Digital Nomad Stops #6+7: Railay and Koh Tao – Southern Thailand

From Chiang Mai, I took a flight South to Krabi. I was more than ready for some more climbing, beautiful beaches and to find a place where I could settle for at least a month. It was fun to take a boat to Railay and remember the time in 2007 when I did that trip as a day trip from Krabi together with my sister. I didn’t quite remember HOW stunning the place was though. Arriving by longtail boat at Railay East, with blue water, blue skies and beautiful limestone cliffs on both sides, I felt very fortunate to have picked this place as my next stop.

I spent the first couple of hours checking out about 80% of the accommodation options available in Railay to find the best deal for myself. Low tourist numbers due to corona helped me to score a really good long-stay deal at Railay Princess Resort which was absolutely amazing! The room had the best views of anything that I saw in Railay, it got cleaned every day and included a breakfast buffet. Yes, I got spoiled and yes, it was hard to leave in the end. Perks included monkeys playing on my balcony every now and then and a roof-top pool. Not too bad!

But now on to the climbing, which was obviously the main reason I came to Railay. While I did have a lot of work during my time in Railay, I usually managed to get out on the rock 2-3 times / week. I would have preferred more, but that’s complaining on a high level. I met lots of amazing people and climbing partners during my 7-week-stay. I managed to climb some really cool routes, practiced my rappelling skills and watched the sunset on Railay West beach almost every day.

Some of my favourite crags/routes were:

  • Thaiwand Wall – the crag with the best views
  • Missing Snow 6b+ and Beauty & the Beast 6c – my favourite routes
  • Humanality 6b+ – the most recommended multi-pitch, and rightly so with some beautiful pitches, a scary crux pitch and a fun rappel into Freedom Bar afterwards (with a well-deserved cold beer)
  • Don’t Grab the Krabi 7a+ – one of the only 7a/+ that has ever appealed to me to project. I didn’t managed to get on it as many times as I would have needed to send it though unfortunately, but it is definitely the 7a(+) that seemed the most achievable to me so far.

Of course, there was much more to my time in Railay and these are only some of the many highlights. I would definitely like to return one day with a bit less work and more time for climbing.

After 7 weeks, I decided that it was time to move on and spend the rest of my time in Thailand on Koh Tao. I had been to Koh Tao twice already (in 2010 to do my open water and in 2013 when I was on my first round the world trip), but both times I had actually not managed to see a lot of the island. The first trip was focussed on diving and it was pouring rain the whole week with flooding. During my second time on Koh Tao, I was a bit tired from travelling and preferred to take it slow for a few days. This time I had booked a hotel for my 1 month stay on Sairee beach because I felt too lazy to walk around and compare prices. I regretted my decision afterwards as the hotel was nothing special and overpriced for what it was. But hey… you can’t always take the right decision, right!? At least Sairee beach was the perfect central location and good for sunsets.

My plan for Koh Tao was to still work a lot (unfortunately) and to go bouldering and maybe sport climbing. I had heard good things about the bouldering on Koh Tao and vague stuff about some bolted routes. If nothing would work out, I would just go scuba diving a lot. In the end, I did not go on a single dive and while I did go climbing and bouldering quite a bit, my main activities ended up being flying trapeze and aerial silks!

I had heard about the flying trapeze on Koh Tao from a climbing buddy in Railay and had thought about it more as a once-in-a-lifetime kind of activity. Never did I expect to have so much fun and I did not know they also offered aerial silks which I had wanted to try for a while. Always good to keep your plans flexible!

My highlights of Koh Tao were definitely my new skills on the trapeze and aerial silks that I acquired over the course of the month. I also really enjoyed the bouldering though. It was my first time bouldering outdoors and I loved it! Definitely something I would love to do more in the future.

The climbing was also great. First time on granite with some slabs, some chimneys and just a totally different feel than the limestone in Railay and Tonsai. My favourite crags were Big Brother Slab and Jansom Bay which I only got to visit once unfortunately as my climbing partners were more interested in other crags. The most beautiful route on the island (for me) is Grunt Force 6b, the most interesting one Leg Day 6a+ (both Jansom Bay) and I also found Bisou 7a+ at Golden View a route that would have been worth projecting. Again, I did not have enough time, I only got on it once on toprope to feel it out.

I liked that Koh Tao was a lot bigger than Railay and offered way more different activities and restaurant options. I enjoyed having my own scooter again, cruising around and exploring beaches, going for a snorkel here and there. And I loved getting into trapeze and aerial silks. Overall, a great way to finish my stay in Thailand!

Here are more photos of Railay

And here more of Koh Tao

Digital Nomad Stop #5: Northern Thailand

After spending a couple of weeks in Austria over Christmas, I decided to fly into the new year and spend my next few months in one of my favourite countries of all time: Thailand. It’s one of the countries I have been wanting to go back to for a while, but didn’t, as I always wanted to visit new countries during my precious vacation days. Now that I’m travelling and working remotely full-time, it seemed like the best point in time to return to Thailand!

Due to corona, I had to go through quite some administrative steps to be able to fly to Thailand and luckily got my „Thai Pass“ just in time before they put the program on hold. I juuuust made it into Thailand! After spending the compulsory night at a test & go hotel in Bangkok, I decided to immediately fly North to Chiang Rai.

Chiang Rai had been on my list of places to see since 2012, when I skipped it as a stop on my way to Laos because I was too hungover travelling on Jan 1st 2013. Funnily enough, almost exactly 9 years later (Jan 2nd 2022), I finally made it there! 🙂 My main reason to visit Chiang Rai was the White Temple which of course ended up being one of the first places I visited on my sightseeing tour – and it did not disappoint:

In addition to the White Temple, there is also a Blue Temple which is equally as pretty. On my second sightseeing day in Chiang Rai, I rented a scooter and checked out the Blue Temple, the Black House (not sure why every major sight in CR needs to have a colour in its name!?) and Wat Huay Pla Kang (a massive white buddha statue built on a hill, NOT called white buddha luckily). It was fun to have my own scooter again for a day, to drive around and explore the area.

Of course I also walked around the town of Chiang Rai for a bit, visited some more temples, a kitschy flower exhibition and ate lots of amazing food. And I worked from my hostel. It took me a bit to adjust to the high temperatures and the time difference, so I was a bit slow during these first days, compared to my usual standards.

After 2 days, I took a bus to Chiang Mai and settled into my cute little AirBnB apartment for the next 12 days. It was a busy time at work, so I did spend a lot of time inside and only really had evenings and weekends to explore the city. I still managed to do and see quite a bit! The most exciting adventure was my scooter ride through the mountains up Doi Suthep which started rather harmless with a little hike to a waterfall but ended with an off-road adventure where everyone around me was on dirt bikes and looking at me as if I was crazy. In all honesty, I probably would not have driven this road on a normal scooter had I known how bad it would be. The photo is from the best part of the road, I was too busy not crashing on the bad parts…

On other days off, I hiked the monk’s trail up to an old temple, which was very beautiful and I explored some more temples – newer ones and old ruins – South of the city.

I also went rock climbing once outdoors at Crazy Horse, a crag about 1h drive from Chiang Mai. Amazing rock and beautiful routes… unfortunately I was only able to find climbing partners for one day, otherwise I definitely would have gone back.

On my very last day in Chiang Mai, I took a cooking course. This is something I had done before in 2012 already, but loved so much that I decided to do it again. Good decision! As I’m writing this blog, my time in Thailand is coming to an end, but I have yet to eat better than during that course. Of course, that is more due to the teacher’s skills than your own… but still. We went to the market first and then cooked a menu of 7 different dishes which all tasted delicious!

After that, it was time to catch my flight to Krabi to spend some time in the South of Thailand. I loved Chiang Mai and wouldn’t have minded spending some more time there, but I really wanted to do some more climbing and the bouldering gym in Chiang Mai just wasn’t cutting it for me when I could be outdoors on real rock instead.

Here you can find more photos from the North of Thailand.

Digital Nomad Stop #4: Meteora

After dropping my dad at the airport in Athens, I was on my own again and hopped onto a train heading North, direction Kalambaka. It was a long day that got even longer when a train replacement bus service was in place for the last part of the trip which left with an hour delay. Safe to say I was very happy when I finally arrived in the little town, even though it was dark and rainy!

Originally, my plan had been to work on the train from Athens – but mobile connection was so bad that hotspot was not an option and I barely managed to answer some emails from my phone. So work had piled up quite a bit and I sadly had to start my time in Meteora with a couple of working days. Luckily, the weather was also not great most of those days (read: it was pouring down!), so it was a little easier to sit inside.

In the end, I ended up having one full day and one early morning where it was both dry and I wasn’t needed in any work meetings/urgencies. Not much time, but if you know me, you know that’s not something that keeps me from trying everything I can… So on my full day, I started at sunrise and returned after sunset. The time in between was filled with lots and lots of beautiful views.

Nature in Meteora is simply stunning. The rocks seem surreal and it’s fascinating to see how the monasteries were built on top of them. I loved hiking the whole day in the sun and being able to enjoy nature at its best.

People had told me that it’s impossible to see Meteora in one day, but I somehow managed. I only skipped one monastery but visited all others that were open. I walked pretty much all the trails. I almost saw sunrise and I did see sunset. But because I only almost saw sunrise, I decided to wake up early one day to actually see the sunrise. Now, that was really everything ticked off!

I enjoyed my time in Meteora and was happy that I decided to go there. It was still quite busy with tourists, so I can only imagine how high season must look like. On the other hand, 90% of my week up there was rainy, so that is one of the disadvantages of travelling in December. Lucky, who has enough time to wait for the perfect day, as I did… 🙂 Here are some more photos of Meteora!

Destination: Everywhere