We had all been pretty sad to leave Koh Tao, after all it had offered so much and we’d all enjoyed it. In many ways it was perfect that Railay Beach was our next stop because it was very different, not only in its landscape, but also in what it had to offer.
We quickly discovered that this small peninsula, between Krabi and Ao Nang, had a lot to offer in the way of activity and sights, and we were kept busy trying to do as many as we could.
On our first day the girls and I had decided to do the hike to the Lagoon. In every guide-book, we read, there was a warning that parts were steep and strenuous – this was certainly under-stated, but it was enough to turn Tony off who doesn’t do well with heights.
Anyway the girls and I set off in our sensible footwear with plenty of water and absolutely no true inkling of what was in store. Mind you it soon became pretty apparent as the first 100 meters were up what looked like a sheer cliff of clay and it really was necessary to use the rope to pull oneself up. Had a moment of weakness and the thought to turn back, but the girls were so supportive and encouraging that there was nothing for it but to carry on.
And carry on we did. Up parts that were almost impassable because the clay had washed away. Up parts that were more like rock climbing than hiking. We all got really good at knowing which crag was the best to pull up our bodies and which were the best footholds to keep balance. There were some parts that were pretty level but during these places it was a case of slipping through mud and skirting pools of water!
As we neared the end of the hike, or should I say as we got closer to the Lagoon, there were a series of bamboo ladders that were essentially lashed to the hillside at an almost vertical angle – it was actually scarier going down these than anything else!
Of course we met many people along the way. Everyone so friendly and helpful – offering advice or encouragement. We also met lots of people who had abandoned their flip-flops and had decided to do it barefoot – probably a wise move, but I wouldn’t have wanted to.
We learnt along the way that the Lagoon was not swimmable, which was somewhat of a disappointment, not only because we were looking forward to a swim at the end of the trail, but because we needed one – I don’t think I have ever sweated so much. No matter when we arrived at the end of our trail the sight was beautiful.
The Lagoon lay in a sunken hole, surrounded by wooded cliffs that wound up to the sky. It was very cool looking up because you had a real sense of how far down we had climbed. Despite not being able to swim it was well worth the journey just to walk around, crawl through the mini caves, marvel at the wonders of nature and take pictures ( which of course we took many!)
Needless to say the homebound journey was not much easier but with our new-found adventure skills we made it back in good time. We had a short detour as we went to one of the Island’s view point’s, where once again I could cluck like mother hen as the girls teetered close to the edge to get the perfect shot.
The following day we decided to do something a little more tame, while still enjoying the gorgeous scenery that Railay has to offer. We rented double sea kayaks and went out to sea. It was perfect. The ocean was calm, which made it easy to paddle, and around every corner the cliffs and rocks popped up in postcard-picture glory. We even kayaked through a small overhang/cave. The only danger was the long-tail boats zipping through the rocks because you could only see them when they were right behind you. If the ocean and boating-type activities are your thing, I would highly recommend renting a kayak. It’s relatively inexpensive as far as water activities go and it was certainly no where near as strenuous as some of the other activities being offered.
We rounded out our less taxing day with a trip to the Diamond Cave – unbelievably impressive to walk, around the wooden boardwalk, inside its heart. Stalactites meeting stalagmites created the illusion of a hollow wall towering above and all around. The cave is filled with beautiful limestone formations. We gently tapped them and the echo was like an organ – very cool.
In the deepest part of the cave, dangling twenty – thirty feet above our heads and singing out to one another was a huge colony of bats – I must say I found that a bit unnerving, even though they were so high up.
On our third day at Railay we ventured over to a different beach, Hat Phra Nang. Along the way we passed by the foothills of our Lagoon and had the unexpected pleasure of literally watching a stalactite drip its mineral water onto the growing stalagmite below. A couple just ahead of us on the path was having fun catching the mineral drips so the girls and I jumped on their coat-tails and did it too – there was something quite spiritual about the whole ritual.
We had seen the shores of Pra Nang Beach from our sea kayaks the day before, and it looked beautiful and definitely worth exploring. Besides, what we couldn’t see from our kayaks was the Tham Phra Nang (Princess Cave). This cave is an important shrine for local fishermen. According to the Lonely Planet guide-book, legend has it that a royal barge carrying an Indian princess foundered in a storm here during the 3rd century BC. The spirit of the drowned princess came to inhabit the cave, granting favours to all who came to pay respect. It has come to pass that local fishermen place carved wooden phalluses in the cave as offerings in the hope that the spirit will provide plenty of fish. My biggest surprise here, although I shouldn’t have been surprised, after all she is a teenager, was Tiah’s obsession with the wooden penises!
Hat Phra Nang was an incredible place to spend an afternoon. The water was crystal-clear and we waded/swam around the cave, under the over hang and around to more rock formations – beautiful. Along with the swimming and snorkelling we were also entertained by the monkeys who were trying to get into a tourist’s backpack!
We enjoyed everything about our stay in Railay. We loved our little bungalows, the restaurant with incredible Indian food (yup, we ate Indian every night instead of Thai!) Our coffee shop over-looking East Railay Beach, with its Nora Jone’s soundtrack. I had some incredible runs and loved the day Abigayle came with me and half our run was a scramble over the rocks and in the water to Tonsai Beach. This is definitely a place to put on a wish list and I guarantee if you ever have the opportunity to visit, you will feel like you stepped out of a postcard.
postcard comes alive