Krabi / Railay : A beautiful start to my Thai beach time.

Railay Travel Blog

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Natalie by the shore as we wait to board our first Long Tail boats

I wiggle my toes. The grains play between them. There are so many grains of sand, don’t ya think?

I have headed farther south now. The hills and mountains of the northern reaches of Thailand are long distant. They have diminished. Given way to smaller undulations of land, rivers, pasture fields and the tarmac and train line grooves of man. South of Bangkok for the first time now. Those mountains, having petered out behind me long ago have now turned to rocks fringing the shore; and those rocks to sand. The sand flows down to the waters edge - tickled by the Andaman Sea - and beyond.

I think some people might say that you haven’t really visited Thailand until you see, or go for your first ride in one of the traditional Long Tail boats.

More of them another time maybe. The waters of the Andaman wash around Natalie’s ankles, sandles in hand, as we await to board our first of these.


48 hours previous. Book in hand I sit in the Hostel International, Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok studying my ‘Rough Guide to the Beaches and Islands of Thailand’. It’s mind boggling the plethora of potential paradises that the southern reaches of this nation seems to offer? Where to start? How to choose? But choose I have. I’ve settled on the rather pretty sounding Railay beaches. These fringe the tiny west coast peninsula south of Krabi town, the destination for where I have just purchased a ticket for the 12 hour night coach tomorrow.

These are the lengthy propellor arms that give the Long Tail boats their names

As I sit and contemplate a little yellow butterfly flutters past and settles down upon the bench besides me. This is Natalie. A fellow Brit, fresh off the plane from Oz, not feeling 100% and exhibiting early symptoms of a heady mixture of jet lag and ‘Bangkok Shock’. Following the usual polite intorductions and a bit of travel “blah blah”, me reeling off my logistical manouveres for the coming 24 hours etc, it turns out I now have a travel companion to Railay for the next stage of my adventure :)

24 hours previous. A day of practical bits ’n’ bobs whilst in Bangkok but in a moment of extremely prophetic logistical madness I counsel Natalie (now safely booked onto the same coach as I) to meet at the Hostel a good 4 hours before our coach is due to depart. We have to get aaaall the way across Bangkok to the Southern Bus Terminal ’Sai Tai Mai’.

The fascinating limestone karst cliffs of Railay peninsula
The Number 511 takes an excruciating 3 hours plus to crawl across rush-hour gridlocked Bangkok to the terminal! And we only managed to board the 511 after I stopped in its tracks by grabbing on to the door rail as it attempted to pass us by and continually pummelling my fist against the door whilst it dragged me along, back pack ’n’ all! We make our coach with 20 minutes to spare. “Phewf!”

Despite contorting my tiny frame into about 56 or more compositions upon the coach seats; a veritable Karma Sutra of attempted sleeping positions and postures, sleep is a struggle indeed and snatched in small amounts at best. But it’s ok. We’re here now! The sun is up. A taxi to the pier. The road turns to rock; turns to sand; meets the sea. There are so many grains of sand don‘t ya think? The waters of the Andaman wash around Natalie’s ankles, sandles in hand, as we await to board our first of these.

[ END ]

Safely collapsed onboard. Our bags too. The possibly centuries-old reconstituted lawnmower of an engine, propped up at the back of our Long Tail taxi boat wheezes and sputters into life. Nat and I begin to cast our eyes about. It’s been a long 17 hours or so of constant travel. I feel soothed to be moving upon the silky sea. Krabi recedes. The land to our left is rising rapidly into large rocky outcrops. The landmass making one last geological burst for the skies before giving into to the demands of the ocean. Fantastical looking cliffs, moving, erupting upwards. Glimpses of their white facades barely visible amidst the dense clustering of tropical trees upon their flanks and crowns. I am smiling. Natalie is smiling. I think we can sense it. I think a pretty special destination awaits us.

Natalies gets some pampering Thai style on the beach
We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto… we’re somewhere far more interesting, and far, far more beautiful. My camera's already out of its holster and blazing away. Natalie’s too. Gladly we have discovered kindred photographic spirits in each other which is a relief ‘cos it means we won’t spend the next few days annoying the p*ss out’ve each other by reaching for our snappers every 30 seconds or less.

South of Krabi town, the Railay peninsula or ‘Laem Phra Nang’ (just the final 1 - 1.5km blip of land at this point of Thailand ) constitutes four beaches clustered together. The principle beaches of most beauty and interest are those of East Railay, West Railay and Ao Phra Nang on the southwest tip.

Stevie reaches to grab his first glimpse of Thai beach sun :)
The fourth beach (which we did not visit) sit’s a little further to the northwest and is called Ao Ton Sai. The 3 main Railay beaches (East, West & Phra Nang) are only accessible by Long Tail boat from Krabi or Ao Nang. Ton Sai tends to be where all the backpacker journeyers stay as it is cheaper and a little more bar-littered and partyish than its prettier, calmer kin and requires again that a Long Tail be caught to the West Railay beach and back each day for visitation (unless you wish to mank yourself up clambering along sharpened rocks at extremely low water - no thanks!). No mucking about for Nat and I. We’re gonna plonk ourselves on East Railay.  Expense be damned for once! The three main beaches here are but 5 minutes walk from one another so best to stick East for the wider range and slightly cheaper accommodation options available here.
As the tide goes out the beach is covered soon by millions upon millions of these tiny balls of sand left by the feeding of thousands of tiny sand crabs as they emmerge from their burrows
Be warned though, this is not a ‘budget’ destination. You’ll do well to find a bungalow at less than 700 Baht (£14) a night.  Probably 1,000 plus for a nicely appointed resort fan room with private bathroom.

I can’t tell you how nice it is to be back by the sea! I need this moment; these surroundings every now and then. And what surroundings!! The jutting, mushroom-like eruptions of land form observed by Natalie and I on the Long Tail over come to a magnificent, masterful crescendo of Mother Nature’s powers of presentation as they gather and ring around the super-soft white sandy stretches of these beautiful beaches. Huge limestone karsts reach high up to cup the sun. Tree fringed. Sometimes a silhouette to the left of West Railay like a sharks tooth to my mind. The scenery is astonishing and will not let go of my awe-struck imagination for the entire time I will stay in Railay - and writing so many weeks later, is yet to do so!

Nothing complicated today.

The beautiful scenery that accompanies you at Railay. On the right, the rock I dub the 'Shark's Tooth'
A long journey behind us. Hell! Natalie’s stretches all the way back to Australia! She must be exhausted. Some pampering? She treats herself to a foot scrub/ massage from one of the several ladies smiling and plying such trade upon the well-populated, but by no means over populated beach. They are accompanied by the usual circulating parade of small boys carrying iced buckets of drinks or bags of cut fruit for lazy, thirsty farang as they lie, frying in the sun.

Time is passed. Relaxation abounds. Some snorkelling about and sitting (too much) in the sun. Showered and changed and back to West Railay, otherwise known as ‘Sunset Beach’. Large mats have been laid out on the sand around the entry point to the beach where the tiny, unobtrusive stretch of shops, dive companies and a bar or two reside. The sun is lowering down into beautiful shades of peach, rose-pink and gold.

The waters recede very, very far on East Railay. If you arrive or depart at such times you will have a long,long way to carry your luggage!
I sit with Natalie. A beer in hand. Soothing and cold. Bobbing on the tideline, a posse of Long Tail boats hover on the waves awaiting their evening cargo of peeps to ferry back to Ton Sai. The colours of the sky are beautiful and the limestone karst scenery here abouts just seems to get more amazing and mysterious to my eye with every passing minute and shade of day. A group of Thai lads play an enthusiastic game of football upon the sands now the waters have receded some. But sunset, such a beautiful sunset, brings their play to a close.

Nat and I partake of a lovely meal at a restaurant upon the beach. The spicy green papaya salad an interesting, pleasing choice. Something quite different. I love the way Thai cuisine manages to make such a riot of the four taste senses work every time and seduce your palette despite the seeming incongruity of ingredients and flavours.

Long Tails at sunset
  And a beautiful chicken penang curry too!

Night drawn down now, and the population of West Railay pleasantly depleted yet further by the Ton Sai exodus, Nat and I are sat back on the mats beneath the light of the moon. It’s full moon tonight as it happens. And whilst half of the Thai islands and beaches are likely exploding in a nuclear party melee; a bubbling, broiling typhoon of young testosterone, oestrogen and alcohol, things are just calm and calm again here in Railay. The sound of the waves washing against the shore. And I am glad and smiling.

Owing to the moon we can only as yet see a solitary, bright star in the early night sky. Natalie’s boyfriend is apparently quite into the subjects of space, the stars and suchlike. He once imparted to her the, I think, oft repeated assertion or ‘fact’, that there are apparently more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand contained on all the beaches of all of the world.

Interesting. Possible. Possible? I guess so. Although it sounds so improbable to the ears on first hearing. How do They quantify such statements anyway? How do They ‘know’? And where does a beach begin and end anyway? How deep down can you dig those sands for the census? And are you allowed to lift up the oceans’ watery skirts and keep on counting? Does sand ever die like stars do? Is that fair? Seriously, how do you begin to calculate any of this? But I enjoy the thought train it stirs which ever ways.

I strain to see the stars.

I wiggle my toes. The grains play between them. There are so many grains of sand don’t you think?

[ Appendix : 'Sand and Stars' ]  updated 06/04/2009

Thanks to the efforts of my clearly underworked TB pal and research assistant Natalie (Pinkhoneybee) here are some Net-gleaned nuggets of info theorising about the possible calculations of Sand and Stars :

So how many grains of sand are there in the world?

"You could start off by trying to guess how many grains of sand there are in a spoon of

Use a magnifying glass to count how many grains fit in a small section. Then, count how many of those sections fit in your spoon.
Multiply the two numbers together to get an estimate.  "Using this same principle, plus some additional information, mathematicians at the University of Hawaii tried to guess how many grains of sand are on the world's beaches. They came up with 7,500,000,000,000,000,000, or seven quintillion five quadrillion grains of sand."

That number is 7.5 x 10^18 or 7.5 billion billion.

How many grains of sand are in the world?

The calculation is detailed here:

How many stars, galaxies, clusters, QSO's etc. in the Universe?

"To get the total stellar population in the Milky Way [that is, in our galaxy alone], we must take the number of luminous stars that we can
see at large distances and assume that we know how many fainter stars go along with them. Recent numbers give about 400,000,000,000 (400 billion) stars, but a 50% error either way is quite plausible."

So in our galaxy alone, there might be between 2 x 10^11 and 6 x 10^11 stars

They conclude with various other calculations and the following statement :

"It's all a bit complicated isn't it? But isn't it crazy that there may just be 100 stars to every grain of sand!!!!!!!!"

Morle says:
As usual I really like your blog. And as usual, it seems I´m following in your footsteps :) Do you remember the name of the place you stayed at in Railay? Thanks!
Posted on: Mar 27, 2012
LeighTravelClub says:
Very much enjoying your blog.
Posted on: Mar 28, 2010
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Natalie by the shore as we wait to…
Natalie by the shore as we wait t…
These are the lengthy propellor ar…
These are the lengthy propellor a…
The fascinating limestone karst cl…
The fascinating limestone karst c…
Natalies gets some pampering Thai …
Natalies gets some pampering Thai…
Stevie reaches to grab his first g…
Stevie reaches to grab his first …
As the tide goes out the beach is …
As the tide goes out the beach is…
The beautiful scenery that accompa…
The beautiful scenery that accomp…
The waters recede very, very far o…
The waters recede very, very far …
Long Tails at sunset
Long Tails at sunset
Stevie captures Natalie capturing …
Stevie captures Natalie capturing…
Approaching East Railay at high wa…
Approaching East Railay at high w…
A glimpse of the nice resort Nat &…
A glimpse of the nice resort Nat …
photo by: Mezmerized