Gosh, I can’t believe we’ve been back over 2 months and I’m only just publishing the last instalment of our Thailand Diaries! It was such a long and amazing trip packed full of adventure it has taken me many, many posts to get it all down! So let’s pick up where I left off and wrap up this journey..
So after spending a week and a half exploring the bustling cities of the north and sweating and swatting mozzies in the jungle we wanted a bit of horizontal beach time. Luckily, if you are looking for white sand, blue sea paradise, Thailand has a lot to choose from! We decided to stick to the west side this time, mainly because the East tends to have a lot of monsoons at that time of year and also because I have already been to the East side and fancied trying something different. We visited two beach resorts in all, staying four or five days in each; Railay Beach and Ko Lanta. Each was extremely beautiful in it’s own way and each had it’s relative merits and not-so-great things, which I’m going to talk you through now.
Totally cut off from the mainland and only accessible by long tail boat, Railay beach is often hailed as one of the most beautiful and unspoilt beaches in the world. As if the golden sand and glittering ocean wasn’t enough; the beach is flanked by rugged cliffs which make it look like something out of a movie. There are no cars, no ferries and you certainly can’t fly there so actually getting there is a bit of a mission but certainly an experience. Once we arrived in Krabi we took a mini bus to Ao Nang and then took one of the many waiting long tail boats to Railay Beach. As we raced across the sea we couldn’t quite believe how beautiful it was.
First and foremost
I can’t stress this enough, you need to be sensible with your luggage. The long tail boats stop just shy of the shore and you will need to wade in water about up to your knees to get onto the beach. The guys who drove the boats will quite literally chuck your luggage onto the sand. Although it is all part of the experience, I would recommend leaving your Louis Vuitton suitcase set at home.
East vs West
For a small resort there are a lot of places to stay and they are divided between Railay West and Railay East. Although you may imagine that the opposite sides of the peninsula might be a long way apart, in reality it is a 10 minute walk between the two. The main beach is Railay West – so if one of the tip-top luxury hotels there are within your budget then knock yourself out! We decided to stay on the East side however, due to the hotels being more affordable and it having more of a ‘backpacker scene’. In reality, the resorts in Railay East actually have an amazing outlook because they look out onto the unspoilt ocean without any boats or interruptions (as most of the longtails come into the West side), but you need to be aware that there isn’t technically a beach on the East side. To break it down: for luxury resorts, classier restaurants and to be right on the beach – go West, for chilled beach bars, live music and rustic beach huts – East is a winner.
Pros and Cons
The pros are definitely the stunning beach and the lack of vehicles and ferries to spoil it. That’s not to say that the beach isn’t busy though – it seriously is. In fact you’d be hard pushed to find a beach in Thailand which is as yet ‘undiscovered’ by tourism. Other brilliant things about Railay: seeing crazy monkeys up close (don’t take food near them!), amazing rock climbing experiences for all levels and the best mango smoothie I’ve ever had. There are a few cons – the busyness I mentioned earlier: the longtails bring in a lot of day-trippers so the peak time on the beach is BUSY. We also tried a lot of restaurants there and didn’t find the food to be amazing compared to other places in Thailand – particularly in the beach front places.
Do Not Miss!
A snorkelling trip to see the bio-luminescent plankton (as seen in the movie The Beach)! We did a day-to-night boat trip where they took us to islands and snorkelling spots in the afternoon but to be honest we could have taken or left that bit, it wasn’t amazing. The night snorkel with the plankton though is an absolute must! As you move underwater the water around you literally lights up and glitters. Truly incredible.
Other than the slightly disappointment of the food, Railay Beach is a beautiful place to visit and I would thoroughly recommend it.
After the busyness of Railay we headed over water to the nearby island of Ko Lanta for four nights. Lanta has a more family friendly reputation and is considered less of a ‘party’ place. It’s very built up and outside of the beaches it has every local amentity, shop, bar or restauarant you could want. There are a few main beaches, all of them are long, wide and safe for families. It’s also popular to rent a bike to explore the island as the roads are pretty bike friendly compared to the rest of Thailand! People flock to Lanta for relaxing beach holidays, swimming, snorkelling and authentic Thai food.
The Low-Down on the Beaches
For an island, Ko Lanta is actually quite big and it has several large beaches all with their own resrots ranging from luxury to budget. There are even some budget guest houses situated off the beaches on the main road that runs all the way through the island. Although you’re never far from a beach, I wouldn’t recommend staying in these. The main road is hideously busy, dusty and, in places, dirty. There are plenty of super cheap places to stay on the coast so stick with a beach front resort or guesthouse. We stayed in the beachfront bungalow and very budget resort of Rann Chalet in Klong Dao beach. The resort comprised of tiny bungalows which were quite cute and served their purpose but not overly comfortable! We didn’t love our beach either; Klong Dao is one of the main beaches and it’s a bit dirty and rocky which makes it not great for swimming. Also, the choice of restaurants and bars was not that great. We visited the next beach down; Long Beach, and that was by far our favourite. It’s clean, much more beautiful and is lined with trendy beach bars and lovely Thai seafood restaurants. If we went again we would definitely choose Long Beach.
We really wanted to take a trip to Ko Rok island, a tiny island off Lanta famous for it’s crystal waters and amazing coral and snorkelling opportunities. We chose to go with a slightly more ‘luxury’ company (although still not expensive compared to the UK) – Opal Travel. I cannot recommend them highly enough! We had a wonderful day on their lovely boat exploring the island and doing some amazing snorkelling. You can check out a video I made of our snorkelling adventure here.
We loved the vibe in Ko Lanta but we wouldn’t stay in Klong Dao or that particular resort again! For a luxury beach break it would be a beautiful and relaxing place to visit.
I hope you enjoyed my Thailand Diaries or perhaps might find it helpful if you are planning a trip to Thailand! Have you been to either of these places before?