Tourism is a major contributor to Thailand’s economy. In 2014, it is estimated tourism accounted for almost 20% of the country’s GDP (source). With so much money coming from tourism, it is no surprise the Thai people have processes, infrastructure, and information to make visiting easy.
Compared to the other countries where I traveled, travel in Thailand felt easier because of the presence of the following:
- Signs and menus in English
- Clean and available bathrooms with western toilets
- Various and easy to book transport options
- Western style convenience stores
- Boutique hostels (a fancier experience when compared to the traditional hostel dorm room)
- Looser modesty expectations for women
Even with a developed tourism infrastructure and familiar western comforts, Thailand still offers cultural experiences common to Asia and distinct from the U.S.. Street food stands and restaurants with small plastic chairs; Buddha statues, monks and temples; use of the bowed wai greeting indicating respect; and cuisine with fresh herbs like lemon grass and tom yum are some examples of the rich Thai culture a visitor will experience.
I think it is this combination of similarities to and differences from western environments, not to mention the amazing landscapes and warm weather, that make Thailand a popular vacation destination. Traveling in Thailand still offers new experiences that so many of us crave while, at the same time, ensuring the level of challenge is not so high as to cause immediate retreat to a posh hotel oasis.
My time in Thailand was special because of the friends from home I traveled with and the opportunity to live for a few days like a Peace Corp volunteer. However, after a month in Thailand, including my last few days in a place where local culture has been overtaken by tourism culture, I was ready for travel in destinations that present more challenges and offer fewer western familiarities.
In the evening, we flew from Chang Mai south to Krabi Town. We stayed one night in Krabi at a hostel where this dog named Sam lives. I am not an animal person but I liked Sam a lot. The black dress I am wearing was an early birthday gift from my parents. It fits great – thank you both. After sleeping in Krabi Town, we caught an early morning long-tail boat to Railei. It was about a 45 minute ride.
Our accommodations on Railei West were fancy. We stayed at the Railei Beach Club, a community of private homes available for rent. The home we rented is a traditional Thai house built on stilts. It is actually the guest wing of a much larger house.
Parker is a certified yoga instructor who teaches classes in the Twin Cities. Twice during our time in Railei Parker led us and other guests in yoga on the platform below our house. I could not have imagined a better environment to practice than this outdoor space nestled in nature.
As a part of our posh accommodations, there was a nightly bar with a sea view. Toto, the bartender, poured excellent cocktails. Enjoying a cocktail here I realized a good drink is one thing I miss from home.
The beach at Railei West is perfect. This is the same beach Justin and I visited twice while we stayed in Tonsai Bay. On my second visit to this part of Thailand we stayed at Railei instead of in neighboring Tonsai. Parker and Brittany are expert photographers and we had a fun time capturing images as the sunset.
Parker is so funny 🙂
Parker and Brittany enjoyed an afternoon kayak ride during our second day at the beach. They returned just before the sun set.
In the morning of our third day at the beach we walked from Railei West to Railei East. It was a 15 minute walk on an easy path. The karst photo is from Phra Nang Beach.
We walked to Railei East because we wanted to hike to a viewpoint and a lagoon. We could not find the path for the viewpoint and lagoon hike so we continued on the main path until we reached Phra Nang beach. It was early in the morning so the tide was out and we were able to walk into some of the caves at this beach.
We left Phra Nang and, with the help of local people, we found our way to the viewpoint and lagoon hike starting point. After a strenuous, dangerous, muddy uphill climb, we were rewarded with these views of Railei beach and the bay.
Here we are feeling accomplished at the top of the cliff.
The reason we first walked by the path to the viewpoint and lagoon is because there is no path. This sign is the only indicator that there could be something of interest in the area. Previous climbers to the viewpoint hung thick ropes down most of the rock and I used these aids to climb up and down. Often, I was climbing on all fours and I even slid on my butt when I could. As the kid who never climbed at the park, finishing this hike was a proud moment.
We took a long tail boat for a 3-hour ride from Railei to Koh Phi Phi, an island off the coast of Thailand. We saw lovely views during the boat ride. Most people take a large passenger ferry to make this trip. We did not want to leave early in the morning with the ferry so we hired a private long-tail boat. Only once we were on the water did we notice there were no other long-tail boats traveling this route… Glad we made the journey safely!
Koh Phi Phi is one of the most well known beach destinations in Thailand. The island has large hotels, restaurants, companies offering water adventure trips, and many visitors. There are no cars on Koh Phi Phi. Instead, goods are moved through the island on large handcarts pushed along the walking paths. Drivers say, “beep beep” to alert people to their presence. There is a lot of party in Koh Phi Phi. Buckets filled with alcohol are cheap and plentiful. Some Thai culture remains present on this vacationer’s island including this spirit tree we spotted.
For our last night together, Brittany, Parker and I enjoyed a meal by the water in Koh Phi Phi.