Close your eyes and visualise your ideal beach setting. Do you picture sapphire and turquoise water lapping onto white powdery shores, a green belt of coconut palms lining the edge of the beach and disappearing into a lush jungle background? Perhaps boats are bobbing in sequence to the slow, rhythmic pace of this island utopia. You may think this is just a fantasy but in Railay Bay this is reality. It is simply radiant.
Twenty minutes by long-tail boat from Ao Nang, you can find yourself in this Eden-like sanctuary, soaking in the unspoilt tropical splendour of southern Thailand. Your journey begins at Wang Sai travel office where you can purchase your return boat ticket for 200THB per person (about 8AUD).
Make sure you wear shorts and bring only the essentials in the backpack. You wade out to the boat and climb up a rope ladder to get on board. Anything electronic should be left behind unless you have a waterproof bag or you can hold it above your head. If you plan on staying overnight or longer, pack the absolute minimum and leave the rest behind.
The boat ride is noisy but spectacular. The dramatic landscape looms up and devours you as the surroundings morf from ‘hotel central’ to a type of ‘castaway bay’. The soaring limestone cliffs and jagged rock islands create a scene reminiscent of a James Bond inspired boat chase. The aquamarine waters at the base of the giant rock monoliths shelter explorers in kayaks seeking their own private nirvana.
First you will arrive at Tonsai Bay. This is backpacker heaven and a quick visual sweep reveals rock climbers, volleyballers, frisbee enthusiasts and congregations of youthful sun worshippers (many no doubt recovering from the revelry and beach bar shenanigans of the previous night).
With a roar of the long-tail boat’s outboard engine we sped over to where most tourists want to be, Railay Bay. Again wading ashore in waist deep water we look towards the beach and see a range of accommodation from bungalows to five star resorts for those who choose to stay overnight.
As day trippers we first lounged on the beach guarded by the cliffs and swam in the shallow warm water. For lunch we dined beach-side on spicy Thai salads and crispy vegetarian spring rolls.There are a host of bars and restaurants to choose from here but prices are higher than you will find in Krabi Town or Ao Nang. After some more lounging on the beach we had a stroll to an area called ‘Walking Street’. Here you can buy every souvenir possible. However, we took the simple option and stopped at a small local cafe and sipped cold, young coconut juice. While here we overheard one very sun tanned, handsome guy saying, “The sunsets are awesome and the beach is beautiful of a night, but for now I’m going back to my hammock.” That’s life at Railay.
In the late afternoon we saw people canoeing, playing volley-ball and a couple ‘being mindful’ and doing yoga. We departed the beach at 5:00pm to catch our long tail boat home. With the setting sun to our backs and the salty sea spray in ours faces we made our way to Ao Nang. This time our journey had some extra excitement when our boat ran out of fuel and we drifted on the open sea for what seemed a very long time. Our resourceful boat skipper soon had us back on course for sunset cocktails after successfully changing fuel tanks.
Railay is truly spectacular and well worth the effort but our suggestion is make it a day excursion unless you are into rock climbing or feel like treating yourself to a night or two at a top end resort like Rayavadee (http://www.rayavadee.com).
Back at Ao Nang at night you have a better choice of restaurants and some gay night life at Krabi’s newest gay venue Fox Bar. On a Friday night we found the bar busy, friendly and the music good. Fox bar is located on level 2 left of the escalators in Centre Point Ao Nang.
By the way, if you decide to visit this spectacular place be sure to take your own shade as the beach can be scorching in the middle of the day and there are very few trees around the beachfront. Pack an umbrella and you’ll be set for a day full of delightful holiday memories.