So here we are on Railay Beach; our second of possibly many Thai destinations on this trip. Yesterday we left Koh Lanta with heavy hearts and with the "please keep in touch" and "please come back"s we'd been told were echoing in our ears. I knew when the overloaded passenger ferry chugged away from the port that I'll go back to Koh Lanta and I really won't mind if it is part of this trip.Yes, life is too short and there are always more amazing places to see and experience, and I will prioritise this mantra over most, but there's a lot to be said for finding a place that tugged at a piece of my heart like it was a home from hom; a warmer, calmer and smilier home, no less.
Yet onwards and upwards.
Or is it?
We were long-tail-boat-ed off the passenger ferry on to Railay Beach West and it took nano-seconds to spot the difference. First of all the majority of the beach is a car park for long-tail boats. Secondly, aforementioned long-tail boats are responsible for the non-stop shipping in and out herds of arriving and departing travellers, like ourselves yesterday. This does give the beach an air of airport terminal and I sympathised with sunbathers who frequently had their sunshine interrupted by the shadow of a doubly loaded front- and backpacker standing in from of them. Thirdly I spotted the bodies; the white (or slightly pink), young, teenage bodies territorially scattering the beach, not a head of recently brushed hair among them. That's right, dear Reader, we have finally stumbled upon them. The Gap Year Gang.
I have nothing against those who choose to do a Gap Year. Indeed it is one of my biggest regrets that I didn't have itchier feet when I was 18 as it looks, sounds and no doubt is, one of the best things you can do. But am I wrong for now wanting to be as far away as possible from any Gap Year Gang member? Their intentions are good (beer, sex, body paint), just different from mine (beer, sleep, body massage.) I know, I know. I am getting old.There were other ways that our first impressions of Railay were tainted, though we cannot argue that the landscape of limestone cliffs over hanging clear blue water is fantastically beautiful. It was to enjoy these views that we'd booked a resort on the Railay Beach West making it borderline expensive yet the customer service and room we were allocated was, frankly, borderline unpleasant, and furthermore the resort restaurant served an over-the-borderline atrocious meal. In and outside of resorts everything is at least 1/3 more expensive than on Koh Lanta and most of the beachfront resorts and restaurants are Muslim owned so are alcohol free. This isn't necessarily a problem, more an inconvenience. It was also a massive inconvenience that it started raining almost immediately after our arrival (though actually this was a lot of fun and we got to watch an incredibly thunder storm from a very cramped bar!).
As the list of "inconveniences" grew we considered our options and even looked at neighbouring resorts to compare value for money. This was probably the best thing we could have done as it soon transpired that the grass is actually greener where we'd come from. It was at this point that I thought I was being unreasonable. Look at the view Birdie, look how stunning this landscape is and the beach is nice enough to swim in. We are allowed to bring in beers from the local shop and maybe we were just lucky on Lanta with the prices and friendly people? Then I remembered something. When NewMan and I started planning our trip one of my friends, who did a two year RTW trip, wrote out a long list and brief description of the places in southeast Asia that she had been to. For a number of places she listed, she wrote comments like "Didn't like much", "Don't bother" or "Not as good as...". Remembering this soothed my paranoia and worries over irrational expectations as I would never doubt my friend's status as an experienced, knowledgable and well-rounded traveller. Of course it's totally okay to not like everywhere you go. In fact it's a near certainty when embarking on long term travel that you will like some places more than others, and may even hate a few, just like there will be a few, which capture a piece of your heart. As this all clicks into place I realise that this is surely precisely what travelling is all about?
I know, I know. I am a little slow at times and yeah, I bet the Gap Year Gang knew this all along...
Frances M. Thompson
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