So after a chill morning spent hanging out in a coffee shop in Ao Nang, we hopped onto a long-tail boat bound for Railey. A twenty-minute ride brought us to a quiet, beautiful beach. We waded ashore through the gentle waves, holding
our bags aloft. A little bit of walking found us in the very tourist-oriented town of East Railey Beach. After some searching, we managed to find a guesthouse that only cost 200 baht per night (about $7). True, it was just single small room with paper-thin walls and a shared bathroom (and occasional cockroach), but we didn't really expect much more than that at those prices. We spent the rest of the day wandering around the town and the nearby tidal flats, pausing to admire the incredible limestone cliffs that jut out of the ground all over the place. The cliffs aren't just nice to look at; besides being beautiful, they are home to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of rock-climbing routes, and in fact Railey beach is a world-renowned climbing destination. Just a few minutes walk from town, we encountered dozens of climbers clustered around a popular crag, climbing, belaying, encouraging, watching, drinking beer. Though McNeill and I were impressed by the location, we were less than impressed by the safety consciousness we observed among the climbers. Lack of attention, sloppy belaying, longer-than-necessary lead falls…and some of this behavior was being exhibited by the local professional climbing guides!
The next day, we noticed a hotel right next door to our current one that featured much nicer rooms—practically private bungalows—with included bathrooms, hot water, cable TV, and a swimming pool with an incredible view from the swimming deck over the whole of East Railey beach. It was only twice the price of our current hotel (i.e., $14) so after some consideration we happily decided to switch. We never regretted our decision.
We spent the next few days just enjoying the Railey vibe and exploring the gorgeous landscape. When it rained, we parked ourselves under a thatched roof at an open-air teahouse and read books for hours. When it was sunny, we ventured along a treacherous trail that led to an amazing secluded lagoon: a pool of blue water surrounded by sheer cliffs hundreds of feet high.
On Tuesday, August 25 (McNeill’s birthday! 26 years old! Woo-hoo!!!) we spent most of the day at Phang-Na beach, which features not only excellent swimming and a perfect cliff-jumping spot, but also an overhanging rock face right on the beach, perfect for bouldering or sport climbing. I availed myself of all three activities. I should also mention that there was fresh mango available for sale on the beach, and a troupe of monkeys clambering about in the trees overhead. It was pretty cool.
On Wednesday, we bit the climbing bullet and rented a full set of climbing gear ($25 for a half-day) from one of the many climbing companies based at Railey. By 9:00 am, we were stationed at the Diamond Cave (along with several other groups of climbers). I took the sharp end of the rope and sport-led a nice juggy 5.7 (neither McNeill nor I have really climbed, much less lead-climbed, in over a year and a half, so we took it nice and easy). There were plenty of good bolts and anchors all along the wall, so the climbing was pretty straightforward. We both struggled a bit leading a nearby 5.8 and had to give it several attempts, but Kevin eventually got it. Tired already, we cruised up another 5.7 and called it a day (our gear was due back at the shop at 1:00, and besides, we were pretty exhausted). We chilled out for the rest of the afternoon, and said our goodbyes to Railey. The next day we jumped on a ferry to Koh Phi Phi.
After departing Khao Sok, we went to the town of Ao Nang and spent one night there. Ao Nang is built right on the ocean and has a charming beachfront strip of shops and restaurants. McNeill and I wandered the strip for a while, enjoying the ocean views and the excellent people-watching and took our first dips in the Indian Ocean. The next day, we headed to Railey Beach, a beautiful but remote tourist hot spot. There are no roads to Railey; the only way to get there is by boat.