Southern Thailand’s Touristy, Vehicular-Free Rock Climbing & Backpacker Mecca
Through sunglasses. Arrival @ Hat Rai Leh West Beach, Krabi, Thailand. March 17, 2012
I don’t like intense sun & I am not one to lie out in it. I don’t particularly like being constantly (very) hot & constantly (very) sweaty. Aside from using it to stay hydrated & clean I’m not all that fond of water, especially the salty kind, & thus I’m not a swimmer – I may have half-a-dozen polo shirts with me in my backpack but good luck trying to find a pair of swimmers. I don’t particularly like sand; it has a tendency to get into places it shouldn’t, like inside expensive camera equipment. Finally, I don’t like paying for things that are overpriced, especially necessities like food & shelter. So all in all I really shouldn’t be commenting favourably on the last 3 days which I’ve spent on Railay Beach in Krabi, southern Thailand. But I’m going to do just that.
The 2nd Coming (& Going)
I’d been to this part of the world before. Back in 2003 I spent almost 2 weeks in the region & back then toyed with the idea of staying in Railay but decided against it in favour of the nearby Phi Phi Islands & Phuket. But this time Railay was a go. It’s a strikingly beautiful place with isolation as one of its many draws – the 4 beaches here, at best only mediocre, can only be reached by long-tail boat as they hide behind impenetrable limestone cliffs, cliffs that make this location a popular spot for rock-climbing enthusiasts.
Krabi’s Railay Beach is the sort of place you can easily wile away many a sleepy, lazy day while getting your fill of sweating, overpriced everything & evening sunsets (assuming the sunsets decide to show up). I have gotten my fill of all that & after 3 nights here I’m ready to move on, and ready to leave Thailand.
Among the cocktails, swaying palm trees, & picture postcard sunsets, it’s easy to forget the horrors of the recent past. On December 26, 2004, the world’s second most powerful earthquake off-shore in the Indian Ocean caused a 15-metre high tsunami wave that flattened entire communities along the Thai Andaman Coast & ruined, or at least put on hold, the entire Thai tourist industry. One of the worst hit areas was the aforementioned Phi Phi Islands. I was thinking of paying it a visit this time around to see how the place is today (needless to say I decided against it in favour of Railay). I’m not quite sure how badly effected Railay Beach was by the tsunami but suffice to say these days there are no lingering signs, assuming it came here at all, of the wave that claimed more than 6,000 lives all those years ago.
I’m on a budget. Of course I am. But it hasn’t been going well. Thailand is more expensive than I remember it being & Railay prices in particular are hurting; 140baht (€3.5) Chang beers is enough to keep most people sober in the evenings & 350 baht (€9) for a small tube of sunscreen is enough to ensure one takes their chances with melanoma. I spent 5,000baht (€120) alone 2 days ago on Saint Paddy’s day – money well spent of course (it happens but once a year) but budget busting nonetheless.
The 2007 version of Lonely Planet Thailand that I have with me says the following:
Maybe that explains why almost every Thai I’ve interacted with here in Railay treated me with such indifference. It’s coming to the end of the high season here in Railay so maybe they are jaded, all touristed-out. The only reaction of any kind that I got out of any Thai that served me over the past few days – be it in a bar, a restaurant or a shop – was an apologetic smile from a girl who waited 30 minutes to tell me the overpriced dish I had ordered on my first night here was not available. I wondered what the delay was for and she wondered what the fuss was all about.