Mark's Railay Trip Report - August 2013
Our transfer from Ao Nang to Krabi was hassle free - no waiting for the longtail (80 bt p/p one way), smooth, dry ride, great photos along the way, and fullish tide on arrival showcasing the beach at West Railay at its bright and clean best. Bingo, this is the sort of place I like.
Corner of West Railay in front of Railay Village Resort's pool - longtails are kept to a buoyed enclosure to right of frame. Further past here is a big no-boat swimming area.
I knew we were staying "on the other side", and was prepared for a bit of a walk with the luggage, but these days I'm fit and like a bit of exercise to burn off all the beer and buffet breakfasts. However, by the time we were shown our room at Diamond Private Resort maybe 20 minutes of hard, hot slog later, my upbeat mood was gone. And judging from the pissed off faces on guests newly arrived at reception during our stay, I would say this is a common feeling.
Trek through the mangroves - this section is ankle deep at high tide.
So, after the long walk dragging the bags on concrete paths (not bad), then lumping them along the sodden sand in the mangroves (disgusting), after which a staff member intercepted us at the sister property Diamond Cave Resort and took my bag for the last leg (thank God), a cool drink would have been just the thing as a reward for successfully climbing the 80 breakneck steps to check-in. If only.
Killer stairs not so great for the less-fit. That is reception at top. The pool deck sun-deck is on top of this. More steps to most rooms.
Up more steps to our booked room, not a cheapie either (1600 bt/night with breakfast), and I took one look and sat on the only chair on the dirty balcony while Beach Blogger went to talk upgrade.
This room, booked as a Mountain View aircon Bungalow was cramped, dank, dark and bearing no resemblance to any rooms featured on the website. They at least cleaned the balcony of junk by the time we took this shot.
Note we checked other rooms of this type. Up the other end of this block was another similar room. The rooms above seemed much more outward looking. There were other bungalows further up track that similarly did not look like converted former store-rooms. Our advice - be careful booking the cheaper aircon offerings at Diamond Private.
For an extra 800 bt over 3 nights, we were moved up, in all senses of the word, (83 steps further from reception) to a great room, a Private Mountain View bungalow - spacious, carpeted, panoramic views.
Our upgraded bungalow (centre) shot from pool level. Limited sea views and a great outlook over the high valley behind East Railay and of towering karst cliffs.
After that inauspicious start, our stay on Railay was great. Even the return trip to the longtail with luggage was a breeze, the very helpful manager had one of his boys put our gear on a cart and we had to power walk to keep up with this kid on the return leg.
The upgraded accommodation. Big balcony, views, fridge, aircon, TV with lots of channels, bathroom, basic toiletries, 2 decent sized bottles of water, fresh towels and linen daily. Good pool above reception with fantastic view, breakfast (rather ordinary) served at the sister property, Diamond Cave, a few minutes down the waterfront. The only negative was the very dangerous steps, both up from the street and up to the room, slippery paths and tiles. We had rain which caused some close calls, despite taking all care.
Nice pool area has sundeck with pretty good bay views. East Railay looks okay even at lower tides from on high because of the surrounding karst cliffs.
The location of our resort was not a problem once you got there. Right at the entrance were some very good value restaurants, and back along the path to the beaches were several 7 eleven type stores, internet places, travel operators, climbing specialists and more bars and restaurants. You could swim at Phra Nang beach, passing the rock climbers and walking under the dripping limestone, closely watched by groups of monkeys sitting on the fence. This beach is paradise, unfortunately the whole world seems to know about it and finding a square of shade on the strip of sand means sitting almost on top of others.
This is the less busy part of Phra Nang hidden from the entrance path by the reverse curve in the beach. The first section nearer the cliffs has a big swimming enclosure, some trees for shade and was really crowded even in late November which is not really high season let alone peak.
Or you could cut back to West Railay and swim there - not a bad walk without heavy bags. Plenty more space, no need to cramp anyone's style. Beach Blogger even continued over to Ton Sai, but the tide was up preventing a wade across, and I didn't fancy the jungle walk over the top in poor footwear.
The longtail enclosure on West Railay. On the far side is at least 300m for boat-free swimming - on the camera side around 150m of the same.
We had a few options for our departure from Railay and return to Phuket, but chose the ferry. This avoided the return to Krabi bus station by longtail and songthaew and hours on the bus. With a 1530 departure it allowed us to spend the best part of the day on Railay. With free minibus transfers from the Phuket pier to all hotels and even the airport, the fare of 600 bt each for a safe, comfortable trip was worth it.
Note that unlike longtails from Ao Nang which arrive at West Railay, the longtails from Krabi arrive at East Railay. This is a longer trip and may be unpleasant in poor weather, but it does get you much closer to accommodation on the east side. Some lucky guests were carried across the mudflats in a tractor pulled wagon, very handy at low tide.
BeachBlogger's Trip Report to Ao Muang/Tubkaak - late November 2010
This area may not be the best budget location, but there are some fine midrange and better places - this is one of the pool areas of the Sheraton on Klong Muang South.
This is the region you could call Krabi's south-western or western beaches. It is south west of Krabi town (starting 23km by road) and west to north west of Ao Nang/Railay (13km). If you look at the map on the main Krabi page you will get a good idea of location within the district. The modified Google image below shows the layout of the beaches.
The Klong Muang-Tubkaak strip. Main access-exit road is at right of image - turn right half way up for Ao Nang - right further up near the K in MAK for Krabi town and the airport. There are 2 main village areas in the beach strip - Ban Kwang is around the place-marker for Ko Kwang Resort - Ban Klong Muang is above the KLONG for Klong Muang South. Details may be clearer if you click to expand.
NOT SO HOT FOR BUDGET TRAVELLERS - Although it is a fine midrange or better area, I don't consider it all that great for budget travellers. Access and getting around is expensive (few songthaews to Krabi town, none to Railay - taxis 400 or more to each) - there is not a lot of budget accommodation and none right on the beach - and the beaches themselves tend to suffer the low tide blues.
BUT NOT BAD AT ALL FOR MIDRANGE UP - For midrange or better the situation is different. The hotels are better than West Railay's. Most of the hotels are right on the beaches which aint the case for most Ao Nang/Noppharet Thara hotels. Although the beaches are not as good as West Railay/Phra Nang or Ao Phai Plong they are as good or better than other Krabi area beaches.
If I had the money I'd pick Centara Grand on Ao Phai Plong or Rayavadee on Phra Nang - but the only way you can get your luggage into those is by boat which turns off some visitors.
Starting in the south is what I consider the area's nicest beach - I call it Klong Muang South. This is shot near full tide - at low tide a lot of sand is exposed but no mud or rocks - and the water is still okay for swimming by wading out a bit further. One hotel, the very expansive and nice Sheraton, is located behind the casuarina trees. Although an access road arrives mid bay the main road is a good 10 minutes walk behind the beach. It took us about 15 minutes to walk down here from our relatively budget Ko Kwang Resort.
I have different shots of all these beaches starting about 20% down the main Krabi page.
A very pleasant surprise on Klong Muang south is Ruean Siam restaurant. Prices here were very reasonable - only 20% more than bottom budget restaurants, with pretty good food to boot. Must blow the nearby Sheraton guests away who pay more western prices there. Structure to right is associated massage place -similarly cut rate.
Immediately north of Klong Muang South is a small bay I'm going to call Ko Kwang Bay because the small islet of Ko Kwang is immediately offshore - and landlocked at low tide. This is shot not too far off high tide. At full tide there is no sand at all, but I easily waded across to Klong Muang South - I don't think the water got beyond knee deep. There is virtually no water at low tide.
The bay has a couple of real nice flash resorts and although it doesn't look much at low tide I reckon I would not eliminate these joints because nice Klong Muang South is 3 minutes walk away, there are pretty nice offshore views from these absolutely seafront resorts, and out front is the main road with a selection of restaurants, shops and other services.
This is what I call Klong Muang North - immediately north of the previous shot. I just realised this pic is nearly identical to the one on the main Krabi page, except it was taken on Lady Tezza's camera - but with my slow net connection it is extremely time-consuming to upload pix (I gotta actually email them to myself to cut down the pixels - this is the great thing about any Trip Reports you guys send: the pix upload without timing-out) so this is all you are gonna get.
Although it looks nice enough in this shot it is nowhere near as attractve as Klong Muang South for reasons I point out on the main Krabi page (20% down).
Okay, I had to email some more shots later for another page, so I did a couple more for here. This is taken from exactly the same spot/time as the previous pic - looking the other way. That's Ko Kwang islet to the right. I'm kinda annoyed I didn't get any low tide pix of this beach - is more than a bit daggy (Google "dag Australia").
This is the southern end of Tubkaak Beach (aka Tubkaek - Tupkaek etc) - the northern most of this coastal strip. You can see it suffers the low tide blues.
However some of the Krabi area's finest hotels are on this beach. Plus they have very nice views of the offshore karst stack islands of East Phang Nga Bay (a bit to the right of this shot) fabulous sunsets and to get your nice-beach fix when you tire of hanging by the pool with the highball glass you'd simply pile into the speedboat for Phang Nga - or Ko Hong and neighbours just offshore. There is no township up here - I think there was one independent beach restaurant when I called in but it was threatenig to t-storm on me for the second time that day, so I took a few pix and split.
KO KWANG RESORT
Ko Kwang resort is in the village of Ban Kwang which starts just before the road from Krabi town hits the coast and continues around that corner in background in the direction of camera another 300 odd meters in back of the beach.
This is a typical small Thai coastal village - a few restaurants, general stores, travel agents, an internet place, a couple of small accommodation places, bike repair etc.
The entrance to Ko Kwang Resort is pretty modest. Reception is behind the travel agency. Flash buildings at left are demo-condos of huge new development next door.
From reception/restaurant the driveway goes up a gentle slope in nicely landscaped grounds with neat little bungalows.
One of KKR's neat little garden bungalows.
However, despite both Agoda's and KKR's own websites inferring the cheaper aircon and fan rooms were in separate bungalows we found our abode was in this 60's motel-like block at the top of the garden.
A couple of other points were a bit misleading. You get the impression from the websites this place is seafront. In fact it is on the inland side of the main road and there are buildings etc on the other side fronting the sea. There are a couple of vacant blocks you can walk thru to the beach, but I'm not sure what the scene will be if they are built on in the future.
The Agoda website also indicated each room had a hot water jug - not the cheaper ones at least. This is mass drama for Lady Tezza who aint worth 20c before she gets here wake-up cuppa. No worries - I wandered down to the kitchen where they smilingly filled a couple of cups each morning.
Nevertheless we ended up quite satisfied with our aircon room and stay at KKR.
The room was easily big enough for 2 and their gear. Clean. Comfy bed. TV, aircon, fan, refig. Spacious bathroom with okay hot water. Quiet this far from the road and despite the place being pretty full (a Thai film crew was staying and the joint seems popular with other middle-class Thais) noise transmission was not bad. Overall the room and resort were quite reasonable for $us27 including breakfast for 2.
That brekky was a pretty ordinary American or Thai offering - which along with the cramped appearance of the restaurant area had us eating dinner out the first 2 nights. Big mistake - rain forced us to eat at KKR the last night and the food and pricing were very good, better than our two outside joints - a locals' joint about 3 doors up and a Thai-German place closer the corner in the road.
The English host and his Thai family gave good service although when the boss and his wife were elsewhere the understanding of English was a bit chaotic in the restaurant. The boss/wife made a point of checking all orders at dinner. The boss tended to give very patient and detailed advice to guests re the area's attractions.
All the krabi district attractions can be done out of this area - the 5 islands trips, Phi Phi daytrip, Ko Hong trip, kayaking, Tiger Temple and hot springs yada. A couple of girls from my home town (unusual - my home town has only 5000 people) were even talking with the host about a Similans Islands diving excursion. That'a a looong way to go. The good thing about all these organised activities is that complementary shuttle vans pick you up, so the area's relatively expensive transport does not figure.
Lady Tezza and I hired a motorcycle from KKR and fanged off to check Ao Nang/Ao Phai Plong. Predictably she forgot to remind me where to turn on the way back and we ended up halfway to Phuket - my fault apparently - just because I've been to Krabi a dozen times (her first visit) I'm supposed to know my way around.
Another place I didn't know about suggested by the host was Mount Ngork Mak.
Some of the 270 degree outlook from the 500m high viewpoint top of Khao Ngork Mak. Headland at left separates the southern beaches (Ao Nang-Noppharet Thara-Ton Son to the left) from the south-western beaches. The Thai princess has a massive holiday house high up on that peninsula. Klong Muang South beach is about half way across image - if you click to expand you will see more clearly Ko Kwang islet towards the right. Klong Muang North beach extends out of picture to right.
The viewpoint is in a free-entry National Park area a short distance north of Tubkaak Beach. It's about an 8km return rainforest walk to the summit with only a few short very steep areas.
The previous viewpoint shot was close to due north. This one is more due west. Not particlularly prime viewing conditions post thunderstorm. Next day from Ao Nang the peak and surrounds were in clear clear air.
At the start of the climb are some nice swimming holes. Raining here which it did all the way to the summit, sometimes very hard.
Sessa's Krabi Trip Report - January 2010
Ao Nang early morning.
After 11 hour flight we ended early in bed, but woke up early approximately 04:00. What to do? . Found out that sunrise would soon be around the corner so passed down to the beach.
We ordered trip to Raily, about 10 minutes by boat from Ao Nang. Prices here were exotic in relation to what we were accustomed to.
The next day we climbed to the viewpoint and had an absolutely beautiful view of the east side of Railay.
The climb took just under an hour up and down.It was heavenly beautiful, but low tide when we arriwed around 13:00
Tiger Cave Temple
1237 steps - I thought a that I would die! After 45 minutes I planted my feet on the last stair. What a view and really worth the effort.
This is not far from Walther Spring and the hot springs mentioned below.
This was just gorgeous, but signs warn against swimming here.
Not so the nearby hot springs - the heat source kept it at 46 degrees ... Wow! Delicious. It felt like I got a new skin.
On the way to the lagoon and viewpoint, Railay.
My son Ruben (headji) on the climb to the Tiger Cave Temple (Wat Tham Sua).
Sessa has a blog with more info and pix HERE
tezza's Ton Sai Trip Report - late March 07
I’ve visited Ton Sai several times, but never used it as a base, so this latest trip I decided to grab a bungalow there for several nights.
All you lady voyeurs and other interested parties take note - this is ROCK CLIMBING CENTRAL - hauling up cliffs gives an all-body workout, but particularly so for the upper body, and I’ve never seen so many guys walking around with their shirts off, all the better to show that toned torso. Tezza, who considers himself rather trimmm was overawed and kept his tie-dye hippy singlet well and truly on. Fans of the female form will be maybe disappointed to know the babe climbers don’t go completely topless (well, away from the beach), but nevertheless the girls on Ton Sai are pretty buff and no hardship to spec out.
I’ve often seen posts asking for a hut on the beach at Ton Sai. Bad luck sweethearts, the beachfront only has a handful of restaurants and bars where it aint awesome cliffs. These places are pretty good to hang out, not only for the views of the offshore islands and surrounding cliffs, but because there is always someone doing something kinda crazy on those cliffs, with all the drama and technicalities involved. Good spectator sport.
The bungalow outfits are located up a curved track which starts roughly central beach at the Ton Sai Resort restaurant and shops where most of the long-tail boats come in (if it is dead low tide, they will more likely land at Viking near the northern headland, which has a better low tide “canal” cut through the rocks). This track heads uphill, to loop left and then head back towards the afore mentioned Viking . There are more than a dozen bungalow outfits along this track.
Several small “lanes” head off this curved track - some uphill with a good choice of accommodation.
Others shortcut down to the beach, and some have a few bungalows (update - since the big stalled development mid-beach/valley started a good deal of these places now don't exist).
There is one other major offshoot to the loop track, which takes off uphill to the right about 300m inland from Ton Sai Bungalows, eventually going over the high rainforested saddle and descending to East Railay. The first 500m of this track where it leaves the main loop has bungalow places.
I chose to get a place on this branch track, mostly because last visit I’d noticed a few places were abandoned, possibly because of lack of patronage, and there are a number of nice looking outfits up here. Note the first couple of places are maybe best avoided because the local power generator is here and adds its thump to an adjacent bar which often goes into the early hours. So once out of range of the generator racket, I walked into FOREST RESORT, 079 7253974, which had half a dozen front row flashpacker and about 10 backpacker bungalows second and third row, built up a steep, heavily landscaped slope away from the track.
I picked up a second rower for 400 baht - a nice traditional style thatched wall and roof bungalow with attached bathroom, in real good condition, clean (one of the few this trip to pass my no smokers’ butts/no ring-pulls under the verandah) and good room for two and their gear. The bed was queen sized (double+) with a thin but comfy mattress, fluffy pillows and an excellent mosquito net. Twin lightweight small blankets were supplied as was toilet paper for the bathroom. There were two bins, lots of hooks but no shelves. A broom was provided. The inside light was good for reading, the verandah light less so. Note no electricity from 6am to 5pm and because my bungalow was heavily tree shaded, it was a bit dim inside, particularly in the bathroom. But who spends much time in their bungalow daytime? Well, most people between 6am and 9am when they aint wolfing brekka.
No hammock for the elevated verandah, no soap, but the biggest omission was NO MIRROR anywhere. Jeez, I hate shaving with one of those crummy tiny hand held mirrors I carry in my bathroom-bag.
The paths were well lit at night, as was the excellent garden area - giving the place the appearance from the track of a mid-range resort.
The owner and his wife were helpful and friendly, but note they don’t run a restaurant, although they can do you coffee in the morning.
UPDATE Nov08 - there is a restaurant now, an Indian one for all you Brits who miss the High Street tucker. It can do Thai and travellers’ fare as well, of course.
My Forest Resort bungalow in Nov 08, now 500baht before bargaining. You can get an idea of the slope by the bungalow behind.
There is a restaurant abt 70m down track belonging to Country Resort, but they didn’t seem interested in serving . 200m down track opposite the junction is a rather “in” coffee shop with lots of cool climbers hanging around sipping lattes and reading magazines, but the service here is also abysmal and some prices way too high. Much better is another 30 m up the loop from the junction, where DREAM VALLEY RESORT click has a big restaurant with good food and attractive prices. People who consider themselves pretty good on the fang will love the 120baht all you can eat buffet breakfasts here. Actually Dream Valley looked pretty appealing to me - a big range of bungalows starting at 450 (note all bungalow prices here are late March and could be higher peak season) which looked pretty okay from the outside, a supermarket, a travel desk, internet and 5 minutes max to the beach.
For the budget conscious, the best deal I saw was right at the peak of my side track, approx 150m on from Forest Resort (note this last bit of the climb is the only area anywhere on Ton Sai‘s tracks I‘d consider a bit steep) , where a nice muslim lady said her simple attached-toilet traditional style bungalows were 250 and bigger ones, 300 - UPDATE NOV 08 - now 200 and 400. These were both sides of the track and continued down the track past the peak - there were a fair few here so it might be a good place to check if you arrive peak season and find the places closer to the beach taken.
Some of the bungalows in the cheaper area high on the right branch track at Ao Nang.
From memory there are some more cheap bungalows further down the track, but on last week’s hike I was overtaken at the peak by a girl with the longest legs and shortest shorts which somehow broke my concentration. I was fair exhausted by upper East Railay trying to keep up.
Opposite Forest Resort was another outfit with nice looking huts, but outside toilets, for 250-300.
THE BEACH at Ton Sai aint that special. Looks real nice high tide and is okay for swimming, but at low tide you can see the sand is only about 25m across and then you hit pretty unattractive dead coral rock and mudflats at least 200m across to the sea at month’s lowest tides. No problem, it is a relatively short if sometimes steep climb over the southern beach headland to much more attractive West Railay which is good any tide. Or you can wade around at low tide, or even dry-foot around at the extra low tides near full moon and no moon. Phra Nang, an even nicer beach, is another 10-15 minutes on via East Railay.
Or you spenders can shortcut by longtail.
Okay, here’s a mystery some of you may be able to solve - when I walked the track up from Ton Sai Bungalows last year there was a concrete block in the hotel style going in very close to the beach. I commented on it in my Railay info package below.
This year there was a completely cleared block of land in the same spot. What happened - did someone start building in an area they had no permission to? Hell, the baht usually takes care of that type of problem in Thailand., no-worries baby.
LATEST NEWS - well whatever the problem it was short term. My 2010 cruise up the track saw the first 100m+ including on-off area above lines with rather nice concrete bunglows belonging to Ton Sai Bungalows.
June07 - apparantly a large section of the beachfront properties at Ton Sai has been torn down. The area is now a barbed wire enclosed construction site. Early posts assumed a big resort development, but the Administrator of YOUR KRABI website says it will actually be some sort of retirement complex with 200 apartments! Hell, can you rock-climb on a zimmer frame?
Apparently some of the favourite beachfront/near beachfront places are unaffected - he mentions Tonsai Bay Resort, Countryside and Dream Valley - and naturally places further back from the beach will be safe. But the beach itself looks a mess and the project has a timing of 2 years!
UPDATE - Oct 07 - I just saw a post from the guy who runs the overnight trips from Krabi down to Ko Laoliang - his outfit has/had an outlet on Ton Sai just up the central track from the beach - he said all work on the project has stopped, and no-one was sure if it is going to be retirement apartments, a resort or an extension of Ko Poda University. Okay, I made that last bit up.
UPDATE OF UPDATE (!!!!) - I checked this area on my latest Nov08 visit - there was absolutely nothing happening here - no barbed wire, no new structures, all the old beachfront bars etc in the middle section gone. Tonsai Bay Resort and its great beach bar against the cliffs still going strong.
LATER NEWS!!!!! When i passed by in June and Dec 2010 the promised new structure here still had not started. However several small bars and at least one bungalow place seemed to have re-established themselves along the beachfront. For the time being, maybe.
LATEST NEWS!!! The only change in March 2013 was that some of those re-established beachfront joints had disappeared.
Nice shot from TravelPod showing Ton Sai's primary activity. As said, beach and water pretty nice towards full tide. Short steep climb over headland begins background in darker gap behind far walkers - look for sand on rocks where people have stepped up from beach. Some helper ropes show way from West Railay side.
You can return to the main Krabi page HERE.