Railay : Snorkelling, sunsets and swimming with Swarovskis.

Railay Travel Blog

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Snorkelling, Sunsets and Swarovski Swimming

Travel Guilt. Hmm? Am I having my first real pangs of this all too delicious psychological phenomenon? Too much of a good thing for one person to have; To experience and take in… to deserve?! That moment when you recognise that life is being so ridiculously good to you and there’s nothing you can do about it. Nothing of course you’d ever want to do about it. Hey, if the Good Times are rolling, just keep on letting’ ’em roll baby! But you start to feel… yep, there’s no denying it… a little guilty. A little spoilt. Guilty about so much that is positive around you right now when the same is likely not so true for your family and friends floundering in the rains of a recession drenched Britain.

Perfect weather. Hey, that’s Thailand and the Sunshine Kid for ya! Perfect setting. Hey, that’s Railay for ya! Perfect company. Yep, that’ll be Natalie for ya. After breakfast, a stroll around the rocky, cave carved base of the largest of the natural limestone formations at Railay. A gigantic, precipitous doughnut of rock dusted with trees, within whose heart apparently resides a tidal lagoon pool. But that’s a story for another day. This morning we’re just gonna go chill on Ao Phra Nang bay, arguably the prettiest of Railay’s beaches. The other face of the fabulous stone karst mount dubbed ’The Shark’s Tooth’ by me is visible here plus more karsts projecting clear out of the turquoise and blue seas.

The craggy limestone cliff projections around Railay make it a top international destination for rock climbers. Several people are here attempting ‘bouldering’ ascents - this being the act of free climbing up rock faces from a seated position upon the ground. The marks of their chalky fingers spattered all up the rock façade. I have tried in England and am pretty crap at this so can assure you I will not be partaking ;D

We do a bit of sun-soaking, although in a limited manner for me and T-shirts on whilst in the sea as having ignored all of Natalie’s hints that I should retreat from the fierce sun yesterday in typical male fashion, I managed to very badly burn my back! So tanning is officially delayed until such time as my back falls off and starts to regenerate once more.

Natalie & The Sea

Today’s main event is an afternoon and evening snorkelling trip around a whole bunch of the tiny, postcard perfect atols, limestone karst-islands and other scenic rock phenomena in the waters about Railay peninsula. This is offered through Railay Divers (shops on Ton Sai & by West Railay beach). The price of 850 Baht (£17) will have you out on a cracking group Long Tail excursion from 14.00 til maybe 21.00, snorkelling equipment provided, 4-5 dives of 20 - 30mins each at different interesting sites and dinner on a beautiful island beach at sunset and beyond.

There are a couple of Long Tails in convoy. The snorkelling in the areas we visit today is good. Fine enough visibility. Plenty of vivid marine life. Amidst clusters of the usual suspects a super-sized Box Fish; a Moray Eel or two; Pipe Fish; plenty of rainbow coloured coral-chomping Parrot Fish and creatures dubbed ’Leopard Fish’ by Nat & I although I have no idea if this be their actual name or not? I have my usual bouts of taunting and fight-posturing with the feisty little orange Clown Anenome (’Nemo’) fish as they attempt to defend the soft, shimmering battlements of their anenome castles from the approach of the giant, red-haired scary sea monster Weselby.

Our Long Tail captain for the afternoon
The scenery all afternoon as we dive and boat about remains captivating. As the waters are at low ebb by late afternoon we are even able to do a dive incorporating swim-throughs of little cave-like tunnels (that spend most of their time beneath the waterline) cutting through the base of a limestone karst.

Four dives done, we approach a couple of islets connected by a picturesque sand bar walkway. The sand bar is starting to recede as the waters are rising once more. Not enough though that our Long Tail captain manages to beach us and his boat quite badly in the shallow rocks and dead corals (well, they’re certainly dead now!) around the island requiring some of the gang to jump down into the water and do a bit of manual boat pulling and rocking. Nobody but us is on this beautiful stretch of beach.

Fires are lit. Natalie, Claire (the sprightly, pretty Australian lass who’s been our guide for the day) chat away whilst I sup a very pleasing ’days end’ can of beer. An absolutely beautiful sunset plays itself out, the reddening beam of its reflection skips between rock pools of water left at low tide, now being reclaimed by the sea. The distant horizon line silhouettes of little karst atols visible way, way off in the distance. A couple, hand in hand time a romantic little stroll across the sinking sand bar connecting the two islands here just right so’s that the waters close over it and wrap around their ankles just as they reach the end.

Dinner is boated over from the opposite half of this now tidally disconnected ’siamese’ atol. From the same landmass, as the final glowering embers of sunset start to fade we sit and watch as a large swarm of giants bats fans out into the evening sky from their place of rest there, blackening the sky for some 5 minutes or more.

The lesser known species of the Banana Fish :D
Dinner is an extremely delicious seafood and chicken jambalaya style platter with rice… a healthy second portion is grabbed by those cheeky enough to ask including Natalie and I. Everyone is happy, full and chatty. Natalie’s skin is tickled by way of the scuttling legs of Hermit Crabs procured by means of their dancing in moonbeams by Claire. It’s then back on board the boats.

The perfect day so far… but I’ve been lucky enough to learn whilst travelling that some days, those perfect, perfect days, when pangs of Travel Guilt are beginning to scratch at your conscience… well, sometimes, they’re not quite over and their capacity to just keep on getting better, and expanding to contain more beauty and magnificence just keeps on going! Offering a nearly inexhaustible capacity for joy.

WOW!!! I still can't get over how fab the scenery is at Railay!
And today is such a one as those.

By the light of the slightly yellowed near-full moon we Long Tail it over to another, final island outcrop. It is night now, and here we will be given the opportunity to swim with phosphorescent plankton. This is a natural phenomenon of staggering beauty! One by one we don our masks and jump down into the night-blackened waters. As the waters about us settle, you begin to notice that as your fingers, limbs and bodies trail through the water, tiny sparks of light are bursting all about as you move. Little electrical flashes set of by your disturbance of the slumbering sea. Real underwater fairy dust blossoms at the points and within the wake of every tiny movement that you make. Stardust. In the water. Fallen from the heavens and here found churning, spinning, whirling in the seas! “Yeah!” Maybe that’s it, and maybe this is what happens to the endless aeons-worth of pinpoints of starlight reflected in the oceans surfaces over the millennia.

Sunset Beach
Trapped now in the deeps and sparkling hypnotically at my fingertips.

I’m somersaulting in electricity and fairy lights! Claire’s right “You are like Tinkerbell!”. A lad swims past me looking like a dolphin on fire with diamonds. I am dancing amidst the birth of underwater galaxies. I am swimming with Swarovskis! A 24 carrot and more, flawless jewel of an experience. This is a very, very special moment for me. The crystal luminescence of the phosphorescence continues to bloom and fade all about me and so I try and try to gather these liquid-diamonds for my family and friends on whom my continued happiness depends… but they flare so bright and so suddenly again disappear. And I clutch at the lights, down deep and so white and with each one I touch I wish, I so wish you were here.

Tired, wet and exhilarated we board the Long Tails one final time. I am smiling. Natalie is smiling. Everyone’s smiling, towels around their shoulders. The moon now is high, white and bright. It has kindly thrown down a milky highway upon the seas gently rolling waves with which to guide us home. Claire’s silhouette bobs up to the heavens and back down as she sits high upon the boats prow as it rises and falls.

Back at the beach we crash on the mats and watch as paper lanterns are lit and let off into the skies. A man twirls balls of flame about himself with greater skill and dexterity than the usual fare whilst grown men and children alike try and fail again and again to reach the top of a 20 foot greased pole for a prize. Today has been quite ridiculously poetic in its visual splendour and wealth.

So much so that yes, there’s no denying… yes, I am feeling a bit… just ever such a tiny little bit of Travel Guilt. But what’s to be done about that?! “I’m sorry gang, but hey, you know where to find me!” ;D

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Natalie & The Sea
Natalie & The Sea
Our Long Tail captain for the afte…
Our Long Tail captain for the aft…
The lesser known species of the Ba…
The lesser known species of the B…
WOW!!! I still cant get over how …
WOW!!! I still can't get over how…
Sunset Beach
Sunset Beach
A little stall beneath the rocky b…
A little stall beneath the rocky …
one of the views from Ao Phra Nang…
one of the views from Ao Phra Nan…
Natalie and her favourite cap  (;P…
Natalie and her favourite cap (;…
An attempt is made at the greasy p…
An attempt is made at the greasy …
Bars stools n bar (abstract)
Bars stools 'n' bar (abstract)
photo by: Mezmerized