Winter Travel Guide 1996
Many a promising career has been ruined by my photos," claims Todd Skinner, one of the world's top big-wall climbers. His subjects are not government officials caught on bearskin rugs, but the limestone towers of Phra Nang, Thailand, that rise from the blue-green Andaman Sea. "Instead of going back to school or taking a job, friends see these pictures and head straight for Phra Nang," says Skinner. "The rock formations there, like the Thai Wand, the best wall in Asia, are wild enough to make the climbing world-class."
Climbs range from 5.6 to 5.13-plus in difficulty, and finding climbing partners is easy. A day of instruction in the basics, including equipment rental, costs about $28 (contact Dean at Phra Nang Rock Climbers; fax 011-66-75-61-29-14). A swim in the bay inevitably leads to bouldering on the limestone formations. The air is filled with the squeals of people falling off the towers into the water--it's one place where not getting to the top is as fun as getting there. Limestone cave networks inside the mountains make for great exploring--bring ropes and create your own biathlon of caving and rappelling out. If you want to dive or snorkel, contact Baby Shark Divers (fax 75-61-29-14). There's also an hour-long jungle hike up and over the lip of a crater to an inland lagoon that fills and empties with the tide.
You arrive in Phra Nang via a 45-minute longtail-boat ride from the town of Krabi (the peninsula is cut off from all roads). Thatch-roofed huts stretch like row houses through the village: Try Sand Sea Bungalows (75-61-19-44), with rooms for $15-$50 a night, depending on the season (December through February is high season) and your negotiating skills. Ya-Ya Bungalows (14-76-02-70) is a treehouse structure catering to rock climbers (rooms cost $2-$20 a night). Be sure to bring a copy of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, the most popular book in the village. It's good for barter.