Any Thai first-timer, as we were, must face the same dilemma. Where, of all the various beaches, islands and attractions do you go, particularly if you’ve got two weeks tops available.
We had our three days in Bangkok and that high-paced start was followed by Kata Beach in Phuket, of which more anon.
But we plumped for our longest spell in Railay Beach in Krabi, a convenient 90 minute crowded ferry from Phuket. Bangkok and Kata were buzzy and lively, and the logic was that the relaxing leg would be kept for the end. However, we didn’t want to be staying in a morgue either, and I was hoping there’d be sufficient activity to allow for relaxation but feel that there were enough options to ensure variety.
As the ferry rounded the headland to reveal the magnificent strand bookended by sheer karst cliffs,. all concerns dissipated.
Deposited onto Railay West beach by longtail boat, we walked a few feet to the Railei Beach Club, a collection of private homes which are rented out and operated as a villa-type hotel – albeit one without any regular restaurant and bar service. This was a lot better than it sounds: indeed, it was a recipe for total relaxation, and one our most enjoyable accommodations in many years. Most homes on the massive site were large detached structures, which offered the height of luxury. We were in one of the smaller clubhouse rooms, but opening on to the common deck area we also had a feeling of space, and the evening sunset bar from 5.30pm to 8.30pm ensured there was a social scene too.
While most of the bar scene is on Railay East, West had its own attractions too, particularly on Walking Street – a few restaurants of reasonable quality (Kohinoor an Indian was our favourite), and some bars with Bamboo Bar (and adjoined tattoo parlour) the standout: always busy, welcoming and with a line in potent cocktails and the spectator sport of the latest volunteer to get inked.
But the days… and the beach… beautiful warm water, a perfect strand, the opportunity to walk or take a boat around to other beaches like Tonsai next door (easily walked at low tide in particular), or Phrangan Cave Beach, a spectacular site with a selection of boats on the shore serving tasty local fare.
Railay East (to the, well, East in the photo above!) is poor for swimming, but forms part of the vista above from the viewing point – a proper clamber up rock, ropes and trees best done before the sun gets too high in the sky from a temperature and crowd point of view.
We didn’t go rock-climbing, which Krabi is famed for, although a taster was provided on the Krabi Sunset Cruise, a fabulous day out which, while pricier than other similar options, is a must-do for the quality of the whole experience. Snorkelling, climbing, boat roof dives, food and drink on board and swimming in bio-luminescent water after dark were all part of a six-hour outing around some of the uninhabited islands in the area.
So after all the researching, dithering and deciding, Railay really delivered in spades for us. You would never tire of the beach, the views and the atmosphere, and it left us with a longing for more – both of it, and of all that Thailand has to offer. A rapid return seems almost certain.