Touchstone is full of adventurous members and staff alike who like to get down with rocks in rad places. Today, Remi Moehring, manager of Cliffs of Id, gives us a taste of her adventures in Thailand and some advice for those of you looking to visit this South Asian climbing paradise.
A couple weeks ago, my brother, my fiancé (whom you may know as the handsomest manager in the history of Hollywood Boulders), and I embarked on a ten-day Thai adventure that took us from south to north, beach to boulders. The impetus of our trip was ultimately to visit our dad, who has been living the expat life in Chiang Mai since 2014. But having been freshly bitten by the climbing bug just over a year ago, my brother was eager to explore new heights in the mountains of northern Thailand.
Unlike most climbers who visit Southern Thailand to scale the otherworldly cliffs of Krabi, our time down south involved more beach napping (a personal favorite pastime) and floating around in the water more than anything that involved “energy” or “being awake,” both of which are highly overrated when on an island. We instead opted to spend our time resting up, drinking mango shakes, and chuffing along the arduous trek from the pool to the beach. It was murder, I tell you! Luckily, Karon Beach is littered with banana pancake stands and drinkable coconuts, so that softened the blow of having to walk for five or ten minutes in the heat when we could have been asleep somewhere.
Phuket gets a bad rap due to the seediness of Phuket City, but head to the coast and away from the throngs of partygoers in Patong and you’ll find yourself magically transported into one of those beach posters your most basic friend hung on their dorm wall in college.
After a few days on the beach, we headed to the big city; I with a belly full of curry and Cody and Nash with matching panic tans that were already peeling. As none of us much enjoy big cities, we came to Bangkok with one goal: to eat at Gaggan. For those of you who have not yet binge-watched Chef’s Table on Netflix, Gaggan was featured in the last episode of Season Two. It’s an Indian haute-cuisine restaurant in the heart of the city, hidden behind an unassuming alleyway one would never guess was home to Restaurant Magazine’s Best Restaurant in Asia for two years running. The menu was communicated exclusively with emojis, and by the end the maître d’ was literally spoon-feeding Nash his 19th course.
Actually, we’re not sure what his role was. Hopefully he worked there and wasn’t just some hammered patron. Either way, it was a world-class dining experience with a sense of humor, and completely worth the hype and the price tag.
By the end of our trip we were ready for some long-overdue family time, and boy did we get more than our fair share. This visit was our first time meeting our dad’s girlfriend, Jen, and Jen’s family, which included her son and daughter, plus her son’s wife, their two daughters, and her daughter’s girlfriend. I became instant best friends with Jen’s six-year-old granddaughter, Omphang, who bounced everywhere and to whom we accidentally gave waaay too much sugar. We taught her how to high five, so she’s now fully prepared to assimilate into American culture.
In preparation for our trip to Crazy Horse, we visited the local bouldering gym, Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures, located just a few blocks from the Chiang Mai gate entrance. We spent a couple hours messing around on the walls, meeting other travelers, and perusing the gear shop for new toys. They offer frequent and inexpensive transportation to Crazy Horse and back, as well as a plethora of gear rental options. For about $16/person, they’ll provide transportation, lunch, and gear for a full day of climbing. Since there were three of us and we had the advantage of our own set of wheels (thanks Dad!), we opted to rent a rope, anchor setup, and draws, which cost about $30 total.
The crag is a 30-minute drive from the city, if you know where you’re going. It took us slightly longer because the sign for the turnoff doesn’t have an English translation, so we drove past it and almost ended up walking up hundreds of temple stairs we mistook for the approach. Luckily, when we found the correct parking lot, the first handful of routes were only a few steps away, and we were able to rope up and get climbing within minutes of parking. We each got a couple of easy sends under our belts before the humidity and mosquitos got the better of us, but the rock was wonderful; big holds and plenty of them, as long as there are no spiders making a home where you want to pull down. We even got Dad halfway up a 10a! He fell into some trees on the way down, but I promised him I’d only say things that made him sound strong and capable, so just don’t tell anyone.
A few tips for heading to Crazy Horse:
- Bring bug spray! As an alternative, mooch some off other climbers like we did because we’re stupid American tourists and assume that everything will just work out no matter how little we prepare.
- Rent the guide! Or not. As long as you can find it and have appropriate gear, start at the routes on the left and work your way to the right. Worst case scenario: you’re an American! Things will work out no matter how little you prepare!
- Start early and bring food! There’s not much around in the way of snacks and drinks unless you bring a car, and even then it’s not somewhere you can just wander around and happen upon food. Snack well, hydrate often.
- It’s great for first-timers! Are you introducing someone to their very first outdoor climbing experience? Are you in Northern Thailand? Crazy Horse Buttress is for you! It’s got plenty of easy peasy, juggy routes that will make gym climbers like me feel right at home.