Railay Beach, Thailand

We left Chiang Rai wishing we had scheduled more than six days there, but knowing we had seen and done everything we had hoped to do. There was just something about it that would stick in our hearts forever. We flew out of the airport at 10 in the morning and arrived in Krabi, Thailand around 5pm (after a two hour delayed flight out of Bangkok). I could skip what I’m going to say next to avoid making people uncomfortable or to just avoid the messy parts of travel, but I’m not going to, because I’m an open book and I want to remember everything (so you’ve been warned). This travel day included likely the worst period cramps I have had in the last five years of my life. I was in constant pain and was even taking 800 milligrams of ibuprofen round the clock. This pain was in my gut, my thighs, my back and my neck, throbbing, tightening, not letting up. I spent hours in these body cramps (yes, for some men that don’t know this– many women have cramps so bad that the pain spreads to other parts of their bodies. And that’s just icing on the cake to bleeding for a week long. ugh). I felt fatigued and completely out of control of my emotions. Irritated by not being able to get to our hotel sooner to lay in fetal position and sleep it off, I found myself so grumpy at Robbie for absolutely no conceivable reason. Next thing I know I’m on our flight and I’m just hysterically crying my eyes out in my window seat, Robbie being as sweet as can be kissing my forehead and letting me rest my tired head on his shoulder, soaking his t-shirt in tears. By this time my head was pounding, my gut was in total knots, and the pain from the cramps was so bad I could hardly see straight. As soon as the plane took off, I fell asleep, only to wake up at landing with zero relief from the pain.

A woman in the arrivals hall with my name on her sign led us to a fancy van taxi. It was a private shuttle to the hotel, and we felt really lucky. It was spacious with super cushiony leather seats with great air conditioning. We drove the thirty minutes through Krabi traffic with my head on Robbie’s shoulder most of the drive and Robbie sweetly continuously checking in on me, to a parking lot close to the shore. We got out, immediately got into a tuk tuk that was waiting for us with a new driver that took us to a dock, and then caught a long tail boat from there to Railay East beach where our resort was. It was low tide when we arrived, so the boats were not able to dock close to the area where the shops and hotels were since the tide was so far back. Hilariously, to solve this problem, a literal tractor with a wooden “dock” attached to it drove into the ocean, picked us up off our boat, and drove us and our dock up to our hotel. We couldn’t believe the amount of transportation we had taken that day: airplane, taxi, tuk tuk, boat, and water tractor?? We got checked into our room, after being thoroughly warned to always keep our balcony doors locked when we weren’t out there because the monkeys in the area have taught themselves to open them and will open them, and I immediately laid on the bed so thankful to not be around a mess of people in airports, where I could just be myself and sprawl out and cry and wallow in self pity. (Also, a few apologies on my end and a few jokes about my grumpiness later and Robbie and I could fall asleep blissfully in each other’s arms).

Our first full day there, we got up for the free breakfast in the beautiful open air buffet area. We immediately realized we weren’t in Chiang Rai anymore, as everywhere we looked there were more caucasians than there were Thai people. We would miss our Thai people. 😦 A few things to note about the area: There are two Railay beaches (Railay East and Railay West). They are only accessible by boat because of the mountains blocking the sort of peninsular area from Krabi city, it’s not an island or anything. Railay East and West are separated by about 10 minutes of walking–so, in other words, they’re very close to one another. There’s another mountain towards the tip of the peninsula and beyond that mountain is a more secluded beach (yet still just as popular) called Phra Nang. Also, Railay East is actually–dare I say it– crappy, compared to West. The water is not nearly as clean, there’s a bunch of dirty, tangled trees coming out of the ocean close to the shoreline, and at high tide, there’s actually no sand/beach because the water comes all the way up to the raised sidewalks of the shops and resorts. Our hotel sat on Railay East, which really just means we get a much better price on a really really nice hotel and are still just a five minute walk to the radiant Railay West. And it’s true, from our particular hotel room, it truly took us five minutes or less to walk to Railay West or East.

So day one we ate our breakfast, threw on our swimsuits, and discovered Railay West. It truly is undoubtedly the most gorgeous beach we’ve ever been to. We feel so blessed to have been to some of the most incredible coasts in all the world: Iceland, Amalfi, Santorini, South of France, and now tropical Thailand. Each one is so special for unique reasons. Iceland had smooth black sand and lava rock formations along the coast, Amalfi had the clearest water we have ever had the privilege to swim in along with stunning colorful homes on cliff sides to gaze back at from the water (not to mention getting rewarded with pizza or lasagna every night after you’d been in the sun all day), Santorini had beautiful clear water but more than that, it had insane sunsets, a volcano island in the distance, and of course the iconic tiered white-washed cave homes everyone cannot get over and delicious Greek food everywhere you walk, and Nice beach had the most teal blue water, all the fun people-watching you could ever want, with an amazingly fun city immediately behind you with all the macaroon options your heart could dream up. The things Railay West had going for it? Lush, jungle-lined mountains jutting into the ocean on either side of you, and the absolute warmest waters we’ve ever stepped into outside of a hot tub. The water temperature was so surprising, in the best way possible. Even in the other locations above, where the outdoor temps were sunny and steamy, the waters still had that expected chill to them that takes a few minutes to get used to. But the Andaman Sea is a whole other story. I looked it up and even today, on November 25th, a few days after leaving, Railay Beach’s ocean temperature is 84 degrees. This is the beginning of Winter, yall! And walking into the sea feels like getting into a hot bathtub, except your feet sink into the softest sand and your view is totally unbeatable.

So we played in the warm water, soaked up the scorching sun, and crab hunted. Yes, once we spotted these off-white colored crabs burrowing into the sand in shallow water, Robbie became adorably addicted to catching one with his hands. We spotted them everywhere, splashing around trying to get to them (of course we made a great team since I was better at spotting them since they blended in so well with the sand but I wanted nothing to do with touching one of them, so I would point them out and Robbie would go after them). I was having so much fun because I knew Robbie was doing exactly what made his heart the happiest in those moments. He loves critters, as I mentioned in the Chiang Rai post, and I really freaking love Robbie, so it works out well. 🙂 This day we were unsuccessful in catching one, as every time one was spotted, Robbie was just a little too slow to get to them because they honestly are disgusting and scurry away incredibly fast and then bury themselves in sand and you can’t find them again. Once our swimming and crab hunting date was over, we walked down the “Railay Walking Street,” that was more like a sandy pathway littered with food and retail booths heading back towards the hotels. We bought me a few-dollar elephant-print wrap so I would have something to wear over my swimsuit and got Robbie a cheap snorkel. We continued to wander the grounds until we came across monkeys. Lot of monkeys. A huge rock wall decked out in jungle vines and rope-like swinging branches complete with thirty monkeys jumping and swinging, squeaking and fighting. We stopped along the path to watch, along with several other tourists who happened upon the event at the same time as we did. Even though there are signs everywhere warning you not to feed the monkeys, a couple tourists gave a monkey a snack from their bags and we watched as they gathered and nibbled like little humans. I had it in my head that monkeys are aggressive, and maybe some are, but these ones are so well adjusted to people that they more acted like cats or something around us. This was really fun for us. Robbie and I just observed them for half an hour of pure free entertainment.

After grabbing “Thai chicken kebabs” from an outdoor stand on the walking street, we ended the night with me reading some of the book of Isaiah to Robbie, crying through some of the most special and touching and cherished promises God gives us in the later chapters, and clinging to them, repeating them to myself. Isaiah 40:18-20 where the Lord promises us an eternity with no violence, mourning, or darkness:

“Violence shall no more be heard in your land,
    devastation or destruction within your borders;
you shall call your walls Salvation,
    and your gates Praise.

19 The sun shall be no more
    your light by day,
nor for brightness shall the moon
    give you light;
but the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your God will be your glory.
20 Your sun shall no more go down,
    nor your moon withdraw itself;
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your days of mourning shall be ended.”

and Isaiah 61:1-3 where the Lord reminds me that I have been anointed to bring Good News, and makes us the promise that believers will be given a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, a garment of praise, and a character of righteousness:

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord‘s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.”

and Isaiah 62:3-4,12 where the Lord tells me He sees His people as beautiful, even delights in us, so much so that He will give us a new name: “My Delight is in Her,” “Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken”:

“You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
    and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
    and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
    and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
    and your land shall be married.”

“..And they shall be called The Holy People,
    The Redeemed of the Lord;
and you shall be called Sought Out,
    A City Not Forsaken.”

And Isaiah 65:17-25 where the Lord promises to build for us a new home: a new heaven and a new earth where justice for all people will be the norm for eternity and the pain and suffering of today will not even be remembered:

“For behold, I create new heavens
    and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
    or come into mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever
    in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy,
    and her people to be a gladness.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem
    and be glad in my people;
no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping
    and the cry of distress.
20 No more shall there be in it
    an infant who lives but a few days,
    or an old man who does not fill out his days,
for the young man shall die a hundred years old,
    and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.
21 They shall build houses and inhabit them;
    they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They shall not build and another inhabit;
    they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
    and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labor in vain
    or bear children for calamity,
for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord,
    and their descendants with them.
24 Before they call I will answer;
    while they are yet speaking I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb shall graze together;
    the lion shall eat straw like the ox,
    and dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt or destroy
    in all my holy mountain,”
says the Lord.

Robbie and I took heart in these words and these promises of our Savior. We thanked God for giving us this Message of Hope while we are on earth still.

The second full day we got up at sunrise (6:30am) and got out to the beach to take some photos, enjoying the water with no one else in it. This was so rewarding and worth it. There were a couple people taking a jog along the sea and a few others eating breakfast up by the resorts, but we were the only people in the water and it was magical. We watched as the golden light peaked over the mountain and made the Andaman Sea sparkle. We lost track of two hours just floating and swimming and having the best time before we realized we needed to make it back in time for breakfast. It was a slow and easy morning, warm and refreshing complete with cold grape juice and coffee, pancakes and french toast, and good conversation. Something Robbie and I have really taken away from this trip as a whole is just how much we appreciate slow and intentional breakfasts together. There has hardly gone a day of the last four months we haven’t shared our morning meal together, whether that was coffee overlooking the Swiss Alps, avocado toast in our sunroom in Slovenia, acai bowls and croissants in Amsterdam, cereal in Tuscany, etc. We have been blessed by that time set aside without technology or my camera, to just be together, to talk about our pending day, to think and dream together, to laugh and joke, to sometimes just sit quietly together in awe of our surroundings. We have said on numerous occasions that we will do our best to bring this practice home with us, to get up a little bit earlier than we normally would and prioritize time at the table before Robbie goes to work. This, I know, is good for a marriage, and has brought us much joy.

We returned to the beach in the afternoon only for me to head back to the room shortly after getting there due to the intensity of my cramps. Robbie stayed in the water, exploring with his snorkel gear, and I’m glad he did so I wouldn’t ruin the fun entirely. I was able to rejoin him after an hour or two of rest and “recovery.” That evening we grabbed the freshest smoothies from a fruit stand– so fresh, in fact, the coconut in Robbie’s coconut smoothie came from the palm tree beside the hut, cracking it open and pouring the milk from it straight into the blender and then chopping chunks of the fruit in with it too. I had mango. They were delicious and a cold welcome relief from the brutal heat. We purchased chicken pad thai next door for me and red curry for Robbie and brought it back to the hotel room to eat dinner on our balcony. There were a couple ants in my to-go box and the chicken didn’t look quite right but you know, you just eat it anyway. I wish I hadn’t. I pretty much knew immediately I wasn’t feeling well, beyond my very normal and common “classic Chase” stomach ache.

I’ll spare the more nasty details but the next morning I knew I shouldn’t leave the room considering I was going to need a bathroom every ten to thirty minutes for the next 12 hours. It was horrible and I felt miserable and feverish. I had body aches that were covering my whole body–similar to the pain of my cramps I had only just found relief from that day– causing me restlessness in my limbs. It was a pathetic scene of me groaning on the bed from stomach ache, nausea and aching from my neck to my toes for hours, sweating with the air conditioning on. I felt so ridiculously emotional from three days of period cramps so bad I couldn’t function like my normal self just to transition into food poisoning sickness. But I also felt ridiculously blessed that this was either of our first encounter with true sickness on this whole journey, and that we had nowhere to be and plenty of time to heal. I encouraged Robbie to go out and make the most of his day and not to worry about me. I would text him if I needed anything. He did go on a little adventure of his own, exploring the east beach’s walking street and Phra Nang. He was gone a few hours and brought me back some 600mg ibuprofen from the pharmacy to help with my fever and body aches. This saved the day and I was so grateful for it. Even though I knew it wasn’t quite over, it was 5:30pm with the first relief I’d felt all day from all symptoms, and I was happy. Robbie sat with me, prayed with me, and relayed his funny adventure stories from the day that I missed out on as I laid next to him with eyes closed. Like seeing a 4 foot 40 pound monitor lizard on the sidewalk path of the resort and making friends with other tourists who were just as in shock from the creature, finding the infamous penis cave of the fertility god– yes, people make wooden penis offerings in this cave. Anyway, I was cracking up and then moaning from how the laughter was rattling my fragile body too much and then telling him to stop making me laugh. I don’t know how many times I’ve asked Robbie to stop making me laugh in the last three years of marriage. So often I’m grumpy or tired or sick and I’ll say yearningly, while fighting back giggles and failing, “Please Robbie! I don’t want to laugh right now!” and he’ll just get even closer to me, squeeze his arms around me, and just smile looking at me with those wide green eyes– clearly not caring at all about my request, which in turn produces the results that I don’t want but he so obviously does, and that is more and more laughter I can’t control or stop. But this, this is why I love him so dearly. This is a man that will stop at nothing to make sure I’m smiling. He is a relentless pursuer of my joy. And even when I am stubborn, he refuses to join me in that stubbornness, in fact seeing it as humorous, it becomes a fun challenge for him to watch me break out into laughter. So I’ll probably continue to always childishly beg him to stop making me laugh when I’m not in the mood, and he’ll probably continue to always tirelessly make sure I’m smiling. And I’m more than okay with that.

Around 6 that evening, the rains started. It was the heaviest downpour we’d seen in years and it was such a magnificent display of God’s power. We sat on our balcony as the deluge beat mercilessly against the roof above us. We watched as the dark clouds made the jungled mountain near us disappear from view and listened as the roar of wild thunder echo against the mountains and rattle our chairs for upwards of fifteen seconds at a time. This was the best ending to an unfortunate day. The rain poured beautifully for more than an hour and Robbie and I just sat back and enjoyed the lightning show. We ordered room service buttered toast (such a funny thing to have delivered to you on a platter) for me and I was able to sleep well.

So this blog was a hard one for me to know what details to write about because it’s hard not to think of our time at Railay Beach being a 50/50 mix of both really wonderful and relaxing fun in the sun moments and also some really frustrating and discouraging moments (or days) of sickness and pain. I want to sort of sum up the rest of our time more quickly, although we all know I have a hard time keeping my words to a minimum.

I was slow moving the day after I was really sick, but Robbie convinced me to attempt a day out of the room. I’m glad I did and we enjoyed a full day at Phra Nang Beach, observing many monkeys do the cutest things, getting my first terrifying site of a 40 pound lizard, swimming in a cave together, successfully catching a little white crab, and watching people rock climb. Robbie grabbed a Thai pancake from a walking street booth and we ordered more room service toast for me just to be safe and it was a great day. The night ended with another perfect and substantial rainfall.

The next day was my favorite day of our time in Southern Thailand, waking up super early again and swimming in the warm ocean at Railay West at 6:30 in the morning, many hours before any other tourists would make their way to the water. The water was all our own, and we were happy and I was feeling really well. We made our way to breakfast with bare feet covered in sand. That afternoon we rented a two-person kayak and for two hours we floated around the Andaman Sea in the blazing sunlight of the afternoon sky. We navigated around huge rock formations jutting out of the ocean, through cave inlets and under archways. We sailed over big waves made from longtail boats and feared we’d tip over. We saw enormous schools of bright yellow fish swimming all around us. We saw a water monitor lizard actually swim from one small rock to another, head sticking out of the water breathing air while his feet and tail paddled him. We were smiling and laughing and in awe for two hours. It was an amazing experience. We came home and showered off the sweat from the day and went back to watch the sunset, our skin golden brown from the Southeast Asian sun and really just the past four months of being outside nearly every day.

Here is where our perfect day turns sour. After the sun had completely rested behind the horizon line, we walked back to our resort for dinner. We decided that eating at the hotel might be our best bet for clean food, even though Robbie had eaten another walking street food the day before. As soon as we sat down, he started not feeling well. It just hit him so suddenly and out of the blue. But he thought it was fine, and surprisingly still decided to eat a full dinner at the hotel with me. We ate quickly as Robbie knew he needed to get back to the room. When he laid down, groaning with stomach pain almost immediately when we got up to the room, I knew exactly what was happening. It’s just the worst when the one you love is in so much pain and there’s literally not a single thing you can do to make it better, so you just try to be attentive and loving and patient and serve them the best you know how. Poor Robbie’s sickness turned to vomiting pretty quickly and it was horrible. You must understand, I haven’t actually thrown up since I was 12. I always swear God has spared me throwing up since I’m always sick in other ways. Because it’s so foreign to me, it has become this total fear of mine, and I panic at the first signs of nausea. Like really panic. I stress and I stress and I stress over it, praying I won’t puke. I don’t know why. My stress over it is probably worse than just puking and getting it over with and feeling better. Shockingly Robbie hasn’t thrown up once since we met more than five years ago and so I’ve been spared one of my worst fears until now: a fear of not being a good wife when my husband is throwing up. I still don’t know how I performed but Robbie, in his misery, is calling out to me from the bathroom, “Just don’t come in here, Chase, really!” and I felt blessed he asked me not to come in there, relieving me of the need to be present during the worst thing ever. But feeling so helpless and panicked over his utter illness, I’m constantly calling out to him from the bedroom, “You are so loved!” and “I am so proud of you!” and “You’re doing great!!” hahahaha I’m not kidding, it just came out of me. I really was so proud of him for being so sick and such a trooper and not complaining or panicking or stressing out once. Robbie, after vomiting and feeling a million times better, comes out of the bathroom looking alive for the first time in an hour and sees me wide-eyed and sad in a chair waiting for him to come out and he says, “My poor pup is traumatized! I’m sorry!” and my heart melts because Robbie is still caring about me in his unfortunate circumstance. He’s amazing, he really is.

Well this routine of trying to sleep but getting sick again and again continued into the night until the body aches settled in. We were able to both miraculously able to sleep as decently as we could given the circumstances. The next day was our last day in Railay and as much as Robbie wanted so badly to do this hike up a muddy mountain to a hidden lagoon, I just wouldn’t let him. He was still sick, but was trying to convince me he felt up to it. Instead we cuddled tons and watched stupid videos on youtube and I made a gatorade and bag-of-pretzels run to a mini mart for him and even got our laundry done for us for only two dollars at a local shop (probably sketchy but you gotta do what you gotta do when your clothes stink terribly and it’s all going to be stuffed back into your backpack soon for travel).

To sum up Railay would be to say I’m just glad it’s over. Starting the week with brutal cramps, getting food poisoning mid-week, and then Robbie getting sick at the end made for a very interrupted vacation. But we must speak of God’s unrelenting mercy in all of this. The fact that we had just the right amount of time booked in this one spot that perfectly allotted enough time to both get sick at different times and both recover fully from it is amazing. We didn’t have to travel on a sick day (and my oh my, I don’t know what you would even do if you were that sick on a day you needed to check out of a hotel and catch a flight!). We got sick in a place that had a very comfortable bed, good air conditioning, and a private bathroom. We’ve done several shared spaces on this journey and it could’ve looked a lot different. There’s so much to be grateful for even in the chaos.

Railay was beautiful but God’s goodness is more beautiful. We praise Him for health and incredible bodies that are able to fight off illness.