If there was a heaven for climbers Koh Lao Liang would be it. We heard about this island from a friend back home, and so several months ago we booked a stay in one of the “luxury tents” on offer. We thought that after a couple of weeks of learning how to climb again in Ton Sai we would be fit enough to get the most out of a new destination.
Koh Lao Liang refers to a pair of islands in the Phetra National Marine Park in the Trang province, and it is the smaller of the two which hosts the private beach resort. The islands are located off the southern coast of Thailand, and from Ton Sai it is a 2 hour minivan journey followed by another hour in a long tail boat. The only accommodation on the island is a series of large tents, which can host a total of around 40 people at any one time. Looking out over the Andaman sea you get a sense of being far removed from the tourist scene, which in many ways detracts from the beauty of some of the more popular Thai Islands.
Koh Lao Liang is the perfect climbing destination for many reasons, but not least because of the enforced climbing times. When in Ton Sai to get the coolest temperatures you need to climb early in the morning or late in the afternoon; but due to the aspect of the crag on Koh Lao Liang climbing is only possible after 11am, meaning getting up early was totally unnecessary. The ocean breeze was also a welcome relief after the unrelenting heat in which we had been climbing on Ton Sai.
Keeping occupied during the free mornings was no problem at all. We would spend time enjoying breakfast (in particular the Nutella!), followed by swimming/snorkelling in the crystal clear waters and sunbathing on the pearly white sands. Its position in a National Marine Park means that you are never far from tropical fish that wouldn’t look out of place in Finding Nemo; and in fact this was our preferred referencing tool when describing what we had seen while snorkelling and kayaking around the island. For both of us this was our first time snorkelling – and what an introduction it was. Everywhere you looked there were a kaleidoscope of coloured fish who were making homes in the newly formed coral (much of the existing coral died when the island was hit by the tsunami of 2004).
With only 5 days on the island we were keen to get as much climbing in as possible. Like Ton Sai the climbing on Koh Lao Liang is characterised by huge stalactites and long bulging tufas; however the routes here receive far fewer ascents. This means the holds are less slippy, but at the same time some of the holds and stalactites can break off! By the end of our time we had both made good progress and climbed some amazing routes. My highlights were an onsight of ‘Captain Thin’ (6b+), and a redpoint of ‘The Golden Triangle’ (6c+) on the iconic Red Wall. Luke managed an onsight ascent of ‘Fool’s Gold’ (7b+), a route which he had seen photographed in a climbing magazine years ago, and had wanted to try ever since finding out it was on Koh Lao Liang. All of the days achievements were suitably celebrated over dinner with friends, beer and beautiful moonlit views of the ocean.
We are now back on Ton Sai with a renewed drive and a list of classic routes to complete, and with only a week left the clock is ticking….