I recently sent someone a whole heap of info about the climbing in Krabi (or more accurately the Phra Nang peninsular) and thought Id share it here with a few pictures in case anyone else was thinking of heading out.
The Phra Nang peninsular is situated in the Krabi province of Thailand, on the Andaman Sea about a two hour drive from the tourist mecca of Phuket. There are three distinct beaches here surrounded by soring limestone cliffs with every conceivable grade and style catered for. The place can be an absolute mad house during high season , especially during the christmas holidays but if you’re willing to take a chance with the weather and go either just at the start or the end of the monsoon, you’ll be rewarded with piece and quiet and much lower prices.
The first challenge, especially for anyone who’s new to Asia, is simply getting there. Running the gantlet of the airport and surviving the taxi ride can all take their toll on the weary unseasoned traveler (especially as the cheap flights from Oz to Phuket arrive at around 9pm). Phuket airport is the main airport in the area and flights are available direct from Australia and Europe. Visa on arrival is also provided for the majority of passport holders. Internal flights are also available to the much nearer Krabi airport which you can get to from Bangkok. Once clear of immigration you’ll enter the arrivals hall and immediately be inundated with offers of Taxi rides and buses to anywhere you wish to go. Taxis from the airport are fixed price and paid in advance which makes the whole affair a little easier. Tickets can be purchased from inside the arrivals hall. If your travelling by boat from Phuket you may also wish to consider a bus. For anyone who hasn’t experienced a Taxi ride in SE Asia the trip may be a little harrowing but in just a short couple o hours you can be deposited in either Ao Nang or Ao Na Mao. If its late and you havent managed to negotiate a boat ride in advance then youll probably be wanting to go to Ao Nang and check into a hotel for the remainder of the night. During the day you can depart from either location but if the weather is bad the boats from Ao Nang may be cancelled. In either case you can expect to have to wait until a boat is filled (normally 8 people) or pay the driver for the maining spots. In low season this may take some time so come armed with a good book
Depending on departure point the long tail will drop you in one of two places. Those leaving from Ao Na Mao will be dropped off at Railay East whilst those leaving Ao Nang can usually request either Railay West or Ton Sai. If your travelling on a shoe string then Ton Sai will be the place to go so be prepared for a 20 min or so walk depending upon where you arrive.
If you wanna stock up on some provisions before you head off you can get them either in Ao Nang or Ao Na Mao. Remember this is a muslim area so not everywhere will sell alcohol here. In Na Mao only the 7/11 sells alcohol. Everywhere sells it over at the beaches but it’s a bit more expensive
In terms of accommodation, all the cheap stuff is at Tonsai. Theyre all pretty much the same – bamboo / wood shack with a breeze block bathroom at the back. Theres a road which starts at either end of the beach (where the channel is for the boats or by freedom bar) which goes into the jungle and round in a U shape. Take a look around and pick somewhere you fancy – quality changes from year to year depending upon what reno’s have been done. Haggle over the price and expect a better discount if you pay a few weeks in advance. From memory youll be looking around 300 baht a night upwards.
Quality / cleanliess / access to electricity varies greatly so have a look at a few. Just recently the access to constant mains electricity from Ao Nang was completed so hopefully the days of intermittent power and noisy generators are nearly over
For those more demanding travelers or those not so budget constrained there is a whole heap of places to stay at Railay which again vary wildly in terms of cost and quality. In can however thoroughly recommend Railay Sunrise Tropical Resort, especially for anyone travelling with kids
If your going to be there any time over Christmas or New Year it is definitely advisable to try and book. Whilst bookings for the smaller resorts can be a little erratic you should be able to try and secure something through the links on Railay.com (see the bottom for the link)
Youll find most people staying at Ton Sai will eat at the place next to Freedom bar (this is the main bar on the beach next to the rock). Theres plenty of smaller / cheaper places tho so try some – the food is generally excellent and very good value. If you want a more upmarket evening out then head over the Railay
Drink lots and lots of water – the cheap water comes in opaque plastic bottles. Youll want to add mineral salts to these as theres nothing in them. All the shops sell them in various flavours. If you can, buy a large (several litre) water and use a bottle. Empty water bottles are a real issue – you can expect to get through several litres in a day (you will sweat like you never thought it was possible)
There no roads so walking is the way forward. To get from Ton Sai to Railay you need to head over the small hill at the end of the beach. You can walk round at low tide but wear some decent shoes as the rock here is very sharp. This lands you on the beach at Railay west. Theres cash machines here as well as larger stores. Head over through the restaurants to railay west. This is where the longtails land for Ao Na Mao. Turn left for some cool little bars and places to eat (go past the big expensive resorts) or turn right for the path to Phra Nang
Theres climbing everywhere. Nearly all the hard routes are on Ton Sai roof and the steep walls along the beach. There stacks of good climbing everywhere tho so take the time to go and explore. Thai Wand wall has some great multi pitch routes. Also great for a day out is Ao Nang tower (it’s the big tower you pass if you come in by boat from Ao Nang). Hire a canoe and paddle out – the best route is a two pitch 6c and its makes for a great day. You can also do it by longtail but expect to have to shout for one passing by in order to get home again!
Youll want to climb in the shade almost always and make sure you have plenty of mossie coils / spray to hand. Despite this conditions can actually be pretty good if the wind is blowing
You’ll go through stacks of chalk so try and bring as much as you can with you. Chalk is available to buy but its pretty expensive and only of the block variety – no super chalk I’m afraid. The same goes for most other climbing gear. You can buy most things but expect to have limited choice and a serious dent in you wallet afterwards. If at all possible, its best not to forget / break anything.
Deep water soloing is becoming more and more popular and can be arranged through Wees climbing store. If you’re interested in going its best to bring some additional old shoes with you to save wrecking your best ones. On that note, your best ones wont want to be those super tight ones you save for redpointing at home. After a hot day you’ll be cursing cramming your feet into tiny rock shoes.
Phra Nang beach is one of the most beautiful in Thailand and well worth a day lazing around. Treat the locals with respect – I appreciate it can be a pain in the ass getting asked 200 times if you want a massage but these guys are just trying to make a living. Take the time to talk with them and you’ll find they are very warm and generous people.
For a less restful rest day take a trip to the lagoon. You head steeply up the hill side from the path to Phra Nang. Its fun but you will get dirty – the way down into the lagoon is old rope ladders and the mud is thick and clay like. You can also go all the way through Thai Wand wall t Phra Nang beach. Theres a short easy pitch to climb to access the cave and you’ll want to take a head torch as theres a number of bamboo ladders and drops to negotiate
Theres also diving trips or day trips to Phi Phi which run pretty much daily
Beware the monkeys… the macaques are a pain in the ass. They will go around in big troops and if you find youself cornered by them (Ive been caught on a ledge with 15 or so) be careful. They will steal your gear, your food, they will climb you ropes (even if youre climbing on one end ) and can bite. You don’t wanna get bitten by one of these guys. If you can try and avoid a confrontation with large numbers of them. The langurs are much nicer in nature but still watch them. Theres no dangerous spiders but a fair few snakes thall give you a nip. Ive only seen one but they are there
On the topic of health – its well advised that you don’t do yourself any serious damage whist your there. A helicopter has never landed at Railay and you can look forward to a long and potentially painful speedboat ride to Phuket if you find yourself in need of a hospital. It goes without saying that travel insurance is also highly advisable.
The smoking of the green stuff is also fairly common here, especially by the locals. Feel free to indulge if you so wish – Ive yet to see any police at Railay or Ton Sai but be aware that being caught by anyone that cares is highly likely to end you up inside a Thai prison cell.
Wees climbing store on TonSai is the main source for information. Wee knows everything about climbing in TonSai and can also organise deep water soloing trips. His guide is the best one and is about $25
If you have any old ropes that you are thinking or retiring, if you can spare the weight then take them with you any donate them to one of the climbing stores. The locals are constantly replacing the lower offs on the routes and they go through stacks of rope in the process.
For more information try railay.com or leave a comment here