Tonsai bay seen from the mambo bungalow area
|Warning Stainless-steel bolts are suspect near the coast. A rebolting effort is underway. MORE INFO >>>|
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. The effort is now led by the well-organized and hard-working Thaitanium Project that sources its bolts from Titan Climbing. 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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (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 styrofoam 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?
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.
- Sam Lightner Jr's Thailand: a climbing guide (100% of the profits from sales of Sam's guidebook support the rebolting effort)
- 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 1112 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.
Weather station 2.7 miles from here
675 Total Climbing Routes
['4 Stars',115],['3 Stars',279],['2 Stars',209],['1 Star',61],['Bomb',2]
Classic Climbing Routes in Thailand
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Thailand
Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Thailand:
Featured Route For Thailand
Happy Island, Phranang Beach and the Thaiwand Wall...
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Railay from Happy Island. Dec 25, 2004, the day b...
Adam W. rappelling from the top of the Candlestick...
Just another amazing sunset after an epic day on R...
Rock garden, eastern Thailand, great short climbs ...
The bat cave wall, eastern Thailand.
Bolts in Thailand, courtesy of Basecamp Tonsai
The lime stone mesa is waiting for more bolting to...
Among the rice fields of North East Thailand are t...
Rapelling from Monkey See Monkey Do... Note:very f...
Wee on one of the most classic routes and walls of...
This is a great lime stone in NE Thailand that is ...
GG top roping in Hin Chang Si bouldering area, Kho...
Greg Martinez in Phi-Phi on Tonsi Tower
I and my son bouldering in Hin Chang Si boulders a...
the opening to the bouldering cave
Deanna Lee in Tonsi
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.
Apr 19, 2014
some interesting comments. I spent A month in Tonsai and 2 Months outside of Tonsai in Thailand last year (2013) and never got sick once... I did get sick for two weeks earlier in Nepal during the same trip, and I figured my immune system was a bit stronger after that? I dunno... I try to be careful with the obvious and I feel not eating any meat helps eliminate your chances of getting sick...
By Mike Holley
From: Boone, NC
Apr 23, 2014
Go and Send! Thailand is fun in the sun! Apply Sunscreen, drink water (or Chang) and send like the Full Moon party is tomorrow!
By Levi Call
From: Moab Utah
Feb 18, 2015
If you are traveling to SE asia it might be a good idea to buy one of these water filters before coming. I have had to buy zero water bottles while here, saving money and trash from being produced. Walk around Tonsai one time and you will see why you should bring a filter. I chose this one because it is easy to use and compact.
By Brian Boyd
From: Kowloon, Hong Kong
Apr 1, 2016
Chiang Mai Climbers has made their Crazy Horse guidebook available in app format. It is essentially the same content as the printed guide. Some notes:
- current only available for Apple
- App purchase entitles you to half off a hard copy guide.
May 15, 2016
My bf and I are coming to Thailand we will be in Chiang Mai from June 1-2 and are looking for a good tour company for climbing and caving. We would like to do the climbing and caving on the same day. Though we are decent top rope climbers but do not feel 100% comfortable lead climbing in an unknown area without a guide. Any recommendations on guides or companies?
After researching caving I found that Chiang Dao Caves offers guided tours and I am just wondering if there is truly a difference in hiring a company/ guide to ascend and descend through the caving system or if we should just getting a local provided guide to take us?
We will also be in Krabi from the 26-31 but i was told that we can find other climbers very easily here. would it be better if we hired a guide here?
Also, Do we have to leave Krabi to do some deep water soloing?
By Danny Paradorn
From: Thailand & SF Bay Area
May 27, 2016
^ I'd recommend doing a climbing/caving tour with Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures (thailandclimbing.com). They are super professional and AMGA guide certified. They're about western priced, but you will also get the western peace of mind for their outfit. They maintain the Crazy Horse Buttress area, really good crew, super friendly and speak English very well.
You can go 'walking' into a huge cavein Chiang Dao, but the big cave there, as far as I remember is pretty huge, like 30-40 meters high? It's not as much of the smaller, "ooh what's behind/under there" kind of caving in smaller passageways, that I really like. Also, it is lit up with lighting systems. Kind of feels like Disneylandish in some parts. Crazy Horse Buttress has at least a few caves that I know of that are freely accessible, but I haven't been able to see more of them, because I don't have the knowledge about locations and equipment, like CMRCA does.
Definitely check out their website, and you can make the call yourself. I'm pretty sure I saw them advertise before caving and climbing in one day. Good luck n' have fun!