Railay sports some of the best climbing and deep water soloing in all of Thailand and the area is dotted with multiple climbing schools. After the slow paced, laid back jungle atmosphere we were ready for something a bit livelier so headed south by minibus and longtail boat to Railay, a peninsular of land pointing south into the Adaman Sea to the east of Phuket. There are no roads to this peninsular as it is fortified by dozens of limestone pinnacles with huge cliff faces. Access is by longtail boat from Krabi or Ao Nang which will drop you on the east or west side of this narrow peninsular, less than 500m wide at its middle. The west side is dominated by lushes sandy beaches, the east, which is the windward side, was originally mangroves, unfortunately many of which have now been removed to make way for developments. Our resort was on the east side with lovely views over the remaining mangroves and the eastern side of the peninsular.
The aims for our four days here were to recharge our batteries, get some beach time and for me to get some climbing in before heading to Burma. I selected one called xxx on the East Beach (also the closest to our hotel) and signed up for an afternoon deep water soloing. This involves a boat, swimming shorts, a pair of rock climbing shoes and some rocks overhanging deep water - simple! A great afternoon of big routes, big falls and big splashes finished off with a bit or snorkelling and a beer on the beach.
I also climbed (roped not solo) on 2 of the next 3 days, eventually getting my carcass up F6b (on lead obviously)! Those 3 days in Ko Lao Laing and the treks in Khao Sok had definitely helped improve my fitness.
Sarah had first been to Railay 10 years ago, then it was a quiet stretch of beaches with bamboo huts and bars and a few small resorts. Now it is a heaving place in high season with many resorts and more on the way, gradually pushing the smaller family businesses further out. The east beach is much less developed and still carries a lot of that original charm. I would definitely come back to climb more but maybe try and hit low season.
We frequented the Last Bar at the end of east beach most evenings, which had fire shows every night and Thai Boxing fights twice a week. After our experience in Lanta we could tell that the boxing was obviously fake, more like American Wrestling, but the tourist crowd went wild and when we mentioned it to our Thai climbing friends they grinned but asked us not to tell anyone - bad for business!!
Towards the south of the peninsular is a beach called Phra Nang Beach with a cave at its southern end famous for its wonderful stalactites and stalagmites. Since ancient times, Phra Nang (Princess) Cave has been where fishermen, before going out to sea, have made offerings to the symbolic Phallus of Shiva (known as the Siwaleung or Palad Khik in Thai).
The fishermen, who say the cave is the home of a mythical sea princess, believe their offerings will bring them success in their fishing and protect them from danger, but what is more remarkable is that the cave contains a large collection of carved wooden phallic symbols, offerings and other objects believed to help with fertility.
Our plan had been to then catch the night train from Krabi to Bangkok, however all the trains were fully booked as people were making there way to Bangkok to join in the protests. Therefore a quick change of plan was required so we booked a flight and boarded our plane at Krabi Airport to meet Kitty in an uncertain Bangkok.
Deep Water Soloing Venue - about 20 minutes by boat from Railay
Easy warm up
Not so warm way down!
Uh oh - remember keep legs together, arms in, straight body........