We've decided to head to Railay Beach, another suggestion, this time by one of the guys from our Russian tour (thanks Shaffi!). It's actually a mainland beach, rather than one of the ubiquitous islands, but is cut off from the major settlements by heavily forested limestone cliffs. This means I have to travel via minibus to Krabi and then onto Railay Village before walking out, through three foot of water, to an awaiting long tail boat that drops us directly on the beach. The boat is packed, so I nab a place right on the front, I think it's called a prow, and lay comfortably looking at the scenery bob by.
Railay is actually quite an upmarket affair, certainly betraying our backpackers agenda (not to mention budget), and the two crescent shaped bays - cunningly named East Railay and West Railay - have very different characters. Our side, West Railay, has the nicer beach but is more family oriented. East Railay has bars and clubs, but it's 'beach' is actually a mangrove swamp which is used primarily as a dock for more long tails. The hotel itself is nice enough, basically a row of leafy little bungalows, but for some reason I let Kate convince me that, in the name of economy, we should forgoe an air-conditioned room. I appreciate that this sounds like first-world tourist whinging, but the humidity here was off the charts, leaving me to sweat like a pig in my single bed as Kate happily snored away in hers.
That aside, it is an idyllic place, much moreso than many of the beaches we've seen. Towering karsts of limestone seal a brief slash of golden sands, and crystalline waters extend off into the horizon. It's especially pretty in the evening, as the shorefront is lined with candle lit tables, couples strolling the beach and people sat on mats, cocktails in hand, watching the sun set.
Sunbathing and swimming are the main orders of the day here, but we do find time for a few activities. Perhaps the most extraordinary was our trip to the top of the southerly karst, that bookends the bay and separates the two beaches, before we dropped own into a saltwater lagoon. The lagoon, created by a massive sinkhole and channels cut through the limestone by the sea, is pretty spectacular, and a swim out into the duck-egg waters was a little un-nerving, especially because something brushed by my leg as I neared the middle of the pool.
But more exhilarating for me was the approach and retreat from the lagoon, which involved four terrifying climbs, most using only mud-slicked ropes that looked to be fraying alarmingly as they passed over the edges of the cliffs. It was great fun all the same, and reaffirmed my childhood dreams of one day filling the dusty hat of a certain Dr. Jones.
We also hired kayaks, which are amazingly hard work, and piloted them through caves and rocky outcrops towards some karsts that stand out in the middle of the sea. The Man With The Golden Gun was filmed near here, so that should put a mental picture in your head. We also did some snorkelling at a beautiful beach hidden away at the south of the peninsula. Whist we managed to catch sight of some little fishies, none were particularly beautiful, but the beach more than made up for it.
Our only other excursion was to Ton Sai beach, that inhabits the northern edge of Railay bay, as the Rough Guide suggested it would be a good place to eat and that it's relatively accessible, on foot, from Railay West. The Rough Guide failed to mention, however, that Ton Sai is actually accessed via a perilously steep mountain pass, littered with tripping vines and bamboo snares, so as Kate and I made our way there - in 'evening dining' dress and failing light - we cursed the authors for lack of warning. We did manage to meet another young English tourist on the way there, an investor banker no less, who'd decided to take a year off after a successful run on the stock markets. Oh for a job in the City (eh Peter?).
The only other thing to do was to watch the neighbourhood monkeys, cute little grey and white faced critters, jump noisily over the tin roofs of the bungalows. Cute to us maybe, but as we watched the gang take up residence in a tree near the restaurant, I'm not sure how well they received they were by the staff.
Anyhoo, that's about all from Thailand. It's been a relaxing few weeks, but I'm eager to see something other than a beach so we're off to Kuala Lumpur soon, via coach. I'm sure that'll be an experience.