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When you arrive in the middle of a torrential thunderstorm and are still in awe of the beauty of a place, you know that you have found somewhere special. So was the case with Railay Beach.
Departing from a sun-drenched Koh Phi Phi, the 1.5 hour ferry ride quickly turned gray and ugly. Through the fog the sheer cliffs were barely discernible on the horizon, and as we neared the coast the dramatic landscape was seemingly amplified by the low-hanging clouds. Dramatic limestone cliffs rose directly from the emerald green waters, with obviously dense jungle occupying all the space atop the rocks. Where not covered in shrubbery and vines, open rock faces stretch for hundreds of meters, making Railay a rock-climbers haven with many schools and climbing organizations centered in the town.
A simple peninsula jutting out from the main coastline of Krabi province, Railay is actually separated into two beaches, those being the East and West beach. The east beach is home to many ferry arrivals, budget accomodations, and a nasty mangrove mudflat of a beach that isn’t suitable for swimming. A quick 5 minute walk separates it from West Railay Beach, which houses many high end resorts, cleaner facilities, and a wide sandy cove for sunbathing and kayaking. In short, east Railay is cheap and ugly, West Railay expensive and nice. Watch out on your walk across from the west to the east side though, as many of the trails are patrolled by swarms of wild monkeys, and if you have any food on you they won’t hesitate to take it off your hands.
The nicest beach in the area though is undoubtedly Phra Nang Beach, and is reachable either via kayak from West Railay, or via a footpath at the end of East Railay Beach. Tucked away in its own forgotten corner of the peninsula, Phra Nang has a huge cave at one end (with phallic carvings inside to serve as “gifts” to the cave’s mythological Princess from those looking to have children), and only one resort occupying the otherwise empty shore.
A couple of other cool places we checked out in the immediate vicinity were the Diamond Cave and the climb up to the lagoon, which is an absolute must for the adventurous. Anytime you see a muddy climbing rope descending from an unmarked mudslope you know it leads someplace cool, in this case a hidden tidal lagoon tucked away in the cliffs. The Diamond Cave is situated just behind the Diamond Cave Resort, (cheap, clean bungalows in a garden setting), and is a massive opening in the cliff that leads 150m into a gaping stalactite filled chamber. The geological formations inside this place were such a trip. It literally looks like some huge rock giant was just making sand castles out of dripping wet mounds of sand, only all the mounds and drips and castles suddenly got frozen in place. Add into it the bats circling above and it’s a pretty wild venture into the rock.
Outside of heading into Krabi town and the areas on the mainland, rock climbing, exploring the offshore islands, and spending a day or two enjoying the natural geological formations, there isn’t that much more to be done as it is a pretty isolated spot. Two full days is pretty sufficient for those not enrolled in a course, but what an adventurous two days those can be.