When you see a Thai postcard of impossibly steep limestone cliffs starkly jutting from the tranquil waters, you are probably looking at the Krabi Peninsula, and most likely Raily Beach. It's simply a paradise. The peninsula as a whole looks like a rough boot, a mini Italy stretching from the mainland into the sea below, islands dotting off its coast as far as the eye can see. There are four major beaches to this area: the heel (Raily East), the sole (Au Nang?), the shin (Raily West), and the thigh (Ton Sai). Through some strange trick of the tides, two of these beaches are as wide and as clean of beaches I ever did see. The other two, oddly, are more akin to battlegrounds, hard clumps of rocky debris and coral fortifications that threaten to trip my step as I dismount our longboat perhaps a hundred yards off the shore and wade in. Also coming in are several scuba divers who, incredibly, are walking with full equipment through the dangerous terrain.
I arrive on the east side where a series of reasonably cheap resorts, restaurants, bars, and services intertwine with the mangroves and low-hanging trees. On the boat ride in I managed to strike up a conversation with a cute couple of girls, one of whom incredibly suggests that I share a room with the other in order to cut costs. Sadly my would-be-roommate wasn't as into the idea as her companion, and thus I found myself the most expensive place I ever stayed in Thailand - nearly $7.50 a night. Thus settled (as is always my first priority whenever I arrive in a new place) I wander back to explore the east beach and grab some dinner and a cool beer with the setting sun, enduring another fire-twirling performance before retiring for the evening.
The next day I head across the peninsula to find the West beach, a beautiful place full of beautiful sunbathers under the watchful protection of jungle-tipped cliffs all around. There are some places that just are hard to take in, as if you struggle to accept that such things can exist outside of the imagination of a movie set. It's a bit overcast and thus the lighting is muted - something that would never happen in a movie - but this only underscores that this is the real thing. This is what people all around the world dream of and write of. These are the places that seed the imaginations of the set designers and special effects artists. And I'm here, physically here, in the midst of it.