Climbers’ Christmas

Railay Beach ThailandOnly accessible by boat, Railay beach has the feel of a far-flung Thai island…but instead of ocean, dramatic cliffs are what isolate this gem from the mainland. The staggering landscape and turquoise water bring the typical posh clientele to the peninsula but, even better, the upper echelon of rock climbers. It’s a quirky, beautiful place with the chill vibe we needed after the 12/12/12 marathon of fun. We spent six solid days here (an unheard of sedentary state in HoneyTrek terms) and called it home for our first Christmas on the road.


tonsai beachThe sheer cliffs and dense jungle of this skinny peninsula chop it up into distinct sections: West Railay (resort-goers), East Railay (flashpackers), Tonsai (hard-core climbers), and Pra Nang (a stunning beach for all to enjoy). This is a view from funky Tonsai, the most remote of the bunch, only accessed by boat, a 45-minute jungle walk, or wading in from West Railay at low tide.


We stayed in the highland jungle of East Railay at the Phutawan “Resort.” Fancy it was not (we could see the ground through our split-bamboo floor boards) but good vibes it had. From our room we could watch the climbers hang from the cliffs, take in a local takraw game (watch the video if you’ve never seen this soccer/volleyball mash-up), and hack WiFi from the front desk….just what we needed!


railay reggae musicChristmas Eve came upon us and our local rock climbing bar was celebrating with free chicken wings and live reggae (figgy pudding and carols be damned). It was a fun show but we were admittedly a bit sad thinking about our families celebrating without us on the other side of the world.


railay beach bungalowsWe may have been on our own in a Buddhist country but weren’t going to let our traditions fall to the wayside. We kept the Christmas spirit alive in the tropics with a palm tree strung with popcorn, homemade seashell ornaments, and red and green fruits that looked remarkably like holiday bells. We wrapped gifts in palm leaves and exchanged presents of swimming goggles, Nutella, a Chang T-shirt, and a coconut shell necklace. (ironically we both got each other goggles and the best hazelnut spread).


railay beach cooking classI had dreams of cooking a Christmas dinner but since we didn’t have a kitchen or any hope of finding a holiday ham, we signed up for a Thai cooking class and inadvertently had a proper feast. We learned to make Pad Thai, Tom Kha Gai soup, green curry, Panang curry, spring rolls, and pumpkin and coconut milk dessert. The dishes weren’t as hard to make as I thought they’d the question is can I find galangal root and fresh lemon grass at my Hoboken grocer?


deep water solo climbing railayAfter eating too much and watching climbers all week, it was time we hit the rocks. Deep water solo is a Railay specialty where boats take you out to the sea cliffs, you swim to a rope ladder, climb as high as you can, and cliff dive when you are ready to come down (or fall down). That’s Mike on the left, shimmying up a rope to then tackle that rock outcropping.


cliff diving thailandI am proud to say, I climbed the highest of anyone in our group. Up and up I went but at certain point I realized, crap, the higher I climb, the farther I have to jump! Abort mission. Nose plugged and a hail Mary, I plunged 40+ feet into the sea.


west railay at nightAfter a beach bonfire dinner with our climbing mates and a some nighttime snorkeling with phosphorescent algae (those glow-in-the-dark confetti-like critters that move around you with each stroke…amazing!), our captain pulled into the Railay harbor. It was an incredible day in need of a toast with our new Cannuck friends Keegan, Katie, and Alyssa!


railay hiking conditionsIn other adventures on the island, there are a couple good hikes–one to a hidden lagoon (if the tide is right) or an “easier” hike to panoramic views of East and West Railay. We opted for the latter and got this steep slope of snare-trap roots for a trail. We scrambled up as carefully and quickly as we could to catch the gorgeous views before darkness. We made it but the return was a doozy in the dark.


penis shrine railayOn our final day we headed over to Phra Nang Beach, famous for its drip-castle rocks and Princess Cave…a shrine filled with wooden phallus offerings left by fisherman in hopes of a bountiful catch.


best beach in RailayFor us, Railay Beach was probably the most interesting and relaxing of the Thai beaches. It’s not the kind of place you lay and tan all day but that’s not our style anyway. Adventure, beauty, and its own unique culture made for our perfect holiday mix.



Tagged , , , ,

24 thoughts on “Climbers’ Christmas

  1. Love this and all the photos. Those are some scary-exciting climbs

    1. Thanks @disqus_AjxAg9e67O:disqus…it was so hard to edit down this batch of photos, as those karst mountains literally erupting from the ocean and landscape everywhere you looked. Amazing place!

  2. I’m so glad we’re not the only ones woefully behind on our blog: we just wrote about how we celebrated Christmas in Singapore last week! 😀

    We spent a few weeks in this part of Thailand but Tony is deathly afraid of heights (he suffers from vertigo when he gets really up there) so whenever I quizzed him about whether he wanted to try climbing or not, he firmly declined. Instead we spent our time diving which we have no regrets about! That slice of Thailand really is beautiful, both above and below the waves!

    1. We figured someone would call us out for posting about Christmas in September…but feel so much better it was a fellow behind blogger! You can’t be in beautiful place and stuck behind a computer right? I think an out-of-date travel blog is a sign you were out there having fun! (Or this is how we make ourselves feel better, tell us if that works for you 🙂

  3. What a fun Xmas!!!

    1. Though it would have been even better with family and friends, we had incredible Thai cliff-hanging reggae Christmas : )

  4. Yikes – those rocks/cliffs look intense!

    1. Especially without any ropes!

  5. A perfect way to spend Christmas. ‘Great shots – as usual. And the climbing? ‘Looks like fun!

    1. As quirky as it was, it was a perfect Christmas. All the elements were there the tree (palm), the feast (pad thai and curries), carols (by Bob Marley), and love! Perfection.

  6. Damn! I need to grab some of those takraw kids to sub in for my monday night soccer league!

    1. So you saw that corkscrew flip to a kick? These guys were nasty good, especially that guy at the net! Head to Thailand and start recruiting, Jim!

  7. No wonder I never have much luck fishing…I’ve never built a phallus shrine.

    I do believe that is a Christmas banana tree. It’s a great idea. Really like the banana leaf wrapping paper.

    1. That’s the secret. Build one of those and you’ll only catch 300lb tuna from here on out! As for wrapping paper, leaves have such amazing patterns, free, and biodegradable…so much better than that store-bought stuff.

  8. Wow! I am seriously in awe of that rock climbing… my brother would be in heaven there. Looks amazing but scary!

    1. yeah that rock climbing was one of the most exhilarating things ever… trippy falling into the water when reaching for the next hold…..eeeekkkkk @mytanfeet:disqus

  9. Wonderful writing and photography. ‘Confetti-like critters’, I love that! Deep water soloing was an exciting day, it’s great to re-live it through this post. Thanks you two!

    1. Harris, so glad we shared this awesome experience with you and that our post brought you back to the incredible Railay!

  10. […] attractions is El Limón waterfall. It drops 130 feet into a pool perfect for swimming and a little deep water solo climbing, and the 1.5 mile trip up the mountain is just as impressive. We rode horses up through winding […]

  11. […] were completely dazzled by snorkeling the bioluminescent waters in Railay, Thailand, and Puerto Rico’s bays are supposed to have even more vibrant dinoflagellates (fancy word […]

  12. I am soooo looking forward to this climb!!! I’m not sure which will be harder the up or the down!! I’ll let you know in June!!!

  13. […] and friend Emily from Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal five months prior! Apparently she was also in Rai Lay Beach Thailand at the same time as us but neither of us knew–apparently, we were bound to meet […]

Leave a Reply