The ins and outs of climbing in Thailand.
Congratulations. You’re finally going to make that international climbing vacation happen. Wisely, you’ve selected Thailand, home to spicy food, pristine waters, deep water soloing and jagged limestone.
North or South?
Some of the country’s most popular climbing destinations are South Thailand’s Krabi beaches, namely Ton Sai and Railay. Know that the remote (and worthwhile) islands Ko Phi Phi and Ko Lao Liang are within range via a ferry ride from Ton Sai.
If the hustle and bustle of tourist-ridden beaches aren’t your thing, head north to the “small,” laid-back city of Chiang Mai. Thirty-five kilometers east of town, right outside the village of Mae On, rests another world climbing destination: Crazyhorse Buttress. Here you’ll tackle sharp sandstone routes ranging from beginner to elite.
Your connecting flights will likely be through Bangkok, or perhaps Kuala Lumpur (if you’re heading south). Many U.S. carriers offer service to Bangkok but few fly directly to Krabi or Chiang Mai. If you happen to end up in Bangkok, a stop over is recommended.
Spend Time in Bangkok
Unless you only have a few days to knock out as many routes as possible, spend 3 or 4 days in Bangkok to visit attractions and get introduced to Thai culture. There’s a high concentration of English speakers here, so it’s a solid place to immerse yourself in the beguiling culture.
By Train: This is the slowest, most comfortable way to travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Sleeper trains with air conditioning run daily for around $23. There are longer, cheaper, sweatier and more uncomfortable options available, too.
By Bus: Buses are only slightly faster and don’t have the luxury of full beds or a lot of room to walk around. Cheaper, they run about $14 through a first-class, private tour company. Nearly free government buses are available with service and personal space to match.
By Plane: Precise travel dates and advance booking get you round-trip flights to Chiang Mai for $30 or so; make certain to check the airlines’ baggage policies.
By Train: Take the train to Surat Thani, then hop a bus for two hours to Krabi. Roughly $33 total.
By Bus: Same as going to Chiang Mai. You get what you pay for.
By Plane: Fly into Phuket or Krabi for approx. $30 round-trip. If you fly into Phuket, considering taking a ferry across to stop at Ko Phi Phi on the way. If you fly directly to Krabi, it’s a short taxi ride to the ferry (which drops you off at your beach lodging destination).