It took yet another long day of travel to get to Railay in southern Thailand. This peninsula is a rock climbing mecca, complete with towering limestone cliffs and sandy beaches on both sides. From the brochures and photos it truly looks like paradise.
Our plane landed at the nearest airport after dark and thankfully we were able to find an affordable shuttle to get us all the way down to the tourist areas. Stop after stop, visitors unloaded as we sat eagerly waiting our turn. Finally the driver yelled the name of our hotel, which clearly was not the name on the sign. He pointed at us, repeatedly saying, “boat, boat.” And we sat there thinking, “no – hotel, hotel.” But he was persistent so we got off the bus to be greeted with the realization that you can’t reach Railay by car. There aren’t even roads once you do get there. In hindsight, this fact would have been easy to discover with a bit more research…
There were six of us in total who were headed that way so under the direction of a local, we all waded through the shallow surf at Ao Nang Beach, luggage in tow and climbed up into the nearest longtail boat. It was completely dark when we started the boat ride, so it goes without saying that once we reached open waters, us foreigners could barely see a thing, let alone see over the bow of the boat. We could make out faint cliff outlines in the distance, as well as the green glow of squid boats on the horizon as our driver sped over the blackened surf. It was a very beautiful ride, lightning chasing us the whole way. We landed on the west side of the island, and it took asking directions from three different hotel employees before we realized our hotel was on the opposite side, the east beach.
We finally made it, not only trekking to the other side of the peninsula, but also through our neighboring construction zone…yay (nothing like the smell of a fresh coat of paint and the sounds of drills to wake you up in the morning)… Once we had dropped our gear off in our beautiful little room, it was nearing 10:30pm and all the restaurants had closed. We found this out after getting lost and walking the width of the cape four times. Not to worry though, we raided the minibar – our first meal at Railay – 40g of cashews each.
Wandering around the next day it became clear that Railay, a truly natural beauty, is now cluttered with resorts and shops, litter floating in the surf and strewn across the beach. This is especially true of the east side, and made much more visible with the tide out. It’s a real shame since the area is so beautiful. And this is during the low season – I can’t imagine how bad it can get with more visitors flooding the small spit of land.
Two nights in Railay were all for us. Unfortunately, since we were one week short of “high season,” ferry boats were not yet running from Railay to Koh Lanta, but we made it happen anyway.