Warm turquoise waters and a golden sandy beach, all cocooned by towering limestone cliffs and fringed by palm trees. That about encapsulates the beauty of Railay.
A mere 2 hours from Singapore and 90 minutes from Bangkok, Krabi makes an ideal weekend getaway….or relaxing longer escape.
From Krabi to Railay, either organise a transfer through your hotel for a quick and efficient journey, or head to the port and wait for one of the long tail boats. The latter is the cheaper option, but as you’ll be dependent upon how many other people show up and how quickly, then it is also the slower option. Private transfers take approximately 1 hour from being met at the airport, transfer to longtail boat and finally to checking in at your hotel.
The fact that this part of Krabi is only accessible by boat is one of its attractions for me – a location that only appeals to those willing to make the effort, and probably slightly reminiscent of my backpacking days where I’d try and find the less well known options. However, this doesn’t mean you’d be trapped or have to forgo some of your home comforts in this resort. Far from it. There are numerous boatmen willing to take you out for the day, and Krabi is well connected to other parts of Thailand – Phuket, Phi Phi to name a couple. James Bond island is also accessible from here, but don’t expect it to be quiet unless you get there early….
There are resorts to cater for all tastes and budgets in Railay. At the southern tip is the luxury Rayavadee, named as one of Conde Nast’s best hotels. Next door is the Railay Bay Resort and Spa, which has accommodations stretching the width of Railay and is deceptively large. The best choices are to be found on the west, mainly for its proximity to the beach, but there are good quality options on the east which boast spectacular views over the Andaman.
The location of Railay Bay Resort is no less spectacular even though the price is a fraction of its neighbour, and its arced pool is steps from the beach and I can attest that it makes a pleasant place to spend a lazy day.
The hotel has a range of room options, all at affordable prices. I chose a deluxe bungalow which was clean and spacious, and came with a surprisingly large bathtub (not often you see those in Asia). The deck outside makes a perfect location for sheltering from a passing storm, or just staying out of the midday sun.
There’s an onsite spa offering a full range of treatments at very tempting prices. I opted for a Thai Heritage special – 90 minutes of traditional Thai massage and foot massage and loved every moment. The rooms are clean and well designed and the masseuses know their craft. Granted, its not the 300B massage you’ll find along the bay, but it is good quality.
There’s also a pool bar and a large restaurant on site, which serves three meals per day, including a seafood BBQ in an evening, so if you’re not inclined to venture far from the resort then you don’t have to.
Wandering to the north of Railay West – which is the better of the two sides – you pass numerous other hotels, spas and excursion options. Hiring a kayak is easy and allows you access to the less visited beaches around the rocky headlands. Given its natural wonders, rock climbing is also a big pasttime here and there are a variety of operators willing to hire you equipment and take you out. There’s also a dive store on Walking Street who offer fun dives as well as the open water courses.
On this side of the peninsular the eating options are mainly at hotels until you get to Walking Street mid way along the beach. Here you’ll find Thai, western, Indian options, with the easiest to spot being Flame Tree. On the junction of Railay West and Walking Street, the food here is fresh, quick and good. It’s also much cheaper then the hotels too. Service is pretty good, so if you’ve read reviews saying Railay is poor for service, then here isn’t one of those places.
Keep walking, along the dimly lit (and often isolated path) and you’ll come to Jen Bar which is warm and friendly and serves cheap cocktails at 150B and freshly made, thin and crispy pizza.
Following the path further along, you’ll drop down towards Railay East. Pop into Bang Bang Bar on the way (between the tattoo parlours if you miss it) for a fun cocktail experience. I’d recommend the frozen mojito…but beware, even though they look fun, they’re dangerous!
Railay East visually isn’t in the same league as its opposite number. Many of the boats dock here, so is often your first glimpse of this paradise. However, the mangroves mean the beach is limited and the water less appealing than a 5 minute walk away. Follow the path to the southern end of the beach and you’ll see signs for the Viewpoint. This is an upward climb and isn’t recommended unless you’re wearing something other than flipflops/thongs. It’s also not recommended immediately after a rain storm as it gets very muddy and slippy.
Railay East has amongst the resorts, a good range of bars and small restaurants which are more what you might expect on a Thai beach. Raised platforms, cushions and a relaxed vibe are what many are about here. The strip goes further along to Last Bar, which often has live Thai boxing (100B to watch). Most of the climbing operators seem to be on this side with the cheaper massage options. I admit to not spending too much time this side.
Krabi is a beautiful destination – and happily doesn’t allow the building of apartments which makes for a holiday island vibe. Long may it stay like this.