Up your climbing game at these outdoor climbing spots in Asia
Image credit: Andrea Johnson
With human-friendly safety measures implemented, anyone can rock climb. You don’t even have to get bitten by a radioactive spider as a prerequisite to scale walls.
Rock climbing is all the rage now, with an emphasis on the #fitspo lifestyle and a growing availability of indoor climbing facilities. If you’re an adrenaline junkie looking to up your climbing game and stand out from the crowd, it’s time to take things outdoors.
Whether you’ve already climbed those XL Fruity Pebbles 100 times over, or have never stepped foot into a rock climbing gym before, you can enjoy the challenge and rewarding views at these outdoor climbing destinations in Southeast Asia - all newbie-friendly, with guides to help you along.
1. Lan Ha Bay, Vietnam
Image credit: @jacco_kliesch
Lan Ha Bay is a climber’s paradise - with over 300 islands forming a seascape of limestone pillars, there are endless variations of climbing routes here - some still undiscovered. The turquoise waters below make it the best place to try out deep-water soloing - that is, climbing without a harness.
Image credit: Green Trail Tours
Start your climb from a boat, equipped with nothing but chalk on your hands. Grab hold of rock pockets and crimp the tiny rock edges as you make your way up the crag. Once you think you’ve climbed enough, leap off the wall and dive into the water.
This may sound like an adventure only for daredevils but anyone with minimal climbing experience can do it. It’s extremely safe as the deep-water soloing routes have all been created by veteran climbers. Plus there are tours to bring you around the bay and feed you with the most authentic Vietnamese lunch cooked on a traditional junk boat.
Getting here: Take the Good Morning Cat Ba transport from Hanoi to Cat Ba, which includes a bus ride, followed by a boat ride and lastly a bus ride again.
2. Railay Beach, Thailand
Image credit: @jules_hke
While Krabi is a popular destination for swimming in crystal blue waters, relaxing by the beach and chasing the sunset, thrill-seekers can take a break away from that sedentary lifestyle and make their way up the cliffs on Krabi’s Railay Beach.
Image credit: Scott’s Next Adventure
If you’re travelling as a huge group with a mix of both experienced climbers and noobs, Railay Beach has something for everyone. With over 700 different climbing routes of varying difficulties, there will be lessons catered to beginners, and guides to bring the more experienced climbers around.
Getting here: Take a minivan or taxi from Krabi airport to Ao Nang Beach. Then take a longtail boat to Railay Beach.
3. Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
Image credit: Andrea Johnson
Venture further out at sea from Railay Beach and you’ll arrive at Ko Phi Phi - a quieter part of the Krabi region. Here stands the 200m tall Tonsai Tower overlooking the sea. It may look daunting from the comfort of your boat, but many have conquered it with the aid of climbing tours. Scaling this will make you feel like King Kong atop the Empire State Building - formidable and powerful.
Getting here: Take a ferry from Phuket’s Rassada Pier which is an hour’s drive from Phuket Airport.
4. Thakhek, Laos
Image credit: @cartoon_sayaphet
Live out the hippie dream of being one with nature with nary a care in the world at Thakhek. In this ulu part of Laos, surrounded by lush greenery and crags, you will find the climbing resort Green Climbers Home where you’ll get to return to a rustic bungalow on stilts after a day of climbing.
Everything from food to climbing gear and lessons can be found within the village compound. Adventure literally awaits at your doorstep.
Getting here: Take a bus from Vientiane to Thakhek. At the Thakhek bus station, take a tuk tuk to Green Climbers Home.
5. Vang Vieng, Laos
Image credit: Vietravel
The quaint village of Vang Vieng will give you the feels of the kind of place kungfu protagonists in movies take refuge in, to recollect themselves and find inner peace.
Image credit: Geckos Tales
Be prepared for aching muscles as a climbing course in Vang Vieng can go up to 3 days. But it’ll be well worth it as you’ll be rewarded with the picturesque view of the entire village - surrounded by looming cliffs, vast paddy fields and a river coursing through.
Getting here: Take a bus from the northern bus station in Vientiane.
6. Chiang Mai, Thailand
No matter how exhausted you are climbing at Crazy Horse Buttress in Chiang Mai, you’ll be kept refreshed with the constant supply of water. They’ve got a free water refill system, where you can use a phone app to locate the nearest water station from your location.
If it gets too hot, especially under the noon sun, take a short walk to Aircon Wall where there’s ample shade and a cool breeze.
Image credit: ActivityFan
Besides these, The Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures Co. has developed many other rock formations into comfortable climbing spots. This has propelled Chiang Mai into a world-class climbing destination - a reliable and safe place for lessons and your first climbing experience.
Getting here: Take Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures’ red truck from their shop in Chiang Mai. You can book online here.
7. Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur
Image credit: Eudaimoniacs
Somewhere much closer to home are the Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur. While more commonly known as a tourist attraction for the Hindu temple within the caves, you can rock climb here as well. It’s location makes it the climbing hotspot closest to modern civilisation, with amenities like parking lots, rain shelters and showers.
Image credit: Eudaimoniacs
Along the climb, there are smaller caves for you to perch in for a rest as you enjoy the view below.
Getting here: Take a train from the Kualu Lumpur Sentral Railway Station to the Batu Caves Station.
8. El Nido, Philippines
Image credit: Discover El Nido
The ultimate adventure can be found in El Nido where it’s “Camping X Climbing”. Go cliff-hopping around the island and enjoy a mix of rock climbing and deep-water soloing, and when you’re done for the day, you’ll be resting on the white sandy beaches for the night.
Rinse and repeat for a total of 3 days and 2 nights.
Image credit: Filipino Travel Center
Getting here: Take a direct flight from Manila to El Nido.
Outdoor rock climbing for all levels of climbers
The fear of heights should not stop you from scaling walls in the great outdoors. Compared to indoor rock climbing, where you’re boxed in by 4 walls and the odours of 20 other human beings, climbing outdoors is where you can catch a breath of fresh air, reconnect with nature and enjoy the beautiful scenery - from the best vantage points.
Even if you’re a complete noob at climbing, the friendly community of climbers will show you the ropes - pun unintended - as you get you started on your climbing journey.