Railay sits on a peninsula between Krabi and Ao Nang. It’s physically cut off by mountains from the mainland. The only way to access it is via boat, which you can take from either Krabi or Ao Nang. It’s a perfect place to chill out for a while, or just visit for the day like we did.
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We decided to take a boat from Krabi and then walk across from East Railay to West Railay. We’d spend the day there and then take the boat to Ao Nang. From Ao Nang we’d pick up a Songthaew back to Krabi. It’s an easy day trip.
Songthaews are a familiar form of transport here in Thailand. They look like (and probably are) converted pickup trucks. There are bench seats in the back, there’s a roof (most of the time) and, well that’s it. Sometimes there are steps to get in and out. Sometimes not. They’re the local bus service.
Long-tail boats ply their trade at the pier in Krabi. As you walk towards the pier you’ll be approached by folks offering you their boat. It’s a set fee of 150 THB per person. And the boat won’t depart until there are at least 8, usually 10 people in it.
It’s low season, we could probably wait all day for another 6 people to arrive, but we had time on our hands and so we waited. We were passed from one boat man to another. There were offers to take us now for 600 THB in total. We agreed 15 minutes later to pay 400 THB in total and ended up with our own private long-tail boat taking us to East Railay.
Our payment was upfront. This allowed the boatman to send a motorbike rider off with a fuel can to purchase the means to get there.
The long-tail boat or Ruea Hang Yao in Thai is watercraft that is native to Southeast Asia. That’s a car or truck engine you see in the picture above and that’s normal. There’s a long canoe(but wider) like hull, The engine is mounted on a pole that can swivel through 180 degrees. There’s a propeller on the end of the drive shaft, which is several meters long. The prop sits some back behind the boat. The engine is water cooled.
It’s a pleasant 40 minute ride to East Railay in this spectacular part of the Andaman Sea. The tide was in when we arrived, and traversing the floating pier was easy.
East Railay was mostly deserted when we arrived. This side of the peninsular is more built up than on the west side, but the beach isn’t as nice. Here are the best beaches to visit on Railay.
It’s lined with resorts, bars, and cafes to the right (north) and a stroll to the left (south) took us to the path to Phra Nang beach.
Paved and a 10 minute walk at most, the path to Phra Nang Beach is easy. We passed under over hanging rocks. We ignored the “Railay View” scramble, up what looks like a near vertical mud and tree root wall and shortly afterwards we arrived at the beach.
Here, along with the delightfully quiet beach is Phra Nang Shrine, full of phallic symbols. It’s dedicated to the spirit of the drowned princess who gave the beach her name. It was local fisherman who donated the copious phalli, hoping to curry her favor.
Phra Nang is rated as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. This crescent shaped white sand with azure blue sea and karst formations is lovely. There’s just one hotel and restaurant here. There is also a single long-tail cafe boat playing it’s trade on the beach.
Getting to West Railway meant a reversal of our route and taking a track across the “island”.
It’s just a 10 minute stroll across to the beautiful West Railay Beach. From here you can take beginner rock climbing courses, rent a canoe or pick up a long tail boat to Ao Nang. We lunched and watched everyone else go by. The food was fuel and wouldn’t win any awards. Prices were similar to Krabi and Ao Nang. (215 THB (US$ 6, GBP 4) for a main course with 30 THB for a soda).
Catching a ride to Ao Nang was easy. We walked towards the waterline, found someone yelling Ao Nang, paid 100 THB each (US$2.92, GBP 1.87) and waited. We had to wait until there were another 7 people before wading out to the boat and taking our seats.
The wind gets up in the afternoon and the long-tail made hard wet work of the 20 minute trip back to Ao Nang. The young American in front declared loudly several times that our captain was an amateur and wanted to get off. I would have been happy to help her leave, but restrained myself on the grounds that I don’t fancy the inside of a Thai jail.
Landing on the beach there (there’s no pier) when we had wind against the falling tide meant that everyone got wet. Not, though as badly as some others we saw, who had to jump out into waist high water. However, don’t expect to get your backpack home and dry on this route when the weather isn’t perfect..
A 90 THB happy hour beer dried us off and had us waiting at the bus stop just up from beach avenue for a 50 THB each ride back to Krabi. We landed the front seat with the driver. (being that there was no room in the back) We managed to drive without second gear for the 16 km back to Krabi. My right thigh took up the second gear space and my yelp when he tried it the first time clearly put him off further attempts.
Krabi is a lovely little working town, where everyone seems to go about their business. The night walking street has more locals than tourists. The location among the karst formations gives some glorious scenery and overall it has a friendly, but just getting on with life feeling. Many travelers will miss it and go straight to Ko Phi Phi, but we enjoyed the real-life vibe.
Where to Stay in Railay, Thailand
There are a host of places to stay in Railay – here’s our pick of the luxury places to stay in Railay, mid-range places to stay in Railay, and budget accommodation in Railay.
Rayavadee Hotel (SHA Plus+), Railay, Thailand: The Rayavadee Hotel (SHA Plus+) is a five-star hotel in Railay. All of the rooms here at this luxury Railay resort and hotel, the Rayavadee Hotel include air conditioning and internet access, and you can also enjoy the free fluffy bathrobes and bathtubs. This luxurious Railay hotel has rooms that include a seating area, a separate living room, and a shower/bathtub per room. There are comfy sofas, cable channels, and free toiletries too. There are fabulous gardens, a great restaurant, and a chilled-out bar at this super luxe hotel in Railay. Check prices of rooms at the Rayavadee Hotel here.
Railay Village Resort (SHA Extra Plus), Railay, Thailand: The Railay Village Resort (SHA Extra Plus) is a mid-range resort hotel located in Railay. All of the rooms in this fabulous Railay Village Resort in Railay have air conditioning and internet access as well as balconies. There are free toiletries, fluffy bathrobes, and a coffee/tea machine as well as a minibar. There’s a swimming pool here at this mid-range Railay hotel and the hotel also has a garden, a hot tub, and a restaurant. Check availability here.
Railay Princess Resort & Spa (SHA Extra Plus), Railay, Thailand: The Railay Princess Resort & Spa (SHA Extra Plus) is a budget hotel in Railay. The lovely Railay Princess Resort & Spa in Railay has rooms that are air-conditioned and have internet access, along with a coffee/tea machine and a balcony for your relaxation. Enjoy the mini-bar and refrigerator included in the rooms, which also have bathrobes, free toiletries, towels, and slippers. The hotel’s facilities include a garden, sauna, bar, restaurant, and coffee shop. Want more information on Railay Princess Resort & Spa?
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