Thailand – The Climber’s Shangri-La

 

Southeast Asia has, for years, and for many reasons, been a top travel destination for the young and adventurous. For starters, apart from the plane ticket required to actually get to the region, it is one of the least expensive places to go. Full meals start around 2 USD, hostel rooms for 5, and nice hotel rooms will run you around 15 USD (obviously depending on the area and quality of the hotel in question).

When discussing Southeast Asia, no country is as well known as Thailand in terms of climbing opportunity. Thailand scenery changes considerably from one region to the next: while the north is mountainous, the central area consists of flat plains, the northeastern region (where the Mekong River borders Laos) is a large plateau area, and the south consists of beaches and breathtaking islands (where world-renowned Phuket is). Compounded with some of the friendliest locals and naturally some of the sickest rock formations, the country is an amazing location for the frugal and adventurous climbing bum in you. Indeed, though I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting this country (yet!), a considerable amount of my fellow climbing friends have, and they’ve regaled me with their stories of deep-water soloing (rock-climbing above a body of water, unencumbered by gear – when you fall, you simply hit the water), climbing on Tonsai beach (an absolute classic place), and waking up with fighter-jet-sized bugs resting above their heads (wouldn’t be a proper exotic vacation without them, right?).

Tonsai and Railay, located in the southwestern province of Krabi, have the reputation of being two of the most magnificent beaches in the world. Enclosed by beautiful limestone cliffs, Tonsai and Railay are exceptional locations where you can climb a multi-pitch route (with your belayer’s feet ankle-deep in the sand) and then, when you’re done, throw yourself into the pristine turquoise waters of Phra Nang bay. There are literally hundreds of routes between Tonsai and the two Railay beaches, ranging from relatively short single pitches within stalactite-filled-cathedrals, to long multi-pitch routes on which you can see the entire bay and the dozens of mini islands that dot its waters. Speaking of which, though they aren’t yet classified in guide books, the islands in Phra Nang bay also have some superb climbing spots. If you can get a boat with some locals to show you the crag, there is great fun to be had if you’re a little more adventurous than the norm. Going out of your way can also keep you from getting overwhelmed by the crowds at Tonsai/Railay, since, as I have said, these are prime spots for climbers coming from all over the world.

One of Thailand’s many islands, Koh Yao Noi, is a relatively new development in the climbing realm. While the routes used to be principally dedicated for the more experienced climbers, beginner and intermediate routes have recently been put up – providing the advantage of being far more removed from the crowds than Railay and Tonsai, meaning fewer people, and routes that are far less polished than most beginner routes at Tonsai. Koh Yao Noi also has some of the most ridiculous deep water soloing in Thailand, with overhanging crags dotting most of the coastline. Much of these soloing crags have never been touched, and many routes are classed as beginner routes, so first ascents are always possible – if you want to learn to deep water solo, this is the place!

I’ve mentioned but a few of the amazing places to climb in Thailand. Others (Ko Phi Phi, Koh Lao Liang, to name a few) are quite developed but offer fewer routes than those mentioned above (Ko Phi Phi is actually a great place for beginners as it houses largely easier routes – however, it tends to be inundated by tourists and thus has cultivated a rather, ahem, rowdy nightlife). Naturally, one rarely travels across the world only to climb (well, at least most people don’t), so if you do decide that this is the place for your next climbing trip, there is thankfully an abundance of information on where to go and what to do ( http://www.cheapflights.co.uk/Thailand/ is a good place to start).

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(Explore and have fun – in Thai)

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