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Published: October 8th 2008
After two glorious weeks on two glorious islands we knew, instinctively, that it would be a while before we sprouted 'land legs' again
. 'Mainland legs', that is. But we had to try and so we chose a destination that, although not an island, could only be reached by boat. Getting to Railay required the skill and patience of seasoned travellers. First, the boat ride from Koh Tarutao back to the Pak Bara pier, then a bus to Krabi, the jump-off for forays to the ever-popular, over-crowded Koh Phi Phi and Phuket. From Krabi we thumbed a 'songthaew' for a 40-minute ride to Ao Nang. Ao Nang was a coastal village with restaurants and bars enough to both feed and drunk all of Thailand. Half-a-million tourists (give or take a few) milled about the streets lined with knock-off Caribbean-colored buildings haggling over souvenir prices or simply getting their 'burn on'. Ao Nang held no appeal for us and so we booked seats on the steady stream of longtails.
The tide had dramatically subsided revealing a huge swath of beach and requiring us to wade thru thigh-deep surf to reach the stranded longtail. The boat pushed off for what would be registered
as our most picturesque 15-minute boat ride ever. Jade-colored water; rugged, towering karst peaks; frothy white sprays as waves met rock. Railay's West Beach came into view - the carmel strand just beyond a minefield of razor-sharp rock in a coral graveyard. Yes, we could see the sea floor. The tide was out, remember? The captain inched up as far as he could go and we got off. We picked our way up and over, around and under precariously-poised rocks, past the ubiquitous beach front bars and wide-eyed tourists and up thru a twisting, dusty pathway that led inland. At irregular intervals along the trail there would be different accomodation complexes for different budgets. We found a decently-priced (very high in comparison to Tarutao) bungalow, unloaded our burdens and set about to find the pulse of Railay.
Imagine, if you can, a green valley overlooking the Straits of Malacca surrounded on three sides by massive, freakish, pointy-peaks of rock. Add rugged, basic, nature-inspired bungalows. Throw in several thousand tourists (say, about 8-10 thousand), mostly European, baking in the sun, on the sand. Now, add a sprinkling of a few dread-locked Thai Rastas and the incomparable lyrics of Brother Bob.
How's the imagery coming along? Good! Now create a few animated groups of people close to the rock face; their eyes all staring up. Follow their line of sight and conjure up a few spider-women and men. Put them in harnesses and have them scramble up and down the rock face. Call this activity 'rock climbing' and, just for good measure, add in, at well over 100 feet above, a lithe, well-muscled man. He should have no rope. Call this 'free-hand climbing'
. Now, for the difficult part: add a heightened 'sense' of fear and anxiety and copious amounts of adrenaline. Got it all? Then, congratulations, you've just experienced Railay.
Apart from being a place of stunning natural beauty, Railay was powered by the passions of rock climbing enthusiasts. The place was, literally, crawling with them. Amateurs, professionals and human-flies alike clawed at miniscule handholds, the tips of their special climbing shoes gripping the tiniest of footholds. The atmosphere was different, though. Clique-ish
. A 'you're-either-with-us-or-invisible'
kind of atmosphere. We were outsiders because we didn't climb. And we didn't climb because demand was greater than supply resulting prices as high as karst peaks. Our adventurous spirit was greater than our pocketbook.
And so, after 2 days, while the climbers kept going up and up, we just went 'away'. 😊
Tot: 2.324s; Tpl: 0.055s; cc: 34; qc: 136; dbt: 0.0829s; 1; m:saturn w:www (220.127.116.11); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.7mb