E: Island Hopping around Railay Beach

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After a speedily eaten Pad Thai we reluctantly boarded our boat to leave the Phi Phi’s. Our next point of call was Railay Beach, a coastal resort in close proximity to Krabi town. Our initial plan incorporated a short stay in Krabi town, but after hearing from multiple sources that Krabi was in fact a shipping town we decided follow up Kate’s friends recommendation that Railay was her favourite place in Thailand.

The Railay beach area is made up of three stretches of coast, one pristine white sand beach tucked away by limestone cliffs (above, Phra Nang Beach), another perfectly nice beach lined with hotels (West Railay) and one small stretch of coast comprised of rocks and concrete promenade (East Railay Beach). Upon arrival we set eyes on the latter during low tide where all the rocks and mud was visible and I turned to Kate, “You made us leave paradise for this!?”

The other two coasts of Railay Beach however are the perfect place to set your worries aside and relax. The only way to get in or out is by boat and transport can be arranged at various travel agencies dotted along the sea front. Prices for drinks and food at most of the restaurants are noticeably a lot higher than the rest of the places we visited in Thailand. I’d recommend sticking to the east coast for more reasonably priced dining options. My favourite activity of Railay Beach aside from the actual shore was hiking to an enchanting viewpoint and a gorgeous green lagoon tucked away behind some forest.

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The hike entrance is located between Railay east beach and Phra Nang Beach is quite challenging and for the majority of it you find yourself climbing vertically holding on to patches of red mud and tree trunks on your way up. The distinctive red mud in Railay later proved that it was ridiculously hard to remove from clothes, since that day I have still not managed to remove a few marks on my swimming trunks. They make nice if not slightly odd reminder of our time in Railay.

At the viewpoint we met a very friendly Austrian couple where we discussed the Bangkok protests, holidays and Austria’s recent victory in Eurovision. Regrettably although getting close, we struggled with the downhill climb to reach the lagoon. It was difficult to see how we would get back up once down, a rock climbing instructor later comforted us by letting us know she didn’t get to the bottom the first time she attempted the hike either.

Finishing the hike and turning to the opposite direction of the route we came, we exited from under the cliffs and found ourselves shrouded in a large group of Asian tourists, walking a little further along away from the cliffs you discover the full beauty of Phra Nang Beach, often voted as one of the top 10 beaches in the world. It’s so easy to see why. Beyond the soft chalky sands and turquoise waters the views consisted of limestone islets laced in greenery, distant cliffs and longboats scurrying across the sea.

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Some longboats even offer fresh juice and snacks, what more could you ask for in paradise? The crowds in area  weren’t too plentiful either, probably due to the limited options for reaching the peninsula. We spent the majority of the day going for dips in the water under the isolated limestone islet and listening to music whilst drifting in and out of sleep under the shade of the local flora. It was a truly brilliant day rounded off with some delicious green curry, morning glory (the vegetable) and ridiculously overpriced mango sticky rice.

Following a visit to the enchantingly noisy bats located in Diamond Cave, we opted for a small island hopping boat tour to Chicken island, Poda island and Tup island as a way of keeping us busy for the second day. The trip provided numerous opportunities for some brilliant snorkelling where we witnessed all sorts of coral and an interesting array of tropical fish. We had booked this through the restaurant which doubled as a travel agency that we had eaten breakfast at.

All the staff on the boat were extremely friendly and welcoming, seeming very proud of the place where they call home.  As the sun set over the peninsula of Railay we sat down on the sand and devoured a delicious Thai barbecue. Just before delivering us back home the boat tour ended with a visit to see some photosynthetic plankton which lit up when disturbed by movement underwater.

The time to depart from Railay arrived the next day, once again very reluctantly we arranged our transport to Bangkok before heading back to our favourite beach for a final few hours of bliss. It was there we accidentally encountered our friend from NUS Jan! In disbelief I sighted him on Phra Nang Beach and ran over to him. Both of us where pretty shocked, I mean what were the chances of us accidentally running into each other on a coast in Thailand? He decided to join us for the next leg of our journey, to the mighty Bangkok!

Railay beach was indeed one of the most special parts of our journey.

Favourite things to see/do:

  • Hike to Viewpoint/Lagoon (free)
  • Phra Nang Beach (free)
  • Four Islands boat trip
  • Diamond Cave to see the bats
  • Fluorescent Plankton

Tips:

  • East coast Railay is much cheaper for both food and accommodation
  • It might be advisable to take some climbing gear for the descent to the Lagoon

E: Indonesian Retreat

72As it’s still fairly early on in our term here in Singapore, a few weekend trips to the coast are acceptable if you make up for the work during the week. Bintan is one of the Riau Islands, a lesser known Indonesian gem just underneath Singapore. Word has it that the government has big plans to transform it into the next Bali. The island already receives some form of tourist income, mainly from Singaporean locals searching for a decent beach. When boarding the ferry there were endless advertisements promoting the relatively new resort situated to the north of the island. Being students with a limited budget we headed further south into the part of the island actually inhabited by the locals.

We stayed in the modest but beautiful Mutiara Beach Guest-house which I can only recommend especially for a big group. They gave us a very good deal by renting out their largest room and allowing us extra mattresses. If we were still in the UK the cost of the mosquito nets and coils we were provided with would have cost more than the room for the duration we stayed. Breakfast was surprisingly included in the price. I thoroughly enjoyed waking up to complimentary Coconut and Lime pancakes by the beach.

Undoubtedly the best part of the trip was renting out some scooters and taking our time to pass through coconut plantations and untouched Indonesian countryside. We made various stops including a little seafood restaurant and had the most delicious marinated fresh fish (for £2 per person!) and by a little stretch of coast with a coral islet opposite. It was possible to walk across the sea from the beach and made for some great photo opportunities. Back at our guest house the beach was very beautiful by the time we arrived back, we had to share it with the presence of some local fishing villagers, whose floating houses became climbing frames and diving boards for our enjoyment. (No damage caused!) The following evening was spent drinking ridiculously cheap beer and relaxing on our porch to some tunes until the portable speakers ran out of battery. Simply a brilliant weekend!

E: South Pacific

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Despite the unrealistic surroundings, another factor which amazed me on Pulau Tioman was how the colours shifted during different points in the day. Early evening was uniquely special. The sun peeking through the mountains left beautiful reflections across the coast. Rays of light danced behind the palms eventually finding themselves across the golden sand. The photos taken in those two days required little to no editing, Malaysia as a whole continues to be ridiculously photogenic.

We spent our time based in a small village surrounded by locals in little tin shacks. Our beach huts blended in perfectly to the rustic feel of the place. To my surprise not only were they air-conditioned the restaurants nearby even had Wi-Fi. We were in the middle of nowhere yet somehow there’s still a wireless hotspot. Is it really that hard to get off the grid in the 21st century?

Back in Singapore we’ve been facing groggy weather. Yesterday morning I woke up to the biggest thunderstorm I’d ever experienced. Was pretty exciting. Lessons are proving difficult and last years late nights stumbling around clubs have evolved into far duller late nights in the study area listening to Theme Park, Winehouse and Jessie Ware on repeat. Most of the photos of me were taken by Alex, so many thanks to her. Unfortunately she can’t return the thanks for the photos of her as she really can’t take a bad picture so no credit should be directed at me. Enjoy the photos and the last set of Tioman pictures should be up soon!

IMG_8955You getting this? IMG_8460 IMG_8633 IMG_8912Alex got so much swag I don’t know where she keeps it allIMG_8929IMG_8766One of my favourite shots from the trip
IMG_8406Swimming Buds
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E: Rainforesting

IMG_8286 IMG_8284Still uploading pictures from Tioman, whilst we were there we went for a little hike to see the waterfall. The waterfall was beautiful, the trek totalled roughly three hours. What never occurred to me about being in a rainforest is everything surrounding you, wants to kill you. I got some lovely cuts from the vines and even the palm trees were loaded with thorns. When finishing there was nothing better than jumping into the sea, of course from the amount of sweat on my shirt it seemed as if I’d already had a swim.

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E: Back of a Pick-up Truck

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I have just got back from literally 24 blissful hours in Malaysia on the island of Pulau Tioman. It was the most captivating place I have ever been in my life (sorry Colombo). After a painful 3 hours by coach from Singapore and 3 more hours on the boat we finally arrived on the island. Within a few steps we arrived at a few parking bays. “Ok who’s going in which car?”. The pick up trucks were for us! Complete surprise.

It was probably one of my favourite parts of the trip. We sat being shaken uncontrollably by the dodgy Japanese built concrete tracks as we climbed up some of the steepest roads I’d ever seen. All the while surrounded with abnormally large plants, bird song and stunning treetop scenery. Was not what I was expecting in the slightest.IMG_8061 IMG_8033 IMG_8057Below are some photos from near the port in mainland Malaysia

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E: Jaw Dropping Sri Lanka

IMG_7001On my trip over to the other side of the world where I optionally decided to banish myself to for a year, I got the option to get a stop over at a country along the way. My Dad suggested Sri Lanka and this suggestion I liked. I hadn’t heard much on Sri Lanka apart from the stories on the civil war and the odd picture of a beautiful palm forest in the travel brochures.

Since I was going to be there it made sense to get off and see the place. From the moment the plane started descending I could tell Sri Lanka was a beautiful country. From the window I could see dense forest, endless palms and beautiful rivers embedded within the countryside. Being my first time in a Tropical climate my mouth felt like it had literally fallen to the floor and would not close. It was astonishingly beautiful.

Due to the short nature of the stay (16 hours to be exact) there wasn’t many options on where to go. So we went to the closest place of notable interest to the airport, which was the capital ‘Colombo’. Now initially the capital didn’t strike me as the place to be as from what I had just previewed in the plane I wanted to be out in the countryside. The taxi drive to the city proved to me there was a lot to see cultural wise in the capital. (My mouth had still not closed at this point).

The thing about Colombo is, although it may function like a city it feels a lot more like a town. The people on the streets don’t seem like city folk, they appeared much more practical. I liked the vibes from the people in Sri Lanka. The people did seem very friendly, obviously my time there was short but generally walking around I felt quite safe.

What I was surprised was that the food was very good. Some things were very spicy, but others were a lot milder than expected. Even the ‘sri lankan’ food provided by sri lankan airlines was really tasty. What we’re really missing out on in the UK is all these Indian influenced breads they have available. The short trip has definitely been enough to entice me to come back one day. My next stop though would definitely be the countryside.

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The building above is a gift from China, that’s all I’ll say
IMG_6908 IMG_6960 IMG_7022Nice and drenched by the Ocean mist
IMG_6821IMG_6835It’s crazy the Orchids just grow on the trees
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