An action-packed 6 days of diving in Koh Tao had all four of us craving a bit of down time, so what better way to enjoy Thailand than to lie on one those white sand beaches it's famous for. Since Becca and Charlie only had a week left on their visa (😭) we decided on Railay in Krabi Province and started to make our way there for our final destination as a foursome (don't cry, don't cry, don't cry).
Discovering that overnight ferries existed – and realising that we manage to bleed money when we're all together – we were excited to save a nights accommodation and hop on a ferry that would deliver us to Surat Thani followed by a connecting minivan to Krabi – easy peasy!
Since we had to check out of the dive school in the morning, we spent a lot of time hanging around for the night ferry. Mainly sticking to the AC in the office, we leeched off their wifi the whole day, occasionally treating ourselves to a hot chocolate and watched the hours pass by slowly. Thankfully hanging around the office had its perks as a dive instructor, instantly recognising the 'night ferry waiters', told us if we went early to the pier we could get better beds. With the pier a 5 minute walk, Fitz and Charlie went straight down the beach and collected our tickets pronto. Hoping our efforts had ensured nicer beds, we made our way to the ferry at 9pm, ready to board.
Thanks to the advise of the friendly dive instructor we soon realised we must have been the first to collect our tickets. Boarding the ferry, we were greet with 'VIP!' Once anyone had glanced at our tickets. Very confused and putting it down to a language barrier, we followed our ticket conductor to our beds. However, luck was on our side and we were directed towards – you guessed it – a VIP cabin complete with 4 beds, AC and a lockable door. Walking through the cramped 30 bed dorms to get to our private compartment, we were extremely thankful for the tip and – in our luxury comfort – swapped our best horror stories of previous accommodation nightmares. After some great stories, many laughs and feeling extremely lucky, we all slept blissfully through the night, only waking at 5am as the ferry docked.
Hopping off the ferry, numerous taxis waited to pick up passengers to transfer them to their next destination. As our transfer hadn't arrived we were shuffled to the side, ignoring all the tuk tuk drivers telling us they weren't coming and needed to pay them instead to make the transfer. The most common trick in the book, we simply assured the taxi drivers we had already paid for our transfer and weren't parting with any more. Shrugging, the tuk tuk drivers all left and as the calm descended on us we realised we were literally the only people left at the pier. This wasn't rare for us as south east Asia always comprises of you sitting alone thinking no one is coming, getting more anxious and then ultimately, when you're about to throw in the towel, someone comes along to pick you up. The difference here was … no one came to pick us up.
Calling the travel agency continuously, they assured us they were on their way but an hour – and 6 phone calls – later they finally left their office 5 minutes away to pick us up. It turned out the tuk tuk drivers were right and this travel company were notorious for just leaving passengers to find their own way. Thanks to our perseverance (and Charlie's Thai sim) they had caved but the repercussions were we had missed our connecting minivan. However, in true Thailand fashion, another minivan happened to pull up, have 4 seats and was heading in the Krabi direction. So we piled ourselves in for the next leg!
📷 Our transfer to the minivan was less than legitimate 🌬
Getting dropped off in Krabi, we now had to find our own way to Railay. Walking to the nearest 7 Eleven for our breakfast, we asked passing public taxis their rates to Ao Nammao. After a couple of high quotes we managed to find a driver who would take us for 300 baht which, all in all, is pretty cheap so we ditched our breakfast plans, hopped in and were on our way to the long tail boats that would take us to Railay.
After a quick breakfast at the pier, we managed to pile ourselves into a tiny long tail boat for our last leg on the journey. Railay is on the mainland but it's huge limestone cliffs and dense jungle means it's cut off from the rest of Krabi with only longtail boats being able to transport people and goods alike to the small island-like town.
📷 Longtail boat to Railay (pictured)
Hopping off our boat along with our bags, onions, bags of rice, potatoes and stacks of fizzy drinks, it definitely felt like we were on another island. Hitching our bags up onto our backs, we set off along the strip of hotels along the seafront looking for some cheap accommodation. Taking in the beautifully still waters lapping at the boardwalk and towering limestone cliffs around us, it wasn't hard to see why Railay is such a popular attraction.
📸 The mangroves along the boardwalk get their daily watering at high tide 🌊
After a few rather traumatising attempts, we ultimately found a good option in Railay Viewpoint Resort. Boasting cheap off season prices, the nicest rooms we'd stayed in for a while and a pool (!!!), we happily plonked our bags down, pulled on our swimmers and ran down to the pool for a cool down.
Having got our accommodation locked down, all we had to do was figure out how we wanted to spent our next few days. Planning what to do in Railay is easy; it's an action packed centre with relaxing beaches for chilled days and rock climbing and hiking for energy fuelled entertainment. With only 3 days before we had to say goodbye – though in steep denial of this fact – we set about making the most of Railay.
Dragging ourselves out of the luxury that is a pool and wandering around the town, we soon came to grips with what we had on offer; very expensive everything. Thanks to its cut off island feel, Railays prices matched it with convenience stores charging for their longtail boat imports (and a lot extra). Being backpackers, this wasn't a new concept to any of us and as such we set about looking for the cheaper restaurants and convenience stores that wouldn't break the bank.
📷 Railay Beach West
📷 On the hunt for cheap prices
Thankfully, we managed to succeed without too much trouble. While it wasn't Yangs, we did find a restaurant close to our resort that sold good portions for good prices. As well as this, our hike had found us a very rasta, chilled, rock climbing company who were more than happy to lease us climbing gear for a good price. With our plans for our first morning cemented, we ate dinner, unpacked and set about getting ready for a 9am rise to try and beat the heat.
Rock climbing is one of the main attractions in Railay so it's no surprise that we found numerous limestone cliffs with climbing anchors that were perfect for all levels. While I sat out the climbing (clinging to the face of a cliff? No thanks), the others all took turns on numerous routes, thoroughly enjoying themselves.
With a pretty hectic first half of the day over and everyone's rock climbing itches having been well scratched, we returned the gear and rewarded ourselves (yes, me too) with pancakes. One of Railays delicacies, every man and his dog sell pancakes. As well as being delicious, they were the cheapest breakfast/lunch option and soon became our meal substitutes.
📷 Pancakes stall 😍
After our supremely (non)nutritious lunch and having spent most of the day in the sweltering heat, there was nothing for it but to dive back into the resort pool for an afternoon of floating around, chatting and simply soaking up our last few days with our friends. Once we were thoroughly pickled from the pool we decided to head out for dinner. Having discovered our cheap restaurant, The Last Bar, we instantly knew this was no ordinary place to eat. With bench after bench for diners and drinkers, The Last Bar's main attraction was its Muay Thai boxing ring positioned slap bang in the centre of the venue.
Heading over to the bar in the early evening, we brought out diaries with us and began to swap travel tips on all the places each couple had been. Ordering food and giving each other all the dos and donts of our future destinations, we finally had to put down our pens and get ready for the 10pm Muay Thai boxing match we were about to be sat right next to.
The first round of fighting was low level fighters who probably were in it for the free bucket of alcohol more than any real fighting capacity. However, the next fight was what everyone had come for; well trained Muay Thai fighters. The fight lasted around 10 minutes but was jam packed with punches and expert kicks, ending ultimately in someone getting knocked out. With a lot of 'oooh's and 'ahhhh's, all four of us felt extremely pathetic in our fighting abilities and had nothing but respect for the fighters who showed great sportsmanship to each other at all times.
We had been drinking our happy hour Changs throughout and found ourselves particularly merry at the end with Charlie and Fitz having managed to make bets throughout the matches on who would win (remember what I said about bleeding money?). Thankfully, our waitresses weren't the best and when the bill came, they had forgotten to note down some of our beers. Taking what we could get at that point, we enjoyed our free beers and watched the post match fire show the bar put on (Poi all the way) and ultimately called it a night once all the festivities were over and the crowds were dispersing. It's not very often we're allowed to treat ourselves to a few beers but that night was definitely the right time to do it. Nothing can beat a few beers with mates, watching probably one of the most cultural things in Thailand and going back to a big comfy bed at the end of it. It was a really lovely night and one that will be hard to forget.
The next day, we woke up for our last full day of fun. We decided to do one of the last things on our list that we had all been forward to; to trek up one of Railays limestone cliffs and make our way towards The Princess Lagoon; a saltwater lagoon that fills the centre of the cliff at high tide. This is one of Railays main attractions but remains fairly quiet thanks to its steep, muddy hills that – I'm sure -have ruined many a white outfit for the poorly informed tourists that try to climb it. Scrabbling up on our hands and knees, then carefully lowering ourselves back down the sheer cliff had us covered head to toe in mud and dripping with sweat by the time we reached the lagoon. But boy was it worth it! The still, crystal clear water of the lagoon was flanked by huge, towering cliffs covered in greenery from small foliage to huge palm leaves. The sheer scale of the limestone rocks cascading down the cliff was mesmerising, let alone all the caves and jungle that grew around them.
📷 Making our way down the path – if you can call it that
📷 Makeshift bamboo ladders
📷 Our reward
After gawking at this sight so quite some time, we all pulled ourselves together and started trying to take pictures hoping they would somehow do it justice. Having timed our descent perfectly, we had the lagoon at full ride and, even better, to ourselves. Realising just how muddy we were, we plunged into the cool salt water, swimming around the pristinely flat lagoon and washing off all the mud we had accumulated on our climb up.
📷 The boys exploring the hidden caves
Once we had finally torn ourselves away – made easier by the other tourists that started jumping into our oasis – we started the long descent back which, thankfully, wasn't as hard as the climb there. Walking through town, we carried the telltale mark of the lagoon hikers, covered yet again in the orange mud that we subsequently saw many travellers caked in. Dragging our tired legs back to our resort, we were all more than happy to head straight to the pool, wash all our clothes and shoes and try to cool ourselves down yet again. Reflecting on the day, we were all in agreement that trekking and swimming together in the lagoon was one of our favourite moments in our three week holiday.
Having worked up a pretty incredible appetite – and feeling like the pancakes weren't quite going to hit the spot – we decided to test out a restaurant we had read about online being much cheaper than other Railay restaurants. Dreaming of a new Yangs, we had only just been able to make our way there due to our fantastic timings with low tide. Located on a seperate beach that you can only access when the tide is low enough, we hopped, skipped and jumped over the numerous rocks and boulders.
📷 Tonsai beach and its crazy boulders
Once on Tonsai beach, we hungrily made our way past more climbing routes, luxury resorts and what felt like a million rasta beach shacks before we came across the godfather (or should I say godmother) of Railay Restuarants, Mama Chicken. Going through around 30 chickens a night in off season and around 100 in high season, the woman running this small shack of a restaurant knows how to make anything chicken. Ordering the fries and chicken and cheese burgers, we were soon eating mouth watering food while slurping our fruity shakes. It was hands down the best meal we had in Railay, with the biggest portions and cheapest prices. Sufficed to say, we were very happy bunnies.
📷 Mama Chicken
📷 Making friends
Having had a sort of late lunch we decided this was the best time to continue sharing more travel tips with each other. While we knew we were going to miss low tide, we were all fairly confident in swimming back to Railay Beach once we were finished with our dinner (yes, we had two meals there). This confidence, however, dwindled slightly when – after our 8 hours stint at Mama Chicken – we made our way down to the pitch black beach, trying to remember how far the rocks we had clambered over reached and debating the likelihood of one (or all) of us coming out with lots of scrapes and bruises.
Feeling slightly more deflated with each step, we all slowly trudged right to the end of the beach trying to put off the inevitable. Catching sight of some stairs cut into a rock at the back of the beach, we quickly started to wonder if the numerous paths for rock climbers might actually lead back to Railay and thus eliminate the need to swim. With only one head torch, Charlie volunteered (as tribute) and heading off the path to see if he would hit a dead end. Thankfully, we could all catch sight of the little beam of light running back towards us and to our great relief, Charlie confirmed that the path went on and on and on and seemed to lead in the direction of Railay beach.
Relieved not to strip down to our swimmers just yet, we all happily started climbing for the second time that day and, using phone lights to help guide the way, slowly made our way through the jungle of paths we were blindly following. Getting rather narrow at times, we squeezed our way past boulders and lowered ourselves down the steep path until at last we could make out the lights of Railay Beach!
📷 Some parts of the path were pretty narrow
Celebrating a bit too early, we soon realised that while we were on a path leading us to the correct beach, the path itself stopped short of actually reaching said beach. Thanks to the extreme high tides, we realised we would still have to swim part of the way. With Charlie leading the pack, I followed suit and was soon lowering myself into the rather stormy waters crashing around us. Thankfully the water was only waist high so once we were all in we started our brisk wade toward the beach. This would have been a rather pleasant excursion had I not felt a slight twinge on my leg, followed by a searing pain in my forearm. It was the kind of pain you can pinpoint straight away and I instantly started cursing and screaming jellyfish! Charlie promptly turned around to tell me not to be silly, saw the jellyfish float by, and proceeded to pick up the pace. Thankfully, it was only the one jellyfish and with myself as sacrifice, the others got by unharmed.
Out of the water and walking back to our resort, I was starting to realise what a jellyfish sting actually feels like. For those of you that are curious, it is how I would imagine pure acid to feel like. The searing pain – thankfully – subsided slowly, allowing me to loosen my vice-like grip on Fitzs arm and allow the blood to flow back into his aching limb.
Aside from the sting we also had some cuts from sharp rocks. Tending to our wounds, we went through the majority of our alcohol wipes and plasters honestly just grateful that we didn't have to swim a further distance and thanking the Lord we found a hiking trail. Tucking ourselves into bed that night, no one could deny that we had had a pretty adventurous last day.
Waking up the next day, our elation had dissipated and we were all in a mild state of shock; today was the day we had to say goodbye. With Becca and Charlie catching the 3pm ferry, heading off to Bangkok, it felt very weird, not only that we were going to say goodbye but knowing they were about to retrace our steps through South East Asia. Thankfully, it was business as usual, and we all kept each other feeling merry throughout the morning. Having one last dip in the pool and popping out for a quick lunch, the inevitable kept creeping closer towards us. Heading back to the rooms we did a final check of bags, making sure all borrowed items had been handed back, travel notes taken down and previous currencies handed over. Slowly walking toward the tiny Railay pier, I couldn't quite believe three weeks had passed, knowing they were some of the best three weeks of our adventures so far. We were even more thankful for our time together as we had originally only planned two weeks. Three weeks felt like a small blessing – if not still extremely heartbreaking that it was over.
Saying our goodbyes quickly due to a want to not cry (mainly by me and Becca) and the ferry men – completely nonplussed with emotional farewells – were shouting at us to start boarding. Waving goodbye, becca and Charlie hopped on a longtail boat and were whisked away. Walking slowly back along the beach boardwalk, we couldn't believe that our friends were leaving us and heading to the amazing Bangkok that we knew they would love.
Our walk back to the resort felt much longer and a lot lonelier than it normally did and I'm not ashamed to say I had a bit of a cry when we got back to the room. But, like everything, our sadness at their leaving only showed how lucky we were to have them and to have had such an amazing time in the first place.
Now it was time for us to move on too. Spending our extra day in Railay, we put our minds towards what we wanted to do for our last month in Thailand and ended up researching the Thai islands we will slowly be making our way across. Walking around Railay as a twosome became easier the more we did it and by the time we came to leaving, we were back to feeling like being on our own was normal and not achingly painful. That being said, we were glad to be moving on and paving our way again, saying goodbye to Railay (and it's prices) and feeling reinvigorated after our mini holiday 🙏🏻🌞
Next stop: Koh Phi Phi; the island where 'The Beach' was famously shot, Phi Phi is the most well-known island in Thailand. Rumoured to be rather over developed, we decided to head there to see if it is as beautiful as everyone says and at what cost in terms of overdevelopment, party hostels and rubbish.