Well the overnight boat isn't worthy of much description: you walk in and along each side of the boat are mattresses lined right up next to each other with numbers overhead. Approx 60people are crammed onto the floor with no personal space at all. Although people are lively at first, the gradual rocking of the boat soon puts people to sleep until we reach Surrathani the next morning at 5am…We were so glad that the seas had calmed down by this stage, so this actually made for quite a good night's sleep! Once on mainland, we waited around for a bit until the busses piled up and we were on the first one headed for Krabi, further south, over on the west coast of Thailand (gateway to the Andaman Sea which was severely hit by the Tsunami). Three hours later we arrived, and then after another wait we were transferred to a boat terminal and soon 12 people were crammed onto a tiny long-tail boat headed for the beach of Railay, only 45mins away.
Despite being on the mainland, this beach is surrounded by massive karsts cliffs and so is only accessible via boat. Lonely Planet describes it as one of Thailand's most beautiful beaches, and it certainly didn't disappoint. On arrival at 11am, it took longer than expected to find accommodation, as we found prices to be so much higher than over on the east side. We eventually ended up in a beautiful resort set amongst the cliffs, higher up from the beach. It was the first day after 'peak' season had ended and the cheapest we found on the island was 750baht for a very modest bungalow (the most we have paid for so far our entire trip!). As we only planned to spend one night here, we were determined to make the most of it and headed straight out to explore.
Railay itself is actually divided into 3 beaches, each a 5min walk away from each other, each facing east, south and west. As we were staying on the least attractive beach (east) we first checked out Railay West and then ended up spending the afternoon on the beach facing south which was the most attractive by far! The waters were a beautiful inviting blue green colour which was literally surrounded by massive cliffs which towered over you whilst lying on the sand. Regardless of the tide, the beach was ideal for swimming, with the occasional cliff to jump off of into the waters. Many vendors walked up and down the beach selling cold drinks, beers and icecreams (although they were far less aggressive than in Cambodia and only approached you if you made eye contact). Apparently Railay is one of the world's top climbing destinations, and it is easy to see why. Had we not been staying only one night we probably would have enrolled into a one-day course, as the setting was simply stunning. We also found that there appeared to be far less backpackers here with a prevalence of families and people holidaying out of suitcases instead, for people appeared far more groomed than us haha.
Once the sun started setting we headed over to Railay West to watch it go down. We managed to find another beach vendor to score a cheap beer (a third the price to the bars which were less than 20m behind us! In fact many of the eateries on this island are muslim and so do not serve any alcohol at all!) . Whilst contemplating the surroundings, a friendly-looking couple approached us and asked if we wanted to join them on their private catamaran for a days worth of exploring the nearby islands, including snorkelling, beers and BBQ food…all for approx NZ$100 each. It was a great way to escape the crowds. He was a kiwi, and she was from Denmark, and this was what they did for a living: sailing the world and every now and then inviting other couples to join them for a little bit of extra cash - that is the life!! We were very jealous indeed haha. Unfortunately we had already booked for our departure the next morning, and we wanted to save $ for our next diving adventure in Koh Phi Phi - they do have a website however, and so maybe one day we will look into it a bit more…
Having had a very sober past week, and the fact that we were now travelling by ourselves again, we were quite keen to head out and meet some people. Unfortunately the island failed to impress with its nightlife and so we ended back at our resort's own bar and enjoyed drinking and playing pool with a few locals, which was great! It was appropriately called the 'Stone Bar' and was located beneath a massive cliff. By day it ran climbing lessons, and by night the cocktails were fabulous! There were several lights pointing up onto the cliff, and so when lying on your back, it was a surreal feeling looking above you to this massive over-towering cliff and then the stars beyond…
Up early next morning we also discovered that our resort had a fantastic restaurant further uphill which had amazing views beyond the cliffs and over the ocean. So we enjoyed great (real!) coffee and breakfast in an incredibly peaceful and relaxing setting. With our packs we then set off downhill, over to Railay West to await our 9am ferry to the famous Koh Phi Phi.