June 6th was the Islamic holiday of Al Israa Wal Miraj. Since this was the first national holiday since New Year’s Day, we decided to make the most of it with an extended long weekend. So, on the evening of June 3rd, Rebecca and I flew to Bangkok with a short connecting flight to Krabi. Krabi is a city on the Andaman Coast of Western Thailand. From there, we took a shuttle bus to the beach of Ao Nang to catch a Thai longboat. The longboat took us to our final destination of Railay Beach. Railay is a small peninsula accessible only by boat because of the high limestone cliffs that cutoff the mainland. Because of all the high limestone karsts (cliffs), Railay is a very popular spot for rock climbers. Interestingly, the beach does not have a dock so you have to jump into the water and wade into shore with your luggage on your shoulder.
We arrived in the early afternoon, so after checking in to our hotel we toured ourselves around the little streets and lanes that run off of the beaches. There are no motorized vehicles on the peninsula and walking from one point to another takes no more than 10 minutes. That evening, we had dinner at the Last Bar on East Railay Beach which was followed by a fire dancing show.
We must have been a little tired from our journey as we slept right through breakfast the next morning. Later, we walked over to one of the 3 beaches on the peninsula, Phra Nang Beach. On the way over, we had our first encounter with the local bandits, a troop of marauding Macaques. The monkeys mobbed a group of girls in front of us and robbed them of their bananas (how fitting!!). The beach is dominated by huge cliffs on both sides with a cave to explore and white, soft sand. In the cave, there is a shrine dedicated to the spirit of the drowned princess (Phra Nang) who gave the beach her name. This small shrine is notable primarily for the dozens of carved red-tipped phalluses donated by fishermen seeking her favor. That night, we watched the sunset and had a nice dinner on the West Beach.
The next morning, we were both feeling a bit more ambitious so I took out a kayak and Rebecca went for a run on the beach. I kayaked almost all the way around the peninsula and back and it was a great way to see the huge cliffs. Later, we spent some time on the West Railay Beach in front of our hotel. Knowing we had had enough sun, we explored the Diamond Cave, so named for its sparkling limestone formations with stalagmites and stalactites. Of course, the cave was the residence of some local bats and when one of them began to fly overhead Rebecca was looking for the exit. After that, we took the jungle path around the karst dividing Railay from Ton Sai Beach. We were not so prepared for this little trek in our flip flops and lack of mosquito spray. Once at Ton Sai, we relaxed on the beach thinking of how we could avoid the journey back through the jungle. We started to notice people coming around the corner of the beach from the direction of Railay. After asking a few of them, we learned that you can walk around the cliffs at the lowest tide, but it does require scrambling over a few rocks and through some caves. We made it back to Railay without the jungle trek!
On Friday morning, we both ran on the beach trying to work off all the delicious food and beer (Chang and Singha, of course) we’d been having. Later, we prepared for our hike up to the Phra Nang viewpoint. We were again met by the Macaques, but past without any major incident. The path up to viewpoint is more than a hike; it’s a scramble up jagged terrain requiring extensive use of your hands and the provided ropes. The viewpoint was quite rewarding looking back at the skinny part of the peninsula and further on to the mainland. On the way back down, we encountered a much friendlier type of monkey, some Dusky Langurs. They started moving closer to us with huge leaps from tree to tree through the canopy. With our patience, they slowly moved right down to us and were grazing on the leaves around us. Their face is quite distinguishable with large white circles around their eyes and cream colored upper and lower lips. By the end of our encounter, the baby of the group was playing a bit of peek-a-boo with us…running up close to us, then back to mom, then a big leap from branch to branch to show off for us. It was definitely one of our highlights to spend some time with these friendly leaf eating monkeys.
On early Saturday afternoon, we started our trip back to Abu Dhabi. A boat, a van, 2 planes, and a taxi got us back home by midnight. We really enjoyed the cuisine with Tom Yum, Pad Thai, Thai salads, red and green curries, mango and sticky rice, mango lassi and all the seafood. Of course, we got our share of Thai massages at the hotel spa as well and the Thai people are so friendly. It was a great break in a tropical paradise.