Railay Beach and the boat ride from hell

krabi to railay beach

The boat ride from hell.

Having traveled for almost ten years, Trang and I have managed to land ourselves in quite a few scary situations.  During our trip to Thailand, we had one of those moments.  It happened on the last leg of our vacation in the Andaman Sea.  Our group got stranded in a long tail boat traveling from Krabi to Railay Beach during a powerful thunderstorm.  There was a real moment when I just crossed my fingers and said to myself, “This would be a crappy way to die.”

What could go wrong?

krabi to railay beach
Railay Beach thunderstorm overhead

It was the evening of Dec 8th, 2014.  The sun had just set, and the plan was to explore the local night market with a group of friends.  To do this, we hired a long-tail boat captain to take us from Railay Beach to Krabi.  Then eventually, back from Krabi to Railay Beach.  As everyone began to load onto the boat, I was concerned about the distant clouds.

Typhoon Hagupit was just about finished wreaking havoc in the Philippines and was heading east.  Parts of the typhoon’s outermost bands were even expected to bring significant rain to our area later that night.  I told Trang I didn’t think we should go, but she insisted that I worry too much.  So, of course, I folded and hopped onto the tiny boat.

As we made our way out of the bay, I silently counted the time between the lightning and thunder claps.  The count was getting lower.  It wasn’t until we passed the peninsula that I saw a wall of rain in the distance.  I calmly told Trang to go sit underneath the canopy and to put away our cameras.  The wall was quickly heading our way.  Minutes later we were enveloped by the rain, and for a few moments, it was fun.

Not long after, the boat operator turned off the engine and said we had to stop.  He couldn’t see where we were going as we were about three-quarters of a mile offshore.  He looked concerned.  It was pitch black with the rain pouring down all around us.  As the thunder got closer, the cheerful mood started to change when he told us to put on our life jackets.

Incoming Thunderstorm

krabi to railay beach
Waiting out a thunderstorm in the Andaman Sea

As we huddled inside the boat’s metal canopy, I continued to count the thunder claps. Like clockwork, the number worked its way down to 1. That’s when my eyesight flooded with bright red, and my ears began to ring. As the sound roared around us, I was convinced lightning had hit the boat. It didn’t. Instead lightning was flashing all around us. There was nothing we could do.  For a good five minutes, I sat there expecting to be stuck.

From pitch black to blind, Lightning striking near us

Eventually, the storm moved past, and the rain began to thin out. The boat captain said it would be safer to head back to Railay Beach and we agreed. After 30 minutes of helplessness, the engine started, and we were on our way back.

Round 2 With a Guest

We weren’t even 5 minutes into our return trip when rain once again forced us to stop. This time, I decided to ride the storm out away from all the metal. I headed to the front of the boat and held on. I figured I would have a better chance of surviving a lightning strike if metal didn’t surround me.

krabi to railay beach
My attempt to get as far away from the metal on the boat

What I didn’t know at the time was that our boat had picked up a guest, and it had been circling us since the first stop. The shark was either using our boat as some protection or waiting for me to fall in! If I had known, I would have tied myself to the metal frame and died. Being eaten by a shark is easily my worst nightmare.

Afterward, I made it clear to our friends that sharks should always be pointed out as soon as they are seen.  Not after I had just reenacted Lieutenant Dan’s “Come to Jesus” moment from the movie, Forrest Gump.

*Once we got back from our vacation I did some research on what sharks can be found near Krabi.  To my relief, it was probably just a Black-tipped Reef Shark.

We didn’t die!

krabi to railay beach
All smiles after we lived

Twenty minutes later, we had made it through the second lighting burst, and the shark had gone its separate way. As we rounded the peninsula into the safety of the cove, the sky started to clear, and the moon broke through the clouds. It was beautiful.

Being on a boat full of incredibly talented photographers we celebrated by having an impromptu photoshoot. Everyone got up, posed and shared laughs. It was a great way to release the intense stress of the very real moment we had just experienced. Once back on land we generously tipped the boat captain and settled in for an uneventful meal. Pleasantly drinking and eating our way out of shock.

I learned something about myself on that fateful boat

I tend to land Trang and I into iffy situations.  For some reason, the minute I step foot into another country my brain starts telling me to forget my common sense.  Maybe it’s the excitement of not having proper medical coverage, who knows.  What I do know is that my favorite travel experiences come from doing something kind of dumb.

Now I’m not saying, “Go to another country and do something stupid.”  I just think getting out of your comfortable zone can be rewarding.  For instance, this scary boat ride with our wedding photographers turned us from their clients to actual friends.  There’s just something about the threat of being eaten by sharks that will speed you through the whole acquaintance stage.  When it was all said and done this boat ride has evolved into a fun story.

So much more happened on our trip to Thailand.  If you haven’t seen our personal travel video of the trip check it out here.  Also, let us know below if you’ve found yourself in a equally stressful situations during your travels.  We would love you hear your story.

More From Us

If you’re looking for a more uplifting boating story that doesn’t involve a shark. Check out our post on Swimming With Sea Lions In Peru.  That was an experience I’ll never forget.  Thanks for visiting and come back again soon.  We post new travel-related content every week!

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