Despite falling back in to the travelling way of life with a bang, and having a few emotional moments after leaving the others behind at the airport, the bus ride was fairly quick and easy, after about three hours we arrived in Krabi town bus station. We seem to have learned what to do in these situations better than most, so whilst most people stand there negotiating with the tour agency office staff, or just accepting their drastically over-inflated prices to get them to their hostels, we just walk away and go to the public transport station where this time we just hopped in the back of a public Songthaew (like a tuk-tuk bus, with two rows of seats, that you can hop on and off anywhere on the route) for around a third of the price the bus company office wanted. It seems Vietnam and Cambodia were good practice for dealing with this after all.
The Songthaews do a fixed circular route around here, so it took about one hour to get to Ao Nang where we were staying from the bus station, but we were soon checked in to a nice, but hot room. It was a couple of kilometres from the beach, but that was basically the only way to get an affordable room around here, as it is quite a touristy area, and the Songthaews run all day backwards and forwards to get anywhere for quite cheap.
This area of Thailand, Krabi, or more specifically Ao Nang which is the main seaside town here, is famous for its scenery and close proximity to Railay beach. We initially booked just a couple of days here, but as we had a flight to Malaysia in five days time, and the guest house was nice, we decided to just stay the full five days here and explore the local area.
The next day we got up early and headed down to the beach front to catch a long-tail boat to Railay beach, which was actually much easier and better organised than we had expected, simply buy tickets from the booth next to the beach, with clear and fair prices, and then head to the boats and get on the next one leaving, which around here is not usually more than around five minutes away.
Us and five or six others climbed on to the boat and set off around the rocky coastline to Railay beach, first stopping at another nearby beach, Phra Nang for a cave there, but within twenty minutes we were dropped on to the famous beautiful beach. The sand is soft and white, the sea warm and crystal clear and the scenery of limestone cliffs is simply stunning, it’s obvious to see why this is talked about as one of the finest beaches in Thailand. In the morning there is shade on the beach from the trees that line the sand, making it a perfect place to lay and relax, other than the constant noise of long-tail boats coming in and out.
As always, we went drastically unprepared, we’d only taken one towel somehow, so we both sat on that on the sand, we’d also taken no food with us and as it was only accessible by boat, the prices in the shops there were inflated as you’d expect. So after a couple of hours relaxing with a coconut shake and swimming, we walked in to the town between Railay west (the nice beach) and Railay east (not so nice) and got some lunch.
By the time we got back to the beach after lunch, the beach was no longer shaded by trees and the tide had started to go out so the water was even shallower and less clear than before, so because of the lack of shade we soon decided to head back to town on the next boat.
Final thoughts on Railay are that it was a stunning beach, but best enjoyed in the morning when it is shaded and quieter, it is definitely one of the nicest we’ve seen in Thailand. Although, we both agreed, that after all the hype this place is given as one of the top destinations in Thailand to visit, we actually expected more from it, maybe it was just the constant noise of the dozens of boats that detracted from how beautiful Railay truly is.
That night we took the public Songthaew back to Krabi town for the weekend night market, we had seen it setting up the previous day when we passed it as we headed to Ao Nang and it looked similar to the type of night markets we had enjoyed in the north of Thailand. It turned out to be great, cheap and fantastic food was the main attraction, cheap beer and a great market to walk around, with lots of options and live music to accompany the atmosphere. It was a good mix of locals and tourists, and got very busy later on, but a lack of seats meant that after a couple of hours of walking and eating we were ready to go back to Ao Nang. It was such a shame that Kay, Ian and the girls didn’t get to see a market like this with us, it is a real highlight of Thai nightlife, but Phuket just seemed to be lacking in this type of thing, other than Patong.
A couple of days later, we hired a scooter for the day from the guest house and set off exploring some of the other nice beaches nearby we had seen on the map. Just a short ride from Ao Nang, we stopped at a place that we had heard you could walk from the mainland to a small island at low tide, thankfully, now was low tide, and the water was only a foot deep between the two.
It was such a great experience to walk in the sea for around 50 metres from the beach to get to the small island and then walk all the way around its perimeter in just a few minutes, I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
After this, we took the bike and rode about 30-40 minutes away to a beach we had been recommended by a French girl who owned a local bar with her Thai husband, the beach was called Tub Kaek beach, and mainly consisted of high-end resorts on a long stretch of beautiful beach with very shallow clear water. It wasn’t a beach for swimming because of how shallow it was, but it was very relaxing and quiet, and the scenery of all the local islands and limestone cliffs out to sea was beautiful.
A couple of hours there were abruptly ended by the sight of a thunder-storm and dark skies heading towards us, we were over 30 minutes drive from the guest house and didn’t fancy riding back in a thunder-storm, so we jumped back on the bike and headed back. Five minutes after we got back to the room, the heavens opened and the tropical storm had arrived, it was great to watch from the bedroom with a beer 🙂
On our last day we decided to go back to Railay and see the next beach, Phra Nang, on the way. So we got up and headed down to the beach front the same as before, bought tickets, walked to the edge of the beach and saw that the sea was high tide, very rough, and the boat drivers were struggling to keep the boats aiming where they wanted to go. We quickly decided that wasn’t for us and took the tickets back for a refund, which they gave us.
The next hour we spent sat at the sea front watching in horror as people still continuously piled on to these boats to go to Railay, in what we thought were quite dangerous conditions. The struggles of the tourists were obvious to see and climbing on to the boats was a real struggle for most, but people were still doing it, we were glad we didn’t.
Overall we enjoyed Krabi and Ao Nang, the food was good for the most part, and a bit cheaper than Phuket, the guest house was nice, with very friendly and helpful staff, and the local beaches were beautiful. The only bit we didn’t really like was the tourist strip by the beach front, with lots of pushy salesmen at overly expensive bars and restaurants, you could have been in any tourist town in the world, not really the feeling of Thailand.
After a whole month in Thailand, it was time for the Malaysia adventure and a flight from Krabi to Kuala Lumpur awaited us.