[Mike here] [This post is totally out of order but we didn’t want to miss filling you in on our time in Tonsai]
Ever since Ashley and I started rock climbing with the crew at Grip It gym in Saskatoon (and yes that’s a big shoutout!) the beachside karst cliffs of Tonsai, southern Thailand, loomed large in our minds. Our eyeballs were totally unprepared for the real thing.
After purchasing our ticket to take a long-tail boat from Ao Nang to Tonsai we waded waist deep into the water, heaved our bags aboard, climbed out of the Andaman Sea and took our seat. A long tail has a chunky diesel motor with a metal ‘long tail’ of about four meters jutting out the end that has a small prop attached. Watching the boat man swing the heavy motor around was nothing short of acrobatic. He swung the ‘long tail’ left, balanced tip toed on the edge of the boat, swung the beast hard the opposite way, pulled a string that was connected to the throttle, the engine coughed and barked and we were off.
A hilly, tropical forested peninsula is the only obstacle between Ao Nang and Tonsai. The long-tail takes ten minutes to chug around the peninsula, but in that ten minutes everything changes. Hundreds of feet tall, limestone cliffs come into sight. It’s as if the cliffs were formed of wax, a giant lighter melting them until they reached their maximum gothic potential. Stalagmites ten, twenty, fifty feet long hang heavy near dark caves scooped out of the sides. This is where Batman must have been born.
After our feet hit beach the ‘worries’ of the road became immediate, shelter and food (the third and most important being fun). As we walked into the forests of Tonsai in search of ‘shelter’ Ashley’s face changed from wonder and awe to “where the hell are we?” And I could understand why. If you are a heavy pot smoking Thai Rastafarian this is heaven. But for these two skinny jean loving, cappuccino drinking hipsters the empty rasta shacks of Tonsai in low-season came as a bit of a shock.
If sweat was a power source we could have lit up the world. Global energy crisis solved, we settled into the budget backpackers haven of Garden View with no garden to view. What a deal! The rooms were only ten dollars a night. Day by day we began to realise why it was only ten dollars a night and the budget backpackers haven began to morph into a hipsters nightmare.
Mosquitos materialized by the dozens at night, our bodies an insect buffet as we slept. To say that we had twenty plus bites per leg would be modest. Mosquitos, dirt spraying out of the shower head and the tiny windowed AC-less room could not stop us from enjoying the visual wonder and natural jungle gym that is Tonsai.
We met Noah, a big bearded North Carolinian pharmacy student and Sam, a small bearded Swiss mathematical genius, at a beachside bar. We shot pool on the dilapidated table held together with duct tape, drank Singha’s and talked climbing. We had made some friends and they invited us to climb with them over the next five days. That was such a treat because Ash and I are both unexperienced, we would have needed to hire a guide, and we don’t have the necessary climbing gear. We climbed all over Tonsai and Railay on these ethereal cliffs and swam in the Andaman to wash off the sweat. Noah and Sam are both sweet spirited adventurous souls and we wish them all the best!
The epic climbing made the nightmare of our accommodation melt like the karst cliffs of Tonsai. Still, Ashley’s semi relieved face when we boarded the long tail boat back to Ao Nang, and onward to Bali, primed her for the yoga panted, organic pampering that was to come :)