Krabi / Railey
Tezza's Thai Islands and Beaches Travel Bits
May 3, 2006
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West Railay was its usual gorgeous self when I waded ashore on arrival. I’d been traveling 20 hours continuously overnight from Australia apart from the usual delays, so rather than waste time finding a room I walked to the northern end of the beach, put my bag in the shade of the rocks and went for a glorious swim followed by some sun. Not a bad way to start the holiday.
West Railay has 3 nice midrange+ places, RAILAY BAY, RAILAY VILLAGE and SAND SEA . Their bungalows are too expensive these days for cheapskates like me and they rarely have a room walk-in away from low season, which early March is not. However they have good beachfront restaurants with a great outlook daytime or evening from the front tables and the prices are surprisingly reasonable, mostly either equal to or only slightly more than their counterparts over on East Railay. One is Muslim owned, (Sand Sea I think) and does not sell booze, but I did see customers bringing bottles in from elsewhere. My notes say the service there was incredibly slow - but the other joints were okay. Railay Bay has put in a pool since my last visit, beachside and quite attractive. No doubt the competitors have or will develop their own pools.
The beach seemed much less crowded than a previous March visit, so probably I could have found a room easily on the beach at East Railay, but previous visits left me underwhelmed by the lower-budget offerings there*. So I headed for my old favourite, PARK VIEW, up in the high valley beyond the Diamond Cave. A concrete footpath for these places starts just past YA YA on East Railay, but I took a short cut directly from my swimming spot at the Ton Sai end of West Railay, which goes along the base of the cliffs behind the RAILAY BEACH CLUB (some new bungalows going in here, which could interest you if you are a really rich bastard) and joins the concrete path nearer the cave. BTW there was a big new project 80% finished near the junction of these two tracks, an international resort block-style hotel, huge pool etc. This is less than 5 minutes walk to both beaches and is on the site of a former rubbish dump if my memory is correct. Jeez, the anti-development-nazis can’t complain about this one. Like hell, they complain about everything.
Big surprise! My old favourite ParkView doesn’t exist anymore - it is now renamed RAILAY CABANA, has a bigger range of bungalows, but is still a reasonable cheapie - although the nice girl wanted 350 for their most basic bungalows, and no way were they worth that. I reckon they were 250s but I couldn’t get them under 300. So who is gonna cry over (choke) the cost of a beer (sob)?
Unfortunately the nearby fabulously ornate Highland Restaurant with the great views has closed down. Looks like people weren’t prepared to make the 10 minute walk up here from the beaches for a meal or beer. However, new to me were HIGHLAND ’s bungalows, pretty nice looking places starting at 400.
Also long shut down were the rather nice looking NEW BUNGALOWS a little higher up the valley.
I have done a pretty detailed account of Railay Cabana and this area on travelfish here.
You can walk up past New Bungalows, enter the rainforest on a pretty well marked track, go over the divide and reach the highest Ton Sai bungalows in around 15 minutes. Sadly quite a few of these highest bungalows are now derelict too. Maybe the tsunami and the unrest further south has had a bigger impact than thought. Nevertheless there was quite a lot of work going on with new bungalows all the way down the track, including a big midrange concrete block thingy quite close to the beach. Looks like da climbers are demanding da comfort.
Ton Sai beach is always a good place to spend some time, with some scenic restaurants and the usual toned rock climbers doing their thing. Rock climbers tend to swagger way less than divers, which is interesting, because they are entitled to bung it on much more. Ton Sai is pretty nice for swimming and sunning, but not as attractive as West Railay.
The short but steep track from the southern end of Ton Sai over the headland back to West Railay takes a newer route on the Ton Sai side now and seems easier. Look for the rope if coming from the Railay side. Nevertheless, a lot of people still wade around the headland at lower tides, which is much more difficult.
The “beach” area at East Railay is mainly mudflats and mangroves at low tide, although it can look fairly attractive from some of the higher beachside bungalows at high tide. This place has changed a fair bit since my last visit, with a lot of new development towards the far end from where the path from West Railay (5 minutes walk - this path starts alongside Railay Bay's new pool mentioned before) hits the beach. Some of this looks more midrange, but there is still a fair bit of budget accomm here. I bag YA YA’s rooms further down, but I must admit its big restaurant serves tasty budget priced food, its dive operation always seems busy and its 5 island and 3 island snorkeling trips have always been good value. These are also offered by quite a few operators around Railay, Ao Nang and Krabi town - a definite must not miss which includes beach time on some of the fabulous limestone karst islands off shore. It’s paradise out there.
There are quite a few other budget bungalow restaurants on East Railay, plus one on the mangrove side of the beach track which was always packed at night and despite the mangroves, seemed to have no mozzie problem. There are also some small “supermarkets” and a couple of bars along here.
Phra Nang beach, book-ended by limestone cliffs, has white sand, a cave, two offshore karst islets and good swimming all tides. It usually gets crowded inside two hundred meters of the access path, but if you head further up the beach there are few people, much more sand and no boat traffic. It is accessed within 5 minutes from the southern end of East Railay by a path between the headland cliffs and the luxury RAYAVADEE resort.
You can climb up on top of the headland part way along the path (look for the ropes) to a couple of fairly good viewpoints and to a spot where you can climb down into the Princess Cave which is actually open topped with a small lake in bottom. I found this climb down is a bit tricky and should be done in shoes more suitable than joggers.
The previously mentioned Diamond Cave on the concrete path up to Railay Cabana is floodlit at designated times and is worth a look although it aint mindblowing.
Lots of travelers stay in Krabi town and catch long tails to Railay-Phra Nang or songthaews to Ao Nang daily (each about 30 minutes). Krabi is an okay place to stay with a good range of accommodation in all price ranges, plenty of restaurants, lots of shops and a multitude of travel agents.. A nice place I’ve used on two occasions now, with clean rooms, a good restaurant, internet and a trip booking desk is CHAN CHA LEY GUESTHOUSE This is close to downtown and to both night markets.
The new ferry pier for Phi Phi and Lanta-Jum is now about 3km south west of downtown instead of 200 meters, which allows the more unscrupulous of the local transport people to play their sneaky games. The bus station is about 2 km the other side of town, with a frequent and cheap songthaew service into the city. The airport is much further out - maybe 10km from Krabi town and 30 from Ao Nang. The taxi mafia seem to have a monopoly on transport here and it aint cheap, 350 baht into town and 600 to Ao Nang. You buy your ticket at a stand inside the arrivals hall. I found it dead easy to find people willing to split the fare to Ao Nang.
Speaking of Ao Nang, I reckon it's hot and a bit tatty during daylight. The beach ain't much until you move south of the shopping /restaurant/bar area towards Ton Sai/Railay. However Ao Nang is one of these places which get much more attractive when lit up at night. There is a great range of shopping, restaurants and bars and heaps of good value places to stay, some of them very snazzy indeed. Frequent long tails run to and from Railay and neighbors - daylight price was 60 baht in March. You usually have to wait for a reasonable load of passengers, although my arrival guy took off straight away with just me - well, a few locals tagged along at the last second, no doubt gratis.
About 3km north of Ao Nang is the northern extension of Hat Noppharat Thara beach. This is the section across the far side of the river from the National Park HQ. You access it from Krabi town by climbing off the Ao Nang songthaew where it first hit’s the beach - it does a turn-around in a small shopping area. Walk thru the National Park gates to the north, go to the pier about 100m away where long tails will take you across the small inlet to the beach.
There are about a half dozen mainly budget bungalow places spaced along this 3 km section of beach. ANDAMIN INN, one of the first places you come to is a good one with a range of bungalows including some adequate cheapies up the back, and a good big restaurant. The beach is very uncrowded, has nice sand but does stay shallow a long way out at low tide. I didn’t get a chance to check this area this trip, but I mention it as a good cheap walk-in alternative at the height of peak season. Back in 2002 I paid 150 baht for one of those bungalows, 10baht to cross the river, 10 baht into Ao Nang and then whatever it was then to Railay. I read a post recently said this area is still much the same, and also mentioned there is a dirt road in back of the bungalows which crosses the river further inland and meets up with the Ao Nang road.
*A few years back I got me a fan room at YA YA. A bit shabby and not particularly cheap, but it was late Nov and Railay was pretty busy. Thing is, Ya Ya is double and triple storey and largely wood construction, meaning it is noisy.
Okay, starting about 2 am a party of ravers comes home, not together, but is shifts spread over 20 minutes or more. Must have been about 30 people staying up there. They go CLOMP CLOMP CLOMP up the wooden stairs at the side and when they are all in the room, decide to rearrange the furniture. This goes on interminably. Until I grab my ever-present really big bush stick and tap the ceiling rather forcefully a few times. Problem solved.
Then about 4am , a returning couple decide to have a domestic on the stairway. Until I stick my big ugly head out the door and politely suggest they take themselves and their dispute and fuck in the direction of off.
Quiet again until 5am when Ya Ya’s battalion of rodents decides to have a line-dancing contest in the wall cavity. Until I whack the wall with my good ol’ bush stick for a few minutes. No more noise from them, but the cheeky bastards upstairs are tapping on the floor rather forcefully. And someone downstairs is yabbering quite loudly is Swahili or something. Jeez, how ungrateful - I probably saved them from the bubonic plague.
Anyway, if any of you guys were down in Trang on Nov 22. 2003 and heard the scamper of paws outside around 6am, that wasn’t the local dog-pack chasing Garfield - that was Ya Ya’s rats on the stampede. Of course one of you smart marthas is gunna suggest it was more likely Domestic-Dispute Couple. Yeah sure. My head may be rough but it aint that scary.
So I’m less than whelmed with Ya Ya, check out next morning, wander along the beach path and see a sign NEW BUNGALOWS - PARK VIEW pointing up the hill path . Should be quiet up there, I think.
Well it is, except for the Gibbons.
A fairly good Krabi area website http://www.yourkrabi.com.
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