What a strange place.
Let me begin by trying to paint a picture. Tonsai is a beach on a peninsula of southern Thailand and it’s more affluent neighbor is Railay. Tonsai can only be reached by boat as no roads have been developed. On one hand it is picture perfect. I wrote the majority of this blog laying on the beach under a shady tree. The waves were crashing, the sun was shining and climbers passed me by. The emerald clear water was salty and warm. Rock faces lined the beach and glowed as the sun set. Nick and I watched monkeys swinging from tree to tree, saw spiders the size of an adult hand and spotted a 4-foot long Monitor Lizard.
Sure, you could pay hundreds of dollars to have as slightly more luxurious Thailand experience on Railay beach, however the rest of the budget travels stay in 250 bhat ($6.99) bungalows in Tonsai. The majority of the beach front in Tonsai is owned by some entity that instead of building, has walled off everything but the beach to the outside. This has resulted in a perfect beach with a rapidly expanding bohemian village into the jungle. Avoiding electric wiring, watching sewage pumped into the ocean and cement walls that blocks ocean views are common.
Electricity was only available from 6 pm – 2 am, when the town’s diesel generator was operating. Most people stay here for multiple weeks to months and this becomes their reality. Climbers stay here to train and festival hippies come here to relax and slackline. Everyday the routes get more polished and people get sick. Climbers are warned to properly treat wounds as seawater and gray water is contaminated. Infections are common as well as “Tonsai Tummy” which is either an unknown bacteria or virus that gets almost every traveler sick. Unfortunately, Nick wasn’t lucky enough to avoid this phenomenon. There is no law enforcement in Tonsai. In Thailand, drug offenders can be sentenced to death, however in Tonsai, mushroom shakes are sold, marijuana is smoked and there seems to be no order. Frankly, it’s a strange place. Oh, and did I mention the hundreds of stray cats?
The majority of our time in Tonsai we spent climbing. Although Nick did most of the climbing as my ankle was still healing, he said the majority of the routes were hard, and polished. Monkey poop littered some walls, but once on top the views were phenomenal. It’s been difficult for Nick and I because climbers train everyday then come Asia for holiday and crush. Whereas, we aren’t able to train and find getting use to new areas, grading and maintaining our strength more difficult than expected. Nonetheless, Nick had a blast on a multi-pitch Humanality (6b+) pictured below.
Average days included waking up in our bungalow and sitting on our porch. We would wander our way to town and enjoy a pot of coffee and muesli bowl. Then we would either climb or on rest days head to Railay beach and swim. We enjoyed delicious Thai food, met new people and saw familiar faces. It seems the traveling climbing community is relatively small as we see faces from previous areas and countries. In the evening, Nick and I would enjoy a delicious Thai curry and relax at the Viking Bar (1 of 3 Rasta bars in town) where we played with wooden puzzles and watched slackliners. Although an odd scene, it was relaxing staying in one place and enjoying the beach before heading to Malaysia.
Favorite Local Eats:
Thai Food Restaurant – cheapest REAL coffee in town, 1 pot for 60 bhat
The Green Restaurant – best wifi and highest quality food in town (BBQ offered at night)
The Viking Bar – fun staff and funny scene, don’t forget to check out the burger cart outside in the evenings.
Australian wraps & shakes (Riley) – try the banana passionfruit smoothie with NO sugar and the Thai chicken wrap