Our Travel Experience
This was stop #3 on the Bob , Eileen, Seth & Tara Asian Tour of 1999. Tara and Eileen had a hard time settling on exactly beach we should stay on in Malaysia or Thailand. We looked into Pangkor Laut in Malaysia and Phuket, Koh Samui and Krabi in Thailand. There seemed to be an inverse relationship between travel time required and seclusion. The longer we traveled by land, the more secluded we could get. We also wanted to find a reasonably-priced hotel, so the US$200 and up resorts were out of the question.
Tara finally made the decision based upon a personal recommendation of Seth's friend Jos. Jos and his girlfriend had been to Krabi recently and really enjoyed it. The photos they took were stunning and since they really liked the hut they had stayed in on Railay Beach, that decided it.
The transfer from Phuket airport to Railay Beach was rough. All four of us sat in a car for two hours and tried to to watch the road too closely as our driver's judgment on when it was safe to pass other traffic and our judgment on when it was safe to pass other traffic was drastically different. It would have taken any of us four or more hours to drive what he did in two! We passed everything - and around while going around corners, up hills, 3 inches from a family of 5 on a small motor scooter. You name it. We passed it! We passed allot of families on motor scooters. And, these motor scooters were driving against the traffic. So, often we'd be passing a really wide truck on one side and nearly missing the oncoming motor scooter on the other side! The main road out of the airport is being widened from 2 to 4 lanes - hopefully it will be finished soon.
The ride was interesting at least. There was one especially rural village that we passed. The village was floating on a river and made out of reed huts it looked like. But besides that, everything blurs together and we were very glad to reach the boats that would take us from Ao Nang to Railay Beach. Notice that I didn't say "boat dock". I said "boats". No need for a dock when you can wade out to your boat carrying your luggage on your head trying to keep it dry!
The long boats here in the country have no noise restrictions placed on them, so the absolute gorgeous scenery of large cliffs towering high above blue waters was a bit polluted with noise. Still, it was a nice feeling to finally step off our boat again into the waist high water) and wade to shore with our luggage again help above our heads.
Our hotel was easy to find since it was one of maybe 4 or 5 in a string of hotels facing the beach the boat dropped us off on. We were very happy with our little huts! Each hotel has a long, narrow strip going straight back from the beach. The little brick path we followed to get to our hut was very nicely landscaped and the hut with a little balcony in front, large main room and bathroom in back was very acceptable for the US$65 we were paying a night. The view from our balcony was breathtaking. Close by there were flowing bushes and coconut palm after coconut palm everywhere you looked. Then in the distance maybe 1/4 mile away there was a towering cliff rising up. Just gorgeous.
But, the view wasn't the best part of our vacation. Our #1 memory from Railay Beach was THE FOOD! We ate delicious Thai food for lunch and dinner every single day. We soon found our favorite restaurant and went back each and every day. The food was absolutely EXCELLENT and everything on the menu that we ordered was delicious. Tara was in heaven since she could get glass after glass after glass of watermelon juice. Plus, there were apple fritters for desert. And, best of all, the four of us could eat until we felt like we were going to explode for about $20. The $20 even included four or so glasses or watermelon juice!
Unfortunately, the food did have a down-side (as we found out about 5 days into our stay). As the talk at the dinner table turned to exactly why it might not be a good idea to choose the hottest of curries, we did get to reminiscing about King Tut's revenge from our Egypt trip! Eileen especially remembered Tara's Tut quote of the trip as "Sorry, we can't come to the door right now, we're sharing the toilet." Even so afflicted, we LOVED the food on this trip and it gets our highest scores ever on vacation food.
We did, believe it or not, do more than eat all week! We spent every day at the beach.
There was one nice beach extremely close to our hut. Seth liked this one because of all the topless German women who frequented it. Eileen was lucky enough to see a naked man - or maybe you wouldn't say luck - since he probably weighed more than Seth... but, no one else had that pleasure.
There was another beach about a 10 minute walk from our hut. The walk was very much part of the fun. Railay Beach has one extra-luxurious-extremely-expensive resort on it and in order to get from our hut to the other beach, we had to circumvent the Dusit Rayavadee resort by walking along a narrow path between towering cliffs and the resort. The path was very interesting with little recesses under the cliff that you could walk into, tangled vegetation that you'd have to push aside or step over to get past and (best of all) wildlife. The first time we were walking along the path, we came up behind some other people who had stopped and weren't going any further. The obstruction in the center of the path was a lizard as big as a medium-sized dog. Actually, there was a lizard AND a medium sized dog in the center of the path & they weren't getting on too well. The lizard "won" due to his big strong tail - but we don't think the dog was hurt at all. After the dog went away, the lizard slowly walked into a recess in the cliff & the people waiting on the path all walked by him. We looked for this lizard every day we went to the beach, but didn't see him again.
The beach that was further away had alot of character to it. There is a shrine for fisherman at one end set into the cliff face and many other cliffs in view that rise dramatically out of the water. We also enjoyed massages for less than $US 5 an hour on the beach. Not the best massages we'd ever enjoyed, but certainly the cheapest! We also enjoyed this beach since there was spots to settle in the shade. The swimming was good tool. Eileen was very astute and pointed out that whenever Seth was in the water, he would make sure there was someone else further out to sea than him. Seth didn't deny this fact at all. He'd prefer anyone other than him to be 'shark-bait'.
After enjoying the beach for a few hours everyday, we'd head back to our hut or for lunch before the afternoon showers came pouring down. It was like clockwork. Everyday at about the same time, it would start pouring down rain. We quickly made sure that we were under a roof when the rain was scheduled to start, but we often saw other, soaked through trudging past our hut as we sat on the balcony and watched the rain come down. Everyday, the rain poured down in sheets which made our balconies a cost place to read and provided a good excuse for an afternoon nap.
After the rain stopped, it was typically time for another delicious dinner.
And so our days were spent relaxing and enjoying the tropical surroundings.
Unfortunately we had to leave. Since the car ride to get here was rough, Tara suggested an alternative: a boat ride back to Phuket via Koh Phi Phi. Unsuspectingly, everyone agreed that that sounded better than another car ride back. Little did we know.
In the morning, we put our luggage on our heads and waded out to one of the many small longboats ready to transfer guests to a large boat heading to Koh Phi Phi. This trip wasn't bad actually. Tara sat outside marveling at the scenery that was passing by while Seth, Bob and Eileen made do with the view through the windows. Arriving at Koh Phi Phi was a bit of a shock after coming from Railay Beach. Railay Beach was very uncommercialized. There were 2 hotel sundry convenience stores, one used book exchange store and a place to rent snorkeling gear on Railay - that was it. Versus on Phi Phi, there was tourist trap after tourist trap after tourist trap of little stores within 20 steps of the boat dock -- but all this commercialism did warrant a boat dock at least.
We were very happy that we hadn't spent our week on Koh Phi Phi. Spending 5 hours there was almost too much! But, we found a nice pizza restaurant for lunch, did some shopping for necessities (like new sandals for Bob and Seth who had recently broken theirs), and then rented four beach chairs to sit in while we waited for our connecting boat to Phuket. No one wanted to be dirty for the flight to Singapore, except for Tara who didn't care. She went swimming and ate watermelon juice and went swimming again to wash the watermelon juice off her face. Eileen really wanted to get a temporary tattoo from a store that advertised them, but was disappointed to learn that the tattoo lady wasn't going to be in until later that night. So, none of us were disappointed when we had to leave to catch our boat onto Phuket.
Ugh! Can you say sea-sickness? The boat ride from Koh Phi Phi to Phuket was ROUGH. Seth couldn't handle sitting inside after we hit the first wave, so he headed above deck to get some air. Bob joined him soon afterwards and Eileen also excused herself after a while. Since Tara never gets seasick, she was left to guard the bags. No one actually lost it, but it was a rough ride & we were very glad to arrive on Phuket.
Here came our next surprise -- we docked really far away from the airport & there were no official cabs waiting to greet passengers disembarking from the boats. All passengers seemed to be on tours and promptly got on the tour bus with their group's name on it. So, we ended up bargaining for two cars to take us to the airport. We decided on separate cars in order to be comfortable and each set off on our own. This time, not only did we surpass the thrills received on our last ride when we were passing, but we reached new speeds as well. At least we had music the whole way --- really bad cover albums of American songs that we hadn't heard from the 1970's. It was memorable to say the least. We drove through many small towns and again passed whole families on motor scooters. We also passed what we found out later was a Thai tour bus.
Imagine a small school bus. Put, oh, 80 people inside. Then, remove the back emergency door on the school bus and allow another 5 people to ride with more of their bodies outside the bus than inside the bus. Then, take the luggage of all 85 people and PILE it ontop of the bus. Roping it down so that it's not going to go anywhere as the bus travels at 70 miles per hour down the highway from Phuket to Bangkok. It was Bob and Eileen's driver who actually informed them that this was a Thai tour bus. Seth and Tara just started at it with their mouths hanging open as they drove past!
About an hour later, with our adrenaline pumping after one especially curvy, hilly road on which we passed every other moving vehicle at high speeds, Seth and Tara arrived at the airport. Bob and Eileen were behind us in their car, so we figured we'd have to wait for them for a while - considering how reckless our driver had been. But NO, within a minute, their car pulled up and we all breathed a sigh of relief to be out of our last Thai automobile!
From here, it was onto Singapore...
|Overall Experience||7||We really enjoyed traveling with Bob and Eileen again. We'll remember this vacation as the one with the best (and cheapest) food! Plus, the scenery was just gorgeous. And, we did absolutely nothing but relax the whole time.|
|Ease of Journey||4||We knew that the journey was going to rough - a two to three hour car ride from the airport & two hour long boat trip via Koh Phi Phi to Phuket on the way back.|
|Accommodation||6||The Sand Sea Bungalows were fine for the price of US$ 65 / night. We just wished their could have been more hot water pressure and a comfier pillow. We were so spoiled by the Maldives that we just don't know if we'll ever find a better beach destination.|
|Activities||8||We did alot of laying around, reading and relaxing. These were exactly the activities we were looking forward to! Mealtimes were also a great activity since the food was SO DELICIOUS.|
|Coolness||8||The limestone cliff scenery was magnificent. And, I bet Seth thinks the same of all the topless German women we saw on the beach.|