After the debauchery that is Koh Phi Phi we headed to calmer waters.
Railay Beach is our favorite beach in Thailand.
Its not an island as its connected to the main land-mass of Thailand but its a peninsula which is locked by enormous and lush rock formations, unaccessible by car. So you have to arrive by sea.
From Koh Phi Phi you head straight north on a two hour ferry to the Krabi port. Then its a 1 hour van to another dock where you grab a 20 minute long-tail boat to Railay Beach. Lots of moving pieces. The ferry portion alone can instill stress in Type A personalities such as Chris when you have a few hundred people on a boat with all their luggage in piles who are all looking to disembark at the same time. Chris to Peter, “so…how do you think we should tackle this situation?”
The hours of travel were ultimately well worth it when we arrived to the idyllic shores of Railay Beach. It is witness to some of the most dramatic scenery with bright blue-green colored waters surrounded by emergent limestone cliffs.
Our boat docked on the east side of the island and our hotel, Railay Bay Beach Resort, was located on the west which was a slight physical challenge. I really need to downsize my luggage. Ever the gentleman, Peter always carries or pushes my bag for me but this time he gave me his smaller bag while he managed my closet of a suitcase across the beach. Thankfully, the small size of the peninsula allows one to get from either side in a matter of minutes proving the walk to be fairly brisk.
We got checked into our hotel that boasts this beach front view at check in.
“Sigh”, it will do.
We were losing daylight and wanted to show Chris and Jen Phra Nang Beach before sunset. Phra Nang beach is one of the most picturesque places I have ever had the privilege to witness. Its jaw-dropping. It’s a cove of sparkling white sand beach surrounded by towering cliffs covered in lush vibrant green foliage with tropical warm water as far as the eye can see. Colorful long tail boats sprinkle the beach side adding to the iconic views. It’s the definition of paradise.
The cove also holds an interesting cave which is dedicated to a fertility goddess. Inside the cave is where fisherman give offerings in the form of phallic objects to increase fertility and prosperity in their lives. There are so many ranges of options these days to help one remain fertile: IVF, in-vitro, exercise, non-smoking and fertility caves.
We took a gander inside.
After the cave tour we took the opportunity to take a few deep breaths and soak it all in. After a few minutes of toes in the sand and eyes gazing off the horizon I was inspired to capture the moment in sand with a message: ”Family Trip 2015″
Just before daylight was lost we walked the short distance back to our hotel where we caught the last little bit of sunset splendor.
For dinner we walked over to a restaurant which was top-rated on Trip Advisor, Wan-A-Rouy. They specialized in Thai food. Jen and I had been eyeing pineapple fried rice on many previous menus and the time had come to order and indulge. The presentation was spot on and the rice was devoured…quickly. At one point, the waiter who appeared to be drunk, took a liking to Chris and Peter and invited them to the bar for a shot of their version of moonshine.
After an enjoyable dinner we walked over to Last Bar, which is located on the east side of the island and hosts a fire show every night. It was at Last Bar on a previous trip that I fell in love with the art of fire dancing. I am terribly easy to please when it comes to any form of performance and fire dancing with electronic dance music is no exception. On that trip the head fire dancer and music spinner, Dj Ting, actually pulled me into the show one fateful evening. In the back of my mind I was hoping I could talk to him and get him to bring Jen out because of course he would remember me from three years ago.
We grabbed some seats and waited for the show. I named dropped to the waiter:
“When is Dj Ting going to start the fire show?”
“He’s off tonight because he’s getting married tomorrow,” the waiter answered
DJ Ting had to get married the weekend we were in town and thus the fire-show was sub-par at best without their fearless leader. Peter had been listening to me go on-and-on about the awesome fire-show at Last Bar for years. Chris and Jen couldn’t really figure out why I made such a fuss about this particular fire show either.
Nevertheless, we made the best of the show, grabbing front row seats, while sipping on Beer Singha’s. At one point, the fire dancers called out for volunteers to join the show. I strongly urged Jen by pushing her arm in the direction of the fire thrower while simultaneously yelling “you GOTTA do it!” and “it will be so much FUN!” It was at this point that I realized that Jen is impervious to my bad influence ideas. I may not like it, but I do respect it.
The next day was big for us. It was our last day of island life so we wanted to take full advantage of the island’s offerings.
We grabbed a quick breakfast and coconuts and then headed off to the trailhead of Railay’s lookout point and lagoon.
The hike started off with a bang with a steep rocky cliff. You can see that Peter, even with his long legs, had to stretch out to climb which meant that I was nearly in splits on the way up. In retrospect, its good that the hike starts off aggressive as it keeps the crowds on the trail to a minimum. Peter was the only one who had hiked this trail on a previous trip so he did a good job reassuring Jen that the worst was always behind us (when it never really was).
Once you climb to the top of the mountain the viewpoint is just a short walk away. You quickly forget the near perpendicular rock facade you just climbed up when you are spoiled with a viewpoint looking like this:
We snapped a few photos of ourselves with the view. Jen is not pictured because of her fear of heights. This was just another day that I was thoroughly impressed with Jen facing her fears. This hike started with a steep climb and it didn’t get any easier, and yet she continued on and faced her fear head on without much hesitation. It was inspiring to watch.
At the top of the mountain there is a trail that leads you down to a lagoon. Its a steep climb down where you literally need to grab the roots of trees and crab-crawl down the rocky hill. About half-way down towards the lagoon we came across one of the largest and most unique looking trees we had seen in Asia. So naturally I did a “tree pose” next to it, a flawless natural wonder.
Shortly after the tree the hard parts started.
There were three rock walls that needed to be conquered before entering the lagoon. Unlike the other challenging parts of the hike thus far, this required actual climbing down vertical drops to get through. Three of them. We contemplated for roughly 30 minutes whether we were going to hike down or not. In that time a young couple looked down, opted against the hike and headed back. A group of young backpackers didn’t even hesitate and hiked down. And finally a group of three Americans were coming up from the lagoon. The girl in the group had sprained her ankle on the third rock wall.
We decided that we would try the first rock wall and then analyze the situation from there. We were told that each rock wall was progressively harder.
Chris went down the first rock wall with the help of a fellow hiker. From there he was able to guide us down the first rock wall with commands such as “right foot 6 inches to the left” and “please don’t fall.” Peter and I opted to go barefoot for better grip.
We all made it down the first wall. There was some contemplation on the second wall, but it wasn’t long before Chris just started hiking down the second wall to “check it out.” Before long we all completed the second wall.
And the third wall, while labeled as the hardest, was certainly going to be tackled as we had already come so far.
We all arrived at the bottom of the cliff at the entrance of the lagoon and felt great and accomplished. Team work, physical activity, and victory. Such a fantastic natural rush and adrenaline. The lagoon was entirely encapsulated and was stunning.
What goes down must come up. And so was the case with the lagoon. So after we high-fived, cooled down, took some pictures and discovered a snake in the lagoon water we started the climb back up the three rock walls.
The way back in some ways was just as challenging. We knew what to expect but going against gravity always requires a bit more endurance, strength and risk. Peter went up first this time and took some fun photos of the rest of the crew climbing up.
In what felt like no-time, we all safely made it up the three rock walls and headed back to the main trail to hike back down again to civilization.
As we neared the end of the trail, however, we were joined by some furry friends that were blocking the trail. This is how Peter felt about that.
I have previously posted about Peter’s disdain for monkeys and the fear he has instilled in me so anxiety started to ensue as they surrounded us. There was no escaping. What did they want? These monkeys were all making a rockus, jumping from branch-to-branch and acting aggressive and territorial. There must have been 12 of them.
Peter figured they’d just get out of the way if he started hiking through them which wasn’t really the case. Look how close this one got as Peter sneaked by a shrieking monkey!
Eventually we each made it past the monkey obstacle and found our way back to solid ground.
As a reward and way to refresh we sauntered (because you saunter when you feel good about yourself) over to the paradise area of the island, Phra Nang Beach, and dove into the sea. Jen was in hysterics of happiness and joy from conquering her fear. She was glowing with such tremendous positive adrenaline that you couldn’t help but have her spirit spill over and influence you. I have no other word to describe it other than, awesome. She had one of the best natural highs. I can still make myself smile when I think about it.
Were we done for the day? Not a chance.
Up next we rented kayaks and took them out to sea and got up close to the bewildering limestone cliffs. There were also small cave inlets that you can paddle through which was somewhat precarious to navigate with the waves rolling in and altering the water elevation and current. Peter guided as perfectly.
Look at these two – soaking up that island life. Jen is still high from her lagoon hike domination.
We continued our kayak ride exploring the beautiful bay off Railay beach, breathing in the fresh air, and feeling grateful for a trip of a lifetime together.
As the day started to fade we grabbed a spot on the sea and linked kayaks while we watched the sunset from the front row. We cracked open sundowners that we had packed in our kayaks and toasted in gratitude to a time well spent.
I have seen many sunsets and this one was certainly at the top of the list. Hard to beat the surroundings and company.
For our last island meal we tried Kohinoor, a top Indian restaurant. Still high on life we enjoyed delicious food, conversations, and laughter. Chris and Jen mentioned that they wished they had just a couple more days on Railay Beach. Peter and I took this as a good sign of a well planned and executed trip.
That evening we got ourselves into a fiercely competitive game of family charades before calling it a night.
We had one last day and night together which put us back to where it al began – in Bangkok. Full circle.
Of course we had another travel day from Railay Beach to Bangkok which involved a long-tail boat, a van, a motor scooter, airplane and taxi. Below is one of the many modes of transportation we took for the day.
Peter had been singing a song of pay backs for their last night in Bangkok. The night that we had convinced Chris and Jen to come to Bangkok we had had a late night in Alaska with an early morning flight. Chris did a fantastic job peer-pressuring the late night which resulted in a brutal travel day from Alaska to California the next morning. So Peter eyed their last night in Bangkok for a little redemption as they had an early flight the next morning.
We started off the night with one last Thai meal at a popular restaurant called Issan Northeast.
After dinner the anticipated discussions of going back to the hotel, packing and calling it an early night started to be voiced by Chris and Jen. There was some back and forth but finally we relented and found ourselves back at our hotel playing board games and having a couple drinks.
Peter wasn’t going to give up so easily.
He would mention to Chris, “Hey man, its your last night in Bangkok. You really need to go for it.” Jen and I would simultaneously roll our eyes by Peter’s encouragement. When that didn’t work Peter tried the angle of rarity on Chris: “Hey man, when will you be back in Bangkok? Probably not for a long time. You can sleep on the entire plane ride home.” That seemed to strike a chord because the next thing I know Chris exclaimed, “you’re right, lets go,” and we were in a taxi heading to the party street RCA at midnight.
We went to Onyx on RCA and found ourselves a table outside and took in the surrounding shenanigans. Peter ordered a bottle of liquor and mixers for the table. I don’t remember much because I was half-awake, but Peter was on a mission.
By the grace of the Thai government they had decreed an early curfew at that time. Typically, clubs close on RCA around 3am, but the government had ordered all bars closed at 1am. It could have gotten ugly with Peter leading the pay back train.
Back at the hotel we gave each other big bear hugs and many thanks for two perfect weeks of travel together.
In the morning I looked at my phone and Chris had sent me a text, “Until next time…”
We are already in discussions for our next adventure together.
It’s shared trips like this with the most important people in my life that create memories that will last forever, secrets that will be kept sealed, and love between a family that continuously grows. Often times we were asked by other travelers how we all knew each other. When they found out that we were family and Chris and I were brother and sister we would get so much positive feedback and we were told how lucky we are. That notion is not lost on me.
Thank you to my wonderful brother and sister in law. I am so so grateful to you both and appreciative of the time you took away from work and the kids, the vacation days you burned and the long flight across the globe to join us in Thailand. As always, much love.