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A Climber’s Paradise

by becca on January 6, 2010

Railay, Thailand: Not quite an island, but an isolated isthmus accessible only by boat due to impenetrable rock formations. The area is famous for its climbing. In addition to over 700 routes and a laid-back climbing-focused hippie culture, it seems that you can’t go very far on the island without encountering a pathway involving at least a little bit of hoisting yourself on to a rock, or using a rope to make your way up, down, or through limestone.

We did one day of climbing that suited my really low experience level. I think Nate was a bit bored, but the day was great fun and the views from the top were outstanding: looking down on the jungle, lined by bays of jade colored water and honey beaches dotted with long tail boats, all surrounded by towering limestone karsts rising from the earth.

One night we laid on the beach, watching thin patches of clouds float through an otherwise clear starry sky, and to our left a juggy rockface with its 20 foot overhangs, lit up with yellow flood lights. The contrast of the two was beautiful.

Our bungalow was actually in the jungle, and on our hike in we stopped to watch Langurs swing through the trees. At one point, they actually stopped to check us out too.

The climber culture was strongest on Ton Sai Beach, where backpackers flock to the cheap accommodations and great access to routes. Every few minutes along the footpaths in this area we’d pass groups of people wearing classic fisherman pants with 60-meter brightly colored ropes slung across their shoulders. The path to our room was lined with bungalows adorned with climbing gear and tired bodies resting in hammocks.

We adventured to all four beaches on the isthmus one day, scrambling over rocks, following rock faces, and treading beaten paths to reach our destinations. One beach, Phranang Cave Beach hosted a great swimming area, and a short swim led to the stunning Phranang Cave, great for climbing over rocks and stopping at each point to admire the view through to the ocean.

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