As good as Kata beach was, Railay was better. While it is technically part of the mainland, the area’s topography renders roads useless, effectively making Railay an island. White sand beaches rest at the feet of giant limestone cliffs that jut straight up from the water for hundreds of meters . Constant water filtering down through the stone creates giant stalactites, some of them 20 meters long, and countless caves that make this place a rock climber’s dream.
The stalactites, in particular, make the earth look like it is melting. One of the beaches in Railay, Pranang, was named of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world largely because it is bounded on either side by cliffs like this one:
As I swam along the foot of these cliffs, I discovered that it was possible to climb out of the water into a huge cave that was cool and quiet. The main noises were the waves and the rhythmic rise and fall of Thai cicadas, like hundreds of rattle snakes. I found a tunnel large enough to stand up in and followed it for a bit until it led to a smaller cave. I didn’t keep going because it was pitch black and I had forgotten to pack my headlamp, but each time the cicada noise subsided, I could hear bats rustling and chattering. It was cool to feel so deep inside the Earth.
(not the cave)
One of the best parts of the week was exchanging stories with the various people we met. My friend Danton from Southern California met us in Railay, which was great. He brought with him Ryan, a hilarious 28-year-old who has been teaching biology and English in a new place each year for the past four years (Next up – Shanghai). To help cement stereotypes about backpackers, we also met Sam and Zoe, an unlikely couple from London and Baltimore who spend each summer in Humboldt County trimming pot and making just enough money in two months to spend the remaining ten traveling around the world. But don't worry, parents, I'm not getting any ideas. :)