Thailand is probably one of the most visited countries of the world and hence, it can be at times quite hard to find a place away from the hordes of tourists that come here every day. Don’t get me wrong , Thailand is a wonderful place and I would love to go there again and again but if you are anything like me, it won’t take you long to get tired of the tacky bars of Bangkok or the crowded beaches of Phuket.
That is where Railay (Rai-Leh) comes in.
With its white sand beaches and crystal clear water, it is definitely one of the most stunning beaches in Thailand. There are three main beaches in Railay, the East, West and the Phra Nang beach and if you are a beach lover like me, each of these will make you want to put up a tent and stay there for as long as possible. Not just the beaches, Railay has lots of other awesome things to offer.
Now, the thing that makes Railay my favourite place in Thailand: the calmness. Railay is what Phi Phi used to be a few years ago. You know before “The Beach” happened, but that is another story. Railay still has that small distant island feel to it yet it has shops, bars, restaurants, and spas that can make your stay here extremely comfortable and enjoyable. Another awesome idea would be to visit Railay during the off season, sometime around May-June, when there are a lot less people and a lot more rain. Trust me, Railay’s beauty multiplies when it rains!
After spending a lazy day at the Phra Nang Beach or a super active day kayaking around the nearby islands, there is no better way to spend the evening than to listen to some soothing live music at the Last Bar.
I once had a chance to interact with a local old man who told me, while clipping his toe nails and absentmindedly smoking a cigarette, about the history of this beautiful island:
“Railay was not always like this. There was a time when Railay was nothing but a small fishing village. There were no spas, or restaurants. There were no bars and there were no farangs.”
**Farang is a word that most Thais use to describe foreigners.
There is a small temple inside a cave in the Phra Nang beach, filled with incense sticks and colourful cloths, where the fishermen come to pray before setting sails. I do not know if the fishermen of the village still come to pray in the temple or if they have got jobs in the restaurants and hotels, but the temple is certainly not short of visitors. Day trippers from Phi Phi usually come to the Phra Nang beach for an hour or so, and the temple is a popular photo point for them.
Getting there :
Long tail boats leave from Ao Nang and Krabi. It takes about 30 minutes and the ride can get a little bumpy when the waves are big and scary.
There are quite a few guest houses and hotels on the island which can cater to the needs to travellers of all kinds.
Food and Drinks:
There are a few good restaurants on the Walking Street where you can have some delicious food while watching the waves. At night, head to The Last Bar near the Diamond Cave Resort for live music and ice cold beer. Don’t forget to say “Hi” to the Burmese Waiter Vinod, who may just be the friendliest waiter you will ever meet.
You can engage yourself in rock climbing and various types of water sports while you are here. Deep sea diving and island hopping tours can also be arranged by many of the hotels. In case you are too tired to do any of those, you can relax your muscles in the newly opened spas overlooking the sea.
Beware of monkeys. And use plenty of sunscreen lotion to avoid sun burn.
To sum up, just think about the times when you craved for a bottle of ice cold water on a really hot day. You rush home, open the freezer and empty half of the bottle in one gulp. Railay is that bottle of ice cold water when you are tired of the go-go bars and night long beach parties that Thailand is famous for.