RAILAY BEACH, THAILAND – FIRST TIME VISITOR

Railay, also known as Rai Leh, is a large peninsula between the city of Krabi and Ao Nang in Thailand. Although Railay is attached to mainland Thailand in Krabi province, it is not connected to any roads because it is entirely surrounded by limestone cliffs and only accessible by boat where most holiday goers locate themselves. It boasts an abundance of postcard-perfect beaches catering to couples looking for a secluded romantic getaway, parents hoping to build sand castle for little ones and travellers who are ready to dance to chilled-out house as the sun goes down. It is also a haven for rock climbers who flock from all over the world aside from its beautiful beaches, cascading waterfalls, caves, and emerald turquoise sea and a stretch shoreline with pristine white sand.

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Railay has two main parts:

  • Railway Beach West is the place to go if you want to swim and lay on the sand. This is where better beaches are. It is line up with restaurants and shops and it is also the entrance to the walking street. 

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The Walking Street

This lane gathers a good deal of shops and bars and restaurants which offered cheaper alternatives for those who are keen on spending big Bahts on dinner at the hotel restaurants.

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The Walking Street

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  • Railway Beach East  is a little more secluded. It doesn’t have a proper beach, but it makes a nice walk along the shore. It also offer plenty of bars and restaurants, plus a wide variety of accommodation.

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Railay West is the area where we opted to stay. It is approximately 45 minutes drive from Krabi International Airport and 15 minutes by long tail boat from Ao Nam Mao Beach to resort.

To be honest, when my partner and I saw Railay Beach for the first time, we were so over excited that we just wanted to fly and go right away. We did not do our research properly and thought that we could reach Railay by road to our hotel. When we arrived in Krabi Thailand International Airport the lady from the tour agency told us that we need to catch a taxi or a shuttle van going to Ao Nam Mao Beach and from Ao Nam Mao Beach we need to catch a long tail boat. It was already late in the afternoon when we reached Ao Nam Mao Beach.

Ao Nam Mao pier is just down the beach that has a cement stairs off to the long tail boat which is easy to navigate. However, fellow tourists and locals stood on either side of my partner as he navigated the path. On the last step Jaime a fellow traveller helped him to lift his leg onto the long tail boat.

My partner is suffering from lymphedema (a swelling of a body part-most commonly an arm or leg – caused by excess lymph fluid connecting in body tissue). My partner experience frustrations because he is not able to utilize his leg the way they used to and the limb can feel heavy and painful. He loss his balance and he is limping when walking. He can barely climb steps, find walking distances difficult.  

From Ao Nam Mao Beach going to our hotel in Railay West we had to walk in their floating pontoon made of plastic interlocked boxes which is really stable and onto the footpaths. My partner called it as ” The Pier Going to Hell” hehe…It is a few hundred meters walked so if you are bringing a lot of gear or kids be prepared.

Travelling with a person with disability is tough and hard. It was hard and difficult for us but we will be forever grateful to the locals and fellow travellers who assisted and help us all the way from Ao Nam Mao Beach to Railay. As a traveller it is great to be resourceful and independent, but also to rely on the kindness of strangers. 

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Floating pontoon.

THINGS TO DO IN RAILAY BEACH

1.) Relax on Railay Beach

Railay Beach is pristine and is always quiet far from the usual crowded tourists spots. Here you can relax and lay on the sand and read a book, listening to music or walk the long sandy stretch, go swimming, watch sunset, go kayaking, go paddle boarding, play volley ball, got a massage under the trees and more.

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2.) Rock Climbing

Railay is famous for its towering limestone cliffs one of the reason why tourists from all over the world flock here for rock climbing. There are plenty of companies which offer courses for beginners and excursions for those, who are more experienced.

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Photo from Railay Rock Climbing Shop

3.) Diving and Snorkelling

If you visit Railay you can not leave without going diving or snorkelling. Many tourists and professional divers visit Railay just to go snorkelling or diving. The water around the beach is clear which is very enjoyable for diving and snorkelling.

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4.) Kayaking and Stand-Up Paddle Boarding or SUP

This is one of the calmest and most scenic water sports in Railay. The waters around Railay are calm and safe for swimming and kayaking. You can rent a kayak from vendors, or resorts, on the beach. The cost is around 100 Baht per hour.

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5.)  Go for an Island Hopping Tour

Don’t miss this fun activities when you are in Krabi. I booked the Phi Phi Early Bird + 4 Islands by Speed Boat with Krabi Ezy Trails. I highly recommend this tour company. Our guide Matt and Theresa and their team are professional. It was fun and very entertaining. They made us sure that we were safe during our island hopping tour. They give us freedom to enjoy the whole day trip.

Phi Phi Early Bird + 4 Islands By Speed Boat Itineraries

To ensure that we will enjoy our whole day tour and to avoid the crowds the team of Krabi Ezy Trails pick us up in our resort and depart at approximately 7:00 am.

You can visit their site if you wish to book online at http://www.krabiezytrails.com

Maya Bay – Sightseeing

Our first  stop made famous by Danny’s Boyle’s 2000 film ” The Beach”  starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Maya Bay has been exhausted by mass tourism which made Thai authorities to shut it down to help recover damaged coral reefs and sea life caused by too many tourists. However, tourists and visitors can still take photos from boats. As long as the boats do not pass over any coral reefs.

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Pi Leh Bay / Pileh Cove ” The Lagoon” – Swimming

This is one of my favorite stop during our island hopping tour and one of the most impressive sites on Koh Phi Phi Leh. It is separated from Maya Bay by a sheer limestone cliff. The water inside this lagoon is crystal clear emerald-green and the views are absolutely stunning. The lagoon is surrounded by towering cliffs and water is so inviting that you will jump off the boat and enjoy swimming here. The lagoon is a great opportunities for taking photos too as well.

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Viking Cave – Sightseeing off the Speedboat

Just before the entrance to Pi Leh Lagoon there is a cave that the locals call Viking Cave. It is home to the swiftest that make the bird’s nest are harvested to make “Birds nest soup” that are famous in Asian culture. Traditional Chinese medicine believed that bird’s nest soup have high nutrients and medicinal value.The bird nests harvested here can fetch up to 2,000 USD in the open market! The birds’ nest are very difficult to gather resulting in the price for bird’s nest soup being some of the most expensive food in the world.

The wiry bamboos branches that you are seeing are used by local men who climb up the poles to collect birds’ nest. 

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Monkey Beach – Snorkelling and Swimming

Is a stunning long strip of white powdery sand fringed by emerald water and a home to a colony of monkeys that will entertain you with their Muay Thai skills! 🙂  The beach has a lush vegetation’s which offers monkeys a comfortable habitat, which where it gets its name from. Monkey beach is not only famous for its furry inhabitants but also a great spot for snorkelling.

Avoid feeding the monkeys so they won’t expect something to eat when they see visitors coming and do not go to close to them. These monkeys  are wilds they might scratch and bite you. Remove all your personal belongings as the monkeys are very curious and thieves! Maintain a safe distance at least 10 meters for your safety.

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Loh Samah or Nui Bay – Swimming and Snorkelling

Nui Bay is famous for a pretty walled beach, caves, coral reef and Camel Rock. We stop here for swimming and snorkelling and enjoy under water exploring colorful tropical reef and marine life with tropical fishes.

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Bamboo Island – Snorkelling / Swimming / Lunch

This island is entirely surrounded by a strip of powdery white sand with crystal clear water. Its central part is covered with lush vegetation and bamboo trees that gave its name to the island. 

Bamboo island offers a great snorkelling opportunities. It stands a notable coral reef known as Hin Klang which provides its visitors with the feeling of swimming in an aquarium.

It is also a perfect gateway from the crowds where tours would make a stop here for a lunch. 

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Koh Kai ( Chicken Island) – Sightseeing / Taking Photos

Koh Kai meaning “Chicken Island” in Thai is a small island belonging to the Poda group of islands. Koh Kai takes it name from the chicken-shaped rock-forming its southern tip. Most island hopping tours from Krabi and Phuket make a short stop at this picturesque limestone chicken, giving visitors a cool photo opportunity.

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Koh Mor and Koh Tub – Swimming

Koh Tap ( also spelled Koh Tup, Koh Tub or Koh Thap) and Koh Mor are two tiny islands that belong to the Mu Koh Poda group. These two islets are linked by a sandbar which, at low tide, also enables you to walk to Koh Kai ( Chicken Island).

Both sides of the sand bar offer a great snorkelling in a crystal clear waters.

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Mu Koh Rhoda or Poda Island – Swimming / Snorkelling 

The scenery and soft sand makes the island very popular destination for snorkelers and sea kayakers.  It is covered with palm and pine trees and encircled by a soft white sand beach.

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WHERE TO STAY IN RAILAY BEACH

Accommodations are abundant on Railay East but this part of the peninsula is not blessed by a beautiful sandy beaches and is more of a mangrove swamp. Railway East when tide goes out it is a bit swampy with the mangroves and a bit noisy because it is nearer to nightlife scene. It is also used as “the back door” of Railay, the goods delivery point for all the hotels, as well as the pier for taxi boats to and from Krabi Town and Ao Nam Mao.

Railay West has a number of mid-range hotels with stunning views and the sea has the finest beaches. This is where you will find big resorts offering high quality accommodations. Evenings are blissfully quiet here but in the day is a bit busy because it is also the arrival and departure point for long tail boats from Ao Nang.

Walk from Railay East to the Railay West beach is only about 5-10 minutes.

We opted to stay in Railay Village Resort and Spa located in Railay West. The location is lovely right on the stunning beach and next to the walking street of bars and restaurants that leads to the east side. It offers spacious, comfortable rooms and combines a relaxing view that makes it an ideal choice for travellers looking for a luxury hotel with affordable price.

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Photo credit to Railay Village Resort and Spa
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Photo credit to Railay Village Resort and Spa
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Photo credit to Railay Village Resort and Spa

For more information about Railay Village Resort and Spa please click the link below:

http://www.railayvillagekrabi.com

This trip was quite adventurous yet very memorable for us. It teaches us lots of lessons to learn. It made us more equipped with knowledge, which has eventually made us a wiser person. We love to travel and travelling with disability can be challenging but with careful planning, patience, and some help along the way, we can make it happen.

 

 

 

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KAREN LONG NECK TRIBE – LIFE IN THAILAND

One of the tourist attractions in Northern Thailand is a visit to Karen Long Neck Tribe. It is a village near by the border of Myanmar where the Karen tribe lives. I’ve heard about this tribes on tv documentary, National Geographic Magazine and reviews from tourists who have been in the village. Finding out more of their story how their vulnerability has been exploited both by government agencies and tourism industries it started to feel uncomfortable to visit the place. That makes me think if these people are for tourist attractions? It is unethical to treat them like a human zoo.

However, we signed up for a one day tour in Chiang Mai and part of the tour is a visit to Karen Long Neck Tribe so we have to go as my goal is to see and make a connections with them to create a symbolic relationship by reaching out to find a common ground instead of treating them as spectacles to exploit.

WHO ARE THE KAREN LONG NECK TRIBE?

This tribe originally lives in the mountains of Myanmar near by the Thailand border. Thousands of their members have fled to Myanmar to live in Thailand because of the conflict in their home country. Thailand granted them a temporary stay under ” conflict refugee”status. Some left Burma because of suppression and exploitation. Burmese soldiers would demand to hand over some of their crops or farm animals to the soldiers. Those who refused to do so  would frequently end up in retributions and killing.

The tribe has a custom where some women need to wear a brass coils around their necks  to create the appearance of a long neck but in real life these women do not have an extra long neck. Some wear heavy rings around their forearms and on the lower part of their legs which is different from the rings they wear on their neck.

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This Karen woman wear 25 rings around her neck.

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THE RINGS

An ancient legend claimed that wearing the rings around their neck will protect them from tiger attacked, since the cats attacked victims at the neck and protect their tribe from extinction. However, some women wear rings around their necks respecting their ancestor traditions. The more rings women can wear on her neck, the more beautiful she is.  Short necks are considered unattractive.  

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Women of Karen tribe start to wear brass coil at an early age, anytime between five years old to nine. The weight of a brass coil worn by the Karen tribe differ by age and length of time she has worn it. By the time the girls turned 15 they are able to choose if they will continue to wear rings all throughout their life or will they stop wearing it.

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However, as the tradition evolved only girls who were born on the Wednesday night during a full moon were adorned with the neck rings. Girl who was born on Wednesday night must wear the neck rings throughout her life. Refusal to wear the neck-rings will cause her to be exiled from the community. 

EXPLOITATION AND  TOURISM ..WHAT KIND OF LIFE THEY HAVE IN THAILAND?

These people are living with a refugee status. Thai government pays more attention to promoting them as tourist attractions. Tour operators make a sizeable income from bringing tourist to the village but the village themselves get very little one.

Tourist operators have been able to exploit the economic marginality and vulnerability  of the tribe to their own advantage.

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Today girls are encouraged to wear the brass coils around their necks for tourists attractions and  to make money from the tourist village authority.  The more tourists who come to visit them; the better are their chances of earning an income.

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This pretty young lady is sixteen years old but never been into school.  Women are not allowed to go to school only men. She said she learned her english from talking with tourists like us.

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WHERE ARE THE MEN OF KAREN LONG NECK TRIBE?

In Burma, men are known to be hard-working in providing for their family basic needs. They are skilled farmers but life is not the same for men and women in Thailand. The women are the main provider for the family. Besides wearing the brass coils around their neck which brings them a monthly payment from the village tourism authorities, they make a quite substantial earnings from selling scarves and souvenirs. Scarves are the only product which is tribe make themselves. Women focus their occupation towards tourism as the ” tourism” industry offers a better opportunity for cash than agriculture. They need to be their morning and evening to entertain tourists but can still continue to do their weaving in front of their huts.

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Men of the families are allowed to work in agriculture in their own village. With limited knowledge and technical skill and government imposed restriction on their movement, makes it impossible for men to get paid jobs away from their village. Their traditional agricultural skill is no use as there is very limited land for cultivation in their village where they are allocated to stay.

They are not allowed either to go anywhere. they must remain in the tourist village set up the government. It appears that these people do have some basic rights on the paper, but sadly they much non-existent considering the restrictions that also applies to their status which is a violation of their human rights.

On the other hand children are allowed to go to school but in order to do that they must learn Thai language first which is quite impossible for them to actually go to school.

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The road going to the village is a slippery dirt slope.  The whole structure of the village is planned as a “tourist setting” a kind of living museum. It was very depressing, even among all the bright colors, designs and patterns.

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Tourism industry has not delivered a better life to them. There is no infrastructure development, electricity supply, clean water supply, sealed roads, public transportations from the village to town, qualified doctors or nurses in the village health centers. Thailand has not improved the tribe standard of living nor significantly lifted their life chances.

A travel to Karen Long Neck Tribe open my eyes to the reality of their lives and the daily struggles that they face. Unethical, authentic or not as what some people would say, the important value that I learned from this tour is it humbles me and offers a big boost of humanity.

If you chose to visit the village please consider these recommendations:

  • Do not just stop for a photo shoot. Try to extend your stay to learn about the people and  hear their stories.
  • Support the village by purchasing their handcrafts.
  • Give a donation.
  • Do your own research and find a responsible tour company that will promote social responsibility.

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXPLORING ANCIENT RUINS OF AYUTTHAYA, THAILAND

Brief History

The Historic City of Ayutthaya, founded in 1350, was the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom. It flourished from the 14th to the 18th centuries, during which time it grew to be one of the world’s largest and most cosmopolitan urban areas and a center of global diplomacy and commerce.

The city attacked and razed by the Burmese army in 1767 who burned the city to the ground and forced the inhabitants to abandon the city. The city was never rebuilt in the same place and remains known today as an extensive archaeological site.

Once an important center of global diplomacy and commerce, Ayutthaya is now an archaeological ruin, characterised by the remains of tall prang (reliquary towers) and Buddhist monasteries of monumental proportions, which give an idea of the city’s past size and the splendor of its architecture.

Getting Around in the Park

There are many ways to explore the glorious past of Ayutthaya – by foot, rental bicycles or long-tail boats (to enjoy a riverine perspective).

Bicycling around the ruins is the most enjoyable and fun way to spend the day. You can rent a bicycle for around 50 baht per day. The park is easily reachable and manageable on bike. The paths paved and the distance between temples are small.

Boat trips recommended if you want to enjoy the beautiful scenery and Thai lifestyle along the Chao Phraya River.

Another alternative is hire a tuk tuk with driver. The fare will depend on your bargaining skills. Agree on price, duration of the trip and places to stop before setting off.

WAT YAI CHAIMONGKOL, is a magnificent royal monastery, more than a mere place of worship. The beautiful secrets of Wat Yai Chaimongkol acquired a personality of its own. The temple is alive with the smiles of Phra Buddha Chaimongkol, the most sacred Buddha image, and others. Their images not only speak of a time of freedom as well as of the affluence of the Ayutthaya Kingdom but also give a warm welcome to visitors from other lands.

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As we walked inside the temple there we saw the relic of reclining Buddha image. At present, there is no vihara to shelter the image. The village elders said that in the past the vihara roof was made of tin. Consequently, it  struck by lightning twice. After that the local people agreed to leave the image outdoors.

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WAT PHRA SI SANPHET, “The Temple of the Buddha Si Sanphet” is the largest and most significant temple in the Royal Palace’s compound since it was used as the royal temple and palace for several Ayutthaya kings. The ashes of the three Ayutthaya kings were kept here in the three Ceylonese style pagodas which are a symbolic landmark of Ayutthaya.

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If you walk around the ruins, you will find the head of an ancient Buddha image embraced in the overground roots of a bo tree.

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WAT MAHA THAT, ” The Temple of the Great Relic” this temple was the centre of Ayutthaya people’s faith. The reason it was completely burnt down by the Burmese invaders during their final assault of the capital.

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Admission and Opening Hours

There is no fee to enter the Ayutthaya Historical Park. The major temples charge an entrance fee of 50 Thai Baht or less each. Most of the monuments are in ruined state, they are sacred places to Buddhists. Be respectful towards images of the Buddha and never climb on one. For active temples, please follow the dress code which means long pants or long skirts, no bare shoulders, remove your shoes before entering a temple building.

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What To Bring:

  • Bottled Water ( there are many places to buy snacks and drinks but better to carry a bottled water with you, the temperature in Ayutthaya is very hot).
  • Hat
  • Shades
  • Sunscreen

The ruins of Ayutthaya Thailand is a great pieces of history and most of the ruins speak about the strong religious affinity of the people.