Railay peninsula is a pretty small place. You can walk from the west beach to the east side in about 10 minutes, it’s probably less than half a kilometer wide, and no more than a kilometer long. Despite it’s small area, there are some really fun hikes to be had in the area. You may not travel far longitudinally, but vertically, there’s plenty of distance to gain.
At the start of our trip, Mark and I wandered the peninsula, scouting the best beaches, talking to people at climbing shops, and trying to figure out the lay of the land. By the time Weeks joined us on the third day of our trip, we had a good idea of exactly what we wanted to do.
We wanted to hike to the Hidden Lagoon.
This trail starts just off the paved path that connects Railay East and Phra Nang beach. It’s not exactly an obvious trail, unless a load of European tourists are tumbling down the hillside as you arrive. There is a small sign on a pavilion across the pavement, but, mostly, the trail is almost entirely unmarked.
It’s a very steep hike, mostly consisting of 3rd and some 4th or easy 5th class climbing. There are fixed ropes all along the trail, which help a lot, and seem to be in pretty good shape.
As we climbed the steep hillside to the overlook, we ran into a group of Gibbon monkeys. These guys are weird looking, dark, shy monkeys. They disappeared into the jungle ahead of and above us.
As we climbed through the jungle, we laughed about how different this hike was from ones in Colorado. In CO, there are plenty of steep hikes, but they are usually covered in warning signs, yellow paint, and bolted steel cables into the rock. In Thailand, the steep rock was covered in slippery mud, worn ropes, and tourists in flip flops and swim suits.
After a few hundred feet of vertical scrambling, and we reached top of the cliff line. A spur trail to the left headed to a nice overlook of Railay peninsula. The view was amazing, and worth the hike. We took a bunch of pictures, marveled at the fact that the only “protection” between people and the edge of a 600ft vertical cliff was a token 4 foot piece of rope, and then went back to the trail.
The hike down to the lagoon was even steeper than the climb up. We frequently found ourselves down-climbing sections of near 5th-class limestone cliff lines. Weeks stopped to coach several people on the trail who were not comfortable with the technical scrambling. Even I had some very nervous moments thinking about the consequences of a mistake. More than a few people had abandoned their flipflops in favor of climbing barefoot. And on the mud-covered limestone, this was not as uncomfortable as it sounds.
It took nearly an hour of down-climbing to reach the lagoon, and it was beautiful.
The green water was lit by a shaft of light filtering in from far above, and surrounded on all sides by huge, vertical cave walls. It felt like being at the bottom of a primordial volcano. Vines and tress clung to the walls of the cave, which were covered in weird stalactite formations and dripping with water.
All along the left side of lagoon, visitors had made little shapes of faces, people, words and shapes out of mud and stuck them to the walls. There were long limestone shelves covered in little mud effigies, and huge rocks populated by cities of mud people. Wild.
We hung out at the lagoon for a while, taking a ton of pictures and watching a couple of teenaged Russian girls pose for Facebook photos in the slime-covered water. Weeks mused, “Ah, the diseases we catch for a good photo…”
The climb out was easier as we knew the best and easiest ways to tackle each cliff as we came to it. But it still took quite a long time. Eventually we tumbled onto the paved path to Phra Nang, covered in mud and sweat, and decided it was time for a swim. We finished our hike on a fantastically beautiful beach, and spent the afternoon floating around in clean, warm, green ocean water.