|Warning Stainless-steel bolts are suspect near the coast. A rebolting effort is underway. MORE INFO >>>|
Happy Island, Phranang Beach and the Thaiwand Wall...
Climbing in Thailand.
Welcome to the "Land of Smiles." Thailand has long been an international climbing destination and is still seeing new development every year. Most climbers spend their time on the famous Laem Phra Nang but there are many other options and most of the locals consider them to be better than Railey and Tonsai. Like any other country, the true gems are left for the more ambitious explorer. Fortunately, some of the work has been done for you on this site!
From the secluded island paradise of Koh Laoliang to the tremendous amount of tower climbing and bouldering in Central Thailand, there is something for everyone.
Of course a visit to the country would not be complete without seeing where it all began. The awe inspiring island of Koh Phi Phi hosts the best moderate multipitch climbing in the country as well as a few harder classics.
The food is incredible (and cheap) and so is the shopping. A visit to Thailand is a trip into a unique culture with some of the best limestone climbing around.
The most interesting area for climbers (versus tourists) would be Southern Thailand near Krabi and Koh Phi-Phi. However, although not a tropical beach, the rest of Thailand has something for any climber with several other areas and a vast number of other activities.
Most of the routes are bolted sport routes with anchors, so leave your trad gear at home.
Thailand is an amazing place with enough brilliant limestone sport climbing to last a lifetime. But the things we love about this place (the beautiful ocean, the clear blue sky) create an atmosphere that is not suitable for stainless steel climbing hardware. Currently there is a push to equip every route in southern Thailand with Titanium Glue In bolts.
The rebolting process is ongoing and never-ending. It is a struggle every year to raise funds for new hardware. The Titanium bolts and Hilti glue that must be used equal out to about $17 PER BOLT! Thats over $200 PER ROUTE! Many people have put in their own time and money. If you climb here you owe it to the local community to make a donation. They have worked for over a decade now and you owe your life to them... literally!
I can not over state this enough: In my mind it is mandatory to make a donation of either money or time! If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem, and it is YOUR fault that the climbing in Southern Thailand is deteriorating.
Use the links below to educate yourself before you go. Donate to the Thaitanium Project to receive an excellent film about the issue, and find a way to help when you are there as well. If you are interested in making a large donation of any kind (money, time, equipment, etc) then please either contact these guys, or contact me at Ryan.Tyler.Williams@gmail.com.
The Thaitanium Project Home
The Thaitanium Project Facebook
To my knowledge, King's new 2011 7th Ed. guidebook is the most up to date and accurate in terms of documenting the status of the bolts in Tonsai and Railey. King uses a "T" on the route topos to show where Titanium has been used. All proceeds from book sales go to rebolting Railay and Tonsai. Apparently, you can order the book from King Climbers for 1,050 Baht (or US equivalent) at email@example.com (specify # of books needed and your address).
Sam Lightner Jr's book is still available on Amazon and as far as I know all of those proceeds support rebolting as well. While other books are more current, I personally consider Sam's book to be the Bible of climbing in Thailand. Thailand: A Climbing Guide is still the best piece of literature to have when preparing for a trip to the Kingdom. If you wish to know more, I suggest you contact Sam directly, as he is a member here.
As always, do your own research when it comes to supporting climbing shops and/or guidebook authors (local or foreign). It is important to support the people who do the work, but it is also important to hold them accountable for the claims that they make. If you find out that anyone is using re-bolting money for anything else, please comment on this page.
One of the largest problems that the more popular climbing areas in Thailand are facing is garbage. Tonsai in particular is disgracefully dirty, with garbage piling up in multiple locations. In years past, this has caused major health problems for locals and tourists alike.
The popular American climbing publications make the problem worse by publishing articles and photo essays with stories about climbing on the beach, girls in bikinis and casual beers and fire shows late into the night.
What they fail to mention is that there are huge waste management problems in climbing "paradise" and that we are a big part of the problem. The locals will do what is easiest and cheapest - use plastic and styrofome and burn and hide the waste. It is up to you, the traveler, the one who is supporting their businesses, to complain about the garbage and set an example. DO NOT take styrofoam to go containers; instead purchase a cheap tupperware container (or bring one and donate it when you leave) and give it to the restaurant when you want to order take away. DO NOT accept a plastic bag and a straw when you purchase a beer or soda. Who uses a straw to drink beer anyway? And make a point to show your disapproval if and when you see a local improperly dispose of waste.
For water in particular, it is usually possible to buy big (5 gallon?) jugs for very little money. You may be asked to pay a deposit for the bottle, but they will probably deliver it to you. Buy one of these bottles and refill your personal bottles daily. If everyone did this, it would drastically decrease the amount of garbage that is produced every day.
This issue is no less important that the rebolting issue. No one wants to climb in a garbage dumb, and certain places are headed that way. Be responsible. Change things!
Most travelers fly into Bangkok's new Suvarnabhumi International Airport BKK. With international and domestic flights plus access to the bus and train stations, Bangkok is the usual jumping-off point for many a traveler's journey.
- King climbers Route guide book (100% of the profits from sales of King's guidebook support the rebolting effort)
- Thailand Sport Climbing, The Pocket Guide 2010 by Sirichai Pongsopon
Protection may vary from what you read in the guidebooks or here on this site as routes get retrobolted and threads/slings are added or subtracted from a route.
Thailand enjoys a tropical climate with three distinct seasons: hot and dry from February to May (average temperature 34 degrees Celsius and 75% humidity); rainy with plenty of sunshine from June to October (average day temperature 29 degrees Celsius and 87% humidity); and cool from November to January (temperatures range from 32 degrees Celsius to below 20 degrees Celsius with a drop in humidity). Climbing in Thailand is possible all year round.
Much lower temperatures are experienced in the North and Northeast during nighttime. The South has a tropical rainforest climate with temperatures averaging 28 degrees Celsius almost all year round.
A myriad of accommodations is available throughout Thailand, ranging from 5-star luxury hotels to simple tents and bungalows. The price and type of lodging facilities on offer is associated with location, with Bangkok and major tourist cities boasting some of the best hotels in the world, while rudimentary rooms are more common in rural areas.
Regardless, all types of accommodations in Thailand are known for being clean, efficient, and friendly, with world-class service and unbeatable hospitality that comes naturally for all Thais, being an integral component of the culture. Prices vary depending on the time of the year. Nationwide, they are at their highest during the cool season (Nov-Feb) and are less during the hot season (Mar-May) and rainy season (Jun-Oct). The only exception is Bangkok, where occupancy rate is high throughout the year and prices remain relatively fixed. Hotels in Chiang Mai and Phuket are fully booked during the cool season. From Dec 15-Jan 15, prices will increase even further as this is the peak time for tourism.
Light, cool clothes are sensible and a jacket is needed for formal meetings and dining in top restaurants. Shorts (except knee-length walking shorts), sleeveless shirts, tank tops and other beach-style attire are considered inappropriate dress when not actually at the beach or in a resort area. Prices are low, so you'll be able to buy anything you've forgotten. Bargaining is an accepted method of doing business except in large retail stores and markets.
Quite honestly, I spent 2 weeks wearing nothing but flip-flops and board shorts while climbing in Railay Beach.
Tap water is clean, but drinking from it directly should be avoided. Bottled water is recommended and readily available; all the local Thais drink bottled water only. Bathing or showering in tap water will be fine.
Most of the bottled water is treated by reverse osmosis and or UV light. It is safe to drink, but it has no minerals at all and goes right through you. It is advisable to buy hydration salts at the local shops to add to your water while you are climbing. The average tourist is fine with regular water, but climbers need something more. Also, there are a few brand names such as "Minere" that are real mineral water, and they are better for you.
Finally, "water machines" are popping up all over the country. I can't imagine that there are any on Tonsai, but maybe Railey and definitely Phi Phi and in the cities. Buy a big jug, bring your Nalgene, save your bottles - USE THE WATER MACHINES! As noted above, garbage is a huge problem and the more you refill your bottles the less you contribute to the problem.
The electric current is 220 volt AC (50 cycles) throughout the country. Many different types of plugs and sockets are in use. Travelers with electric shavers, hair dryers, tape recorders and other appliances should carry a plug adapter kit. The better hotels will make available 110-volt transformers.
The following vaccines may be recommended for your travel to Southeast Asia. Discuss your travel plans and personal health with a health-care provider to determine which vaccines you will need.
Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG). Transmission of hepatitis A virus can occur through direct person-to-person contact; through exposure to contaminated water, ice, or shellfish harvested in contaminated water; or from fruits, vegetables, or other foods that are eaten uncooked and that were contaminated during harvesting or subsequent handling.
Hepatitis B, especially if you might be exposed to blood or body fluids (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, or be exposed through medical treatment. Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11–12 years who did not receive the series as infants.
Japanese encephalitis, if you plan to visit rural farming areas and under special circumstances, such as a known outbreak of Japanese encephalitis.
Malaria: your risk of malaria may be high in some of the countries in this region. See your health-care provider for a prescription antimalarial drug. For details concerning risk and preventive medications, see Malaria Information for Travelers to Southeast Asia.
While SE Asia has Malaria zones, Southern Thailand is not one of them. If you are only staying in S. Thailand, you won't need anti-malaria meds.
Rabies, if you might have extensive unprotected outdoor exposure in rural areas, such as might occur during camping, hiking, or bicycling, or engaging in certain occupational activities. All monkeys should be treated as if they are infected, and many are. You will certainly see the monkeys, and may be fighting with them for your food if you aren't careful.
Typhoid, particularly if you are visiting developing countries in this region. Typhoid fever can be contracted through contaminated drinking water or food, or by eating food or drinking beverages that have been handled by a person who is infected. Large outbreaks are most often related to fecal contamination of water supplies or foods sold by street vendors.
As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria and measles.
Browse More Classics in Thailand
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Thailand:
Featured Route For Thailand
: ... : Crazy Horse Buttress
One of the first lines to be bolted, it's such an obvious line. One of the best routes at Crazy Horse. A short scramble will lead you to the first bolt. The first section is a short (4 bolt) slightly over hanging finger crack. The holds are huge, though can take a while to find them. The climb has great flow and as roll from dynamic move to move. A slightly tricky mantle will lead to a huge no hands rest. It's a ledge with enough room for an arm chair. Make the most of it. The second part of the...[more] Browse More Classics in International
Art Morimitsu entering the Crux of Cafe Andaman
Railay from Happy Island. Dec 25, 2004, the day b...
Just another amazing sunset after an epic day on R...
A fire dancer on the Tonsai beach. Gotta love the...
Tonsai bay seen from the mambo bungalow area
the opening to the bouldering cave
Greg Martinez in Phi-Phi on Tonsi Tower
Deanna Lee in Tonsi
The Thaiwand at sunset
Rapelling from Monkey See Monkey Do... Note:very f...
Adam W. rappelling from the top of the Candlestick...
Sunrise on Koh Yao Noi
This is a great lime stone in NE Thailand that is ...
Among the rice fields of North East Thailand are t...
I and my son bouldering in Hin Chang Si boulders a...
GG top roping in Hin Chang Si bouldering area, Kho...
The bat cave wall, eastern Thailand.
Rock garden, eastern Thailand, great short climbs ...
The lime stone mesa is waiting for more bolting to...
Deep water soloing
|By patrick kadel|
Jul 10, 2008
I love Tonsai but it has become an ecological nightmare. I guarantee you will have a blast climbing there and it can be done on the cheap at any time of the year, I also guarantee you will get sick. Some say this is part of the 3rd world experience. If taking 2-3 days of your trip being sick is acceptable then don't hesitate.
The problem is that the well for local water is fairly low and the hotels are fairly high. Water treatment? None. Garbage dumps are in between. So you have that leeching into the ground, waste from all the people going in the ground and into the bay, and the water pump collecting it so you can shower in it. But hey, it's cheap.
My dilemma is that without our visits they will have less money and stop any effort to clean the place. With our visits we contribute to the stew. There has been some action with cleanup efforts but if the local Thai's can make an extra $1 per day dumping the garbage in the jungle vs hauling it to Ao Nang, they will. There needs to be a long term solution to this or people will stop going to this wonderful place.
If you go, do not trust the tap water, do not swim in the bay (Amadan Sea is cleaner), do not cut your feet on the dead coral in the bay, try to help the local thais understand their home is becoming less desirable due to the trash (everywhere and easily picked up) and groundwater/water treatment. And drink lots of Chang to help fight the Tonsai Tummy.
From: Oakland CA
Aug 9, 2008
Good comment from Patrick. I spent 3 weeks on Tonsai and was sick for 2 days. I don't think I know of anyone who was there longer than a week or two who escaped it.
Sadly, not sure how you can avoid it. Absolutely always drink bottled water, but I suspect my illness came from cooked food. Maybe vegetables washed in tap water.
But I would recommend you stay in a place with your own private bathroom for this reason!
|By Seth Dyer|
Feb 26, 2009
Just got back from Tonsai. Spent 8 days with the last day and a half rendered useless by a wrecked gastro-intestinal system. Patrick pretty much nailed it. Tonsai is well on it's way to being a dump, if it isn't already. As for the locals being concerned about cleaning up the trash...they're not, they create most of it.
Mar 13, 2009
Patrick and Seth, next time check out Ko Yao Noi (11)
|By Ryan Kelly|
Jun 3, 2009
I was at Railay for two and a half weeks, almost two years to today... neither I nor my gf had any GI issues, and we ate the leafy vegetables, drank the iced drinks, and generally ignored that which you shouldn't do. I agree with the OPs issue against the decadence of Krabi, but I think the comments about sickness are unfounded. If you drank the water out of the tap, well then, I can't really see how'd you be surprised. Last I was there a 1.5 liter bottle of water cost less than a buck. It was simple enough to avoid the tap, though I brushed my teeth from it without adverse event.
I felt it worth stating an argument against the way this thread was drifting for potential visitors. I'm heading there tomorrow, and will report back if I find a similar experience. A case of GI or two isn't enough to cast a blanket designation of a place as unclean. Travelers stomach is quite common the world around. You had one, and Seth had a similar experience. I don't know either one of you, but I know Caughtinside enough to say that I'm sure his intestinal issues were more likely due to risque behavior with Ladyboys than drinking the water.
|By Tony B|
From: Around Boulder, CO
Jun 3, 2009
I wouldn't down-play the GI thing so much. I was hospitalized after my last trip there for a GI infection resulting in rather high blood loss. I can describe in detail if necessary, but I am sure you can imagine...
Even my 'local' SE asian pals have gotten sick on most of their trips there. Odds are ~ 50/50.
Don't forget that the variety of responses to infection, resistenace to infection, etc... are VERY different from person to person depending on your own intestinal biology. Between people, as much as 80% of the biomass (flora) in the GI system may be completely different. I've learned that I am sensitive ever since I got Bali-Belly in 1997 which then triggered an immune-response which was quite oppressive.
People should exercise caution there, in a place where about 50% of all travelers report a GI infection during the course of their stay.
|By Seth Dyer|
Jul 11, 2009
Continuing with the health issues discussion, I'd care to reiterate the warnings. And it's not simply a case of Traveller's Stomach. I've lived in Thailand for nearly 4 years now, so I'd like to think that my intestines have adapted to the new 'flora' in this part of the world.
Also, two of my four traveling/climbing partners came down with GI issues at the tail end of our stay. We were staying in different bungalows and eating at different places. No one drank the tap water. Bottom line is the place is not very hygienic.
|By Ryan Kelly|
Aug 1, 2009
Well, now I'm 5 months in and nothing serious to name yet - other than Dengue but I hardly think that's relevant to the stomach issue. And I pretty much only eat from street vendors. Fruits, ice, water, you name it. Damn, I know Karma is going to get me for this post.
|By David Kozak|
Oct 10, 2009
Is climbing in Thailand in June or July reasonable or is it just too hot and sweaty?
|By Ryan Williams|
From: London (sort of)
May 23, 2010
Hey guys. I just became an admin for Thailand but since we have a good discussion going here I'll add to it instead of editing the good description above.
I have been living on Koh Phi Phi for almost three years. I spend A LOT of time in Tonsai but never more than two weeks at a time. I have never been seriously ill, but I have been sick once.
Patrick's original post nailed the issue on the head. The water has been pumped from underground, from a water table that is no longer clean. The water you bath with, and the water that your clothes are washed in... even the water that your food is cooked with and the water that is used to clean your eating utensils.
However, this high season (Nov-Feb, 09-10) seemed to be A LOT better in terms of water quality and general health of the population. I haven't made any serious inquiries, but the water must be coming from higher up on the mountain, above the bungalows. I'd say the number of people getting sick has gone down to less than half of last year (2008-09). I have spend a lot of time there this year and it REALLY IS BETTER!
Having said that, Tonsai is just one place to climb in Thailand and if you are not visiting the other areas documented on this site, and even the ones that aren't on MP.com, then you are really wasting a plane ticket. Thailand has SO MUCH to offer... you are making a mistake if you spend all of your time in Phra Nang.
May 4, 2011
I spent about 10 days on Tonsai and I was never sick. I made sure to only drink bottled water (you can buy big 6 liter or 10 liter jugs at the stores). Other than that, I ate whatever food sounded appealing, fruit shakes all day, and I had no problems.
I would love to see a bigger clean-up effort on Tonsai though, the place is gorgeous and amazing and the climbing was fantastic.
|By Bria Schurke|
Oct 31, 2011
Going to Tonsai first two weeks in December, anyone have an update on if the climbing is effected by the flooding? Any recommendations on places to rent/buy gear...specifically rope and quick draws..I'd rather not bring my own due to other travel plans. Thanks! cheers.
|By andrew bartlow|
From: chico CA
Dec 30, 2011
Im headed to Thailand for most of March (2012). if anyone wants to partner up send me a message.
|By Jordan Moore|
Oct 27, 2012
Headed to Thailand November 1 for and open ended trip. Still open to climbing north or South then going to Ha Long Bay November 29th. Message me if you would like meet on the vagabond road!
|By J Cunningham|
From: Lander, WY / Yosmite
Jan 3, 2013
Hey folks. Anyone know about the specific high season price dates for Tonsai? I think it's late Jan or mid Feb?? But exactly when all the accomodation drops back down from double price?
|By Brian Bourquin|
From: Denver, CO
Apr 29, 2013
There are a few additional things to consider when planning your trip. Figure out a plan to get from the Krabi airport to Ao Nang in advance. There is a taxi cartel that controls the airports as well the long tail boats. They have eliminated all the competition. You must now buy a taxi ticket at a booth for about double the price. Same problem with the long tail boats, instead of negotiating a price you must just pay the toll. The boatmen are far less accommodating than the "fishermen" they are portrayed as. Hire a private guide and longtail boat to go deep water soloing. All of the climbing shops (of which there are many) try to sell you on going on the Sailboat. This sailboat is a waist of your time. The DWS is still fun, but you only get a couple of hours in. The problem is the boat is so slow, you spend much of your time in transit.