Shelley, Kristina and I flew into Krabi early on Tuesday, the 5th. Getting to อ่าวไร่เลย์ (Railay) involved a shuttle to the water followed by a boat ride around to the next bay. The entire time I was awe struck by the massive towers jutting out of the jungle landscape. There must be endless climbing potential here!
We arrived in east Railay beach and immediately noticed signs for climbing schools and gear rentals. There was far less shopping than in Bangkok but still its fair share. And the rest of the infrastructure was resorts and reggae blasting restaurants that appeared more than a little weed friendly.
We took a short boat ride to our final destination, Tonsai Bay, which was just around the corner. This was by far the most jungleyest place I have ever been. Plants sprouted out of the ground with luscious green leaves that could each act as a blanket. Palms were growing just a little further back with leaves so big it would take less than a dozen to make a sizable roof.
We booked stay at the Tonsai Bay resort, which is by no means the fanciest, compared to some of the swanky places we saw in Railay, but it was also the one nice place to stay in Tonsai. At about $50 a night it’s definitely a great deal. If air conditioning is not a requirement, (and maybe a few other things), you can opt for something far cheaper.
Kristina was looking for this something cheaper, so we went looking for the bungalows. For a long time we were just wandering through the woods with no clear path in sight. Saw some cute monkeys which was a fun detour, and then we got up to the wall.
There is a huge concrete wall running through the woods in what appears to be a very random location. After finding a “ladder” to climb over it we soon discovered, from talking to the locals, that the beach front land had been sold to a company that was planning to build a large resort in what was currently just a bunch of jungle. The wall had been put up about three years ago in order to separate this land from the…reggae hippie commune. The only access from all of these bungalows and restaurants is a thin path along the west side of the bay that leads back behind the wall. That, and of course, trekking through the jungle followed by climbing a makeshift ladder.
There was clear resentment from the locals about the wall. Art along it talked about the “war for your tourism” and the consequences of capitalism. I’m sure Trump would have just loved this whole thing. Speaking of which, there was a bright green spray paint on the wall reading “FUCK TRUMP”.
So behind this wall is where most of the action in Tonsai is. The area is filled with cheap restaurants and $6/night bungalows. There is a slackline every three buildings. Reggae is blaring out of every bar. Marijuana can be bought just about anywhere and we also saw far more than one sign advertising “Mushroom Shake: Why not?”.
All settled in. Time to go enjoy the beach!
The following days were spent exploring Tonsai and Railay. This place is a real vacation location. There is simply so much to see that the eight days we were there zipped by. Hanging out on the beach, climbing, kayaking…I found a spot where a slackline is set up over the water. Tonsai is loaded with tourists from all over the place. There were many people from Europe. Australia was also very common given how close it is. And more Americans than I had been used to in a while.
It’s so easy to make friends here. Every day involves climbing with new people, eating with new people and playing ping pong, beer in hand, with new people. I think it’s really hard to not be overwhelmed with joy, given where you are, so everyone is very friendly. We met so many great individuals that I can’t name them all here.
Rock climbing while overlooking the spectacular location we were at was by far the highlight for me. Another great one was Mama’s Chicken, a restaurant in the jungle of Tonsai that was always packed with hungry climbers. The banana fritters were particularly good. If you’re into rock climbing and beaches and good vibes, Tonsai is such a great place to spend a vacation!
First day of beaching and climbing:
While waiting for Kristina, (where is Kristiiiina?!), Elizabeth from Seattle asked me about climbing in the area, given that I was obviously suited up and about to go climb. She rented a harness nearby and joined us for the day!
Our first day we went to Diamond Cave. It’s a bit overrun with noobies but the right side has some fun climbs that are a bit harder.
Next day, we rented some kayaks and went exploring. I unfortunately never got around to deep water soloing but I’m pretty sure you could just rent a kayak and paddle along the shore, climbing anything interesting.
Slacklining with Johnny from Israel!
Next day we headed to Fire Wall. There’s a super fun and stemmy 6a that starts by climbing through a hole!
Night time behind the wall:
Cobra wall was a really cool section in such a spectacular location. I had spotted it while kayaking an earlier day and was convinced I had to go. Just look at the belay location!
We went with our new french friend Arno (en Tête!) and a couple of crazy Croatians that Kristina had met back in the summer! We were soon joined by Kelwin, an American who had fittingly bumbled into our crew after adventuring around China and Malaysia for a few years.
We had to take a bit of a break from climbing due to some fellow climbers…monkeying around.
These two fellahs had come down to say hi, I think mostly because of the banana bread, and then came to the realization that they weren’t ready to climb overhangs to get back to mom up in the trees.
After some time of screeching, they used our ropes for assistance and then made a crazy dyno over to some dangling vines and up to safety!
The whole rest of the day monkeys were clambering around above us. One even knocked over a massive log that crashed into the water below, scaring the shit out of me. Fortunately we were climbing in an overhung area, but those monkeys could have done some serious damage!
On another day, we took a trip to dick beach. Formally, it’s called Pra-Nang Beach but the nickname comes from the cave filled with wooden penises. Don’t ask me.
The climbing here was horrible. Dirty. Wet. Just bad. Just enjoy the beach and climb elsewhere. The one positive thing I can say is that Kristina and I tried some climbing around the corner at Defile Exit and I finally had to hold my bag over my head to keep it dry!
Last day of climbing! Shelley and I met up with our Norwegian friend Rubin who was out a belay because his partner was unfortunately sick with the Tonsai Tummy.
We started on Dum’s Kitchen with Jumping for Jugs, 6c, which is just such a fun start to a spectacular climb!
We then made our way over to Thaiwand wall for some more great climbing and spectacular views!
Shelley and I are on our flight to Chiang Mai right now, which means that after more than three months of traveling with each other, day in and day out, Kristina and I have parted ways for the time being. I just want to say to you, Kristina, that this has been the most spectacular adventure of my life and I am so lucky to have shared it with you. We’ve gathered so many amazing memories in the past countries (I think I now use countries as my frame of time). You’ve been with me through magnificent hikes in the mountains of France; through freezing nights camping in places we were clearly not prepared for. We’ve lived the high life for close to nothing in houses in the Balkans and called a plywood hut home on the beaches of Egypt. There are so many times that I would have felt very alone, in these strange places, if I didn’t have you by my side. We’re both absolutely crazy for what we did, but I wouldn’t ask for it to have happened any other way. Thank you for being such an incredible travel partner!