Crossing The Gulf Of Thailand, Like A Pack Of Sardines
Krabi is a large province, and probably the most famous beach within it is Railay Beach West. The neighboring area (Phang Nga Bay, near Phuket) is known for filming the Bond film: "The Man with the Golden Gun." I didn't manage to get that far west, but felt pretty happy that I made it to the stunning rocky Railay Beach (and later, to Koh Phi Phi).
As long as weather permits, a journey from Krabi to Railay Beach East is relatively quick and easy. It's often an overly hyped beach, which is difficult to live up to, so here are a few things to keep in mind...
(Longtail from Krabi to Railay)
Getting there and accommodation:
Beginning in Koh Tao, I hopped aboard a very comical ferry ride (roughly 750 baht) to Krabi. In case this sounds simple, it's not.
Initially thinking I'd have a bunk, I headed to the ferry and climbed a few stairs to a deck of mattresses on the ground. One side is booked for white tourists, and the other, locals. Fellow travelers were all equally confused by this sight of tight sleeping quarters and immediately froze in place, unsure of what they were seeing. Of course, we had all been through the initial shock and laughed as soon as another stunned face arrived. Instant bonding.
After snuggling up to strangers, we were sectioned off into truck taxis to a random cafe. It sounds shady, but it was all legit and organized. 20 of us waited, branded by stickers on our arms to let the drivers know which van to put us in to be dropped off in our respective cities. This was my journey to Krabi...the most random, hilarious way to travel, and I was one of the few who kind of loved it.
Krabi wasn't a draw for me. I used it for a place to sleep and get my bearings in order to visit the surrounding beaches. The Pak-up hostel there was highly rated by Hostelworld, and I agreed. It was one of the best I've ever stayed in -- just book ahead at least a day or so using the app. After meeting a fellow traveler there, we decided to share a room on Railay Beach East through Hotels.com.
Right down the street from the Pak-up hostel are men repeatedly yelling "Railay Beach" in such a way that breeds distrust, but they ended up being exactly what I needed to book a 150 baht ticket to the famous beach.
Railay Beach accommodation can be expensive, so visiting Agoda or Hotels.com is good for a deal, along with finding someone to share the cost. Fair warning: even if is called a resort, it's not swanky. It just means it's not a hostel. If you want fancy, you will have to pay for it.
There are lots of wild monkeys. They can be aggressive, so keep your distance. I never had an issue with them, but I didn't care for the trashy feel of the area. I also had my worst meal here, so keep expectations low.
Pay attention to the groups of people that greet you with signs in hand as you exit ferry boats and other touristy spots. My instinct was to ignore them out of self-protection, but I soon found out that they were there for me and were very helpful and honest.
The longtail boat from Chao Fah Park Pier in Krabi will take you directly to Railay Beach East. If you choose to visit Railay West directly or Tonsai Beach, asking your place of accommodation how to get there. They will most likely be your best source of information as it may require various modes of transportation.
Items of note:
Many people love this area for rock climbing, so if that's your thing, Railay Beach could be your place.
The prices of the hotels set an expectation that it should be nicer than I found it to be. The beach was undeniably pretty, especially at low tide, when there's a wider beach area. The water is cooler than the Gulf of Thailand and fun to swim in, but be prepared to fend off relentless offers for a thai massage along the beach. I know that sounds great, but having them yelling as they walk the beach for 8 hours is anything but relaxing.
On the upside, sunsets are beautiful and would make staying overnight worth your time. Otherwise, a day trip may suffice.
From Railay Beach, I boarded the ferry to touristy, party-heavy Koh Phi Phi. It wasn't my scene, but the 350 baht longtail boat sunset-tour was totally worth it!