Hat Prah Nang on Railay in southern Thailand probably fits the description of paradise for most people. White sand beaches line a calm turquoise sea where karst limestone cliffs rise strikingly hundreds of feet out of the water. This also happens to be the place where Her and I suffered the worst bout of food poisoning we’ve ever experienced. But let’s not jump the gun just yet.

Getting to Railay was a process. We took a 4-hour bus ride from the Khao Sok jungle to Phuket, where we stayed an evening. During the day, the town’s Sino-Portuguese architecture and shops create worthwhile diversions. In the evening, we entertained ourselves by counting sewer rats outside a Chinese restaurant, exploring a knock-off clothing market and watching a group aerobics class blast techno music into the city’s streets.

We planned to take the morning fast ferry from Phuket to Railay, but when we asked our hotel about booking this we learned that it was too late in the day to arrange. We would instead have to take two slower ferries — first from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi and then from Koh Phi Phi to our intended beach, Hat Tonsai. Although this would turn a one-hour boat ride into two boat rides of one hour each and a two hour layover, it would give us a chance to see another island (On a side note, Ko Phi Phi is where Leonardo DiCaprio stayed for several months while filming “The Beach.” Maya Bay, the actual beach highlighted in the movie, is on a neighboring island and was digitally altered to seem more secluded. Apparently the monkeys at Maya Bay have been so corrupted by tourism that they have learned to open and drink canned beer. We didn’t have time to verify this, unfortunately.)

What we did verify, however, is that arriving in Ko Phi Phi by ferry is like visiting Disney World on coupon day. Our ferry dropped its 200 or so passengers onto the dock and all of us clambered with our large bags toward the waiting throngs of hotel touts, each tout salivating with the prospect of a potential commission. Before the onslaught of touts, however, non-Thai-looking people were separated from the crowd and queued up to pay the 20 baht “Environmental Cleanup Tax,” supposedly enforced to help reduce the polluting effects of tourism on the beach. This fee of just a little less than a dollar was more an annoyance than anything else, but would have been slightly less ironic if not for the copious amounts of plastic bottles and bags floating beneath the dock just under our feet. After paying the trash tax, we headed deep into the island’s maze of streets toward an overpriced lunch of Pad Thai.

Our time on Ko Phi Phi was extremely short, but it left a very negative impression on us. Like a non-stop version of MTV Beach Party, loud music blared, destroying the ear drums of scantily clad youth hell-bent on testing just how much cheap liquor and Red Bull their bodies can process before shutting down altogether. Though this may be fun for some, but I think we have passed that stage of our lives. Not sure if Railay would be much different, I began to regret booking three nights in advance at the Tonsai Bay Resort.

My fears, however, were very much allayed when I saw the half-dozen or so longtail boats racing out from Railay’s beach to meet our second ferry. The beach at Hat Tonsai is very rocky and shallow; it also lacks a proper dock. This has the two-fold effect of making it difficult to get to the beach and keeping large throngs of tourists well away. Compounding this isolation is the lack of roads on the peninsula. As it turns out, Hat Tonsai and East/West Railay are quite isolated compared to neighboring Ao Nang, which is well-connected by road. The only way to arrive at our resort was via a five-minute longtail boat ride, and our driver deposited us on the rocky mud flats about 50 yards from the beach. From there, we walked the remaining 300 yards along the beach to our hotel. As we walked, we looked in awe at the individuals climbing hundreds of feet above us on the overhanging limestone cliffs. Hat Tonsai, we learned, is the Mecca for rock climbing enthusiasts — and also a fun place for novice rock climbers like ourselves.

“I think I could travel for several years,” Her mused later as we sipped Chang beer and breathed in the warm ocean breezes at a reggae bar on Railay Beach.

I felt the same way. Much like DiCaprio’s character in “The Beach” we had found our paradise: cheap beer, great food, plenty of activities. We had spent the day exploring the “nice” beaches further south on the peninsula. “Nice” is a severe understatement. Hat Prah Nang is what many people imagine when they think of the quintessential Thai beach of white sand and clear, turquoise waters. One thing most people don’t expect, however, is the pack of monkeys that inhabit the beach and steal food and water bottles from unsuspecting tourists. They create an interesting scene but can get quite aggressive if you flash any food.

We were relaxing for the evening before we started our first rock climbing class early the next morning. Things seemed perfect, but we were both less than 24 hours away from becoming uncomfortably acquainted with our hotel room’s commode.