Rockclimbing Railay in Krabi, Thailand
As much as I love Chiang Mai, it was time for a vacation. March 9th - April 9th is the burning season in Chiang Mai when the farmers set fire to their fields causing the air to be unbreathable. So what did we do? Simple, we hopped on a short direct flight from Chiang Mai to Krabi for around $200US return.
How to get to Railay Beach:
We took a 150 baht ($5US) bus from Krabi airport to Ao Nang which is the main tourist area in Krabi. Travel hint, at the airport if you say you're going to Railay or Tonsai they charge you 150baht but often only charge 100 baht to Ao Nang, and you end up at the same ferry drop off point as it doesn't actually include the boat ticket.
We decided not to stay there and go straight to the fun spots, as the beach on Ao Nang isn't that nice. 100baht ($3) and 10 minutes later we got on a long tail boat to Tonsai beach. Warning: The "ferry" from Krabi/Ao Nang to Tonsai/Railay is a small long tail boat and you have to walk through knee deep water carrying your luggage over your head to board. Change into swim trunks and keep your electronics out of your pocket above your head.
Where to Stay:
You have three choices. Railay West is the nicest beach with the best resorts, book early and find a nice place there. Railey East is only a 5 minute walk but the beach is muddy/mangrove. Then there's Tonsai which is a 15 minute walk from the best beach and is known as the backpackers area. We ended up staying in a basic place on Tonsai which was quiet, clean and super cheap. In retrospect, I would have happily paid a bit more than 500 baht a night ($16US) and gotten a nicer room, but it was secure, in a great location and had really comfortable beds. Our place is called Garden View and is on the road towards Railay Beach.
Internet and Wifi:
Don't come to the islands to get work done. But your business is maintenance mode and enjoy your time down in Krabi, Tonsai and Koh Lanta when you come. That being said, there are a few coffee shops with free wifi that is decent. They are open from 8am-2pm. I'm currently blogging out of a bar on the beach called Fresh Bar that has decent internet from 6pm-Midnight. I outsource my customer service calls for my eCommerce stores, and just use the wifi here to check email.
I also have a 3G internet plan and use my iPhone's Personal Hotspot with great success. I use my sim card I got in Chiang Mai from AIS and pay 299 baht ($10US) for 300mb of data, which lasts me a month.
Rock Climbing on Railay:
Larissa and I have done some indoor rock climbing, her twice and me around ten times or so and it was good preparation for climbing on real outdoor rocks. We signed up for a the Top Rope 101 (basic) rock climbing course with Base Camp on Tonsai beach and recommend them. Total cost for a half day was 800 baht ($27US)
Tips for Travelers:
You don't need to book climbing in advance, just go in the day before. There are no ATMs on Tonsai beach but plenty in Krabi and in Railay Beach. You can walk to Railay from Tonsai in 15 minutes during low tide on the beach, or through the Jungle which is a very nice hike in around 20 minutes.
If you can to stay in a nicer resort style room, book in advance. If you want a basic room for 300-500 baht ($10-$15) you can just show up and walk around. Tonsai Beach is more of a jungle than a beach feel but is great for people younger travelers 18-28 or for people who want to meet other travelers. Railay is for couples and families.
During our half day intro, we started with a really easy climb and switched to harder and harder climbs throughout the day. Larissa who is a beginner with only 2 days of previous experience managed to make it up the mid level climb which was impressive. I somehow made it up the highest climb of the day, but only after a bit of encouragement from Ella the English girl in our group. The climbs ranged from 5m (15ft) to 30m (98.45ft)
I didn't realize how much I would enjoy rock climbing in Railay. I can see why tons of people plan to go to Tonsai for 2 days and end up staying for 2 weeks. I'll definitely comeback again in the future to do some more climbing as it was a really fun time and a super cheap holiday.