11:50 a.m. Hong Islands were a great mouthwatering appetizer but there are many more islands to see in the vicinity, so I carry on my island-hopping day trip. As we pass by an island, we see an elevated cave on the cliff, and some light bamboo structures. These caves are accessible by boat only, and the bird nests’ collectors climb up using the bamboo framework and knotted ropes.
The collectors climb barefoot to the ceiling of the cave (often very high), where birds build their nests. They use a torch of bark dipped into resin, and held between their teeth, to lighten their way in the black cave. When harvesting the nests, a special tool is used: a dada (a sort of triangular fork). It brings bad luck to pick the nests with bare hands, and if a collector touches them by mistake, he would immediately stop working for the day.
Bird nests are used in pricey meals and drinks. In China, bird nest soup is an expensive dish, but also very popular: it is said that bird nest soup has many health benefits, tonic properties, and is much sought after. One kilo of bird nests can range from THB 10,000 to THB 50,000. Now don’t try to go pick some nest yourself, or you might end up in deep, deep trouble.
Talking about soup, lunch time is calling! We will not have bird nest soup though, but some tasty and healthy Thai food on Railay Beach. Railay beach is only accessible by boat, because limestone cliffs cut all access to the peninsula from the mainland. It is a renowned spot for rock climbing as well. The boat smoothly lands on the beach and anchors next to the long-tails that are already there. Interesting contrast between the traditional boats and our outboard!
The beach is amazing: wide, deep, very clean, and surprisingly flat. A beautiful beach indeed, with shallow waters, ideal for families. Kids and adults both seem to enjoy it a lot indeed! As soon as I step out of the boat, something unusual catches my attention: some nice design patters all over the beach, almost like aboriginal art. I go take a closer look and see our little artists at work: mini crabs that are actually digging a hole in the sand, pulling out each time a tiny ball of compacted sand, which they very carefully dispose around the opening in circles. Every hole has a very unique pattern. There are hundreds of these all over the beach, giving it a very unique and ever-changing signature.
12:17 p.m. The terrace of the restaurant of Railay Village Resort & Spa is roomy, has comfortable seats and is shadowed by conveniently located trees. A perfect place to chillax after spending the whole morning on a boat. There is a nice soothing breeze.
As usual in Thai restaurants, there is a delicious choice of food, and I never seem to get tired with the classics. But better than words, here are a few images of the dishes, which look really appetizing and taste even better!