Railay, Ton Sai and Phra Nang in Krabi Province
Railay peninsula in Krabi province is one of my favorites and I have visited it twice. However, my first visit to this place back in October 2013 is what I will remember for life, mainly because of my dramatic entry.
It was that time when my close friend Rosh and I decided to spend a few days here. After landing in Krabi town, we skipped the crowded party town of Ao Nang and got on to a long-tail boat to Railay East. However, the boat couldn’t go to the main pier because the tide was low and left us in a spot with calf length water from where we were supposed to walk for almost two kilometers till the edge.
We love walking however a thought stuck our heads – how do we carry our luggage? Back then, we were not backpackers, we were flash packers! You will cringe at the “S” word but yes we were carrying suitcases, not backpacks. Those suitcases were heavy because we were not experienced travelers hence did not pack smart. Oops!
My petite sized friend Rosh, who has mastered her “damsel in distress” look, was offered help by the boat operator who carried her suitcase on his head to the main area. However, I (I look stronger than Rosh but looks are deceiving) had to put my suitcase over my head and walk for two kilometers. The fact that I was wearing a pair of dilapidated flip flops and the seabed was entirely full of pebbles did not help!
The pebbles were pointy and slippery which caused my flip flops to slip away from my feet a few times and each time they floated away, Rosh had to grab them because I couldn’t bend with 11 KGs of luggage on my head. Well, it doesn’t sound like that big a deal? Wrong! I made a hilarious sight and I was aware of it. There were people standing in the distance who stopped their normal activities just to point at me and laugh. I made a mental note of three things:
- to NEVER carry a suitcase but always a backpack;
- to never over pack as tempting as it can be to carry a lot of clothes; and
- to learn to depict that “damsel in distress” look from Rosh
Anyway, this incident made us laugh for hours after Rosh and I had our first Chang beer in Railay. Our entry made us realize that Railay East is nothing but a straight kilometer long stretch next to sea. We were not very pleased with what we saw but a pleasant surprise hit us when we reached our rooms. Our rooms were booked in a place called Railay Garden View Resort which was at the end of Railay East, right next to the famous “Last Bar”. This resort is on an elevated area and the rooms are on top of small hills. Our room was one of the highest points of this place that required a bit of climbing. We reached the balcony of our room and our jaws fell. Wanna know why? Because of THIS view! We were in LOVE!
We fell in love with the resort, especially the cafe in it. The view from the cafe was amazing too, although not as nice as our room. There was an endless supply of tea, coffee (instant, not espresso) and water at all hours. Over the next few days, we thoroughly explored the area and realized how beautiful Railay (or Rai Leh) is.
The Railay peninsula is broadly divided 4 parts (See Map):
- Railay East
- Railay West
- Phra Nang
- Ton Sai
This is the place where the boat will drop you if you decide to visit Railay peninsula. Oh and there’s a proper pier here that I saw in my last visit in December 2014, so you no longer have to walk in water like I did when the tide is low. As mentioned earlier, this is a straight kilometer long stretch next to Railay East beach. This beach has mangroves hence, it’s not possible to swim or sunbathe here.
Stay: This area mostly has resorts and a few bungalows. I stayed in a beautiful room with a view for THBs 1000 per night.
Eat: There are many good places to eat here but our favorite was a place called Tom Yum Goong behind Skunk Bar. Yes, there’s a bar by that name! 4/20! A plate of Pad Thai in Tom Yum Goong costs around 70 THBs.
Bars: Talking about the bars here, this area has a lot of them and some are really cool – Skunk Bar, Why NOT Bar, Yaya Bar and the Famous Last Bar. Rosh and I spent many hours at the first two during the day and at the fourth one at night.
Last Bar is the biggest one here and is literally the last bar on Railay East. It has an area for Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) which occurs on a few days of the week.
On most of the days, there is an acoustic performance by a talented musician that plays the guitar and loves performing songs by The Beatles. Post Muay Thai or musical performances, the party begins! It is then, 4 or 5 fire dancers perform together for 30 – 40 minutes. After the fire dance, the main dance floor opens for everyone and it’s fun to see how everyone dances till wee hours of the morning. When I mean everyone, I mean guests, travelers and staff members.
Railay West is only a 5 minute walk from Railay East but it’s a total change of scene. This beach is usually filled with resorts; hence it’s filled with families, honeymooners and rich travelers. The beach here is beautiful but I never ended up spending a lot of time here because I found this area to be a tad expensive. There are no places to party in this area so mostly people that stay here visit Last Bar in Railay East for that purpose. If you book a room here, the boat can drop you here too, but charges THBs 50 per person extra. It’s easier to get off at Railay East and walk for 5 minutes to reach here.
Phra Nang is the MOST BEAUTIFUL part of this area. There is only one place to stay here and it’s super expensive. Phra Nang is 7 minute walk from Railay East towards the other end of Last Bar. The entry path to this beach is surrounded by stalagmite and stalactites laden limestone cliffs. There are many monkeys here, so keep all your personal belongings in your pockets before the monkey mafia snatches it away. This area has many interesting things to see.
Phra Nang Cave Beach is the main attraction of this area. Although this beach is crowded but it is possible to find empty spots if you walk towards the end of the beach, away from the caves. This beach is perfect for a swim.
A photo posted by DrifterPlanet (@drifterplanet) on
The best time to visit this beach is a little before the sunset. Most of the day trippers from Ao Nang and Phuket leave Phra Nang by then. Moreover, it looks spectacular during sunsets, especially when the rocks emit a reddish hue.
This beach gets absolutely empty at night due to the lack of bars here. A night swim on this beach is a “must do” and it is possible to see the luminescent glow of planktons while you swim. This beach has only one place to stay – Rayavadee Resort, which is stunning but extremely expensive! There’s a restaurant in that resort called Grotto, which is famous because it’s inside a cave with stunning views. It is possible to eat fast food on Phra Nang beach from these long tail boats as shown in the below picture. This is a new addition that I saw in 2014.
Phra Nang Shrine is also another attraction here and is towards the start of the beach. It is inside a beautiful cave with painted wooden penises all around.
Strange sight indeed, but interesting nonetheless!
View Point and Lagoon can be reached by climbing on the limestone cliffs that are towards the entry part of the beach. Climbing on these cliffs to reach the viewpoint and lagoon is easy but it may not look that way. There’s a rope to hold yourself and the cliff has many points that you can hold on to. The holes on the rocks form natural steps to climb up.
The view from the top is lovely because you can see both Railay East and West. From here, the way to the lagoon is only 15 minutes away but on both the occasions that I was here, it started raining. When it rains here, it’s risky because the rocks become slippery and the mud turns sticky like clay. Much to my dismay, on both the occasions, the climbers turned back and advised us to do the same. In December 2014, San and I still insisted to reach the lagoon despite the rain but it got extremely slippery so we decided to head back mid-way. My message to the lagoon: Dear elusive lagoon – I know you’re playing hard to get, but you don’t know my determination. I will visit again and meet you for once and for all.
This is the best part of the entire Railay peninsula and is a 10 minute walk from Railay West. Unlike the other parts of this peninsula, Ton Sai can’t be reached by a leveled path but there’s a way from the rocks that leads to this area. It is not as developed as the other three areas. The electricity supply here runs for only a few hours in a day. I did not see a resort here, which is a good sign.
We stayed in a place called Sai-Ngam Botanic Garden Resort which was a deep inside Ton Sai, next to the jungle area. We paid 500 THBs per night here for a very basic hut. This price included the breakfast as well and was wonderful!
We also stayed in another beautiful place in the main area called Andaman Nature Resort. We found a room in this place during the peak season for 500 THBs and the room was better than the first place. Andaman Nature Resort doesn’t have a website so a room can only be booked if you reach here.
Ton Sai beach is lovely! The sand here is a tad darker than the nearby Railay West but the vibes are way better. Typical crowd here comprised of budget backpackers and rock climbers.
The bars in Ton Sai are beautiful and I remember spending many evenings in a place called Chill Out Café with interesting seating, fire dancers and good music.
Keep in mind, the electricity supply in Ton Sai is available only for a few hours in a day. Charge your gadgets well in advance to avoid inconvenience.
Are you ready to explore the Stunning Beauty of Railay, Ton Sai and Phra Nang in Krabi Province? Which one would you go to first – Railey East, Railay West, Phra Nang or Ton Sai? Or all? Let me know in the comments section.
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A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.Sonal Kwatra Paladini