In early January we had our first friend from home come to visit us in Thailand! Hooray! Mackenzie is my old climbing and hiking buddy from San Diego. She’s a natural adventurer and in super great shape– she’s basically Superwoman! I knew she would love Thailand, and I guessed correctly that the world famous rock-climbing peninsula of Railay Beach and Tonsai Beach would be her favorite spot!
Coming back to Railay after our previous quick visit last October was a great opportunity to go straight to the climbing routes we knew we could tackle, and to fly our brand new drone! Yes, that’s right, we bit the bullet and purchased a DJI Mavic Pro. Get ready for some next-level travel videos as we’ll now be adding drone footage of every destination video we make from here on out!
We stayed in Tonsai Bay on this trip, which is the super-hippy Burning Man-esque village on the beach full of dirtbag climbers, reggae bars built out of driftwood, cheap/sketchy Thai food, and fire-spinning slackline shows!
Here’s a 10-minute vlog all about our adventures with Mackenzie in Railay and Tonsai! We think it’ll give you a sense of how laid-back and beautiful this peninsula is! And we hope you’ll notice we got better at climbing! We even crushed a 5.10a!
Ahh, yes, the infamous “Penis Cave”. As I explained in the video, this cave has been filled with phallus figurines by locals as a way of summoning both fertility and success in fishing! No disrespect to Thai beliefs intended, but it’s definitely a unique site and a hilarious place to visit!
It was great to feel way more comfortable on the walls of Railay and Tonsai! And we always feel at home in the hippy vibe of Tonsai Beach so we can’t wait to come back for another visit!
After a wonderful time in Penang, Malaysia we bought a van ride to Krabi, Thailand for Thai climb time! For 60 Ringgit each we were speeding across the bridge from Penang back into mainland Malaysia before dawn. The van trips are cheaper and faster than the bus, and they take you across the border which is convenient. You can charter the vans at most hotels and hostels. The border crossing was quick and easy. We got a visa stamp for 30 days on arrival and no one asked for our onward ticket. About onward tickets: every country officially requires them but they are rarely asked for. The only time they generally ask is when you check in for an international flight, but when you cross into a country by land they rarely ask. Our new trick is to screen shot an old flight itinerary and simply change the date on Photoshop to sometime within the visa requirements.
Our van stopped at Hat Yai, the first city in southern Thailand. We had to change vans there so had a break to get some Thai Baht (33 Baht = $1USD) out of an ATM and grab a few snacks. Hat Yai is generally not the best city for tourists, so we didn’t plan to linger. We’ve heard its very popular for Malaysians who like to party and enjoy the lax prostitution laws. Not really our scene though.
A little after 1pm we rolled into the Krabi main bus terminal excited for the next day’s Thai climb time. From there we got a “sŏng tăew“, a cheap pickup truck shared taxi where you sit in the covered truck bed on benches along the side. It’s a fun and cheap way to get around, charging about 1/3 of the regular taxi price. We got our first views of the amazing cliffs that we came here to see, green tops dropping sharply into the ocean and rivers. We got off at Khong Kha Pier where longtail boats depart for Railay Beach whenever six people are ready to go. It costs 150 Baht per person and took about 45 minutes to get out to the beach.
Once on the boat we of course had to stop for gas, then after the gas run the boat wouldn’t start and we almost got stuck drifting under a pier for a moment. But eventually the old longtail boat started and we were on our way, spilling black smoke into the air and speeding very inefficiently in the direction of more cliffs and some very ominous looking storm clouds.
The views were out of this world, it reminded me of something but I didn’t find out til later that this was the site of filming for “Dr. No”, one of my favorite James Bond films! Within moments of arriving it started to downpour. We hurried down the floating pier, passing many Russians on holiday with their rolling suitcases and high heels, trying hilariously not to slip and fall straight into the ocean. After waiting for a bit at the first shelter we found, we walked down the beach walk to a stairway which led to our guesthouse. Rapala Rock Wood Resort had cheap bungalows, no frills but everything we needed. Little shacks with palm roofs and mosquito nets and fans are what makes us happy. As soon as we had set our stuff down the sky cleared and it was a beautiful afternoon.
Being super hungry, we set off on what was suppose to be a short walk to Mama’s Chicken. It turned out to be quite an adventure since it was on the other side of a little jungle. We first went to the west side beach (Railay is a peninsula with two sides, sunrise and sunset) then we hiked up though a little muddy trail, over some rocks, and onto Tonsai Beach. The overhanging rocks here we impressive but we were on a mission for food. At the other end of this beach we found the small road to nowhere that led past some sleepy guesthouses and a few dark climbing shops. All the way around on the other side we found Mama’s, a super rustic open-air restaurant. We got some pad thai and fruit shakes and filled our empty bellies.
After eating we continued up the path which lead through the jungle and back to Railay, a much faster way. We went around town to a few climbing shops and rented a rope and gear from one of them for 1200 Baht for a day. That was about half the price of the guided tours and we were confident that we could do it on our own. Before bed I had a beer at the bar near our bungalow. The bartenders were super friendly and made me feel very welcome. I learned how to say “thank you” in Thai (“korp kun krup!”) and was pumped about my first glimpses into the famous Thai hospitality.
Thai climb time! In the morning it rained and I was having some stomach issues, so we didn’t get out to climb as soon as we wanted to. When we did get to a climbing spot everything there was a little above our level then we got frustrated and had a fight. Not gonna pretend everything is always perfect between us on this blog! We are human after all! I was so excited about climbing that I got crazy and ended up slipping in the mud and pacing around in a rage. The rains were coming in again now so we had to go back to our bungalow. Oh, the frustrations. I eventually calmed my crazy self and we went back out and found a few routes on the 1,2,3 Wall and Muay Thai Wall.
It was important to find walls with the new Thaitainium Project bolts, as the original steel bolts have become unsafe by the constant exposure to salty air. All these challenges added up and it wasn’t until the end of the day that we each got to climb a few routes, and then we got tired so quickly from being out of shape! I think it was a success in the end, but it was definitely character building. We had a few sends and it felt good to get back on the rocks. The adrenaline made me feel alive again and we couldn’t wait to come back for more. In December WE WILL BE BACK!!!
Here’s a kind-of-lame video of us being kind-of-lame at climbing. Next time we go to Railay we hope to be stronger and have a DRONE to make an awesome video for you all!
If you are climbing in Thailand or anywhere else, Mountain Project is the best online resource for climbers. Enjoy hearing about Thai climb time in Railay Beach? Find more climb stories from California and Arizona in our archives!
One day in Banos, Ecuador Carrie and I got all pumped up on coffee and eggs for breakfast and then walked downtown to Geotours where we had a deposit down on a “canyoning”, a.k.a. waterfall rappelling adventure. For $30 each we got a half day on the ropes in the mountains southeast of town. They supplied us with all the gear we needed; helmet, wetsuit with jacket, and these dorky cheap shoes. (Why we didn’t just wear our Chacos, I will never know.) Our guide Jose spoke very clearly in Spanish and perfect English as well, but we try to always speak Spanish when we can. So we loaded all the stuff into a friendly town rent-a-truck and headed down the road toward Puyo. We went through two tunnels then made a quick left up a gravel road. There was some kind of a community road repair function going on that we seemed to break up only long enough for our truck to sneak through. We drove up the hill and over an old bridge then stopped at a shack along the ever -diminishing road. There was our changing room, a.k.a. some woman’s house whom we interrupted cooking rice over a fire she had built up against a large boulder. She had a perfect little kitchen set up on that rock, complete with machete.
We changed into our gear then walked up a trail that started across the street. It was kind of steep and awkward, sweating in wetsuits and slipping on the wet rocks in our dorky shoes. After about 20 minutes we could hear the water and made our way to the top of a beautiful series of cascadas. We watched closely as Jose tied up the rope system, hoping someday to mimic it ourselves. After practicing once we put our weight on the ropes and kicked and fell (a controlled fall) down the the first falls. We swung into the falls and held on as the water crashed into our faces. What a thrill! The highest waterfall was over 100 feet and we were able to try some tricks and bounce off the walls a little bit.
A short little clip taken with the waterproof camera:
The entire waterfall rappelling adventure lasted from around 9:30am until after 1pm. It inclueded lunch for some reason, so when we were dropped off in town Jose walked us to a sandwhich shop and we said goodbye to our personal guide. We had so much fun that now we really want to buy some ropes and go do it ourselves! We love Banos, Ecuador!
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