Wading to Paradise
Monday we did a bunch of last-minute travel booking and packing, had breakfast, then grabbed a taxi to the airport. On the highway toward BKK the driver pulled into the shoulder and whizzed past traffic, which seemed to be standard procedure for taxis as several others were doing it.
The flight to Krabi was quick and easy. We arrived in Krabi and quickly were herded onto a shuttle bus to the "pier" at Ao Nang. On the ride the bus would zoom up behind a double-wide tuk-tuk straining at it's maximum speed of 25 mph or so along the road, and the bus driver would overtake them, weaving into oncoming traffic with the fearlessness of a Formula One driver. Now of course this is a not-new bus, so there's not a lot of acceleration to be had and the engine sounds distinctly lawnmower-like. It was pretty nerve-racking.
We arrived at a restaurant and were made to understand we could wait here to board a longtail boat to Railay, and that the boats only left when they would have a capacity of ten passengers. So we sat at the restaurant near two other couples and proceeded to wait. It turned out they basically just waited for the last shuttle bus from the airport, which was several hours later. Of course none of our guide books or online research make any mention of this. They clearly indicate the longtail ride is 15 minutes in duration, but not a word that you could spend all afternoon waiting for it to depart. Shannon did point out the nice thing about a lengthy trip such as this is you can shrug a delay such as this off.
Now the other thing the online reviews did make fuzzy mention of is having to wade out into the bay to board the longtail boat. Reading this, my gut thought "nah, doesn't seem right. Tourists going to fancy hotels. They'll have a pier. This must be about the other more remote hotel way out on the edge of the beach". However, the reviews were true. No pier in sight. You walk down some concrete steps from the restaurant onto the low tide sand and a wide stretch of shallow water to get to the spot where the longtail must drop anchor.
So when the final shuttle bus arrived and a full boat of passengers was assembled, the longtail captain rounded us up from around the restaurant without any ceremony, and off we go into the water, barefoot, large carry-on backpacks on our backs, holding our other bags overhead. It is quite a far walk, perhaps 75 yards or so.
It was quite the experience. The captain did make a second trip to help Shannon with her full-size carry-on she was carrying in front of her while I had my rollaboard duffle resting on my head. In water to mid-thigh, we scramble up the slippery ladder into the narrow wooden boat and take our seats on the flexible wooden bench seats.
The captain raises anchor and pulls the boat a bit deeper by hand using a long rope before boarding and firing up the engine which sits at the back of the boat and powers the propeller which is at the end of a long pole far behind the boat and can be lifted entirely out of the water by the captain in addition to moving sideways to steer.
We noisily cruised toward Railay and gasped at the stunning limestone cliffs. A mother with two teenage children took photos with her iPad precariously amongst the surf splashing into the boat. I made Shannon promise never to take photos with an iPad.
Arrival at Railay beach, we were able to get much closer to shore, so the wade from the boat to the beach was only ten yards or so. We checked in and were greeted warmly. It was precisely sunset, and the bellhop who had put our bags into a cart urged us to stay and watch the sunset, which would happen in the next 3 minutes. I wanted to get settled in the room though, so we admired for a moment then went to the room.
The room was jaw-dropping. Gorgeous hardwood flooring, huge tile bath with tub and separate shower room, two desks, a big comfy chaise lounge, and even a fancy control box for the lights and AC which looked like something a James Bond villain would have at his fingertips at the big meeting table.
We now indeed realized that while we booked this hotel even though it was considerably more expensive than many of its peers in the price range, it seemed to clearly have in-room wifi, and I didn't want to leave that to chance, but moving from here to something else would be a bit disappointing. We exchanged a glance acknowledging this and started scheming about how we could stay here as long as possible.
We went back out to enjoy the view across the bay just after sunset and the pretty pink clouds, then had dinner and to bed.