We’ve decided to move on from Phuket after a pretty short stay,to be honest it wasn’t really what we’d thought it would be and all the development and tacky bars are not what we’re looking for. It takes all kinds, but I guess we’re not that kind.
It wasn’t the location we were staying in, Karon, which is probably the nicer of the beach-side tourist strips has a few nice restaurants along the main street, and the beach, is beautiful, a lovely walk in the afternoon, the touts are not too pushy, and there’s no girly bars, unlike the main center of Patong, which, lets face it, is hideous, miles of tacky strip shopping, greasy cafes,girly bars, dodgy tattoo parlors, touts, criminals and scammers. But as a package, Phuket doesn’t seem to be our scene.
So, after a few days we’ve booked a ride and jumped into another minibus and headed off the island and into mainland Thailand proper, our first stop is Ao Nang, a cute little town along the southern tip of Thailand. The trip is a five hour sprint from Phuket, broken by mystery stops to change mini buses along the way, then another transfer in Krabi town and on to Ao Nang.
It’s a pretty little place, strung along the Nopparat Thara beach, and where there’s a beach you’re sure to find tourists, and that’s certainly the case here, thankfully though, no hi-rise development has taken over the area so far, and it seems a pretty laid back kind of town.
One of the main attractions here is the stunning scenery and beautiful beaches. The main township has a long sandy beach across the front of it, the kind of beach that a game of cricket or a land speed record could be attempted on, and while still beautiful, it’s the less accessible beaches that are one of the big draw cards here. Crazy looking jagged prehistoric cliffs stand guard over these beaches and because of the sheer size of them, in many cases, the only way in and out is by longtail boat.
We choose one, not after extensive research, not by flipping a coin either, but by the tried and true system of leaving it to Lady Luck. The longtail boats will only leave to a beach destination when they have 6 to 8 passengers, you buy a ticket in town at a little booth next to the beach and wait until the right number of people have bought tickets to the same destination and then away you go.
Lady Luck was smiling on us, we’re on our way to Railay Beach, one of the favored spots for those in the know.
On this particular morning the tide was up and the surf running, so we’re not going to be using the traditional method of getting into the longtail, which involves wading out into the surf on the main beach and clambering aboard, no, we’re piled into a Tuk-Tuk and driven to a nearby pier where we have the luxury of stepping delicately into the boat.
The young boy waiting for us to hop aboard seemed very excited about the upcoming trip, jumping around and laughing a lot, sadly our Thai language skills are woeful so we didn’t know what was so funny. Pretty soon we’re under way and heading out of port.
It doesn’t take long to find out what he thought was so funny, as soon as we round the headlands and head up the coast towards the beach, the seas start to throw the old longtail boat around like a cork, tossing us high over the choppy seas and slamming us into the next wave. I groan, and hold my head in my hands, the Russian couple behind us let out various high pitched screams as we slam into successive waves.
I’m beginning to dislike boats right about now, the sea water is above ankle depth in the bottom of the boat and nobody, except the boy up front seems to be enjoying the experience, but before too long we motor down and drift into a quite little bay between two massive limestone cliffs, we’re surprised there are no Pterodactyls soaring away from the top of each spire.
The only other surprise, there doesn’t seem to be a beach!.
Where the picture postcards show a perfect white crescent moon of sand, stretching between the two cliffs we have a washing machine churn of sandy water, slamming against the makeshift breakwater around the seafront cafes.
Global warming, rising sea levels, full moon, bad luck, all of these things go through our minds as we battle along the waterfront, we eventually make our way to the far west of the beach where we claim a small patch of scrub with a cabbage palm hanging overhead, we deposit our things in the tree and stand about waiting for the tide to fall.
Fellow tide waiters pass up and down as we play the waiting game, luckily the water is still as inviting, warm and gentle, just perfect for a long swim while we wait. And before too long, bit by bit the waves slip down the sand until we’re presented with an almost perfect postcard scene.
The high seas have thrown up plenty of stuff along the beach, mostly branches and shells, a nice change from the scenes in Langkawi, we can start now to appreciate why Railay is so well loved.
As the water starts to slip back, a few more boats arrive depositing other beach bums for the afternoon, the sun is out, the waves are gentle, the water nice and warm, could things get better?.
Lunch calls and luckily there’s a few choices spread out along the edge of the beach, how they manage their business is beyond us, there’s no roads in, only the longtail taxi service to bring their supplies and staff, and they do a pretty good job, we have a stir fried tofu with vegetables and sit right on the waters edge watching the passing parade.
Sadly, after what seems to be such a short time, we make our way back along the beach to where the longtails are starting to assemble, there’s no way out of it, we have to wade out into the surf again and face the bumpy ride home.
It’s been a great day for us, the beautiful scenery along the coast has been amazing, a scary but fun longtail boat ride, some monster tides, a drop dead gorgeous beach, some lunch, a bit of sun, a swim, a walk along the sand and now another wade out into the surf to the waiting boats to take us home.
All photos copyright Ross Duncan: firstname.lastname@example.org