The magic of the Railay Peninsula

Railay peninsula is sheer eye candy

Railay peninsula is sheer eye candy

Never mind Phi Phi, it was spoilt by unchecked development years ago, the real star of the show on the Krabi coastline is the Railay Peninsula. With a dramatic backdrop of sheer karst cliffs, and secluded paradise-like beaches, it really is one of Thailand’s most scenic locations.

This unique peninsula is cut off from the mainland by an impassable mass of limestone that forms the stunning seascapes around Ao Nang in Krabi province. It has turned Railay into a virtual island, reachable by boat only. The peninsula itself has a mass of limestone rock at its end sandwiching several gorgeous beaches between the cave and mainland. Several lucky resorts are squeezed onto the limited flat land and have been developed in a low impact and tasteful way. What’s more, they aren’t all for the exclusive high end budgets, with some affordable bungalows offered.

Naturally it’s a popular day trip from Ao Nang, and can get a little busy in the high season but there is plenty of room for everyone on the three beaches here. Longtail boats leave frequently from Ao Nang, and regularly from Krabi town to Railay, ferrying sun seekers both ways until about 6pm. The resorts are happy to serve lunch to outsiders and there are vendors on the beach.

Most sought after is the beach at Tam Phra Nang, where a cave houses an ancient shrine dedicated to the safety of fisherman. Closer inspection reveals numerous phallic statues offered to the legend of an Indian princess in the hope of a good catch! Here you find the best camera shots, calm swimmable waters and few disturbances. It’s also the site of the most expensive resort. You should also ask the boat to take you directly here, as the only access on foot is to take the thoroughfare through the resorts to the mangrove side then follow the foot path all the way around the exclusive resort areas.

Tham Phra Nang is the nicest beach

Tham Phra Nang is the nicest beach

The main Railay beach is larger and fronted by several resorts, but with plenty of boats coming and going. It’s less popular with bathers but still lovely. It’s also a good place to get lunch. On the opposite side of the peninsula is a less attractive beach which is seldom practical since it turns into a virtual mangrove at low tide, and swimming is not easy.

Another beach that makes up the trio of this paradise as seen in the mouth-watering aerial shots of this ‘brochure star’, is Ton Sai beach. This is located in a separate bay to the North. This is the budget beach, full of down-market backpacker bungalows costing as little as 200 baht right near the beach. This beach unfortunately is also spoilt at low tide, but it is the most popular location for the rock climbing that has made this area so famous.

Railay really is the ‘eye candy’ of tourism posters for Thailand and the multiple karst seascapes here make the area very popular, especially with Scandinavians. Ao Nang is a pleasant resort village that is much more down to earth than Phuket, busy enough for a fun atmosphere and to provide you with everything you need. It also has a good choice of hotels. From here it’s a 20 minute journey to Railay Beach for a nice escape from the tuk tuks and tourists.

Another wonderful aspect of Ao Nang and Railay is the views. Off shore are numerous small islands and limestone shafts sticking out the water, and it makes for a truly rewarding vista as you look up from your beach book. Some are so close to Railay that you can practically swim to them.

Those into a little exploring will also find some marvels away from the beaches. Above the cave at Tham Phra Nang beach is a hidden elevated lagoon. The trail is a bit tricky to find, so ask the locals boys, but with a little bit of steep climbing you reach the top of the cliff to find yourself staring down at an enclosed lake that few people realise is in the middle of this limestone block. On the mainland side of the peninsula is the Crystal cave, which others find interesting. Of course, with all this limestone around, the area has numerous caves.

Staying on Railay is a realistic privilege for all. For instance the Sand Sea Resort has some affordable bungalows, while others like Railay Bay resort is very comfortable. Or you can opt for the Rayavadee at 26,000 baht a night! You do need to book well in advance for these however.

Note! When in travelling in Thailand its advisable to have travel insurance just in case. The risk of accidents is limited but it’s prudent all the same to have cover on insurance for medical expenses while travelling, so you can be admitted to a local hospital without worry. Travel insurance online is available for less than $20 per trip.

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