We made it to Railay, one of the most beautiful places in Thailand! Railay has pretty well the most spectacular scenery, cliffs and beaches that I've seen so I was happy to make it back! The beach had fine, fine sand and the water was turquoise and clear and you could literally just lay back and float with no effort while looking up at the overhanging cliffs and dangly rocks (Im sure theres a more technical term for those!).
I had initially been to Railay on my trip in 2006 and I would NEVER have recognized it. It is only a matter of time before a places with such spectacular scenery becomes "mainstream" and it was literally shocking to me how many people were on the beach, especially phranang beach which was pretty well empty last time I was there. Railay west beach has always been more upscale and resorty (it has a nice beach) but Railay east was a mangrove, swampy mud pit (it still is!) that barely had any shops or anything but now theres pharmacies and mini marts and a ton of restaurants and resorts. Given the takeover of the place, there seemed to be very limited budget options so ended up in a bungalow up on the hill (with an exceptional breeze to temper the super hot days!) for 800 baht (less than $30). A bungalow is cheap thai accommodation that is basically a freestanding basic bamboo hut (in its budget form anyways) that varies in how open it is the outside--sometimes wide open gaps in the walls with never an intention to keep things out and sometimes just cracks between the boards just big enough to let whatever bug wants to get in in...if you're lucky you have a hammock on the deck. As far as bungalows go, these ones were really quite clean and lovely....every day I came home waiting for our room to erupt in cockroaches (this has happened before!!!) but it never did..both of us were SO happy that we never saw a single creature in the bungalow besides ants, a staple, and some geckos, harmless. We put up our bug net just in case though!
I was SO happy that as much as Bridger can not care about much, he apparently has a secret fear of bugs and rats so he was more than happy to put up the bugnet! Even though the bugnet is to keep mosquitoes out, really what I use it for is to keep all living things out...like a little safety cacoon that you can finally relax in and not worry that a spider will crawl in your mouth or a cockroach will crawl in your ear. The truth is, I just really don't like bungalows...I know I'm supposed to be all like cool and rustic, authentic accommodation loving but at 30, I can admit that I just unapologetically dont care for them! I would rather stay in a little hotel like thing with bedsheets that presumably get washed more than every couple years, but I digress. Being budget accommodation requiring ppl, I expect I'll be making friend with many more bungalows over the next few months. The one thing about this bungalow was what I can only image is the termites...eating the place apart every hour of every day. Scrape...scrape...scrape...scrape 24 hours a day leaving piles of dust in every corner. I'm sure the place must have been so pitted and hollow inside the walls by now that its a wonder it didnt just fall down when we sneezed! But as far as happiness in bungalows goes, I'll take termites any day over cockroaches, spiders or rodents! Bc they're in the bush usually, sometimes there are some unexpected perks- one day I was just sitting on the deck swinging in the hammock and out walks a duck from under the balcony of the next bungalow...what?! Funny moments.
We spent alot of time in Railay walking up and down the pathways and hanging out at the beach in and out of the ocean...it was SO lovely to have some beach time after Bangkok.
There are monkeys EVERYWHERE in Railay. Haha one day Bridger and I were just walking on a narrow pathway by ourselves and all of a sudden there was a monkey (i.e. rabies) in the middle of the pathway. And then we looked around and they were all around us on the fences, in the trees, on the ground off the pathway...everywhere. You would have though we were surrounded by people pointing guns at us the way we both absolutely froze trying to formulate a plan how we were gonna get by them alive! I'm sure we must have looked like lunatics. The monkeys around Railay are so used to tourists that they just hang out freely and raid the garbage cans. They're actually so funny (from afar!) bc they pull whatever they can get out of the garbage so you see them drinking fruit juice out of cups, carrying half full pop bottles under their arms up the tree, eating the last shreds of food off packages, whatever. People literally feed them by passing them food and they reach out and grab it with their hands (obviously these people dont know anything about rabies and also, for the love of God people stop feeding the wildlife-isn't that common knowledge?!?!) and then eat it. As much as it is so cute, its also quite sad bc they are not really wild animals anymore. They're quite amazing though...one day I saw a bunch of monkeys literally climbing the cliffs (I didnt even know they could do this!) like mountain goats around a bunch of rock climbers...it looked like they were curious and wanted to check out the climbers.
Railay is actually one of the top spots in the world for rock climbing so brings in all sorts of climbers. There was one old guy with a white white beard who was always on the beach and I'm not sure if he was there by himself or not, if he lived in Railay or if he was on vacation or otherwise what his story was but every day he would just start climbing way high up the cliff with no ropes, no harnesses, nothing, just his climbing shoes. He moved so fast and effortlessly up a literally vertical cliff and then would sit up there and wave at people at the bottom and stuff. After seeing it for a few days, from what I could gather I think he liked the attention it drew to him as people were always watching and taking pics! It leads you to wonder whether his brazenness reflected a pure and absolute confidence in his skills or just someone who was at peace with the possibility of death?!
We went on a hike in Railay to a viewpoint which was absolutely incredible. To get there you had to climb a clay covered limestone scramble with ropes at a pretty steep angle. Pretty sweaty and had to be careful but we did it pretty easily.
There is also a second part of the hike where you can climb down to a lagoon way down low that is open to the sky surrounded by the walls of the cliff. When I was in Railay before I had done the viewpoint but didnt do the lagoon as the "path" was known to be quite a bit more challenging than the viewpoint portion. But this time, we decided to give it a shot...it was SO gruelling (I was definitely happy I had hiking shoes) but worth it and turned into my favorite part of Railay! Since the lagoon was low, you essentially had to climb down 3 cliffs with a combo of terribly frayed ropes and holds in the rocks. It was essentially rock climbing, just without harnesses and not quite as high, though equally vertical! Getting down was pretty intense but once we were there we crawled through a little crevice in the rock and wandered around to the other side of the lagoon and wandered into a little cave (there is caves everywhere around here). Once I was at the bottom, I started to have a little panic that I still had to get back up and what if my little squat legs weren't long enough to reach the next hold to climb vertically but we both made it back up and gave ourselves a pat on the back for making it happen! It was amazing and highly recommended...just make sure you take shoes! We saw some insane people doing it with bare feet, socks or flipflops, lunatics!
In Railay I got the mother of all tangles in my hair, I guess from having it up in a ponytail/bun for so long. After the shower, I literally worked at this thing for like half an hour and made minimal progress. I seriously started to consider chopping all my hair off or getting white girl dreadlocks. But for the time being, I just cut it out with my pocketknife haha...thai haircut :)
I went out for my first Thai bucket in 9 years! Except it was a vodka bucket and not rum bc let's face it, I cant drink a full bucket by myself before the melted ice makes it undrinkable and Bridger continues to be on a self imposed "rum ban since 2010". So I'll either have to plan on having a bender of a night and drink my own rum bucket or find a rum bucket drinking partner somewhere (Sally?!). Haha one night we came home from a night out and of all bungalows, a cat (i.e. rabies!) was sleeping on the steps to our bungalow so we couldn't go in. Haha much like the frozen solid monkey incident, we didn't know what to do (and more importantly, why are we two grown adults who are afraid of stray cats on our porch?!?!) so here we were in the pitch black hissing, stomping our feet and shaking our keys at the cat to get it to move!! Eventually it did--crisis averted ;)
Literally in thailand, outside your hotel room where they give you a roll, toilet paper does not exist (the bidet exists instead which I am actually quite fond of unless it is overgrown in green moldy looking stuff-then Im a little scared of what kind of butt infections you might get from it). I carry little kleenex packets around just in case but I dont have that much and what I have has to last me through all SE Asia (where I imagine toilet paper is equally as scarce in any public bathroom, though I'm sure if I actually looked I could probably find some to buy)...so essentially, toilet paper kleenex sheets are precious and you avoid using them whenever you can. This means that you just get so accustomed to the drip dry technique after you pee. Seriously, I never would have though it would become so normal! You (well I at least) get really good at using very little toilet paper no matter what you do because you dont want to be the person that has to keep going back to the reception of your hotel and asking for MORE toilet paper...maybe this is in my head but I think they will start to wonder what kind of poop-butt freak you are that you need so much. So its actually been really amazing how little toilet paper you really actually need to go through and this is a lesson I hope to take home with my to reduce my waste in Canada! Another thing that is never found is soap. So I carry hand sanitizer but enter the same problem as with toilet paper.
In related news, we got sick in Railay. Bridger and I had signed up to go rock climbing one day. Again, we thought we were being soooo smart bc instead of splitting a pizza, we decided to pay extra to each get our own so we could box up the leftovers and sleep in and then eat them in the morning before climbing instead of having to wake up early and go out to get breakfast. This was a bad choice for many reasons--never get left overs while travelling dumbass, you have nowhere to put it! So we had a crapload of pizza boxed up and then realized that we didn't know where to put it because we didnt want it in the bungalow bc it might bring in ants or rats or something. So then we decided to put the box outside and wrap it up in the hammock so it was off the ground so the critters couldnt get to it. Though they never got into it, the next morning we had monkeys on our roof...related or unrelated I'll never know. Also we never ate leftovers because of something else...Warning: I'm about to talk about poo (among other things) so if you dont like to know about it, skip this section!
So after this night, I shit up my guts for like 4 days and Bridger had a day of it. Haha Ive had gut problems most of my life but Bridger was completely shocked just what level of unsolid your crap can get! Luckily he only had about a day of it before it evened out on it's own. Me on the other hand, not so! For the first day I had a huge headache, chills and a likely fever and shit that you couldn't differentiate from pee if you were to hear it. The next day still the shits and my stomach was feeling a bit nauseous but no headache and the next day I literally felt fine but the bod wouldn't stop shitting horrible green liquidy garbage (sorry)! Like can't leave the hotel bc I need to be within running distance to a toilet at all times shitting. During the night I was literally awake like clockwork every 2 hours to run to the toilet and at one point I was actually awoken in the middle of the night not by my rumbling stomach like usual but by a visceral and involuntary contraction of my butt muscle as the shit moved down fast. Thank goodness I still have a young healthy strong butt that can be counted on to do its job independently of conscious thought otherwise there's a really great probability that I would have just crapped the bed. Like seriously, I don't think I ever have felt like if you're not vigilant, poo could just literally fall out of your butt. As luck would have it, immediately before this, I cut the ball of my foot open pretty deep on a rock at the beach. Well, cuts get very easily infected in humid climates and this one was on my foot of all dirty places it could be. So while shitting out my guts, I was also trying to tend to my foot to make sure it didn't get infected from the dirty floor. So dilemma being that I keep it covered w a bandaid to keep it clean but then it stays soggy and may get infected bc soggy grounds breed bacteria. Or I could leave it open and dry and risk it getting dirty and infected. So I compromised and decided to cover it during the day when I might be moving and then leave it open at night when presumably I would be horizontal sleeping. Except I wasn't really sleeping bc for days on end I was up every two hours having a crap. So there I was 12:30, 2:30, 4:30, 6:30 hobbling to the bathroom with one good foot, and the other on either my big toe or my heel like a freaking pirate trying to keep the cut off the floor! Also when you're up that much expelling all your fluids, I think you start to get a little delirious bc one night I was on the toilet and noticed that the little centipede-like creature that had been crawling harmlessly around the bathroom for the last few nights had been attacked and picked apart by pack of baby ants (seriously the ants are so ruthless I think they'd eat a person if there were enough of them)...and I felt really, really sad! I dont know what it was about that moment but it all felt very tragic!!! Also, at one point during that time I woke up and my eyelid was crusty and I thought I was getting an eye infection too so I cleansed the junk out of my face and hoped for the best. Also during that time, Bridger's insect bites were swollen bright red, almost bruised circles all over his legs and he complained about wanting to rip off his legs bc they itched and hurt so much. So we were in good shape anyways! Eventually we got tired of waiting for the natural healing to take over and feeling like crap so we went to the pharmacy and just got some sort of medication which seemed to work!!! We were supposed to leave Railay much earlier but with the sickness we stayed put. I was so thankful for an open itinerary that allowed us to buy a few days instead of load myself full of immodium and get on a 10 hour bus.
So in the end we stayed far too long in Railay, we never did end up getting to go climbing (god bless Hot Rock climbing who gave us our money back no questions asked) and we wasted alot of money on pizza...I'll never eat pizza again. But we're healthy again and it feels SO good!!! All in all, inconvenient but thankful it was all on the mild end of the spectrum as far as travel health and unfortunate sick-circumstances can go. Either way, health- dont ever take it for granted!!!