Krabi area part one: Tonsai!

Once again I have arrived absurdly early for a flight, so I'll take a moment for some catching up! I had a fairly long travel day getting from Siem Reap to Krabi, with a flight connecting in Bangkok, and was ever so slightly nervous about getting from the Krabi airport to my hotel, as it, and all the ones on the two Railay beaches, are accessible only by boat. I told the transfer desk where I was going, & off I went in a shuttle towards Ao Nang, the bigger beach town to the west of the three remote beaches. Once there, me and a few others who were going to Tonsai gathered to wait for the minimum of 8 ppl for boats to shuttle over. It was getting towards 5pm, so the light was lovely & it wasn't too hot, but as I hadn't ever gotten lunch (the Bangkok airport doesn't have food nicely placed everywhere like other, normal airports), I was really getting hungry. Think goodness I still had some cashews, Pringles, & Oreos! Finally after a 10-15 minute wait, a family arrived to be taken back around the cliff, and off we went. Boarding a little boat from the sand with a pack on is slightly challenging, to say the least, but I made it, and settled in for the maybe 10 minute ride.

As soon as we got around the cliff face, I practically clapped with glee - here was the scene I've always imagined! Giant, steep cliffs hitting turquoise water, interspersed with white slips of beaches fronting lush, green jungles. So flipping gorgeous, I can't even tell you. Luckily, one of the guys from my shuttle had been living on Tonsai for the past month (evidently he's an avid climber- he was pointing out various cliffs he'd tackled), so he was giving me & another girl the lay of the land. I say luckily because its really rustic, and there's nary a sign, and it's not like the boat driver really spoke any English. So, once we hopped out at the first stop, he pointed out some basics about the village, and even showed me to my reception desk. There, a less then friendly man checked me in, and then had me load my pack onto their version of a tuk-tuk. It's basically a modified side-car mounted onto a scooter, all of which was barely narrower than the paved path. We headed up the path away from the beach, through little villas tucked in under the imposing cliff. All the way towards the back, I was delivered to my home for the next two nights, and already I was wishing it would be more b/c everything was so pretty & cute! Once I threw my stuff down, I scampered back down the path to the beach-front restaurant associated with the hotel, got myself a beer & some dinner, and enjoyed the heck out of a beautiful sunset.

Originally, I was thinking about taking a boat trip out to all the neighboring islands, but after breakfast the next morning, I decided it was just too pretty here to leave it for the full day, plus I was having too much fun sitting & watching the climbers attempt the upside-down face just next to the restaurant. I think it must be good training for really difficult climbs, because everyone was having trouble finishing (they were hanging horizontally off the cliff after all), and if/when you fell, you weren't that high up, so not as much of a big deal. Of course, they were all tied in, so it's not like you'd fall further than the ropes let you anyway, but anyway- very cool. Justin (buddy from day before), was just getting ready for his climb, and explained that the tide was still out, so I could walk along the water easily to get over to West Railay beach. So, after watching him a bit, I headed down the beach. Mind you, I was wearing my suit, a skirt, and flip flops, so was expecting a nice little walk, maybe over some corals. Well, as I got into it, it became apparent that this was a bit more than just a few corals! I'd seen a steady stream of people doing this though, so I pressed on, feeling sure it was easy. Well, I wouldn't say it was a difficult walk, properly attired, but at two different points you had to sort of scramble up & over pretty large, jagged boulders, so each step & hand-hold had to be taken with caution! Also, there was no marked path, so I was never positive that the way I was picking through was the best. At some point though, I was more than halfway, so I just had to get on with it. When I emerged onto the beach, I was a bit sweaty, and a bit more relieved!

So, Railay West is the sort of crown jewel apparently, and all the fancy, expensive resorts are there. No question, the beach itself was better than Tonsai's, as it was bigger, whiter, with less mangrove encroachment, but- that meant it was much more crowded. Lots of older Europeans and/or families & couples. Interesting people watching of course, but not exactly my scene. So, after a bit of time on the beach, I headed to the "walking street" for a bit of shopping & lunch (also to try to avoid the noon sun). After that, I hopped in line to take a longtail back over to Tonsai, where I met a super cool couple from Portugal- Marta & Tiago. We got to chatting, and they found out I was headed to OZ next, so invited me to hang with them until their friend met up, as he had spent lots of time down there, and therefore could maybe give me advice. We found a partially shady spot (a good thing about the mangroves!) & proceeded to hang out all afternoon. Turns out that they were both musicians, with his band being a bit famous even in Portugal, and their friend was a young French guy who seemed to be a professional traveler. It seems like he goes to OZ to earn some money, and then keeps traveling, only returning to France occasionally. Craziness! (Don't worry mom, I didn't get inspired.). Anyway, after a full afternoon in the water (which was like a fabulous bath, no waves, soft sand- perfection), I realized my Lilly-white skin had likely had enough (or too much), so I retired to the room.

Once again I had dinner at the hotel's place (had heard that lots of people had gotten sick from other places and/or the ice here, so I played it safe), but this time a couple of girls asked if they could join me, as it was full. Turned out that they were super cool- originally from Slovenia & Slovakia, but now living in London & Amsterdam. The one in London even works in the travel biz, so we chatted happily. At one point during dinner, we noticed two climbers getting set to start a climb about mid-way up the cliff (there was a ladder you could takes to bypass the difficult horizontal part & get to the main cliff face). Now, they had headlamps, and the cliff does have a spotlight on it, so it's not like they were climbing in pitch dark, but it was just the two of them, and they were getting higher and higher. I really wish I could've taken a photo that captured just how high they were- it was terrifying to watch! There was a whole crowd of people at the bar & restaurant who were watching to see how they were going to get down, but it was getting late, so me & my two new friends headed to bed. After all, the next day I had to catch the ferry down to Koh Lanta & get all sorted out for my dive course!

More on that ASAP. :)