A Luxury Treat in Railay and Khao San Road

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Asia » Thailand » South-West Thailand » Railay
August 21st 2011
Published: August 30th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

Have you ever noticed how quickly a tan fades? We get such a boost when we are sun kissed, be it golden brown, a little red or just offish white, it seems to be as effective as a new haircut and colour when your confidence needs a vein boost. There's no harm in it either, especially if it works, like the instant feel good feeling when eating chocolate. I digress. After 4 nights on Koh Lanta, without any sun, we were lacking this feel good factor and of course the tan factor (ah vanity, alive and well). So we decided to return to the other coast where the sun has a better track record this time of year. We paid for our tickets for the arduous journey back to Koh Tao, there's no harm in returning somewhere you like, right?

In the minibus we met some really lovely Dutch guys; the Dutch are just generally lovely! They had talked highly of Railay, which is on the coast of Krabi. Then the spontaneous juices were flowing, Alex took the lead on this one. The debate was sun over a new destination, plus the slight unspoken dread of the long journey back to Koh Tao. Alex was due to head back to the UK shortly so he decided to treat us to 3 nights of complete luxury in Railay :). On arrival at Krabi where we were supposed to get our transfer we threw caution to the wind and booked a ticket to Railay, which was nearby.

On arrival in the long tail boat, we passed the usual stunning cliff faces, golden sands and crystal waters, but this time we noticed that the tide was out and we were coming to a stop about 100m from the beach in water was about 2 ft deep (and it was sludgy). Yep, you got it; we had to disembark the long tail right there! It's not the easiest of things getting off a long tail into water and sludge on an uneven surface of rocks. With our backpacks firmly secured we trundled through the water and rough surface trying to reach the shore without falling over (we hadn't anticipated it so probably weren't dressed in the best water and sludge trekking clothes). This was really not the time to be desperate for a wee! Too much information, I'm sorry, but why do you always need one when it's just not convenient?

When we reached the shore there were some cool looking little bars, thankfully, not too overtaken by the tourist invasion, yet. The East side of Railay is the cheaper, backpacker side and the West is the overpriced luxury side. This time, we walked to the West side of the island and went to a hotel called the Railay Bay Resort and Spa and they had run out of the standard room so to my delight Alex decided to book us into the Railay Privacy Cottage! Basically, a big bungalow hidden behind a walled garden with an outdoor Jacuzzi and our own private sun beds! It was cloudy most of the time but we had an amazing time chilling out and appreciating this standard of living, I really could get used to it. The only break to our laid back few days was when we took a kayak out to explore the nearby little rocky islands and beaches. It's the first time we've seen birds whilst away, they've been a rarity. Kayaking is either hard work or I've lost any strength and this is what it feels like to be a bit unfit; maybe it's my punishment for abandoning the gym?!

I couldn't help but noticed that everything was so overpriced, it was just appalling. We knew, roughly, what the hotel was paying for stuff; things were about 5 times dearer here, even in comparison to the islands we had visited. It must be because they have the market to rip people off. Even the shop was costly, so the tourists who only went to Railay had a very one sided view of the cost of living in Thailand (even by hotel standards) so they had no realistic baseline to judge the value of the baht. On that note....this is the first time in my 4 weeks of being away that I saw 'the land of smiles’; you can come to your own conclusion about what that means.

All in all, we had an amazing few days and then packed up again to return to Bangkok. On our way back to the pier we had to jump out of the long tailagain and wade through the water...not ideal with a 15 hr journey ahead (my nice travelling flip flops now stink!). Nevertheless, it was fun and unexpected.

When we returned to Bangkok we lugged our very tired selves (we didn't sleep much on the night bus) and backpacks down Khao San Road at about 8 am to find acc'n, which, in the budget area of Bangkok was dearer than most of our island living - it just doesn't add up. It was quite obviously the morning after the night before with the smell of stale booze, fast food, rubbish and thick, musty air. The hardcore drinkers were still happily sat in the bars still drinking, oh and there was a group sat in the middle of the road playing card games, bottle of Singha in hand.

Our room was ok, nice in contrast to the other local options, but I had to, once again, try not to be precious about the stench of booze in the room. It was gross because the smell just seemed to be soaked into the room and wasn't the nicest welcome. What's more unpleasant is when you can't smell it anymore, which means your nose has adjusted to the smell, ew.

We spent a couple of days doing the sights, being cultured, being ripped off and being abandoned by our tuk tuk driver! My favourite place was the Emerald Buddha at Grand Palace. It took my breath away; I remember just sitting there quietly for ages, in awe whilst quietly reflecting. The Golden Mount gave us the opportunity for a good panoramic view of the city, we went to temples and saw lot's of Buddha’s, but didn't overdo it. We walked a lot as well, I think people forget, like tourists in London, that actually a lot of tourist sites are in close proximity to each other so walking is a good option and you see more.

I also went to the MBK Centre; it was the largest indoor shopping centre I have ever seen! I was so sad that I wasn't here with more spending money, as a booby prize I had lots of Oreo McFlurrys to distract me whilst looking around all of the stalls. It was immense, and I know the girls (I miss you) and my mum (I miss you too) would love it. Sorry any boy readers, but girls, I have to tell you, as you know, I didn't bring my running gear and I am really missing the freedom and empowerment of going for a run and getting my muscles working again. I could run on a beach in a bikini like some other girls but I would probably get a black eye or scare some locals (plus it would hurt) so my priority was to find a sports bra whilst in Bangkok. Can you imagine how damn difficult that was in Thailand, the country where everyone is lovely and petite?! I spent 3 hrs searching. I finally went to the huge Tokyo department store at the end of the complex and things looked hopeful. Until they said that the largest cup size they had was a C. OMG, does it have to be this hard. I ended up trying to squeeze the girls into an extra large size C- the biggest one they had (I didn't like being consider 'large' either; the psychology of the word isn't nice). The best of a very bad situation and shopping trip. Nonetheless it means I can run ;). After this success I crossed the road to Siam Square, which as it turns out, was the wrong time of day - when things start getting busy. I was like a little ant caught in an over occupied ants nest, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of claustrophobia (I have never felt like that before) and I just felt out of my depth and uncomfortable (the strain of a long day in Bangkok alone). I paced the main road, which was at a standstill with traffic. I hailed a cab very successfully, until they were all trying to rip me off and charge me triple what it should cost. None of them would take me on the meter, until attempt number 6 (I was threaders by now and pathetically wanting to cry) when finally a taxi who was earning an honest living agreed to take me back on the meter. I have learnt that a taxi on the meter kicks the butt of a tuk tuk.

The area round Khao San Road transforms at about 6pm, you can hardly walk without dodging people, drunkards, touts, food stalls and a mass of tuk tuk drivers (rip off merchants on KSR). It is absolute chaos! It’s a must visit if you go to Bangkok, plus it’s good for bargain shopping. There are plentiful massage places, with their beds on the street side. I had a few foot massages and it was amazing and such a bargain! I recommend it, plus it's the same price as a couple of drinks, so easily justifiable. You can't avoid noticing that there is a McDonalds, Burger King and a KFC; fast food world domination continues. I'm content that I saw enough of Bangkok not to have to go again, unless it's in transit of course. It is like marmite and I don't like marmite- I did try it once and made my own mind up, so I'm allowed not to like it.

I'm back to travelling alone again now and after the hustle and bustle of Bangkok I have decided to head back South to celebrate my birthday nicely, Koh Samui here I come.

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