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A week on Railay Beach

A week on Railay Beach

Nestled along the stunning shores of the Andaman Sea, Railay Beach stands as a testament to the natural beauty of Thailand. Tucked away from the bustling mainland, this secluded peninsula where there are no roads or cars, offers a tranquil escape for travellers seeking a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure. Whether you’re a sun-worshipper, a rock-climbing enthusiast, or simply a nature lover, Railay Beach promises an unforgettable experience.

I visited Railay at the beginning of December last year. I have been to Thailand several times but not for the last 20 years. I know it has changed since then and many people who were there ‘back in the day’ now complain it’s “too touristy”, or “overdeveloped and busy”. I’m not sure what people expect though. Do they want countries to stand still, just so they can enjoy the same experience, if they ever decide to visit again?

Saying that I knew how beautiful and chilled Railay was 20 years ago and I also knew there are still no roads or cars there. So if anywhere was going to be less developed and like the ‘old Thailand’ it would be Railay.

Arriving in paradise

Getting there is fairly easy. You just ask your hotel to arrange everything. Backpackers will be horrified to learn that we splashed out around £30 for private transfers from Krabi airport. We were met by our driver, who worked just for the hotel and driven in a private, air-conditioned minivan to the ferry pier. Then after a short wait we all jumped on a longtail boat for the 20 minute ride to Railay. On arrival our bags were grabbed by the hotel porters, loaded into trolleys and ferried through the winding alleys from Railay East, where the pier is, to Railay West, where the nicer beach and the hotels are. I should say now that we were staying 4star not 5star and we were not paying huge amounts, so porters for the luggage was a pleasant surprise and very welcome in that heat.

When you reach the end of the windy lane and finally reach Railay West, you suddenly burst into a postcard scene of wide sweeping sands,  vast limestone cliffs , lush jungles and the glistening sea, where colourful longtail boats dance in the waves. This is what Railay is know for and why people come here. It truly is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. We arrived just as the sun was setting which was an extra bonus. One of the best things to do in Railay is sit on the beach, or in one of the beachfront restaurants, with a cold beer and watch the incredible sunsets.

The next week was spent in a state of chilled happiness. We planned to get over to Ao Nang and explore the mainland but we ended up spending our time in Railay and that was fine with me. There was a mixture of lazy days spent on the beach or by the pool, more adventurous days, finding the hidden lagoon, exploring the jungles trails and kayaking to the surrounding islands and other beaches. Plenty to keep us busy (or not) for a week.

Railay West beach

Amazing food and ice cold beers

Evenings were spent predominantly on ‘Walking Street’, where there are a amazing number of restaurants and bars for such a small place. It has a lovely chilled vibe, where you can take a gentle stroll, accompanied by the sound of live music and the smell of fresh fish barbequing away. We ate at a different place every night and never had a bad meal. In fact the food was delicious. Fresh swordfish caught that day, huge barbeque prawns, fragrant & spicy Thai dishes, all washed down with lots of ice cold beer Chang. After dinner we chilled out in one of the small bamboo constructed bars, sat on cushions on the floor, played backgammon and listed to live music with a few more beers. The bars by the beach hand out lanterns and mats so you can take your drinks and sit on the sand. there you can watch the night kayaking tours, where they take people out in see-through kayaks with special lights on that light up the bioluminescent plankton. We didn’t try this but it did look pretty cool.

 

Stunning beaches and cheeky monkeys

The main Railay West beach is nice but it is Phrang Nang beach next door that is the real paradise. This is the one you have probably seen in one of the myriad of Instagram posts of Railay. To get there we walked back to Railay East and then along a path that takes you past incredible rock formations and under one of the huge limestone outcrops that the area is famous for. I should warn you that you will see plenty of the local monkeys along here. They usually don’t bother you, unless like me you take your lunch in a plastic bag, which the monkeys have no qualms about ripping out of your hand to get to your delicious chicken and salad pitta. It was a bit of an issue as there aren’t any restaurants or bars on this beach. There is a small hut selling cold soft drinks. So bring your own food if you plan to spend the day, but make sure you put it in your backpack for the journey there,

Halfway along the path, you will see a sign for the hidden lagoon. If you feel a bit adventurous and you are fairly fit, then you have to do this. The initial climb is quite brutal. An incredibly steep, slippery and muddy wall of rock to clamber up. It does get easier after the first part though and when you finally find the incredible hidden lagoon, it feels like a Jurassic Park moment and a really unique and cool little place. There is also a viewpoint where you can get really amazing views from high up over Railay.

If you carry on along the path instead of heading up the rock, then you will soon get to Phrang Nang beach. The sand here is much nicer than Railay West. Soft powder sands and incredibly clear water. We spent a couple of days chilling on this amazing beach, swimming out to the nearby islands and checking out the Phrang Nang Caves, where local fishermen leave huge wooden penis carvings for good luck. It is worth mentioning you could also hire a kayak and paddle here from Railay West beach, which many people do. Avoiding the monkey gauntlet. This also goes for Tonsai beach, another white sand beach that sits on the other side of Railay West, where we paddled to one day and spent a lovely afternoon at the friendly beach bar.Phrang Nang beach

Speedboats and hidden lagoons

One of the best things we did in our week in Railay was to hire a private boat to explore the National Marine park. You can do this before you go, ask your hotel to help or like us, pop into one of the little travel agencies on Walking street and they will genera;;y offer the best rates. You can book seats on a group tour on one of the old wooden longtail boats. We decided we wanted a speedboat so we could see more, get around more quickly and in comfort and without the ear splitting drone, the longtail boats emit. You can choose your itinerary and visit various other islands. We chose a tour with took in amazing sounding places like ‘Paradise Island’ and Hong Island hidden lagoon. The day was perfect and something I will never forget. Having our own speedboat meant we could hang around on Hong Island and wait until everyone had gone. It was the most idyllic place imagineable.

At the end of our time in Railay, we had one last day on the beach, then watched one final sunset. Then our friendly porters whisked our bags down to the pier where we jumped on our boat and then the minivan back to Krabi airport. We flew back to the UK from there on Emirates via Dubai. But you could just as easily fly to Bangkok, Chiang Mai or some other islands, to keep the Thai adventure going. You could also do this by getting a boat from Railay to one of the neighbouring islands like Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi, Krabi or Phuket.

Conclusion

Like it was 20 years ago, Railay Beach is still one of my favourite places in the World. It’s a sanctuary for the soul, where adventure and relaxation coexist in perfect harmony. Whether you’re scaling limestone cliffs, diving into turquoise waters, or simply chilling on the beach and taking in the beauty of your surroundings. A week is probably enough to enjoy all Railay has to offer. It will be a week of great food, relaxing, lazy days, mixed with a bit of fun and adventure. It is also a great stop in a longer itinerary, so combine it with Koh Lanta, Phi Phi or one of the other nearby islands, just a boat ride away.

Activities

Sea Kayaking – night kayaking – scuba diving – paddles boarding  – rock climbing – jungle hiking – sea fishing – boat trips to marine park and surrounding islands – day trips to Ao Nang – Thai cooking classes

Where to stay

Make sure you stay on the Western side of Railay. There are hotels on the East but the beach is non-existent. It is mud and mangroves. We stayed on Railay West, where there are a few 4star hotels sitting side by side on the beach. Any one of which would be a good choice. We stayed at Railay Village. this was set in stunning gardens with a lovely pool and a beachfront restaurant. i should mention that this is a dry hotel but that didn’t affect us as we spent our evening in Walking street or with beers on the beach. The hotel also allow you to take drinks back to your terrace or balcony. If you want the ultimate place to stay then book into the stunning 5star Rayavadee. This is one of the best hotels in Thailand and is in a beautiful setting, in amongst lush gardens and on that amazing beach. Maybe treat yourself to one of their lovely villas with private pool, set in the lush jungles or right by the beach.

How to get there

As touched upon, the nearest airport is Krabi. From, there it is a drive to the ferry pier and a 20 minute boat ride. Although you can easily fly into Phuket and get a boat from there or one of the other surrounding islands. The major beach resort of Ao Nang is just round the corner and boats buzz back and forth each day. Flights to Krabi and Phuket al fly via Bangkok, or via Dubai with Emirates to various UK airports.

Best Time to Visit:

The best time to visit Railay Beach is during the dry season, which runs from November to April. During this time, the weather is typically sunny and dry, making it ideal for beach activities and outdoor adventures. Other months will see quite a bit of rain. These are generally short sharp bursts with plenty of sunshine in between. The wettest time is late August to October when storms are quite regular and the rainfall is heavisest.

 

Like what you see? If you want more information about visiting fabulous Railay and other parts of Thailand – Just ask Paul

 

 

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