On Tuesday, J. and I left Krabi for the nearby beach area called Rai Leh (also spelled “Railay”). Set on a gorgeous peninsula surround by limestone cliffs, it’s only accessible by boat. This means that all food and supplies have to get delivered daily. This pain in the ass keeps development modest and food prices high. For all practical purposes this is an island.
J. and I had to charter our own longtail boat from Krabi (1000bht/$30) because there weren’t any other riders that morning. It was a gorgeous 45 minute ride that hugged the edge of the Krabi coast.
Heading up the river and out to sea.
Our boat driver.
Along the river were all manner of sunken ships and dilapidated piers.
Out in the ocean, our boat passed by the new pier at the edge of town. The mountains we saw from the hilltop a few days earlier are in the distance.
Approaching the beach.
Our longtail boat.
The boat dropped us off on Rai Leh East, the ugliest of the four beaches. Instead of white sand, it’s grittier. Mangroves and debris line the shore. All of the budget guesthouses and restaurants are on this side. Our first night was spent in a musky room at Rapala Bungalows. Lonely Planet rated it well, but it was a very basic experience at best. The rates were reasonable though (350bht), and the owner was very friendly, almost like a mother. The attached restaurant made pricey but good Indian food.
East beach at high tide.
Rapala Bungalows were at the top of this hill. The facility had a hilarious mine cart and rails attached to a winch that they used to haul up supplies. The cable was a serious tripping hazard where it passed through the new concrete staircase.
Mangroves and garbage near the guesthouse.
Luckily, Rai Leh West was a short walk away. And this beach was, how do you say, TOTALLY AWESOME. Flanked by tall limestone cliffs, it boasts clear water, powder-soft white sand and views out to the surrounding islands. One island in the distance had a glistening white sandbar and appeared to be the destination for many of the longtail boats chartered from the beach.
J. and I spent the whole day at the beach and in the water. The tide rolled out in the early evening, revealing a pathway through boulders that would eventually lead to another beach called Hat Ton Sai.
Rai Leh West.
J. about to walk into the water. It’s hard to tell the scale of the cliff to the right, but it’s very tall.
Various sizes of pale crabs scuttled along the beach. The smaller crabs traveled in a line, rolling sand into a ball on their faces. Once it reached a certain size, it would be discarded. This process created some intricate designs, almost like crop circles. I think the scientific name for these crabs is Crustaceous Purposeless.
Low tide reveals a huge bed of rocks and coral. It’s a tidepooling paradise, and also a shortcut between beaches.
The beach in black and white.
As the sun set, it seemed every Thai youth from the island congregated on the beach to either play soccer or volleyball.
The game we were closest to had about 20 people on each team, shirts versus skins. No foreigners for most of it.
After a sunset quarrel.
Rai Leh is a rock climbing mecca for its cliffs. They are numerous, huge, and gorgeous. Apparently, there are runs for all skill levels, but if I can barely go anywhere in a climbing gym, I bet my odds are worse on a hot cliff in the heat. Sitting on the beach, I wondered how much my rock climbing friend would be salivating.
Our second day began by checking into a new room in a bungalow up the hill from our old one. It was a step up in shanty quality and the same price. The path to the guesthouse went alongside a towering cliff complete with caves and bats. The bats seemed to enjoy flying right at my face. After dropping off our bags, we went farther on the trail and into the steamy jungle. It really felt like being in the island from LOST. Jungle everywhere, strange noises, a high pitched hum from power lines, weird trails to nowhere, random sheds and overgrown buildings. The night before, we had been walking up the trail in the dark when a weird military-looking grey vehicle came barreling down the hill towards us. A little further up the path was a series of low buildings and at least 5 weathered satellite dishes. I kept expecting to run from the Others.
This abandoned hut in a valley of banana trees feels like a place where you’d go to meet Jacob and hear his confusing vision for the island.
Unripe, just formed bananas on the tree.
The view from Hat Ton Sai. The boat to the left was unloading supplies for the business on this beach.
Partially sunken boat.
One such business was making friend bananas and sweet potatoes when we walked by. We were drenched with sweat from the long steamy hike, but couldn’t pass up fresh fried fruit. The lady was generous too: we got the equivalent of 8 bananas for 20bht(60¢). The batter contained shredded coconut and sesame seeds that made them especially tasty.
We sat around the beach and let our sweat dry before hiking back around to Rai Leh West to spent the rest of the day in the sun and surf. For dinner we had sea food noodle soup(50bht/$1.5): squid, fish balls, fish rolls, shrimp. It was good but a little creepy feeling to eat it. But I can add ground peanuts to any broth and be happy. So that’s what I did.
The path to our new bungalow.
After dinner we came back to the bungalow and played some cards and ate some cookies while reading some books written by some authors and about some subjects.
The view from the restaurant we ate breakfast at for the last two mornings in Rai Leh. It was called The Rock, and while it’s wide variety of food was overpriced, the muesli+yogurt+fresh fruit combo was pretty reasonable(60bht/$1.80). The instant coffee was unusually smooth too. The balcony faces the east, and is a valley surrounded by jungle and tall cliffs. The cliff on the right had the first batch of breakfast climbers (not pictured).
If all goes according to plan, tomorrow morning we’ll be on a boat to Koh Phi Phi. This time, it’s a real island.