Rai Leh

The mighty Thaiwand Wall with Phra Nang Beach on the right

Rai Leh (อ่าวไร่เล), also commonly known as Railay, is a tourist area on the Andaman Coast of Thailand, in Krabi Province. Rai Leh is primarily known as a rock climbing hot spot, attracting climbers from all over the world to its superb towering limestone.

Understand

West Rai Leh‎ (Railay) Beach

Rai Leh is considered to be all of the peninsula, which has four primary areas:

Get in

As Rai Leh is a peninsula surrounded by ocean and mountains, final access can only be by boat. Longtails depart from Ao Nang (10 min, 100 baht/person, minimum 8 people) and Krabi Town (30 min) on demand, making those towns the gateways to Rai Leh. It's also possible to access Rai Leh via regular ferries that run between Ko Lanta, Ko Phi Phi, and Phuket Town (from Rassada Pier) (more frequent in the Nov-May dry season (times available from local travel agents, or check online ferry schedules).

The Krabi Province, Phuket, Ko Lanta and Ko Phi Phi articles have information on reaching Rai Leh gateways from throughout Thailand. From Bangkok there are flights to Krabi and Phuket, direct bus services, and trains to Surat Thani with onward connections by bus.

If departing from Ao Nang, be aware that you're expected to walk out several metres into the surf before getting on a boat (depending on the tide). It might be best to change into clothes suitable for getting wet, or at the very least be sure you don't have more luggage than you can carry a few metres into the ocean.

Get around

It's a 5-10 minute walk between any of the landmarks, except for Ton Sai, which is a longer hike through the jungle. The village itself is a pedestrian's dream, as there are no cars, and the uneven bumpy walkways make even bicycles impractical.

See

Phra Nang Shrine

Do

Climbing

Rock climber on Ton Sai Beach

Rai Leh is perhaps the best winter sport rock climbing area in the world, with over seven hundred bolted routes up limestone faces with breathtaking views over the ocean. If you are an avid rock climber, chances are you already know about this place and the spectacular cliffs are the reason you are here.

Climbing is graded on the French scale, most is steep and challenging with only limited possibilities for beginners. Due to the corrosive nature of the seaside location, the steel bolts may be of questionable integrity, bolt failure is not uncommon here, and threads (rope tied through holes in the rock) may be of questionable integrity as well. Overall the rock quality is superb; however, like everywhere else, you will find the occasional loose section including the famed Rai Leh stalactites.

Required climbing gear: Rai Leh and around is all sport climbing. Beyond a 60 metre (200 foot) rope, sixteen quickdraws, your harness, shoes and a lot of chalk, you won't need much else. Anything you forget or don't have can be rented at the climbing shops.

Guides: Rai Leh and Ton Sai have several guide operators with services ranging from introductory rock climbing courses to rent-a-belay partner.

Guide books: There are three different guide books published in a variety of languages by the local guide shops, each providing excellent directions and route finding. Most were updated around 2004 or more recently and can be ordered online, directly from the guide shop, or your local climbing store might carry stock.

  • Rock Climbing in Thailand by Elke & Wee. New edition 2007.
  • Thailand: A Climbing Guide published by The Mountaineers and written by Sam Lightner Jr. All the money earned from it is to be donated to the re-bolting cause.

Diving & snorkelling

Rai Leh is not a major diving spot as the local coral and sea life is not as diverse or spectacular as other areas of Thailand. However there is a dive shop that will certify divers and take them on boat trips to decent dive sites, including a sunken wreck. Serious divers tend to prefer the Similan Islands, Ko Phi Phi or Ko Lanta for quality diving.

Kayaking

While not as good as Phang Nga, the kayaking around the peninsula at Rai Leh affords a great alternative to climbing and a stunning view of the area. Several of the limestone islets off Phra Nang Beach have sea caves eroded into their bases, including a few large enough to offer opportunities to beach the kayaks and explore. Paddling into caves and through subterranean passages is particularly interesting, but watch out for low, jagged ceilings. For those with more ambition, a short open-water crossing (about one hour of steady, heavy paddling) leads to the private island of Ko Poda which has beautiful and relatively isolated beaches.

Several bungalow resorts on the Rai Leh West side of the peninsula have sea kayaks available for rent for around 600 baht/half-day, 1,000 baht/full-day (including life-vests). The kayaks are simple two-seat plastic models, but perform fine on the millpond-smooth water of the bay. A half-day is probably plenty long enough to explore the immediate environs of Rai Leh. A bottle of water, a hat, and plenty of sun protection are essential!

Swimming

Trekking

Rai Leh itself does not offer many trekking opportunities, as the peninsula is so tiny. The one interesting and undeveloped area is the jungle atop the limestone towers that make up the club-shaped southern end of the peninsula. Along the paved path that runs from Rai Leh East to Phra Nang beach, a so-called "trail" leads up a slippery, rocky embankment to the jungle-covered plateau. A narrow, indistinct trail circles the top of the southern tower, with a left turn offering access to the highest point (accessible via a sheer face and thus navigable only with climbing gear) as well as a fantastic lookout point over the peninsula. A right turn on the path leads downward into a hidden glen, which provides access to the secret lagoon called Sa Phra Nang or Holy Princess Pool. The route from this glen to the lagoon leads down a steep, rocky ravine, and the path is covered with slippery red clay, making it quite treacherous even for the experienced. The technique is not so much climbing as scrambling, and the knotted nylon ropes are often more dangerous than they are helpful. The lagoon itself is breathtakingly beautiful, but try not to step in, as the soft bottomless muck has quite a penchant for trekkers' footwear.

Buy

Rai Leh has many small general convenience stores with various essentials at reasonable prices, considering shipment costs to what is essentially an island. Though most shoppers (souvenir or otherwise) will be better satisfied in nearby Ao Nang, clothing, souvenirs, beachwear and such are all also available in various small shops in Rai Leh East and Rai Leh West. There are no real grocery vendors, so meals are limited to the restaurants, though some small snack items are available in the convenience stores.

Eat

Rai Leh has a variety of restaurants to choose from, although none are remarkable (for Thailand at least) in character or quality. In general however, the food is what you would expect for southern Thailand, tasty and inexpensive.

Rai Leh West has four restaurants: one for each of the three hotels on the beach. All offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner along the beach with a lovely view of the surroundings.

Rai Leh East has more restaurants and the variety is much greater, though none offer the scenery of the west beach (restaurants near Diamond Cave may be an exception where they offer an impressive view of the bay from their position higher up the hill).

Drink

Ton Sai is where the action is for nightlife. Several bars front the beach, some, such as Sunset Bar and Viking, with house bands. Chill-Out Bar, roughly centre of the beach, has a show stage and big dance floor area surrounded by platforms. Late-night longtails back to Rai Leh or Ao Nang are available, but it's easier to just stay in Ton Sai. Partying often runs until dawn. Most bars have slack lines for drunken tightrope-walking.

Rai Leh East offers more in the way of energetic bars with dance music.

Sleep

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget Under 1,500 baht
Mid-range 1,500 baht to 2,500 baht
Splurge Over 2,500 baht

Rai Leh primarily caters to two groups: honeymooners/families and rock climbing backpackers. Fortunately, there is accommodation to suit both ranging from bamboo bungalows to concrete three story hotels. Prices typically double during high season (November-April inclusive)

Budget

Most Rai Leh budget accommodation is found on the east side of Rai Leh. For the best variety of budget accommodation (wooden bungalows) try neighbouring Ton Sai Beach, a ten min walk or one min longtail ride, where rooms can be had for a few hundred baht/night.

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay Safe

Tattoo Scam

Getting a tattoo is a popular thing to do on any vacation, but beware of the tattoo scam here. Getting a tattoo in Rai Leh is strongly discouraged. You will be severely overcharged for a tattoo using questionably sterile equipment by a questionably skilled artist. First, in order to impress you, they will show photographs that have been downloaded and printed from the Internet and passed off as their own work. Unless the artist is in the photograph with the recipient, it is probably not their own work.

Once you have described what you want to the artist, they will refuse to give you any kind of estimate, and insist that they must first draw the design on you with a pen before giving you a cost but tell you that drawing is free. While they are drawing, they will delay you as much as possible in order to get you drunk. They'll convince you that the tattoo hurts less with more alcohol, pretend to be your friend and drink with you, have drinks delivered from nearby bars (which of course you have to pay for) and various deceptive an manipulative tactics. Once they feel you're drunk enough, they will finish the drawing and give you a price that is three times the cost of a tattoo from more skilled artists in the United States. They're counting on you being too drunk to realize how much you're spending and you'll just go to the nearest ATM, or that you just won't care if you highly overpay because you're on vacation. They may bargain down to about twice the cost of an American tattoo if you're lucky.

Even if you don't care about the cost, getting a tattoo here is still highly inadvisable. The artists here are not as skilled as they appear to be, and since they use a bamboo needle without sufficient skill the tattoo will not last as long. Although they may claim to use new disposable needles, the sterility of their equipment is questionable at best.

Go next

Ao Nang, Phi Phi, Ko Lanta, Ko Muk, Ko Ngai and Phuket are easy destinations from Rai Leh and transportation can be easily booked through any hotel or activity centre.


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, February 12, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.