In the early morning of day 26, I was partying away at the Full Moon Party and yet, incredibly, I was booked in for the 7am ferry out of Koh Phangan. Those I had revealed this to pitied me. The way their faces recoiled at my revelation suggested it was a foolish task. But I was on a mission. I was on a tight schedule. And I have no idea how I did it, the buckets of Sangsom had wired me up, but I made the ferry.
By the early evening I made my way across the South Peninsular to the Andaman Coast and when I reached my final destination – Railay – I knew the trip was totally worth it. The landscape was spectacular. The huge limestone rock formations (see picture) that rise from the earth are jaw dropping to look at. Every time I look at them I am just puzzled at how nature could possibly shape the landscape in this way. I landed at Tonsai beach by long-tail boat (it’s the only way you can get there) and instantly loved the place. As it is so difficult to access, there are not huge crowds yet the beach has a great, lively scene to it. Fronting Tonsai beach is nothing more than a row of about 8-10 bars and restaurants. Electricity and water is sparse so lighting is provided by nothing much more than a light glow, usually candles. But the music still blares out, providing the beach with a vibrant atmosphere. The combination of all these factors – the landscape, the music, the drinking, the soft glow – somehow matched my vision of how pirates used to hang out. It’s just the feeling I got about the place – I felt like I was in another world. Instantly Railay was up there with Siem Reap as a highlight of my travels so far.
When I woke up in the morning I had a tingling wave of excitement as I walked down to the beach to check out the view. The place is that amazing. First thing, I walked over to Railay West beach. It is definitely the nicest beach in the area but also the most crowded. This day was the hottest I had experienced in Thailand so far and a couple hours lying in this heat was more than my body could take.
For the afternoon I had booked myself in for a half day rock climbing course. Railay is known to be a bit of a rock climbers mecca. Many are here for weeks, even months. I say it was a course but they pretty much threw on the gear, showed me how to tie the knot and then made me climb. First two climbs: no problem. The third climb: I struggled a bit and, admittedly, it knocked my confidence a little bit. Halfway up the fourth climb I was ready to quit.
My confidence was wavering, I had no energy left in me and I had no idea how to ascend any further. My instructor was shouting things but my tired brain didn’t want to hear them. But then something happened. The guy climbing the wall next to me let out a huge roar as he struggled up an infinitely more difficult wall than I was climbing. But his roar jolted my body back into life. Somehow I found the energy and focus to keep climbing. And I did. But then I was stuck again.
This time there was no way to keep climbing the wall. The instructor bellowed that the only way to climb the final part of the wall was to utilise the stalactite overhanging behind me. She told me to reach my right leg out to it. But then she was a little crazy. Despite the safety the ropes afforded me I was still not fully confident in it’s ability to hold me (especially as the thing keeping the rope in place was a knot I had tied). And regardless, there was no way my foot would reach it AND give me enough grip to keep me in place in a position most people know as “the splits”. But In the end I went for it. And I did it. Then I managed to pull my left leg across as well. And there I was: wedged between a wall and a stalactite, my back on the wall and my feet stretched on the stalactite. I then eased my way up in a ‘shimmy’ motion and as the gap decreased, the climb became easier before I made it to the top. But that was pretty much all the climbing I could take and I was almost relieved it was over. This was not the sport for me!
I spent another evening in Railay although the Sunday night was noticeably quieter than the previous one. Oh and I should point out that the food on Railay is very good and very cheap… and you can get banana cake! That was my last night in Railay as tomorrow I was heading to Koh Phi Phi. But for anyone who wants to experience beautiful beaches set to a stunning landscape then head to this place (I’d definitely recommend it versus the islands on the other side of the peninsular). There is loads to do with tours, dives and snorkelling trips available in addition to the climbing and the beach activities.