Its hard to find many ‘hidden gems’ in Thailand these days, and Railay, tucked away on Thailand’s Turquoise Coast, is by no means off the beaten track. When I landed in Bangkok, Railay wasn’t on my itinerary and I hadn’t heard much about it. I found myself rock climbing in Railay by accident, after a strong recommendation from a good friend just a few days before, which went along the lines of “Just go there, that’s all I need to say, its amazing”.
Just go there, that’s all I need to say, its amazing
There’s a lot to be said for any island, town, or village in South East Asia that has no motor vehicles. They have a surreal peacefulness about them, you can truly relax with a beer overlooking a beautiful sunset, and have moments where you take a deep breath and whisper ‘this is the life‘. In Thailand places such as Koh Tao, Ko Phi Phi and Koh Lipe all share this characteristic, and further afield I had the same experience on the Gili Islands. Its no coincidence that all of the above feature when someone asks me to list my favourite destinations in South East Asia.
Railay is a peninsula cut off from the Thailand mainland, surrounded by enormous and intimidating limestone cliffs, so therefore only accessible from the Adaman Sea that surrounds it. It’s split into two beaches East and West. You’ll most likely arrive at East Railay if coming from Krabi, and if you’re lucky hop aboard a tractor which will ferry you to shore in its trailer, but just in case you’re not so lucky wear your flip flops as you may have to wade through knee deep water, being careful not to drop your backpack! To get an idea of the layout I’d recommend the view point on the East side, but ensure you wear suitable footwear for the hike up as I found it very slippery and a little dangerous.
[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ock climbing in Railay is infamous, and has a reputation all over the world. There are over 1000 routes to try and they cater for beginners and intermediate climbers. For the beginners you can chose from a half day course for around 1000 Baht (approx £20/$30), to a more comprehensive 3 day course which includes self rescue, rope techniques and multi-pitch climbing. As a total beginner I chose the one day course, which involved climbs at two locations, all equipment, abseiling, lunch and a full safety briefing. The whole experience gave me a new respect for rock climbers!
We started off on relatively small climbs, with the instructor securing the top rope, giving us our support rope. We steadily worked our way up through the difficulty, until the 25 metre finale. If at the start of the day you had told me to look up at this limestone rock face, and said I’d be attempting to climb that I would have laughed in your face! After 30 – 40 minutes (felt like 2 hours) of gruelling climbing, I had finally made it to the top, and I think the look on my face says more than my words ever could! I really felt I had achieved something, and the view made every aching muscle worth it. And after a long day rock climbing what better way to unwind than a traditional Thai massage?
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he accommodation on the West beach is a little more pricey than the East (where I stayed). Its more desirable due to the lush beach, and I suspect the idyllic sunsets also have something to do with it. Like most travellers, I love to seek out a good sunrise or sunset, and I have to say the sunset at West Railay is one of, if not the, most memorable sunsets I have ever seen. I couldn’t take enough photos, and at this stage of my travels I had just had a camera stolen so was using a cheap point and shoot, and still the photos are stunning (I hope you agree).
Once the sunset’s finished, you’ll find a few chilled bars with live music and fire shows to keep you entertained, and a great selection of restaurants. My personal favourite ‘The Last Bar’ had a Thai acoustic band covering rock and indie classics. My journey through South Thailand had a strict itinerary so I couldn’t stay as long as I would have liked. When I come back to Railay, along with more rock climbing I want to try the Elephant Trekking, Sea Kayaking and a Desert Island Stay! For more ideas for fun activities click here.
Have you been or planning to go to Railay? What was your highlight? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.