Asia Above the Fray

Hat Rai Leh: Phra Nang, Thailand

Oct 4, 2001
Outside Magazine

Climbers accustomed to hardship might initially resist the rhythms of Hat Rai Leh, in the saddle of the Phra Nang cliff at Thailand's southwestern spur. They may miss those arduous approaches, those wind-battered bevies, the bland boiled meals, but such longing will not last. A few days here will persuade even rugged rock rats to embrace simple beach bungalows, cool midday swims, and sumptuous dinners. All the comforts of slow tropical days can be had for less than $40 cam, and the time passes under a sun that rises and sets over the twin beaches of this striking spit.

But there definitely are challenges to be found in this limestone wonderland. Climbs range from 5.6 to 5.13d, over exceptional rock with deep, positive pockets and smooth handles. Steep routes reward dynamic moves that climbers recall with reverence during lazy evenings in the village.
Beginners can arrange introductory courses at one of the many climbing shops integrated with the half-dozen bungalow operations, while experienced climbers can choose from a host of spectacular routes, reachable from the beach or aboard one of the numerous small boats for hire in the bay. Bring one or two 60-meter ropes for multipitch climbs; sport routes are standard, and 15 quick-draws and some webbing are all you need.

Fall is a good time to go; November is usually the driest month, though protected overhangs provide routes even on a rainy October afternoon. Either month lets you beat the winter rush, when overflow climbers sleep on the beach, while still offering a chance to join the friendly community of climbers who make the pilgrimage to Phra Nang from all parts of the planet.

Among the bungalow accommodations are Sand Sea Bungalows (, but don't count on it working) and Railay Village (no phones), each about $20 per night. For climbing guides contact King Climbers ([email protected]) or Wee's Rock Climbing in Rai Leh (no phone, but staffed most evenings). Check out for a preview.

Filed To: Rock Climbing, Thailand

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web

Not Now

Got Wanderlust?

Escape your daily grind with Outside’s best getaways.

Thank you!