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The Magic of Railay Beach- Krabi, Thailand

Updated: Apr 29

Railay is a charming town in Thailand, nestled between Ao Nang and Krabi. Only accessible by boat and it is famous for its towering limestone cliffs. This small peninsula is a dream destination for rock climbers and beachgoers alike. During my solo travel adventure in Thailand, I spent six nights and seven days in Railay in December 2021. It turned out to be the turning point of my four-month solo journey.

Upon arriving at Railay Beach, I had quite an eventful entrance. After a grueling journey of almost 24 hours and traveling 200km via minibus, taxi, and speedboat with very little sleep, I was already in a bad mood when the boat finally arrived at the floating dock in East Railay Beach. I knew there were no cars on Railay, but I mistakenly assumed there would be a transportation service like a scooter or tuk-tuk from the pier. However, my assumption was incorrect.

I booked a villa room at Railay Bay Resort and Spa on Agoda at the crazy low rate of less than $30 a night, but I had no clue where it was in Railey. Balancing my backpack and 2 other bags carefully on my body, I just started walking down what appeared to be the main street, which was more like a one-lane jungle alleyway. After a while of walking and sweating, I said fuck it and went in the direction of a resort on the beach.

When I finally got to a beach, I stepped off the pavement to the sand, and with all of my travel gear on me, misjudged the step and fell. I had rolled my ankle and all my bags and myself were covered in sand. I picked myself up and just started yelling "fuck" at the top of my lungs.

I left my 2 bags in the sand and walked down the beach with my handbag to find my hotel. It was 100 feet away from my current spot and the kind bellman went to grab my bags from the beach while I checked in. Once I cleaned off and calmed down, I realized had I turned left at the pier my hotel was right next to it. Hello, Railay!

Here's the thing with Railay, east is west, and west is east. Or at least it was in my brain the entire time I was there. Also, let's say Railay Bay has a lot of masculine energy with caves everywhere filled with millions of stalactites.

Railay is a rugged jungle town with lots of local wildlife. The sign on my villa said to keep the door looked so monkeys don't come in!

The water in Railay is every shade of blue and green you can imagine and Thai longtail boats are along the white sand beach. With the towering limestone cliffs lining the ocean, Railay is the picture-perfect Thailand postcard. Had it been the last stop on my Thai adventure, I may have never left.

After finding the only pharmacy in the town and resting up a day from my sprained ankle, I decided to hobble around and check things out in Railay. I explored so many caves and even had the famous Diamond Cave all to myself. Creepy and cool! I walked miles down the beach and found my own private beach with hidden caverns.

This day may have been the turning point for me in Thailand. I was able to get myself out of my head and just be; enjoying my own company. I remembered why I ditched my life in Boise to come to Thailand alone.

That night I discovered the Jamaica Bar on the main walking street. It was a few shipping containers welded together. The inside was painted in traditional Rasta colors with red, yellow, and green stripes throughout the place. I became friendly with the bartender who owned the place with his wife and the talented Filipino in-house musician.

The Jamaica Bar served craft cocktails, beer, food, joints, and mushroom shakes. I asked the owner one night how they were able to do this because any kind of pot was still illegal in Thailand at that time. He told me that since COVID there was not a single police officer in Railay, and the Thai cops on either side in Ao Nang and Ao Sane hardly ever came to pay a visit

So back to that masculine energy thing... After a few days in Railay, I could not stop seeing penises wherever I went. Everything in my hotel room started looking like a penis. That blot on the menu at the Indian Restaurant was a Rorschach penis. That cliff on the beach, at least 2000 penises on there. And that puffy cloud... definitely a penis!

The massive mountainous cliff on the beach beside my hotel suddenly started to look like an old wizard or mountain man, but not in a daunting way. It seemed more protective. Like it could shield the whole town from anything evil. This energy was much different from the gross, misogynistic vibe of Patong. It was raw and powerful, yet oddly comforting. Shit was starting to get weird in this strange land that looked like a scene out of Jurassic Park.

After a few days in Railay, I knew I needed to try and stay in Thailand for as long as possible. I was still on a 30-day tourist visa and knew I would need to extend it, so one day I took a long tail boat from Railay to Ao Nane to visit immigration in Krabi. It took a while to find a place to rent a motorbike in Ao Nane, but once I did, I easily navigated with the help of Siri to the Thai immigration office in Krabi. I paid my 3000 baht and got a visa extension good until March 11th, 2022.

I heard about the Tiger Cave Temple nearby and decided to ride my motorbike there. Although there were no actual live tigers, I found the place amazing.

In the temple, I received a blessing chant from four monks and then climbed the mountain to reach the Buddhist monuments on top. Climbing up was quite challenging, as more than half of the stone steps were as high as my kneecaps. However, the stunning views and the company of an elder Thai lady who gifted me a hand-sewn facemask made the climb worth it.

After I came down, I had the opportunity to chat with a monk and hang out with a pack of soi dogs on the temple grounds. The experience left me with a full heart.

As the afternoon wore on, I realized that I had to make my way back to the pier in Ao Nane before sunset to catch the longtail boat back to Railay. During my journey to the Krabi immigration office, I spotted a sign for Shell and Fossil Beach which piqued my interest. I knew it was closing time, but I decided to check it out, feeling adventurous.

Although technically the beach was closed, I didn't see anyone around, so I walked down to the shore. Unfortunately, I didn't find many shells or any fossils and ended up slipping on a rock and injuring my leg. I then rode my motorbike back to the rental shop to return it.

After finishing the motorbike paperwork, I realized my brand-new iPhone 12 was missing. I panicked as it was the only way to communicate with my loved ones back home. The kind owner of the rental bike shop offered to help and take me back to Shell and Fossil Beach to look for it. We arrived at the beach in the dark, during heavy rain, and searched for about 20 minutes using a flashlight from the Thai man's phone to scan the mud.

However, I needed to return to Railay that night, so I decided to call off the search and pay an exorbitant amount for a longtail boat piloted by a driver with a headlamp. While navigating through the dark sea, I felt exhausted and defeated.

The next day I bought a cheap older iPhone for about $300. I asked the Songthaew driver if I could pay him extra to take me back to Shell and Fossil Beach so I could look for my lost phone one last time.

Upon arrival at the National Park, I noticed the visitor center was open. I went inside and approached the lady working at the desk to explain the situation. She gestured for me to take a seat. Soon after, a Thai officer emerged from an office and sat across from me. My mind raced through various disastrous scenarios as I wondered what was happening. The fact was that I had technically broken into a Thai National Park the previous night, and every story I had ever heard of corruption in Thailand came flooding back to me.

However, I was relieved when the man smiled and explained to me in broken English that a boy had found my phone on the beach that morning and they were hoping to find me to return it. The officer radioed a colleague who brought my phone, and I thanked them all profusely for their help.

And they said Thailand was dangerous?? The Thai people are good helpful and honest. Any one of those kind souls could have stolen my phone and not said a word about it. But they didn't and that's reason 1001 I love Thailand.

On the second-to-last day of my stay in Railay, I visited Tonsai, which is a neighboring hippie village only accessible from the ocean during low tide. I walked to the end of the beach and managed to find the hidden jungle path from Railay to Tonsai.

I had heard so much about Tonsai and the thriving bohemian community there that I knew I had to see it before leaving the Krabi area. However, I was disappointed to find out that due to COVID-19, this amazing off-the-grid Thai town had turned into what reminded me of an abandoned Burning Man - if I had ever been to Burning Man, which I have not.

I walked the stunning beach alone, not seeing another soul. The theme song from Gilligan's Island was playing in my head. At the end of the beach, I took a right down a path that seemed to go to the center of town.

I saw so many abandoned hostels, restaurants, and shops. Finally, I spotted a Thai man who walked out of a closed massage parlor and asked him if anything was still open. He kindly walked me to the only place open in Tonsai, Capone's Pyramid Cafe. I was the sole patron and chatted with the owner Allie.

Allie is an awesome lady who is a cat lover from California and one of the handful of locals who stuck it out in Tonsai during COVID. She was quite hopeful about the future of backpacker climbers returning someday soon. And omg, her kitten was so playful and made my whole day!

It was starting to get dark, so I said goodbye to Allie and went back to the walking street. The street is lined with cement walls painted with graffiti and messages about ideas about the limitless present. I came to the end of the street close to the jungle path and found a 10-foot-locked metal gate. I immediately felt like I was on an episode of Lost or The Walking Dead. And it was getting dark.

While attempting to find a solution to my problem, I stumbled upon some rustic jungle huts that appeared to be occupied. Worried about the situation, I thought my search had ended there. However, I remembered the kindness of the strangers I met in Ao Nane the day prior.

I approached a man living in one of the huts and asked for directions to the gate. He chuckled and informed me that the only exit on this end of the street was a ladder over the cement walls. Moreover, he offered to show me where it was. I expressed my gratitude and felt like I was in a heavenly twilight zone as I climbed over the other side of the wall and made my way back to Railay through the jungle in the dusk.

My last night in Railay Bay was magical. I watched the sunset from the restaurant on the beach near almost the exact spot I had fallen upon entry 6 days prior. All of my clumsy injuries were healed, and I thought about the challenges I had overcome in Railay. I watched super-hot climber men play frisbee on the beach as the sun went down and the crescent moon, planets, and stars came out right above the majestic protector of Railay Bay.

The next morning, I made one last stop before leaving. I had become friendly with the Filipino musician at the Jamaica Bar. He lived in a hut beside the bar so while he was sleeping, I left 2 gifts; a Patagonia hat for him to wear and the Solo Girls Guide to Thailand Travel Guide from Amazon that I no longer needed. It was time to lighten my load and Railay was the perfect place to do so.

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