It’s been about ten years since I last set foot on Railay Beach near Ao Nang in the southern Thai province of Krabi. Aside from the seemingly tectonic shift in demographics (more younger Yanks, Russians and Chinese, considerably less Scandinavian families) and probably twice as many speedboats and long-tails, it’s still breathtaking to step onto that beach and once again experience first hand the emerald, semi translucent sea and surrounding limestone islands with their dramatically steep cliffs.
Today, while Charlotte covered Railay East, I spent about an hour shooting on the peninsula’s west side. It was pretty packed with a whole bunch of more or less fit sun lovers, so it took some time to figure out angles that wouldn’t demand too much retouching.
Ao Nang has really grown since our last visit. And that means it’s much, much busier than we remember it to be. Then again, we’re here during peak season and memories can be tricky – I mean, it’s easy to forget how things really were and just remember all the good stuff.
The general vibe in Ao Nang village is still fairly laid back and relaxed. We’re staying about a 15 minute walk from the beach and close enough to the beautiful Ao Nang Mosque for us to be … ever-so gently woken by the morning’s first adhan (call to prayer).
Charlotte and I stayed at Krabi Resort back in 1998, just a few days after arriving in Thailand for our honeymoon and way before the first Starbucks opened in Ao Nang. I remember that we rented a relatively simple bungalow with a ceiling fan, minibar and partial sea view. The resort is still around today, just much bigger and fancier.
Surprisingly, prices aren’t nearly as high as we’d expected. It’s not cheap like in 1998, but still very affordable. And with Ao Nang’s growth, the ensuing competition seems to have leveled the playing field in favor of us visitors. So now, there’s much more restaurants to choose from and they are all trying hard to generate business by offering a wide selection of good food (primarily seafood) attentive service and competitive pricing.
In the hotel’s pool the other day, I spoke with two brothers originally from Santa Monica, California but now in New York City. They asked what I thought made Thailand worth visiting and a great destination.
I told them that though I have accumulated many favorites around the world over the years, this country is still the only place that has an almost absurd abundance of benefits for tourists: great food, amazingly affordable high end hotels, wide-ranging and beautiful nature experiences, reasonably modern and usually reliable infrastructure, super-friendly locals, a warm climate and just simply great place to kick back and chill out for a spell.