with just a little wading.
I stayed in Railay for two nights and three days and enjoyed every minute of it, though I wished I wasn’t alone appreciating the views. It was a good time for introspection and lots of reading of the trusty Douglas Coupland book I’d brought along. It was a spectacular introduction to what the beaches of Thailand we often see on postcards look like in reality and let me just say that the postcards hold true.