Climbing and Other Outdoor Adventures in Tonsai, Thailand
tonsai beach, thailand

You know what I like most about Thailand? And Southeast Asia in general? It’s that you’re always outside. There might be a roof over your head, but there won’t be four walls keeping you enclosed from the great outdoors.

The only time you’re truly inside is when you’re sleeping. And if you’re sleeping in a bungalow there is not much distinction since bugs and reptiles and perhaps monkeys will find their way into your quarters.

Perhaps the whole open air thing is not so wonderful during the monsoons, but I was around during the dry season so we’ll just pretend that the wet season doesn’t exist for the sake of my argument. (I’ve heard the monsoons bring downpours for an hour a day, then the weather goes back to being hot and sunny. Doesn’t sound THAT bad to a girl from Oregon.)

At any rate, I believe this to be one of the ways in which I fell in love with Thailand. It’s freeing to realize you haven’t been inside in weeks. That you have a 10 inch lizard for a roommate. That all of your meals might have a little dirt as a garnish.

I’ve seen some Westerners freak out about this stuff. It makes sense when we come from a crazy sterile society with hand sanitizer mounted outside of every public building.

But it’s a delusion. The lizard isn’t going to eat you because he’s far more interested in the spiders so perhaps you should give him a high five. Dirt doesn’t taste bad or really like anything at all.

And you learn to let go of these silly ideas you have about the world that are all an illusion…

View of Railay East.

View of Railay East.

A couple weeks hanging around Tonsai Beach is definitely good for the soul. It’s an outdoor enthusiast hotspot/hippy playground. Slacklines, kayaks, snorkels, parachutes, and climbing shoes are standard protocol. At night it’s poi and guitars. A $10 massage will help with the sore muscles all this fun will inevitably cause.

Much of my time was spent climbing rocks. I took a 3 day lead class with Basecamp Tonsai and then proceeded to rent a buttload of gear from them for the rest of my stay. I also went deep water soloing (again). As unique an experience it is to free climb over turquoise water, the highlight was watching my human spider monkey friends scale those rock walls. Barefoot.

Apparently soon after I left National Geographic visited Tonsai to film the Basecamp crew. Bummer to miss that one. But glad to know I got a couple shots of some seriously worthy climbers.

But I digress away from deep water soloing and onto another reason Krabi is a world class climbing destination: The amount of sport climbing around the area is insane. And you’re always near the beach, if not on it. There are over 500 bolted routes between Tonsai and Railay, most within a 30 minute walk from your bungalow. Which is probably the explanation for the crazy number of climbers in the area. Who end up staying weeks, or months, longer than intended. The shops even sell shirts saying “I’m leaving Tonsai. Tomorrow.”

‘Nough said.

Longboats are the best and pretty much only way to get around the beaches. You can walk from Tonsai to Railay West at low tide, but miss your chance and you’re shelling out a whole $3 a person for a 5 minute ride. The price goes up after dark to $10 a pop.

You can also hire a longboat for about $50 a day. Find a few friends, head to the beach, and ask someone to take you on an adventure. You won’t be disappointed.

Longboats on Railay West

Longboats on Railay West

Accommodations in Tonsai Beach consist of bungalows ranging from $18-50 in the high season. I stayed at three different bungalow resorts looking for the best bang for my buck — ie. less than $30 but relatively comfortable.

All were pretty basic with a bed, mosquito net, bathroom, and porch. Upgrading to a $24 bungalow with a flushing toilet was worth the extra few bucks.

No wifi at any of the bungalows. There are a couple of internet cafes in Tonsai. You can also pay the bars on the beach for a password to post photos on Facebook.

I happened to return to Tonsai, after a trip to Koh Yao Noi for a week of yoga, in time for Big Cleanup Day – an annual festival in which everyone parties all night and then the beach is magically cleaned the next day. I went to bed pretty late, woke up early, and there was no evidence of anything. Amazing.

This guy was on my boat back and played a killer set that night. So glad I snagged this shot of him.

No festival in Thailand is complete without a fire dancing competition. I’ve got some rad video footage that will hopefully see the light of day soon. Until that day, a still preview: