Beaches, sunshine, water sports and rock climbing. The first time that someone described Railay in Thailand to me, it sounded too good to be true.

I was sitting on a bus escaping Bangkok. Though I’ve come to love it since, the first time I visited, dislike doesn’t begin to cover how I felt about the city.

I’d done the typical thing of arriving in Thailand, staying on the Khao San Road, in a dirty hole not too unlike Begbie’s in the beginning of The Beach. It was grubby, busy and overwhelming. I was impatient.

Rather than spend time trying to get to grips with Bangkok, I booked my ticket down to Ao Nang. I’d heard good things. Parts of The Man With a Golden Gun (a film I vaguely remembered) were filmed on the nearby Koh Khao Ping Gan – mostly referred to as “James Bond Island”. It sounded wonderful.

Postcards from Thailand: Railay, Krabi Photo Journal - Hat Ton Sai Beach

Until I spoke to my new-found bus friend. “I guess Ao Nang is okay, it’s a bit tame. I mean it’s fine if all you’re looking for is pretty beaches and somewhere kind of beige,” he confided as we sped our way down the highway. “If you’re not set on Ao Nang, why don’t you get the boat round to Railay? I think you’ll like it.

Well, I’ll never know whether I would have liked Ao Nang, but he was right on the Railay front. Funny how many of my Thailand tips have come from random strangers.

Sailing around the coastline, dazzled by the sight of the huge jungle-covered limestone karsts rising out of the sea, I found myself already half in love with it.

Postcards from Thailand: Railay, Krabi Photo Journal - Limestone Karsts
Limestone karsts

I jumped (well wallowed) my way out of the boat at Hat Ton Sai – still a distance away from Railay Beach. The boatsman had refused to take me further than the other passengers.

It’s a tricky hike from Hat Ton Sai to Railay itself, or at least it is when you’re weighed down with the world’s heaviest backpack (I’ve since learned to pack light).

Postcards from Thailand: Railay, Krabi Photo Journal - Sunset in Railay

I’m certainly not the damsel in distress type, but I struggled to the point that a really quite attractive Brazilian guy walking in the other direction took pity on me shouldered my pack and showed me the way. You know when you just totally fancy a guy straight away. That. Unfortunately, he was about to set off for Phuket – guess it wasn’t to be.

Postcards from Thailand: Railay, Krabi Photo Journal - chill out time after rock climbing


It wasn’t so bad – I made some friends after kind of jumping in on their conversation in an open-air bar (solo travel, you know how it is).

We spent the days rock climbing and drinking beers, the nights hopping from bar to bar before trekking through the jungle to swim in the phosphorescent sea.

Postcards from Thailand: Railay, Krabi Photo Journal - Julianna Barnaby
Grabbing some pre-climb chill

I got drunk, I woke up with a tattoo ( I’ve always claimed that it was planned, but now’s probably the time to confess that it most certainly was not).

Fast forward four years and I’m back – this time with three friends I’m travelling around the country with.

Postcards from Thailand: Railay, Krabi Photo Journal - On the way to Railay

It’s a girl’s holiday – we’re in Thailand for six weeks and spend six days of it scaling the cliffs. 

Postcards from Thailand: Railay, Krabi Photo Journal - Rock climbing
Scaling the rocks

There’s also gossipping on the beach and watching the sun setting with a cocktail in hand.

I’m heading back to Thailand next month. Railay’s at the top of my list. It should be on yours too.

Read more stories from the road and Thailand travel guides. 

Words and photos by Julianna Barnaby.

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  1. What an interesting adventure. It’s always good to return to places years later and see how they have changed. Thailand really does look like a magical place though. I need to get over there one of these days.

  2. Omg I love this place! I remember the locals shouting ‘Railayyyyyyyy’ outside of my hostel trying to get me to go on a long boat trip haha.

  3. We’re headed to Thailand in the Spring, so reading your post was great timing. Still trying to figure out exactly where we’re going and how long we’ll be there : )

  4. I have been in Thailand couple of times but so far I didn’t manage to visit any beach here 😀 But I see I miss some of nice places 🙂 Hope next time I will explore it too 🙂

  5. I agreed Bangkok is definitely different that south of Thailand but I actually liked Kho San Road haha ( although my hotel was somewhere else, maybe that why 😀 ) after I went for the other side, to Phuket which was also beautiful! Railay’s seems wonderful! Maybe ill go there next time 🙂

  6. I love to be able to change plans in just a blink of an eye, and experience a place you might not had known of if not. Your post brought back memories from my stay there as a vacation out of Bangkok when I lived there some years back. Thank you 🙂 I had quite a few drinks at the “Last Bar”. Is it still there?

  7. Beautiful photos! I just returned from Thailand and it was amazing! I didn’t have time to visit Railey Beach, but i wish I had! I guess I will just have to visit again! Lol

  8. I enjoyed the way you set this story up…
    Railay’s sounds beautiful and from your photos, it lives up to your descriptons!

  9. I agree – I’m always torn between wanting to go to new places and return to places I’ve loved.

  10. It’s such a great spot! I loved the contrast between adventure, party and total chill!

  11. Fingers crossed for next time. There’s so much to see inland that I don’t blame you.

  12. Lovely post and stunning pics. We recently visited Krabi. And a short visit to Dailey beach.after reading this I am thing we should have explored it further

  13. What a lovely spot to escape the chaos of Bangkok. I loved my time in Thailand, but never made it to Ao Nang. Putting this on my must visit destination for my next trip back. It’s always great to visit old familiar places and enjoy them anew 🙂

  14. Sounds like you had a blast Juliana. I love the Thai beaches, and islands. Fave beaches on earth. Good deal on getting out of BKK quick too, because even though KSR is fun for a day or 2, anything beyond makes it a bit much. I love Chiang Mai – outskirts – and the southern tip of Phuket and pretty much any beach area in Thailand. Railay looks and sounds awesome.


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