Oh Railay

Railay is one of those places in the world that travelers should see simply for the scale and depth of its beauty. Our first arrival to the intimate yet grand Railay Bay was breathtaking. Rising proudly from the glistening sea and teeming jungle below, Railay’s karst limestone rock faces reflect the sun’s warm glow, beckoning one to stay. The bay’s formations remind me of the grand, soaring cathedrals of Europe. Their walls instill a sense of awe and peace. They remain static in their original glory, despite the hundreds of years development around them. Railay’s walls are like this.

It was a beautiful ferry ride and connecting long tail boat from Koh Jum to Railay.

Once our bags were down, there were strawberry shakes all around and that simple sense of happiness (and possibility) we always feel when we arrive somewhere new.

One of our first excursions was a walk over to Phang Nga Bay, on the other side of Railay. Chris took this postcard-worthy shot.

Phang Nga Bay is said to have “one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world” (ok, maybe if you take away all the tourists). One can also enjoy its world class climbing as well as its historic fertility shrine ensconced in a cave. Just so you are up on things, here is the description of the shrine where couples come with wishes of fruition. It is appropriately full to the brim with colorful phallic offerings. I think Merle never caught on and Mathilda said, “Why are all those ice cream cones in there?”

Phang Nga was in fact stunning, but much too busy for us and again the water was too “stingy” to swim for long.

In keeping with a theme we have experienced elsewhere in SE Asia, I am afraid that upon closer look, the world beneath the glory of Railay’s rocks is truly suffering. As all fantastic sights on earth, it has become sickeningly over-touristed. Indeed, we were there during peak season, so the crowds were particularly bad, but I fear the state of Railay, the town itself, may be beyond repair. After a few hours there, it was hard to overlook the garbage and sewage problem. And why does every restaurant from the posh resorts to the little shacks have a nasty tale of food poisoning among their tripadvisor reviews? Nevertheless and keen to make the best of it, Merle and Chris took a half-day climbing class, we sea kayaked, and had some awesome sunsets over the bay. We got to see a gorgeous family of Spectacled Langurs (a protected specie in Thailand) a few times right outside our bungalow.

We enjoyed the main beach of Railay, as it is more akin to a city park with its constant flow of activity. You can imagine the delicious people watching, from hard core climbers (like my brother, Eric, who once graced these shores) and nomadic hipsters to red-faced, corpulent Russians, goofy Chinese, the requisite Scandinavian contingent, and sloppy, drunk college kids on holiday. At night, a festive vibe consistently took hold, and the kids delighted in the neon light toys for sale and marveled at lanterns as they sauntered high into twinkling night sky.

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