Only accessible by boat, Railay beach has the feel of a far-flung Thai island…but instead of ocean, dramatic cliffs are what isolate this gem from the mainland. The staggering landscape and turquoise water bring the typical posh clientele to the peninsula but, even better, the upper echelon of rock climbers. It’s a quirky, beautiful place with the chill vibe we needed after the 12/12/12 marathon of fun. We spent six solid days here (an unheard of sedentary state in HoneyTrek terms) and called it home for our first Christmas on the road.
The sheer cliffs and dense jungle of this skinny peninsula chop it up into distinct sections: West Railay (resort-goers), East Railay (flashpackers), Tonsai (hard-core climbers), and Pra Nang (a stunning beach for all to enjoy). This is a view from funky Tonsai, the most remote of the bunch, only accessed by boat, a 45-minute jungle walk, or wading in from West Railay at low tide.
Christmas Eve came upon us and our local rock climbing bar was celebrating with free chicken wings and live reggae (figgy pudding and carols be damned). It was a fun show but we were admittedly a bit sad thinking about our families celebrating without us on the other side of the world.
We may have been on our own in a Buddhist country but weren’t going to let our traditions fall to the wayside. We kept the Christmas spirit alive in the tropics with a palm tree strung with popcorn, homemade seashell ornaments, and red and green fruits that looked remarkably like holiday bells. We wrapped gifts in palm leaves and exchanged presents of swimming goggles, Nutella, a Chang T-shirt, and a coconut shell necklace. (ironically we both got each other goggles and the best hazelnut spread).
I had dreams of cooking a Christmas dinner but since we didn’t have a kitchen or any hope of finding a holiday ham, we signed up for a Thai cooking class and inadvertently had a proper feast. We learned to make Pad Thai, Tom Kha Gai soup, green curry, Panang curry, spring rolls, and pumpkin and coconut milk dessert. The dishes weren’t as hard to make as I thought they’d be..now the question is can I find galangal root and fresh lemon grass at my Hoboken grocer?
After eating too much and watching climbers all week, it was time we hit the rocks. Deep water solo is a Railay specialty where boats take you out to the sea cliffs, you swim to a rope ladder, climb as high as you can, and cliff dive when you are ready to come down (or fall down). That’s Mike on the left, shimmying up a rope to then tackle that rock outcropping.
I am proud to say, I climbed the highest of anyone in our group. Up and up I went but at certain point I realized, crap, the higher I climb, the farther I have to jump! Abort mission. Nose plugged and a hail Mary, I plunged 40+ feet into the sea.
After a beach bonfire dinner with our climbing mates and a some nighttime snorkeling with phosphorescent algae (those glow-in-the-dark confetti-like critters that move around you with each stroke…amazing!), our captain pulled into the Railay harbor. It was an incredible day in need of a toast with our new Cannuck friends Keegan, Katie, and Alyssa!
In other adventures on the island, there are a couple good hikes–one to a hidden lagoon (if the tide is right) or an “easier” hike to panoramic views of East and West Railay. We opted for the latter and got this steep slope of snare-trap roots for a trail. We scrambled up as carefully and quickly as we could to catch the gorgeous views before darkness. We made it but the return was a doozy in the dark.
On our final day we headed over to Phra Nang Beach, famous for its drip-castle rocks and Princess Cave…a shrine filled with wooden phallus offerings left by fisherman in hopes of a bountiful catch.
For us, Railay Beach was probably the most interesting and relaxing of the Thai beaches. It’s not the kind of place you lay and tan all day but that’s not our style anyway. Adventure, beauty, and its own unique culture made for our perfect holiday mix.
RAILAY BEACH THAILAND SLIDESHOW>>