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  • Writer's pictureMaureen Pfaff

Rock Climbing & Deep Water Solo - Krabi, Thailand

If you are into climbing and live in South East Asia, you will have heard of Krabi. It's the climbing paradise on earth. Cliffs coming out of the water as far as you can see. Huge boulders in the middle of the ocean perfect for deep water solo, and relaxed bars with the friendliest owners. It's been called "The Asian Jamaica" before. Although, maybe just by me. Trip Plan here.

When you hear Southern Thailand, most people will think of full moon parties, beaches and drunk tourists. Not many people would think of sports, maybe diving, but definitely not climbing. Rock climbing was the agenda of our weekend and we couldn’t have been more excited. Living in Singapore these kinds of weekends were the norm before Covid-19 happened, and I am craving another weekend like it.


A couple of disasters to start with

The weekend started out as a bit of a catastrophe to be honest. We took a car from the airport in Krabi to Ao Nang, from where we had to take a boat to Tonsai beach. It was midnight already and we had just gotten onto the boat, ready to race to Tonsai beach and go to bed, when Lukas (my boyfriend) had realised that he lost his sunglasses and I couldn’t find my phone. In a frenzy we went through everything but couldn’t find either of them. We called the driver, as we were sure we must have forgotten them in the car. It turned out that my phone was indeed in the car, and we got it back, but we never found Lukas’ NEW sunglasses. They must have gone over-board. This made for a great start into the weekend!


It didn't end there! We had told the boat captain that we needed to go to Tonsai beach, which was just one beach further than the famous Railay Beach. After we had gotten off we realised that he had tricked us, and we were in fact on Railay beach, miles away from Tonsai and the place we had booked. It didn’t look too far on the map, and so we decided to attempt a crossing on land. After walking for half an hour we realised that it was high tide and there was no way we could ‘walk’ to the other beach without wading through hip deep water (with suitcases).

On top of that we were told by locals that venomous water snakes came out at night. Wonderful. After an hour of back and forth we finally settled on chartering another boat that would take us over to the other beach. It was 1:30am by the time we finally reached our so-called resort. What was described as a cozy resort online turned into an insect infested, non-climatized, and tiny... dump. The area and everything outside was beautiful (as it turned out the next morning).


The bedroom was far from bearable and therefore Lukas and I decided to move into a different resort on Railay beach the next day, which was much nicer, not too expensive, and had an amazing location (that’s the one I linked in the trip plan!)


Rock climbing

Our first day was dedicated to rock climbing. After we picked up our equipment, such as ropes, carabiners, and helmets from one of the local shops, we were on our way to the 123 wall. The wall had been recommended by multiple people online and we were eager to get there. Our walk turned into a bit of a hike, but as we were hiking along the beach and over some minor cliffs, we were able to jump into the water to cool off.


As we had gotten up fairly early we were

one of the first ones at the wall, which was perfect, as we could choose our site. Lukas jumped right in, whilst I was belaying him, ensuring that he was secure. He weighs almost twice as much as me (any other small girls here?) and therefore I had to keep the ropes very tight, so the feedback wouldn’t be too extreme in case he fell, which would have pulled me up.


We took turns for the entire morning on different parts of the wall and had an incredible time.


By midday it got very crowded, but I decided to do just one more route before lunch.

I had gotten about half way up the wall when I realised that I still had my phone in my pocket. Couldn’t let it out of my sight since the car incident obviously. At this point I was too high to throw it back down, so I continued climbing very carefully. I made it to the top and was able to take a selfie with it, which turned out quite cool actually! I was around 20m high here. Yes, I was wearing helmet, but took it off for a minute, as I had a really good hold.


After a quick lunch break we were back at it, but now in a different and more difficult area. This new area, just on the other side of 123 wall, had some overhangs and was definitely more challenging.

We decided to do some lead climbing. Let me briefly explain the difference between top roping and lead climbing. Top roping means that the rope is already on the wall and you can just clip in, have someone belay you, and start climbing. Whenever you fall you'd only fall a very short distance, as the rope at the top would tighten immediately and dampen the fall. Lead climbing on the other hand means there is no rope pitched to the wall yet, and whilst you make your way up the wall you clip the rope into existing holds (or put the holds into the wall yourself). It's a method that is a lot more challenging, but also more natural, as you wouldn't have any pre-existing ropes if you were to go climbing on a wall somewhere remote. The distance you could fall when you slip whilst lead climbing is a lot longer, as there is a lot more slack in the ropes than in top roping.


Whilst I was coming down from a climb when Lukas was belaying me, I turned upside down and this playing around turned into our favourite adventure photo to date!

When we started losing the light in the late afternoon we called it a day. It had been one of the most incredible experiences. Not only did we get to climb outside, which is extremely rare (as it’s not possible in Singapore), but we had great sunny weather and stunning views whilst doing it.


We spent the evening bar hopping our way around Railay beach, which has quite the reggae feeling to it. The bars are furnished with poofs and carpets to sit on the floor, lots of Jamaican flags, Bob Marley songs and weed. My favourite bar was Jamaica Bar.


Deep Water Solo

The next day was our final day and we had reserved a typical local long-tail boat to take us to the best deep water solo sites. If you are not familiar with deep water solo, also known as psicobloc, let me give a brief description. It’s essentially climbing without ropes (bouldering) on giant cliffs in the middle of the ocean, so that whenever you can’t continue you have the option to let go and jump into the water. This is a bit easier said than done to be honest, as you are usually quite high up by the time you want to give up, normally around 10m-20m at least. Therefore jumping from that height can be a lot more daunting than you might think. It can be quite dangerous, depending on the rock formations you are climbing on, and is even illegal in some areas.

We found two incredible sites for it and got to it. Before you get to start bouldering, we first had to jump into the water, swim to the cliff, climb up a ladder and then make our way sideways around the cliff as far as we could get.

Once we had gotten to a point where we couldn’t continue, we would usually try a very risky move, as we knew we would fall into the water in case the move didn’t land. That way we ended up a lot further than initially planned, and when I finally had to jump into the water it took me a few seconds and a really deep breath before I let go.

Off to the second deep water solo site, where we had lunch first. This was served on the boat and without cutlery. The local way!


The second site was quite similar but a lot more difficult. On this one we didn’t get as far as planned, but we had views of beautiful sailing boats passing us! Can you see us in the photo?


Exhausted but with a huge grin on our faces we returned to Railay beach in the

late afternoon. I always thought it was fascinating that the beautiful long-tail boats, like the one we had been on all day, were equipped with a car engine. It turns out that this is a highly effective way to stir. Our captain really was the coolest by the way. Check out this photo of him!


The same evening we made our way to the airport. Another incredible weekend trip had come to an end, and we were so excited for next time!

“The best view comes after the hardest climb.”
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2 Comments


Anne-Marie Cheung
Anne-Marie Cheung
Feb 08

Was it difficult/expensive to find a guide for the deep water solo?

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Maureen Pfaff
Maureen Pfaff
Feb 09
Replying to

We were lucky enough to do this trip with very experienced friends, so didn't need a guide. However, there are a lot of shops where you can rent equipment and book a guide for the day.

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