For us, life is all about passion. Stargazing under the California sun, hiking through the bamboo forests of Japan, diving with crocodiles in Africa – wherever we are and whatever we do, it’s all about the excitement of a new experience. We’re firm believers that life is too short to waste time on boring activities that don’t provide enrichment. Everything we do should feed our souls, boost our minds, and make our hearts beat with exhilaration. And there’s no better way to achieve all three goals than rock climbing in Thailand.
Rock climbing boasts a ton of physical benefits. Each climb improves your flexibility and gives you a 2-in-1 workout combo of cardio and strength training. You can chisel away at that six pack while also blasting your calves, lats, delts, traps, and biceps. You can even stave off chronic illnesses and burn a shitload of calories. Not to mention, you’ll have bragging rights after scaling a massive cliff or even just killing it at your local gym. But there’s so much more to climbing than looking tough or getting ripped.
Climbing has several mental health benefits, too. In other words, that sense of victory you feel after a tough climb is good for more than an inspirational Instagram caption. A great session can increase your mental strength and reduce your stress. And you can feel this regardless of where you’re climbing. So, even if you’re indoors in the windowless basement of your local gym, you can still heal your heart and mind. If you can feel this indoors, imagine what you can achieve while climbing in paradise – more specifically, while climbing the breathtaking cliffs of Thailand.
The beauty of Thailand
Thailand will see more than 35 million tourists this year. Many of them are visiting to marvel at historic attractions like the Grand Palace, snorkel in the crystal blue waters of the Phi Phi Islands, and chomp down on some authentic Pad Thai. But many of those tourists are visiting to climb Thailand’s world-renowned cliffs.
One such destination is Railay Beach. Railay has the look and feel of an island but is actually attached to the mainland. It’s home to some small hotels and private beach resorts, and there’s a lot of protected jungle. In fact, there’s so much undeveloped land in Railay that the big hotel chains have avoided moving in and transforming it into a commercialized vacation spot. Instead, it’s natural and serene. And its beach cliffs are the epitome of everything Thailand has to offer.
Climbing here is excellent for a few reasons:
- You can choose a route that’s tailored to your skill level. Whether you’re a novice or an expert, there’s something here for you.
- You can bond with other international travelers as you all share this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
- You can learn about Thailand in a real, hands-on experience.
- And when you reach the top, the view is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. In an essay about his experience in Railay, writer Scott Mayerowitz said the view was “the stuff that postcard creators dream about”. Yes, it’s that beautiful.
And it’s not just Railay. Thailand is home to several rock climbing destinations, all equally well-preserved, impressive, and beyond memorable.
Railay Beach is located in Krabi, a province that runs along the nation’s southern landscape. There are several other cliffs throughout, complete with guided tours and excursions.
Chang Mai, the northern capital, is home to one of Thailand’s most popular destinations – Crazy Horse. There are over 150 routes to choose from, and it gets the stamp of approval from both tourists and locals alike.
Though the Koh Phi Phi islands attract tourists who like to party and sunbathe, the Tonsai Tower is also a major rock climbing attraction here. It has roughly 30 routes, most of which are great for beginners. There are also spectacular ocean views.
You can view the Gulf of Thailand from any number of boulders in Koh Tao, which is a smaller and more remote island. And Koh Yao Noi offers climbing options for those hoping to avoid the more populated areas.
There’s no shortage of climbs to choose from.
A place of change
Additionally, Thailand is a place that’s often attributed to helping travelers change their lives and find their souls.
The peaceful surroundings force you to relax and recharge your batteries. The presence of numerous temples connects you to spirituality – your own and that of a higher power. The food is medicine for your body; you can reset your taste buds and consume nutrients you’ve been missing in your normal diet.
You can connect to your inner happiness. And because you’re so far away from the old you, you have the freedom to write a new you. You can start a new chapter.
You can learn to conquer your fears and appreciate the little things you already have. You can appreciate your constant Wi-Fi connection, for in Thailand, your connection will be spotty. You can appreciate the modernity of your home, because you’ll be immersed in a culture that lacks many of the developments you love. When you take time away from your life, you have an opportunity to value it at a higher level.
Climbing = Happiness?
So, you’re probably wondering how this works. You know that climbing already offers a ton of benefits – reduced stress, increased mental capacity – regardless of where you do it. And you understand that Thailand is a peaceful place that can encourage reconnection with yourself and the universe. But how do they work together?
Physical activity releases endorphins in our bodies. These are the feel-good chemicals that make us happy or excited after a workout. Climbing most certainly releases these, making you feel like a champ when your climb is over. But imagine feeling that rush of endorphins as you stand at the top of a cliff in the middle of the jungle. It’s just you and nature – no cars, no emails, no devices, no pollution, no to-do list. You can breathe in fresh air. You can clear your mind. You can view the world through fresh eyes.
Still not convinced? Think about it this way. Vacations in Thailand are rejuvenating. You commune with nature, you escape the daily stressors of your life back home, and you get to experience a different way of life. Whether you’re climbing or not, you’re already reaping the benefits of your time in paradise. But climbing in Thailand exponentially increases these benefits – it offers you something greater.
Climbing forces you to reckon with what you have, not with what you lack. When you’re hanging on a cliff, the tropical breeze kissing your forehead, the humid sweat dripping down your back, it takes what you’ve got already – your mental agility, your strength, your fearlessness – to keep going. It’s not about what you’re missing. It’s about your guts, your sweat, your intelligence, and your ability.
Climbing in Thailand pulls you into the present and helps you leave behind that pesky habit of wishing for something or someone else. When you climb at home in a gym, you’re never that far away from reality. You know that, as soon as you get back down, there’s a train to catch or a meeting to attend or a text to answer. But in paradise, none of that matters.
When you climb in Thailand, you enter the experience with a clear mind. All of the typical distractions are removed. So, not only can you enjoy the climb itself and take in all the views, but you can also experience every mental benefit in full. You’re open to the experience. Just as dining in Thailand can reshape your taste buds, climbing there can cleanse your spiritual palette.
Our lives are all about chasing happiness. If I just achieve this, I’ll be happy. If I meet this person, if I buy this car, if I get this promotion, I’ll be happy. There’s an assumption that new things or people will bring you happiness. There’s also an assumption that you don’t already have it.
In contrast, rock climbing in general is about living in the moment. You’re negotiating where to place your hands and feet to get to the top and avoid falling in the process. You’re thinking about how and what you feel as you embark on your journey. And all of this is followed by the euphoria and pride you feel when it’s over.
Now add to this scenario that you’re thousands of miles away from work and rent and bills and responsibility. You can live in this moment worry-free and expectation-free. You can marvel at the ocean, the beach, or the jungle. You can simply live and form a new memory. You can feel alive.
“You won’t spend a lifetime chasing dreams if you’re living for the things that make you feel alive,” writes avid climber Kathy Karlo. Throughout her climbs, she realized that life wasn’t about what came after the climb. It was about the climb itself and the motivation for starting the climb in the first place. When you climb in Thailand, so far removed from everything else in your life that makes you feel pressured or stressed, you can feel this too.
Climbing in Thailand makes you happy because it teaches you to appreciate what you have and who you are in this moment. It’s okay to have goals, and it’s okay to push yourself to keep growing and improving. But it’s not okay to beat yourself up if you miss one of those goals or if you feel you aren’t achieving them fast enough. More than breathtaking scenery and fun, climbing in Thailand presents a chance to reconnect with the core of who you are. To take stock of what you have and appreciate it and use it. It makes you happy because you can finally understand that happiness is not beyond you – it’s inside you.
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