Visiting Railay Beach was one of the best holidays I've ever had. However, a holiday doesn't have to go perfectly to be good or memorable. Quite the opposite: bumps in the road can make a holiday more of an experience and something that will be remembered for years to come.
The trip started rough. As we were unable to get a flight, my girlfriend and I took a sleeper train from Bangkok to Surat Thani. The train ticket said the trip should take us in the neighborhood of 16 hours. I prayed my stomach, which had been distressed for days, was taking some time off from torturing me.
Once inside the train, we learned that we had gotten the top bunks. This meant we couldn't fully sit up and the lights that stayed on all night made sleep a challenge. Just when I had started to get some sleep I was awakened by calls asking if people wanted to buy fried chicken and sticky rice; a Thai staple.
Once at the railway, petty concerns like a lack of sleep, neglecting to brush our teeth since the previous morning, and growling stomachs melted away like butter on a hot pan.
Situated in the south of Thailand on a peninsula off Krabi, Railay is like a tucked-away secret. It is only accessible by a longtail boat and there are no cars and few of the omnipresent motorbikes that one incessantly sees in Thailand are seen.
The beaches are a shade of blue you normally see in postcards and in movies. There are limestone cliffs visible from the beach. The cliffs are at once both incongruous and beautiful; yet another aspect of Thailand's breathtaking scenery. The community consisted of resorts, hippie bars, restaurants, and massage parlors.
One day we rented a kayak and glided on water that was so warm it was as if someone perfectly calibrated it just for humans to enjoy. Later in the day, I played frisbee with the man who rented us the kayak.
He could barely understand my Thai and didn't have much English, but this was irrelevant. Communication is just two people enjoying a game; two bodies in motion enjoying the last sun of the day.
The next day, much to the amusement of onlookers I built a giant sandcastle by myself. I made it again the next day. Both days I watched young boys trample on my hard work, but this was not an affront to me.
They were being young boys and I had fun making the sandcastles: Again, the goal wasn't the point, it was the experience. It was about enjoying the day.
One night there was lightning. I'm three decades old; I've seen lightning before, but not like this. The lightning illuminated the limestone cliffs like something out of Goya's painting. The sight was eerie and spectacular and spoke to the cliché that the best things in life are free.
The day after that was much of the same, swimming, reading, eating, and drinking. The local wildlife added touches of flavor. For example, at one point we were walking on the beach when we spotted an Asian water monitor, which is a large lizard that bears an uncanny resemblance to a Komodo dragon.
The water monitor ambled along the beach and, much to our surprise, a man amused his wife by getting on all fours and crawling along the beach not far from the animal. The lizard paid the man no mind.
A man by our pool wasn't as lucky when a monkey strolled up to him and yanked his coconut from him. The man struggled to hang on to the fruit, but the monkey managed to wrestle it away from him and proceeded to eat the coconut a couple of feet away.
Railay, like most of rural Thailand, is so scenic that merely taking it in is part of the fun of the holiday. Getting to the south of Thailand and catching glimpses of the rustic countryside reminds me of what makes a great holiday.
What makes a great holiday is being able to enjoy the journey, not to do, but to see and to experience. To enjoy being alive and taking in the sights that have I have no frame of reference for.
The holiday isn't the sum of its parts. It's ineffable. It's enjoying what is in front of my eyes and asking no more or less from the experience.
Join our community to network with other travelers around the world and to gain access to exclusive content and events. Submit your travel stories for a chance to get published! If you enjoy stories like this and want to support our community, join our Patreon by clicking the link below.