The side attraction for most was our main destination today. The beach is a nice bonus, though.
So it’s clear, you’ll arrive at the same place to reach Railay Beach West or East — in fact, just off to the right of this picture is the East beach. The bouncy floating pier is where you’ll land no matter which beach you’re trying to reach. (A quick pro tip: walk along the small circles that join the larger square pieces — it’ll be less bouncy.)
As you walk along the main path, you’ll be reminded this is a great area to go bouldering or rock climbing. After all, the rocks are the reason you had to arrive by boat instead of wheels. A nearby sign notes this is a ‘strenuous’ path, which can get muddy and slippery. I wasn’t particularly interested in breaking my neck (even with what looked like good ropes and bolts).
A sign of what’s to come, perhaps… Called a lingam, siwaleung or palad khik (ปลัดขิก — literally ‘honorable surrogate penis’), a similar sight can be found at the Chao Mae Tuptim shrine, next to the Nai Lert Bangkok Hotel (Swissotel) on Wireless Road in Bangkok.
In any case, the legend here involves a mythical sea princess who makes this cave her home (and almost certainly an allegory for erm, womanly parts). Fishermen would stop here and give an offering in the hopes of success in fishing and protection from danger.
Although there’s no place to purchase one anywhere nearby, you can purchase some smaller examples as souvenirs (or sacrifices) along Ao Nang’s main road by the beach. A small stack of incense is around if you’d prefer to light a joss stick instead.
There’s no clear origin story here, however, beyond a vague myth about the sea princess and fishermen. Another myth is that Phra Nang was an Indian princess, killed in a shipwreck. Her ghost since moved to the cave, where she supposedly remains today.
Yet another story says Phra Nang was the wife of a fisherman, who one day never returned. She waited for him in the cave for years, however.
Ahh, yes, the beach — suffice it to say the beach is gorgeous. Plenty of swimming room, though not a lot of room on the sand during high tide. Add to that some rock climbers and spectators watching on (not pictured) and there’s a lot of different things happening here. It’s not the longest beach — only about 500 meters from one set of rocks to the other — but Railay Beach’s East and West side are both within walking distance.
Glance up at the caves within the cliffs before making your way back to the pier for a boat ride elsewhere. There are plenty of hotels and bungalows, though with the high season running from November to April, booking ahead is definitely a good idea. It’s a great day trip from Krabi Town or Ao Nang, or easy to combine with a trip to one of those areas.
Name: Phallic shrine on Phra Nang Beach
Address: Tambon Ao Nang, Amphoe Mueang Krabi, Chang Wat Krabi (GPS: 8.004578, 98.840229)
Directions: From Ao Nam Mao Pier, Krabi Pier or Ao Nang Pier, take a boat to the island. One-way tickets are between 80–100 baht, or a bit more at night. They won’t typically leave until there are at least 7 or 8 people ready to go, so be patient. Be aware that arriving back at the piers is almost always a ‘wet landing’ — at least a few steps will be in ankle-deep water, so don’t wear anything you don’t want getting wet.
Once at Railay Pier, head left to walk along the sidewalk. You’ll see a number of hotels / bungalows on your right and Railay Beach East on your left. Take a right at the souvenir shop / convenience store, then stay on this paved path through the caves (watch out for the drips!). You’re getting close when you pass the public bathroom / changing room (10 baht to use — bring 10-baht coins!) — keep going and the Phra Nang beach will be on the right. The two shrines will be straight ahead, at and near the end of the beach.
Hours: open 24/7
Website: http://www.railay.com (unofficial, but excellent informational site)