Climbing Karsts: Railay Beach

July was a busy month, mainly spent teaching extra classes and organizing English camps, so the recent four-day weekend was a welcome rest from our usual routine.  We took the opportunity to go to Railay Beach, a peninsula on the Andaman Sea known for rock-climbing and its breathtaking limestone karsts.

West Railay

West Railay

Blake had never been to Railay before, and even though I have, I carried no qualms about returning to this area because it’s one of my favorite getaways.  There are no motorbikes or cars so it’s small enough not to be overcrowded, but there are enough familiar Western comforts to make it feel like vacation. We stayed at Sunrise Beach Resort for a good price, thanks to online booking at, and thoroughly enjoyed the luxury (for us!) of TV, aircon, and hot showers.

After eating a large buffet breakfast, we met with a group from King Climbers for a half-day of rock climbing. They sized us for harnesses that cinched tightly around each leg and held fast around the waist, helped us pick out shoes that were at least a size too small, and covered our hands in chalk.

Once at the rock wall, the instructor, a small Thai man with dreadlocks who introduced himself as “Eiat,” showed us how to use a double figure eight knot to securely connect the rope to our harnesses.   “Top rope” climbing is a safe method of rockclimbing because there is a rope looped through an anchor placed high above on the rock face.  Using this pulley-like system, the instructor holds the rope as the climber makes his or her up the rock; if the climber falls or needs a rest, the instructor can hold his or her weight by leveraging the rope.

brittany vs. rock round 1

brittany vs. rock round 1

Blake was fast on all of the climbs and hardly seemed to struggle at all.  I had more difficulty, but I gritted my teeth and refused to give up, making it to the top on five out of five (thanks to the help of that top rope!).

I can see how people become passionate about rock climbing; you feel incredibly close to nature while doing something that’s mentally and physically challenging.   But, after just half a day, I was exhausted so we spent the afternoon at the beach and the evening at Last Bar — where they’ve got a pretty elaborate fire-spinning show and a guy who croons out covers of your favorite songs.

the tide goes pretty far out, leaving longtail boats like these stranded until it comes back

the tide goes pretty far out, leaving longtail boats like these stranded until it comes back

The next evening we signed up for a “Sunset Snorkel Tour.” A longtail boat picked us up and took us to a few of the nearby islands to snorkel and to watch the sun set over the vast ocean.  At one point, the sky darkened and poured down rain, making the visibility quite low, but later at night Blake jumped in and swam with the phosphorescence, which I hear is equivalent to swimming in magic.
Sunset at Tup Island, during our four-island snorkel tour

Sunset at Tup Island, during our four-island snorkel tour

Gallery of images below: click to see the pictures full screen

We clung as hard as we could to our vacation, but inevitably we had to return to Surat Thani.  This week was an easy week, though, because it’s Thai Mother’s Day on Monday, so there were lots of classes cancelled so the students could practice dancing (this erratic scheduling wouldn’t happen in America, but I’m secretly grateful for random ceremonies and more free time to enjoy life).

Luckily we have another 3-day weekend starting today but I’m not sure if we’ll go anywhere; sometimes it’s just nice to stay at home.  I feel like I got my fill of luxury this past weekend – now it’s back to cold showers and fan for me!


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