Railay Beach Thailand

Wednesday, July 11, 2018
We stayed on Railay Beach during our trip to Thailand. I'll be honest by saying this was the one location I was most tentative about. It was where we booked our cheapest hotel and what we thought as the most complicating to get to. We prepaid for our rooms with no refund, or we likely would have ended up elsewhere. I actually considered losing the money we paid on the room - luckily for us, that wasn't the case.
Railay West Beach
Railay Beach is a large peninsula between the city of Krabi and Ao Nang in Thailand. It is accessible only by boat due to high limestone cliffs cutting off mainland access. We came from Phuket and could have taken a Ferry directly to Railay Beach, instead we went by car (big mistake, read about it here at the end of the post). Our van dropped off at the Ao Nang pier, where we purchased a ticket for a longtail boat to take us to Railay West. The cost for this is 100 baht a person but they will only leave the pier when you have 8 or more people in the boat. We didn't want to wait for four additional people and we were able to pay double.
Railay West Beach
The boat ride is short, about 10 minutes. Railay West does not have a pier so you will likely get wet getting out of the boat. Railay East has a pier and it is easy to walk from there to West. Not only did we get soaked, but our luggage also got wet. You can bring trash bags to keep your stuff from getting wet.
Railay West Walking Street
Once we arrived at Railay West, we snagged a few pictures of the sunset (amazing!) and walked through the walking street where the restaurants, bars and shops were located. Both Railay West and Railay East have a walking street but there are more things to do on West. Railay West has a beach, where Railay East has mangroves.
We stayed at Railay Phutawan Resort. Gabe and I paid $60 USD a night for a deluxe double room with sea view. It was a huge room with a stunning view over their infinity pool. The staff met us at the end of walking street to get our luggage. It is a uphill walk to the resort but we had no issues with it (except when it rained, the street flooded a bit).
Railay Phutawan Resort
Overall, I was very impressed with Railay Phutawan Resort and would recommend staying there. You can also send your clothes off to be washed for 60 baht per kilo. The food was decent and we enjoyed many frozen drinks by the pool. However beware - if you have a balcony room, the warning about monkeys breaking into rooms for the mini-bar are not a joke! We witnessed it (and luckily locked our doors)!
Railay has something for everyone. You can go rock climbing, cliff diving, kayaking, SUP, take a private longtail to the Krabi 4 Islands, visit Phi Phi islands and much more. It's very easy to rent any of the non-motorized watersports. There are vendors on the beach and they will negotiate pricing so be sure to ask!
Maya Bay, Phi Phi Islands
On our first day in Railay, we did an organized early bird Phi Phi Islands tour. It was magical and the top highlight of our entire trip.


Longtail Boat or Uber Eats?
On our second day in Railay, we took a longtail boat over to Ao Nang and had lunch. We planned on buying beer and wine while over there to bring back to Railay but unfortunately were there during the no sale of alcohol time frame (1pm-5pm). The prices for buy beer and wine in Railay are higher than the mainland (and the mainland had a much better selection). After we took the longtail back to Railay, we decided to go stand up paddle boarding. We went over to Phra Nang Beach which was on the other side of the Railay West cliff. Here you will find more vendors, but nothing like Railay West. They even had a longtail food truck! 
Phra Nang Cave
Phra Nang Beach has a cave (AKA Princess Cave) where fishermen, before going out to sea, have made offerings to the symbolic Phallus of Shiva (known as the Siwaleung or Palad Khik in Thai). The fishermen believed the cave is the home of a mythical sea princess and that their offerings will bring them success and protect from danger. Well......... that gift is a wooden carved - yeah those carvings are what is looks like.
Railay Beach
Our third day in Railay, we rented Kayaks for 2 hours. We easily could have had them for the whole day. We went back over to Phra Nang Beach and explored various cliffs and islands. It was very relaxing and we had a great time.
That night, we did the Railay Cooking Class. Each couple selected our own starters, side, main and desert. This was a neat experience and we all took home skills. The only negative I have on this night was that they allowed another group to jump in (after we pre-paid for our reservations the day before which was a requirement) - it was supposed to be reservation only and this caused our cooking lesson to last nearly 3 hours.
Railay Cooking Class
We learned to make the following dishes:
Tom Ka Gai (chicken coconut soup)
Som Tum (Green Papaya Salad)
Yum Woon Sen (Glass Noodle Salad)
Deep Fried Shrimp Dumplings
Massaman Curry
Pad See Ew
Mango with Coconut Sticky Rice
If I were to plan another trip to Thailand, I would surely allow for more nights in Railay. I loved the relaxed vyb to the island and it was magically beautiful. If you are planning a trip to Thailand, I strongly suggest spending a few nights here.

The Rez Grill Happy Hour at Seminole Hard Rock Tampa

Friday, July 6, 2018
Seminole Hard Rock Tampa recently added an amazing Social Hour (AKA Happy Hour) at The Rez Grill. They have a large selection of small bites, craft cocktails and wines for $7, Wednesday - Sunday from 3pm-6pm! Good happy hours are hard to find on the weekends so seeing the hours made me very happy! My husband Gabe and I were invited to sampling of their offerings and as always, I left very full and impressed with The Rez Grill.
$7 Craft Cocktails, Rez Grill Social Hour
Read about my first dining experience at The Rez Grill Tampa here.  

We have been a huge fans of The Rez Grill since it opened which specializes in elevated comfort food. We are frequent patrons because they are home of my favorite appetizer, Bentons Ham plate. Gabe and I love eating at the bar, splitting a plate of Bentons Ham and a few craft cocktails. So we were pretty ecstatic to learn our favorite appetizer was on the Social Hour menu for $7 vs $17.
Bentons Ham
Another thing I love about The Rez Grill is their innovative cocktails. You'll find everything from drinks served in gnomes to sangria in juice pouches. Gabe is a huge fan of their New Fashioned, where I always like to try a different drink on every visit.
When We Were Young

$7 THE REZ GRILL TAMPA COCKTAILS
KHALESSI: house-infused cucumber vodka, pear, sparkling wine
IMPROVED G&T: gin, elderflower, tonic water, b’lure ice
WHEN WE WERE YOUNG: house-made sangria blend, fresh fruit
NEW FASHIONED: dark rum, chocolate bitters, dehydrated orange, filthy cherry
1944 MAI TAI: dark rum, house-made curaçao, frank's orgeat, lime
REZ SMASH: house-infused cucumber vodka, macerated fruit, thyme syrup, soda
BELLINI: sparkling wine, peach purée

$7 THE REZ GRILL TAMPA WINE
riesling | fess parker | santa barbara ‘16
pinot grigio | camelot | california | tapped
chardonnay | chateau st.jean | north coast | tapped
rosé | malene | central coast | tapped
pinot noir | lange | willamette valley ‘16
merlot | kendall-jackson vintner’s reserve | sonoma county ‘13
cabernet sauvignon | heritage | columbia valley ‘16

Rez Grill Banh Mi
Aside from the Bentons Ham dish, which is safe to say I love - one of the best dishes I had from The Rez Grill's Social Hour menu was the Banh Mi. It was a decent size, I could easily have this for dinner and very good.

$7 THE REZ GRILL TAMPA BITES
SMOKED FISH DIP: poblano-corn vinaigrette, tortilla chips, cilantro
YUKON GOLD POTATO TOTS: dill crème fraîche
DEVILED EGGS: b&b pickles, bacon, chives
PEEL & EAT SHRIMP: rez spice, gringo blanco, lime
BENTON’S HAM: house biscuits, cherry-pepper jam, red eye aioli
BANH MI: pork, pickled carrots, jalapeño, cilantro, mint
CHOPPED SALAD: radicchio, salami, provolone, garbanzo beans, red wine vinaigrette
Peel & Eat Shrimp
Another favorite of ours was the peel & eat shrimp. This is something by title I would never order. However, this isn't your ordinary peel & eat shrimp! The flavor was incredible and it's my new goal to get the spice recipe from Chef Frank.
Smoked Fish Dip
The Rez Grill Social Hours menu includes so many great dishes to choose from. Luckily at $7 a pop, you can order many and not feel guilty! But please, whatever you do - even if you don't like ham, order the Bentons Ham!
Potato Tots
Have you made it to The Rez Grill yet? If not, I urge you to. The Social Hour menu is the perfect example to check out one of my favorite restaurants in Tampa!

The Rez Grill is open Wednesday - Sunday and Social Hour is available from 3pm-6pm. They also have a new Sunday Brunch (which I have yet to check out) from 11am-7pm.

Carnival Cruise Lines Dr. Seuss Word Challenge

Tuesday, July 3, 2018
Carnival Inspiration Hosts Kick-Off Event for Dr. Seuss Word Challenge With Book Reading  by Los Angeles Dodgers Player Kike Hernandez to Kids from Boys & Girls Club.
Continuing its longstanding partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, Carnival Cruise Line kicked off its seagoing version of the Dr. Seuss Word Challenge with a fun book reading to local children by Los Angeles Dodgers player Kike Hernandez aboard the Carnival Inspiration in Long Beach.
Donning Dr. Seuss’s signature striped hat, Hernandez read the author’s classic “What Pet Should I Get” to more than 100 children from the Long Beach Boys & Girls Club who also enjoyed a delicious Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast featuring none other than with The Cat in the Hat and Friends and Thing 1 and Thing 2, part of Carnival’s exclusive Seuss at Sea program, available on all 26 of its ships. The festivities included in a $10,000 donation to the Boys & Girls Club of Long Beach.
Launched in 2014, Seuss at Sea is a fleetwide program featuring exciting youth, family, dining and entertainment experiences inspired by the amazing world and words of Dr. Seuss. The program includes such fun activities as the Seuss-a-palooza Parade and Story Time, as well as character interactions, Dr. Seuss toys and games and popular movies.

Phi Phi Islands Early Bird Tour

Monday, July 2, 2018
If I were to ask you what your favorite vacation memory was, would you have an answer? Prior to our trip to Thailand, I would have given 5 answers to that question. Now I have 1 answer, and I honestly don't think it will ever be topped.
Maya Bay, Phi Phi Islands
In 2001, I saw The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio. In the movie, he went to Thailand and visited a "secret" beach which in real life is called Maya Bay, located in Phi Phi Islands. This movie put Thailand at the top of my bucket list and when we decided to go, Maya Bay was at the top of my list of must visit locations.
Pileh Lagoon
We booked an early bird phi phi island tour so we could arrive to Maya Bay before thousands of other tourists. It was the best decision we made on the entire trip. We booked through a company called Trip Store Krabi and paid just under $100 a person for the day trip on a speed boat. This included our entry fees into all the National Parks, breakfast and lunch. We were picked up at 7am from Railay West Beach which was where we stayed while in Krabi.
When we arrived at Maya Bay, I was overcome with emotions. I know it sounds ridiculous but this was the most beautiful place I have ever seen and I couldn't believe my eyes. There were a few boats who made it to the bay before us but the beach was primarily empty. We had an hour to explore Maya Bay and we had this gorgeous beach pretty much to ourselves.
After we left Maya Bay, we spent some time snorkeling in Pileh Lagoon. There were fish everywhere. I had a good time playing with my go-pro, snapping shots and swimming in crystal clear water. It was truly heaven.
We also had the chance to jump off the boat while in the lagoon. The water was electric blue and didn't seem real. It was very salty, allowing us to lay back and float.
We then took a trip over to Monkey Island and fed them bananas!! This was wild and a bit scary to be honest! I think Monkey's are adorable but I am not a fan of monkey jumping towards your boat to get bananas.
Monkey swimming at Monkey Island
Our next stop was a visit to Koh Phi Phi Don, which is where the resorts are. I had major buyers remorse while there, wishing we didn't stay 5 nights in Patong Beach and knew we should have stayed here a few nights instead. We had time to shop or do whatever else we wanted.
Koh Phi Phi Don
Once back on the boat, we headed to Ao Por, a private beach where we enjoyed a Thai buffet lunch in the beach front restaurant. We had time to swim and explore the beach. There were also Monkeys at this beach and we had to secure our belongings as they steal your belongings!
Ao Por
Following lunch, we went to the 4 Islands in Krabi. This came to a major surprise to me as apparently I didn't read the full tour description. We had planned on taking a private boat the next day to the 4 islands and didn't have to!
Chicken Island
We visited Chicken Island and walked along the sandbar at Thale Waek (Separated Sea). This is a unique occurance that happens each day during low tide and connects the offshore islands of Koh Kai, Koh Tup, and Koh Mor.
Poda Island
We ended the day at Poda Island, where we spent time exploring and swimming.
Poda Island
This was a perfect day that I will never forget. The staff aboard the Sea Eagle far exceeded our expectations. It was our most memorable experience from our entire trip to Thailand. If you book one tour while in Thailand, make it this one. Not only was it the top excursion of our trip, it was the top excursion of my life.
Poda Island
FYI, Maya Bay is closed through October 2018. We fortunately made it 1 week before the closing. When a destination becomes wildly popular like Maya Bay, you end up with thousands of visitors each day. Due to the popularity from the movie, over time Maya Bay has suffered from the tourism and this is the first time it has ever closed down.
Maya Bay
I'm ending this blog post with my favorite photo I've ever taken on vacation. I hope to one day find myself back in the Phi Phi Islands.

Phuket - the good, the bad and the ugly

Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Prior to booking a stay in Phuket, we heard quite the amount of negative and positive feedback from travel writers. It was clear, people either loved Phuket or hated it. I'm here to tell you what I would do differently if I ever found myself in Phuket again.

Phuket is a southern province of Thailand and the country's largest island, located in the Adaman Sea. We opted to stay in Patong Beach due to the proximity of our excursions and ease of island hopping and. Patong is the most tourist populated area in Phuket. However we were at the beginning of off season so it wasn't busy. Patong is also home to the nightlife in Phuket, so that helped our decision as well. Here's a breakdown of the areas we visited in Phuket. Note, we did not see the whole island so please take that into consideration when reading this post.

Patong Beach

Patong Beach
We spent 5 nights at Patong Beach. 3 should have been our max (2 really). So here's the nitty gritty on Patong Beach. We stayed at a place called Kee Resort and Spa. The pool and facilities were nice but I'll leave it at that. Every time we left our hotel, we were bum-rushed by men trying to sell the boys custom suits. We passed multiple massage parlors where you could get a 300 baht massage ($9 USD) and everyone was polite when we were with the boys. The one time they went out on their own, they were physically grabbed, the women trying to pull them in to give special massages. Yes, this is a real thing. Kee Resort was also located on a side street which leads you onto Bangla Road....

Bangla Road
Bangla Rd. reminded me a great deal of Bourbon Street. People in your face trying to get you to go into bars for drink specials. People trying to get you to attend Ping Pong shows while shoving insane menus in your face of things people shouldn't be able to do with human body parts. It was fun to see it once but not fun to have attached to your hotel room for 5 nights.
Simons Caberet
We attended the "must see" lady boy show called Simons Caberet. It was a cute show, very PG and family friendly but after the show, the Lady Boys lined up for photos, and only after a really bad pic was taken, they demanded 500 baht. I don't have much to say positive about Patong Beach and I would never stay there again. With that said, I don't want my opinion of Patong to reflect Phuket. We were warned, there are 1001 blog posts about this, we just chose not to listen.
Sunset on Patong Beach
As I mentioned above, one of the reasons we decided to stay in Patong was it seemed to be a good centralized home base for the ease of excursions. All three excursions we did picked us up at our hotel (FYI they do not pick up at Air BNB). They picked up other passengers from the other beaches, so ultimately we did not have to stay in Patong. We also never did island hopping as we originally planned.
Dog on the Beach in Patong
There are many nice places to visit there and overall, I really did enjoy Phuket Beach. Continue on for the nightmare on how we got from Patong Beach to Krabi Island.

Kata Beach

Kata Beach
We took a tuk-tuk from Patong to Kata Beach for 400 baht ($12 USD) and our driver dropped us off at a Public Beach that had an outdoor market directly on the beach. Super convenient and they had every type of food you could imagine!
We found the sweetest vendor who allowed us to borrow their chairs for free and made our beach drinks (rum in the coconut!). After floating on our new doughnut floats that we purchased for 250 baht each ($7.50 USD), we headed down to the southern part of Kata to take a stab at surfing.
Surfing rates in Kata Beach
My husband and I are both from Daytona Beach. He is an amazing surfer, I cannot stand up on the board (I tried, so credit is owed there). During our time at Kata, I really wished that we stayed there vs. Patong. It's easy enough to get to Patong if you want the party scene but it had a sense of serenity that Patong was missing.

Old Phuket Town

Old Phuket Town
We did the Real Phuket Sight Seeing Tour with Phuket Lets Go, which took us all around Phuket, showing us the real parts of the island. I was very sick that morning and it took everything out of me to go but we had to  leave the group halfway through the tour. Two of the things I really wanted to do in Phuket was visit Old Phuket Town and see Big Buddha. If you plan on seeing these things, I suggest booking a tour like we did, or the taxi fair alone will be astronomical. It was going to be 1000 Baht to get a taxi from Big Buddha to our hotel but luckily we were driven to the bottom and grabbed one for 800.
Old Phuket Town was incredible and very different than any other place we saw in Thailand. Old Phuket Town is noted for Sino-Portuguese buildings on both sides of the street. Many old buildings have been converted into shops, hotels, restaurants and museums.
One of the coolest shops we went into was an old medicine shop. They have remedies for everything you could possibly imagine. It was incredible to see and wish I would have brought some of this home with me!
On On Hotel
Also, the movie The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio had the hotel scene (On On Hotel) filmed here. The architecture was incredible and I wish we had more time (when I felt better) to explore all the shops and restaurants.



Big Buddha 


Although I was on the verge of passing out at Big Buddha, it still took my breath away. Unfortunately, I could not make the climb up so I stayed at the bottom. Gabe got to go up and he took quite a few pics for me while I sat back and enjoyed the view.

Big Buddha is one of the newer Buddha landmarks, which construction started in 2004. It's still not complete because it relies on public funding. While waiting for the group, I noticed a few shops where you could by snacks, souvineers and coconut ice cream from.
The dress code is strict for women but much loser for men vs. Bangkok temples. If you don't come dressed appropriately, you can rent a cover up there. Definitely worth the trip up, but look into renting a car or take a tour vs. a taxi as that would be a very expensive trip.

Khao Rang Hill Viewpoint

Khao Rang Viewpoint
We had an opportunity to check out the viewpoint at Khao Rang Hill right before heading up to Big Buddha. We saw some incredible views of the city leading into the ocean. If you find yourself over there, it's worth a trip and they have a restaurant (that wasn't open yet when we were there).

Street Art

Street art on the Beach in Kata
There is so much street art in Thailand. I felt like we were in competition as to who could take the most photos of street art! One of our favorites was Alex Face, who has his signature character named Mardi all over the town. Here are a few we found!
Alex Face

Alex Face

Alex Face

Alex Face
Overall, we did have a great time in Phuket. I wouldn't stay in Patong Beach again but wouldn't say no to going back as there is so many lovely areas in Phuket. I will say, we were very happy to leave, which brings me to the ending of our time in Phuket..........

Getting from Phuket to Krabi
If you need to go from Phuket to Krabi, I strongly suggest reading this very long storey. When we booked our hotel and location in Patong, we didn't realize the Ferry to Krabi was on the other side of the island. That ferry is 3 hours long and left at 8:00 in the morning, meaning we would have had to be up and checked out by 6:00 to make it across town (take the ferry regardless of the time, trust me). So we decided to do what was one of the biggest mistakes of our entire trip - set up transportation from Kee Resort. We paid 3500 Baht for an air conditioned van transfer. That is $110 USD. We were told it was a 3-4 hour car ride and the van picked us up at 10am. To our surprise, there was another couple in the van. Our next surprise came 30 minutes later when we were taken to a bus station and we had to transfer to another van, which had hardly any AC and was seconds from falling apart. This was when the nightmare began. The driver stopped at every single bus stop on the way, picking up random strangers. Then another bus stop. We eventually arrived at the terminal to take us to the marina, only to be told that the long boats had stopped transfers to Railay West where we were staying. That it wold cost us an additional 100 baht per person and we had to be taken to a northern location, then pay to transfer. I luckily had an international plan and called our hotel, only to learn this was a scam. We told him we would stay on the initial track. He got pissed. Really pissed. Once we were on our 3rd van to go to the marina, the driver stopped to pump the equivalent of 5 dollars in gas (his tank was full), stop 3 times to talk to people and drive under the speed limit. The boats stopped running at 5:30 and they were purposely trying to make us miss our boat. He also passed the drop off, which again, thank you international plan - I had the map running without his knowledge. We demanded to get off the van and ran, making one of the last boats to Railay Beach. While I realize this shouldn't reflect Phuket, it kinda does being our hotel staffed someone who 100% scammed us into taking a nightmare trip and wasting more than half of our day.
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