Krabi and Railay
Krabi is a sleepy seaside town at the mouth of the Krabi River as it enters the Andaman Sea. It is a typical Thai city with mom and pop stores and local restaurants. It has a few touristy areas for the traveler, but it is mostly a jumping off point for island trips. Krabi has a nice river walk and has long-tail boat trips along the river through the mangrove forests. The food in Krabi is really good. We had a great Thai coconut soup, and surprisingly, a yummy Indian Masala dish.
The village of Railay is on the mainland, but as it is surrounded by mountains, you must access it by boat. Railay is a world renown climbing mecca due to its large limestone pillars coming straight from the sea. The limestone’s features are so intricate and extensive that it is the ideal place for climbing. The climbing routes are often right off the beach and have beautiful views from the top of the climbs. We climbed with a local guide, Pon. He’s a very good climber and took us to 2 great climbing crags, 123 and Phra Nang. The climbing here is quite different than we’re used to in Alberta as the holds are very ‘greasy’ due to the humidity, and are very water-worn. Still we had a great day climbing on the beach! Since the grip of your shoe is so important in climbing, Pon, cleaned the sand off our shoes before we climbed! The Phra Nang beach also has two shrines to the Goddess Phra Nang. The shrines have numerous Lingams (penis shaped carvings) as offerings from fishermen for safe returns. It is a funny site with a sign that reads “do not leave any inappropriate objects”.
The next day we rented a kayak and despite a bit of rain we had a blast touring between the rocky islands and to hidden coves and beaches. Railay East Beach has really funny looking Spectacled Langur monkeys.
The town itself is a slow-paced, cool town with no roads and therefore no traffic. Most of the people visiting are tourists, but the hectic pace of most tourist towns has escaped here so far. There are 2 main pedestrian streets linking the beaches which are lined with Thai ‘Rastafarian’ run coffee shops and small pubs. The town feels like you’re in Jamaica with a ‘don’t worry’ attitude. Bon introduced us to a fantastic local coffee shop. The Bob Marley looking barista, hand grinds the coffee beans, and has a 15-minute process to make one of the best coffees you’ll ever have. We love Railay.
Koh Phi Phi Don and Leh
From Railay we took a 1 ½ hour ferry ride to Koh Phi Phi Don. ‘Koh’ means ‘Island’ in Thai. Of the two Phi Phi Islands, Don is the largest and the only one that is inhabited. It has beautiful white-sand beaches, teal green water, small hills and karst rock for climbing. There are no real roads on Phi Phi Don, and other than a very few motorbikes, most of the traffic is pedestrian. Despite this, the town is very busy with tourists, crammed on to 3 or 4 sidewalks which are full of shops selling beachwear, clothing, nick-nacks, tours and many restaurants and bars. One day we rented a kayak and went exploring. We kayaked passed several small rocky islands, in to small coves and to a few remote beaches. It’s such a beautiful area and very peaceful away from the hectic town. One beach we went to is called Monkey Beach and, as you would expect, monkeys come running to your kayak as soon as you get out, hoping we’d left food. We’ve learned a few things in the past months and not leaving unguarded food in the presence of monkeys is one.
Not far from town is a small hike up to a viewpoint. It’s a nice spot where you can see both the Tonsai and Loh Dalum beaches as well as far out to the Andaman Sea. There is a picture posted to show the area immediately before and after the 2004 Tsumani. The wave ripped right through the beaches, destroying almost all of the large palm trees and buildings.
Early the next morning we hired a long-tail boat to go the smaller island of Phi Phi Leh. Approaching the island, you realize why there are no inhabitants, it’s surrounded by a fortress like wall of high, steep rock walls with only a few openings to allow access. One of these openings leads to Maya Beach. It’s a small white-sandy beach inside a small, protected cove with clear, emerald water. It would be very picturesque if it weren’t for the hundreds of other people who went to see it as well. This is where the movie ‘The Beach’ was filmed and so it is on everyone’s ‘must see’ list.
We continued around the island’s fortress wall to go into another couple of pirate-style hideaway coves. They start as small openings between the rocks but open in to these really pretty lagoons protected by seemingly impenetrable walls. The water is warm and inviting so we swam in a couple of the lagoons.
The climbing on Phi Phi is not as extensive as it is in Railay, but it’s also less busy, which we like. We spent the afternoon climbing Tonsai Tower. It’s a beautiful rock face right off Tonsai beach and has great views of the two beaches and town below. The rock here was different from Railay. The hand holds are small pockets in the rock and there are more ledges and bulges to climb over. We did 2 climbs and then part way through the third, it started to rain. In complete Thailand style it didn’t just rain, it poured. We thought our climbing was done for the day, but after 20 minutes it stopped raining, and since the rock is under an overhang, the rock remained quite dry. In the end it was a perfect day for climbing.
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