Final Holiday in the Deep South
Our final holiday began with a final activity we had long awaited for. We had avoided it in Vietnam and we weren't going to do the same in Thailand. We were going to travel overnight on a train.
A total of 1,000 KM's and 15hours was what stood between Bangkok and the deep south. It would have been quicker by bus (because the trains aren't very fast and stop a lot), but this way we felt we would get a better nights sleep. The train really was quite a unique experience. It had a mixed appearance of an old fashioned steam train with some modern amenities inside. Thai hawkers stroll up and down the carriages selling food and drink, one whole carriage is a bar and restaurant and of course the toilets cater for westerners and Asians :)
Asian trains have different types of carriages; 1st and 2nd class sleeper (with air-con/fan) and 3rd class sitting. 3rd class would have been terribly uncomfortable as you basically sit on a wooden bench (though the ticket is dirt cheap). We had been given a 2nd class sleeper with air-con, which we were pretty happy with but would have gone for the fan option for half the price had it been available. Our beds were the top bunks and was the best form of sleeper transport we had both been on. A comfy bed with blanket and pillow, and you drew your blue curtain to shut yourself away to get some rest. The only problem I had during the night was the coldness, this was mostly due to being on the top bunk, therefore closer to the air-con vent, but it's better to be cold at night than hot... right?
So we arrived in Trang the next morning but our journey was not over yet. A motorbike taxi to the bus station, a 2 hour bus to Krabi, an hour long tuk tuk bus to Ao Nang (one of the beaches outside Krabi), then a longtail boat 15minutes to a beach that was disconnected by roads so had no connection to the rest of the mainland. This was due to the giant limestone karst formations which are so eagerly used by rock-climbers. We had made it to our final destination, Railay, by mid afternoon.
Because Railay is only accessible by boat, it means it is less visited, and because the beaches were a lot nice and cleaner here, it made it feel like we were on an island even though we had never even left the mainland. Railay is at the end of a small peninsular, and is separated by East Railay beach and West Railay beach. A 5minute walk through many cheekey monkey clans (who aren't shy to take something you have taken your eye off), is all that separates the two sides. One day we had some pineapple chunks on us, and holding it out for them as an offering made us realise how polite and gentle these monkeys actually were. As one approached slowly, it stod like a human and took the chunk from our hand so delicately that you would think a shy child had just taken something from you. It was mainly the monkeys who hung around the beach bins that you had to keep your eye on.
Like much of the Krabi area, Railay too was famous for its rock climbing action as we were surrounded by gigantic limestone karst formations. Many of which I thought looked like an inside-out cave as great stalagtites and stalagmites hugged the walls and dominated the overhangs. We didn't take part in any rock-climbing courses but we basically did ourselves one day on our 'quick' visit to the lagoon at the end of the peninsular.
Getting to the lagoon was an unexpected mission. First we had to climb a steep slope of mud and rocks, that at some points were almost vertical and was aided with ropes. When we reached the top we walked maybe only 15 metres before it started to descend again, this time only half the steepness but still offering thick rope, I suppose for those wet days. The terrain had suddenly changed so dramatically that I said to Fay that it was like being in the Jurassic period. Freakishly large palm leaves intimidatingly hung over us and the trees had the vein like appearance down their trunks. As we crawled across some rocks we were stunned at what the route presented us with, a vertical 10 metre drop. Looking ahead we could just about make out another drop, and even further ahead we could see a slither of the lagoon. This image, along with being closed in by limestone cliffs on either side of us further enhanced that 'before time began' feeling. This was the point we were literally rock climbing, finding holes and cracks for our hands and footing, once again aided by a thick rope for that extra support. It turned out that there was actually 3 of these vertical drops, each more challenging than the last. It was pretty heart racing at times and you could feel your fingers cramp as you gripped so tightly, but the rewards at the end made every graze and drop of sweat worth it. The deep crevace that we were in opened up into this crystal clear circular lagoon that was surrounded by 200 metre high limestone cliffs all the way around, the echo in a place light this was phenominal. Skirting along one half of the lagoons edge was little cracks and crevaces big enough to squeeze yourself between, which eventually led to a cave. We decided to venture in and see how far it led, but our torch batteries weren't full enough to make it 1) safe enough and 2) to make it not so scary! So we decided to go for a dip and wash ourselves off in the lagoon before making the trechorous climb back up.
That was probably the most amount of energy we exerted out of the 4 days we stayed here. The rest of the time was spent on the beach. You could stay there a whole day without ever having to leave, as there were many boats parked up on shore selling cold drinks and noodle/rice dishes, and there was the odd Cruella Deville looking lady sunbathing topless with the unhealthiest looking saggy boobies to keep us entertained :)
However, you can't just sunbathe all the time (well we can't) as it does get pretty boring and you do start to feel incredibly lazy. So on our final full day we hired a 2 person kayak for a couple of hours. This gave us a perfect opportunity to explore more of the karst formations and kayak through water caves and overhangs and generally all areas that can't be reached by foot. When we weren't bickering about who splashed who and who's rowing too fast/too slow, we found it a very peaceful and enjoyable excursion :)
The perfect end, to the perfect start of our last trip!!! :)