I stood there in absolute awe; watching the beautiful, crystal clear waters lapping at the whitest of white sands and knew it would be hard to find anywhere prettier, for this surely was the definition of paradise.
In a country like Thailand, that is over-populated with tourists, it’s hard to find somewhere that still feels remote and untouched; hard to find somewhere that still feels like discovering the infamous ‘Beach.’ I have friends who have visited Thailand time and again comment on my photos confused, asking where exactly in Thailand I was. Even most of the locals in Phuket had no idea where my intended destination was when I was trying to figure out how to get there. We wanted to find Thailand’s best kept secret, and that’s exactly what we found!
From the moment we decided to visit Thailand I’d been reading travel blogs and asking my well traveled friends for all the best spots to visit. One place got mentioned continuously by all the well practiced backpackers as Thailand’s best kept secret.
The Railay Beach/ Tonsai Bay Area of the Krabi region. Tonsai in particular is so off the beaten track that when we asked tour desks in Phuket on the best ways to get there they told us we were confused, that there was no Tonsai in Krabi, only on Phi Phi Island. I have friends who have been to Thailand multiple times and never heard of it. I have friends who now call Thailand home and have never heard of it. But in the backpacking community, it’s the best kept secret…
From Phuket we had to catch a four hour bus, the scariest drive ever with the most psychotic driver I’ve ever had the displeasure of being transported by. He was driving 150km per hour through windy, busy roads where everyone drives in any lane they want. It was terrifying. When our bus stopped for a toilet break I told the driver he needed to slow down, it wasn’t safe. He replied ‘change buses then’ and walked off arrogantly.
After our toilet stop he still drove crazy but I did notice the speedometer slow a bit.
Once we arrived in the Krabi bus depot we had to wait about an hour for another bus transfer to the pier to catch a fifteen minute long tail boat across to Railay.
Once we turned the bend of the mountain and spotted the beach we knew we already loved this place.
Whilst this area is apart of mainland it feels like an island as it’s cut off by the huge mountains surrounding it, making it accessible only by boat. No cars, no bikes- the only mode of transport on the island are your two feet. And that just makes it all the more glorious.
Railay beach is the most well known of the beaches. A few hostels are scattered between the resorts, which were practically empty being quiet season.
We stayed at Garden View Resort, the furthest accommodation from the pier. But for $10 a night we had a bungalow with uninterrupted views of the ocean and a big porch where we could watch monkeys. Free breakfast and unlimited, free drinking water was included. It was clean, comfortable and perfect for us.
We immediately noticed how much cheaper food was here than in Phuket. The freshly cooked chicken kebabs from a street vendor were so delicious and only 30 baht. I also got obsessed with having fresh fruit juices everyday- so delish!
Our first stop after dropping off our bags and putting on our swimmers was to Phanang Cave on Ao Pranang Beach, the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen. The sand was pure white and the water crystal clear. On one end of the beach was an incredible cave that you could swim into and an amazing karst island was a few metres out to sea, creating the most beautiful panoromic view.
We found paradise, and it was our home for the next few days to explore.
In the mornings the tide is so high you walk in knee deep water through the coastal ‘streets’ but after 4pm the sea is so far out you could walk for miles looking for shells on the rocks and sand, which means that you have about three hours in the middle of the day to really appreciate and use the beaches.
The rest of the day is often used to rock climb, the biggest hobby in this region and the main reason keen adventurers visit. There are climbs available from beginner level to extremely advanced and it seemed pretty safe.
Luckily for us poor backpackers the resorts were pretty open so we were able to sneak in and use their stunning pools to cool down from the extreme heat. In order to visit Tonsai Bay you can either catch a long tail boat during high tide or you can walk. You can walk through the complete jungle for about an hour, or you can wait till after 5pm when the low tide has taken the water far enough out that you can walk around the cliffs edge.
Whilst Railay has a good mix of resorts and hostels Tonsai is much simpler. The shores are covered in little Rasta bars playing reggae music and there’s hippies walking around, playing instruments or climbing rocks. You’ll find no resorts here, but it’s so remotely beautiful it’s one of those places that makes you happy just because it exists, because you have found a little piece of heaven still remote and almost untouched.
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We hired some kayaks and paddled around the whole area, which was so much fun and ridiculously beautiful… until a storm quickly crept upon us forcing us to paddle to shore and CARRY the heavy kayaks a kilometre through the jungle back to the man we hired them from. That was a workout indeed, my arms ached for days!
On one of the days we spent at the beach I was swimming around enjoying the scenery when all the sudden I felt a sharp, burning sting on my chest. I quickly moved my hand to see what it was when I felt a jellyfish in my hand, stinging my wrist also. Being Australian, where almost everything is poisonous or deadly I was a little worried… But that was nothing compared to Andys panic and his insistence that we walk to the closest resort and ask the staff if they have dangerous jellyfish in Railay. The manager said this particular long, thin jellyfish couldn’t kill me and gave me some vinegar to numb the sting before we went on our way… Only to see a sign saying the waters in Railay have poisonous and deadly box jellyfish! Needless to say we spent a lot of time in the pool after that.
Our few days in paradise were spent in a blur of swimming, napping, eating and exploring. It was perfect and one of our highlights in Thailand. I’ve read that in the busy season it’s full of thousands of people but we found it to be quiet and relaxing, it truly felt like we had found a place that was yet to be known and therefore destroyed by mainstream tourists. Thailands best kept secret… It would be such a shame to see this paradise change for the worse but sadly it’s mostly inevitable, just like Phi Phi and every other place that once resembled quiet, untouched paradises. So I insist, go there and go there now, before it’s too late!
“You fish, swim, eat, laze around, and everyone’s so friendly. It’s such simple stuff, but… If i could stop the world and restart life, put the clock back, I think I’d restart it like this. For everyone.”
― Richard – The Beach