I’ve thought about a climbing adventure to Thailand for years, but I’ve always been a bit nervous about taking the trip. I’d heard it was hot, hard, and getting more and more touristy, but I’d also heard it’s amazing, beautiful, and the Thai people are lovely … “the land of a thousand smiles”.
I bought a climbing guidebook, did some research, booked the flights and hotels, packed the bags, and on the 1st January we headed out East. A massive 15 hour flight via Charles de Gaulle Paris and Guangzhou in China. After a brief stop-over in Bangkok, we took a short internal flight down to Krabi, the closest airport to Railay.
Railay is a small peninsular in the Krabi province. There are no roads and the only access is via a longtail boat either from Krabi or Ao Nang. We took a bus from the airport to Ao Nang for the 45 minute journey (costing about £3 each) and then the longtail boat to Railay (costing ฿100, about £2 each).
The majority of climbers tend to stay in Ton Sai, where the famed Ton Sai Wall and Dum’s Kitchen are, but I wanted to be a bit more in the middle so we could easily take advantage of the climbs on both sides of the peninsular. I picked a hotel quite far back from the beach (much cheaper), but that meant we had a bit of a trek with the heavy bags.
Unlike the usual Sterling adventure, we got up early the first day. We knew the heat would be tough, so we’d have to climb in the morning and in the evening with some serious relaxing in the heat of the middle of the day. Still, we underestimated quite how the heat would debilitate us. The day starts hot, gets hotter, and then stays hot. There were plenty of climbers who seemed to manage some serious routes all through the day, but I think they were already used to the heat. Us pasty skinned newbies had to take it a bit easier, but we did get a bit acclimatised by the end of the week.
When we weren’t climbing, or watching others climb, or checking out routes we just couldn’t climb, we did what non climbers do… eat, drink, walk along the beach, swim, paddle, even a bit of sun bathing. Crazy. I almost enjoyed it. 😉 In fact jumping in to the sea was the best, and only, way to cool off between routes!
We thought the menu at Ton Sai beach (samples below) all looked a bit shit 😉 but it wasn’t.
Between Railay East and West beaches there’s a hidden scramble up to a viewpoint overlooking the peninsula, and a little further on there’s a descent to a hidden lagoon nestled in the top (!) of the limestone tower. The descent is not easy and turned a great deal of the beach-lovers back before it got too tough. There were several sections of fixed knotted ropes and steep climbing.
On our last day we had just enough time to hire an open two-seat canoe for a morning of paddling around the bases of some of the limestone towers and cliffs…
It’s been years since I’ve been on a beach holiday, but I can see why Railay is such a popular place for sun worshippers as well as climbers. The sand is just beautiful, so fine, and the sea is warm and just wonderful to swim in. With the crowds there is the usual problem of rubbish, but the locals are working hard to clean the place up and replant mangroves that had been previously cut down for firewood. There is also the odd and annoying liking for Reggae music, especially at the Ya Ya Bar near our hotel (one party night didn’t finish until nearly 2am!).
As usual, the week flew by and it felt like we were just getting used to the heat when it was time to go. With the tide out, we had a bit of a walk out to the boat.
Here are some more pictures (click them to see them more clearly) that sum up the non-climbing part of Railay.
Series - Thailand
- Climbing in Railay, Thailand