We spent the morning strolling along the beach in Railay West. The guide books claimed that this is one of the more beautiful and unspoilt beaches in Thailand. Well I suppose that depends on your definition of beautiful… The beach itself is pretty average. What was unique are the limestone karsts surrounding the bay which have a certain majestic and mystical beauty about them.
There is also a stark contrast between low and high tides. At low tide, the water recedes more than 20 metres from the high water mark, leaving behind a flat and compact sand bank which is ideal for beach games or sunbathing while admiring the picturesque limestone karst formation.
An interesting ecosystem of crabs thrives on this beach and you can see evidence of these crawlers digging holes and building igloo-shaped sand huts all over the beach. At night when there is hardly any lighting, treading around on the beach bare-footed can be a ‘crunchy’ experience.
At high tides, the waters reach within a stone’s throw of the resorts and you can almost jump into the emerald green waters right from the restaurant facing the sea. As Railay is still mainland despite its island-like feel, the waters are not crystal clear.
Another popular activity in these parts is canoeing along the limestone karsts and navigating precariously under the wave eroded caverns to witness stalacite formations. Unfortunately Theo felt that the children were too young so we had to stay clear from all canoeing and kayaking activities which really would have been a highlight.
There is a tiny village made up a less than 10 shops and three restaurants on Railay catering mainly to the needs of the tourists who are staying here and the prices reflect it as well.
A short walk north of the resort brought us to Diamond Cave with an entrance fee of 80 baht. The small cave can be easily completed in 10 minutes. However our children were quite freaked out by the darkness and the screeching sounds made by bats, so we bid a hasty exit.
That evening we took our first longtail boat trip to Ao Nang which cost 300 baht. The boatman offered to pick us up at 8pm for our return trip for 600 baht. Thinking that he was trying to make a quick buck from us, I didn’t take up the offer. I assumed I would be able to easily hitch a ride back from Ao Nang. Big mistake!
Luck would have it that just when we reached Ao Nang, it started to rain very heavily and I had forgotten to pack an umbrella in my haste. Another assumption that it would not rain. We spent the next hour sheltering in McDonalds while waiting for the storm to pass. Once again the all familiar yellow arches waiting to rescue clueless tourists.
We finally bought a pair of ponchos for the children and dashed across the road in the downpour to a nearby restaurant Aree Baba. With our tummies filled with delicious pineapple fried rice, we felt more optimistic. However that was short-lived. By the time we made our way back to the beach in the drizzle, it was 8.30pm and not a single boat was in sight in the pitch dark choppy waters.
We waited in vain for another 30 minutes but not a single boat came into sight. I tried to call the hotel lines but could not get through. So here we are in the dark (electricity supply is cut several hours a night at preset times to conserve energy), cold, wet and lost. I contemplated a stay in Ao Nang but without dry clothes, we were all sure to fall sick.
Finally after an hour of despair, a helpful chap informed us that we could charter a boat from a pier next to Wang Sai Restaurant and kindly brought us there on his motorcycle taxi. It cost us 1,200 baht to call for a boat to bring us back to Railay! That I guess is the price you pay for second guessing the intentions of others.