Chronicles of Krabi
My husband and I love the beach. It's one of the first few things we discovered we had in common. So when planning where to go on vacation, naturally we both wanted to go to some place with a beach where we can lounge on the sand and enjoy the sea breeze. We finally settled on Krabi, Thailand.
We thought Krabi was an island but it isn't. It is however a coastal area with beautiful beaches. The main town in Krabi is called Ao Nang and it has loads of places to shop, dine and enjoy other activities. As we were reading up more about Krabi, we discovered that there's a place there that's only accessible by boat. Again, this place isn't an island; it's part of mainland Thailand but it's inaccessible by land as it's surrounded by limestone cliffs. So I Googled pictures of the place and my jaw dropped. Railay was gorgeous! Railay West Beach was a white-sand beach with emerald green waters surrounded by high limestone cliffs and a clear blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds (if the weather permits).
As I looked at more and more pictures of Railay, I started to fall in love. So we decided to stay 5 days and 4 nights at Railay. We booked our stay at Railay Village Resort and started to count down the days till we went on our beach getaway.
Finally, it was June 8th! I was so excited that the night before, I could barely sleep. Instead, I engaged in some late night shopping therapy and got on Klook to buy us a traveller's sim that we can collect upon arrival at Krabi airport.
The next day, we boarded our flight and reached Krabi airport at 9.30 am local time. Once we got our traveller's sim, we checked the Grab fare to the pier and it was a whopping 600+ baht! That's a little over RM 80. But we read online prior to our trip that a cheaper way to get to the pier was to get a shuttle bus from the airport. We bought tickets which cost us 150 baht each at a stall right at the arrival hall of the airport, you can't miss it!
The shuttle bus brought us to the pier as the only way to Railay is by boat. We hopped onto one of the longtail boats and made our way to Railay East. From there, we walked over to Railay West and checked into our hotel. The check-in counter was right next to Railay West Beach, you know that beach I was gawking at all this while on Google, and it's everything I imagined it would be. The weather wasn't the best, it was drizzling but my husband and I took one look at the beach and we knew we had to jump into the sea. We dumped our stuff in the room, changed into our bathing suits and practically ran to the beach. Oh, it was so wonderful! We couldn't care less that it was drizzling or that the sun was hiding away behind the grey clouds, the beach was beautiful and it felt like we were in a fairy tale.
Railay is a great place to go if you want to get away from the city and chill on the beach. Over the next few days, my husband and I explored Railay. When I say we explored Railay, I don't mean we hailed a tuk-tuk and visited different places. Oh no, I mean we explored by foot. Yep, Railay is a relatively small place so most of our travelling from one point to another, we had to do by foot. We didn't really mind it because 1) the walks weren't too far, 2) the view along the way was awesome and 3) there were massage shops in town where we could stop to get a foot massage if needed.
We went to a cooking class at the Walking Street (sort of like a town area with all the eateries, massage and souvenir shops), visited Phranang Cave and Beach and went kayaking. The cooking class was really enjoyable. We went for one at the Railay Thai Cuisine Restaurant where the chef offers classed for 1 to 2 pax. My husband and I chose the package for 2 pax and we got to choose 6 dishes that we could learn to prepare. So we opted for spring rolls, chicken salad, tom yum soup, green curry, pad thai and mango with sticky rice. The menu makes the class sound exhausting and that's what I feared as well but it wasn't at all! The chef got us to prepare one or two dishes at a time and then he would ask us to rest and enjoy those dishes before we continued. So we didn't feel too tired by the end of the class. And the food, oh my god, was delicious!
My husband and I are suckers for green curry but I have to be honest, when I make it at home, I just use the curry paste out of a jar I buy from the shop. But at Railay, the chef got us to prepare the curry paste from scratch and the curry took under 25 minutes to make! And that curry was the stuff of legends I tell you. Days after I would ask my husband, "So what's the best thing you've eaten here-" and without missing a beat, my husband would immediately go "That green curry." And I shared his sentiment. It was a curry made with humble Thai ingredients, treated with love and respect. That's the wonder of Thai, or in fact most South East Asian, cooking. Beautiful ingredients, simple but flavorful cooking. Nothing finickity or fanciful. It's the type of cooking you want to do at home, the type of cooking that leaves your kitchen smelling enticing, your belly full and your soul at ease.
Oh, I must tell you about the kayaking! So on our second last day at Railay (I'm skipping a couple of things, but we'll get to that later, first I must tell you about the KAYAKING!), we had pretty much explored most of the island (for lack of a better word) and didn't really want to spend too much money hiring a boat for a tour (yes, because we're cheap like that and also because we were on a budget and I would much rather splurge on lunch and dinner later that day, YUM). So we were walking back to our room after breakfast when my husband suggested, "Wanna go kayaking?" I initially brushed it off with a "What?! Are you crazy? I have no upper body strength whatsoever, what if we get stranded mid-way in the middle of the sea cause I physically can't paddle anymore?"
"Ok, then our other option is to go on a 40-minute trek through the forest to visit Tonsai Beach," my husband added. Suddenly, kayaking didn't sound too bad to me. So we went to the beach and rented a kayak for 200 baht an hour. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach when I could barely carry my side of the kayak up to the sea. Skeptically, I got into the kayak and we started rowing uncoordinatedly for a while until we slowly got the hang of it. We kayaked circling around the limestone cliff up to Phranang Beach. We actually managed to get there and I couldn't believe it!
After hanging out at the beach, we started to head back. That's when the sun decided to come out of hiding and shine oh so bright and my arms started to give way slowly. So we took frequent breaks in the middle of the sea (mostly on my account) and towards the end I was praying that the waves would just push us along to shore. I was sitting in front and I started chanting "Left, right, left..." My husband joined in and the joint chanting helped to boost our morale and we gave it one final push and rowed our way back to shore. We were kayaking for probably under 40 minutes but that was huge for me! I really didn't think I could do it and it was so much fun!
One activity that we did catch a boat to Ao Nang for though, was to visit the Ao Nang Elephant Sanctuary. We really wanted to meet some elephants in Thailand and we came across this sanctuary online when we were reading up on Krabi. The sanctuary is fairly new and they have 3 retired elephants that visitors get to meet. Initially, my husband and I thought the ticket price of 2, 500 baht per person was quite steep but we really wanted to visit the sanctuary so we decided to go for it. And it was a totally worthwhile experience for us! We were provided transport to the sanctuary from the pier and when we got there, we saw 2 beautiful elephants and my heart leaped.
We got down and Bao, the guide, greeted us and shared with us the history of the sanctuary. The owner had set up the sanctuary about 6 months ago to help take care of abused elephants. Elephants are sometimes pushed beyond their limit for riding and logging purposes and it can do a lot of damage to them in the long run. One of the older elephants housed in the sanctuary is named Tong Poon and she's over 60 years of age. Bao told us how abuse had injured her knee and left a deep hole in her head where riders used hooks on her. He thanked the 7 of us visitors and said that the ticket fare we paid will be used to buy food for the elephants and to keep the sanctuary running. He then invited us to feed the elephants bananas, join them for a mud bath and help bathe the elephants.
I might probably be imagining this, being the wide-eyed romanticized writer that I am, but once the other visitors and I finished scrubbing down Tong Poon for her bath, there was a moment when I felt she looked into my eyes and it's almost as if she was looking into my soul (yes, it sounds cheesy, trust me, I'm well aware). I stroked her trunk and she kept looking. She was massive in size, over 2 tons in weight but she was so gentle. Humans had mistreated her in the past and yet, she was so gentle and trusting to us that it almost brought tears to my eyes. After the bath, we changed our clothes and we were served some refreshments (coconut water and some tropical fruits). Alas, it was time to bid farewell to the gentle giants. I went over to Tong Poon and stroked her trunk. I wanted to say so many things; I wanted to apologise that we as a human race had let her down, I wanted to thank her for opening her hearts to all of us, I wanted to say that it was an honor meeting her, I wanted to say that that evening spent with her would be a treasured memory for both my husband and I. So many things I wanted to say but there were others around and I felt shy. I just continued stroking her and I managed to mutter out, "It was really nice meeting you." I looked into her big, soulful eyes and I hope she heard all the words unspoken. Then, we left the sanctuary and headed back to Railay. I waved goodbye to Tong Poon, the gentle giant with an even bigger heart.
Five days truly flew by and before we knew it, it was time to head home. So we bid our farewell to the most beautiful beach we had ever seen and left Krabi. One boat ride, one shuttle bus ride, one flight and one car journey later, we're back home. As we unpacked our suitcases, I take out our usual travel souvenir and head to the kitchen. I unwrap the memento and put it up on the fridge along with our other fridge magnets. Our collection is rather small and humble now but we hope over time, it will grow and one day, our fridge will be covered with magnets, each with a story we can tell our grandchildren. Maybe one day my grandchild will point at the magnet of Railay and ask me '"Patti, where's Railay?" My husband and I will probably smile and he'd say, "Oh, where do I start? Did I ever tell you about the legendary green curry we once had?" And then I'd say, "G, that's not what she asked! Now dear, did I ever tell you about the story of Tong Poon?" We'd go on and on and I sure hope they like our stories 💖