Posts Tagged ‘Andaman Coast’
As I mentioned in the previous post, we really didn’t have a plan in place for SE Asia…which in many ways is really good for us (or at least, me)—to learn how to be comfortable with the uncertainty of not knowing where we are going to sleep or even what city we are going to be in the next day. BUT, this also means we spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to figure out what the heck we’re going to do next. We had originally planned to go diving in Ko Phi Phi, but we found out from some people on Ton Sai that (1) Ko Phi Phi is a big, noisy scene full of kids getting drunk and foreign men and their “Thai wives,” and (2) that the diving is better in Sipadan (in Malaysian Borneo)—actually, rumor is that it is the best diving in the world. So, we decided to check out another island in Southern Thailand (island hopping is a big thing here), and save our diving dollars for Sipadan.
Oh, but what island to go to?!? I know, I’m not expecting anyone to throw us a pity party for this quandary…but we really spent a lot of time changing our plans back and forth. For a while, we were heading to Loh Liang, a tiny island with one resort where a lot of climbers go from Krabi. Then we thought maybe we should dive in the Similan Islands. Finally, we decided (after hearing rave reviews from several people we met on Ton Sai) to head to Ko Lipe, a small island at the very southwestern tip of Thailand in Ko Tarutao National Park. And we were sooo glad we came.
We took a long tail boat from Ton Sai to Ao Nang, a bus from Ao Nang to Pakbara, and a speed boat from Pakbara to Ko Lipe. There are three main beaches in Ko Lipe: Sunrise beach, Sunset beach, and Pattaya, with the last beach being the busiest. One of the gals in Ton Sai said we should stay at Coco Resort on Sunrise beach, and it didn’t take us long to realize that we basically had the best spot on the island.
The strip of Sunrise beach right in front of Coco Resort was quiet, pristine (look at that water!!!), and peaceful; even a few meters down the beach was more crowded and noisy. Plus, Coco Resort was a lovely little place run by a Thai family…we negotiated a bamboo bungalow for 900 baht per night (approx. US$26) the first night, and it seems like this might be one of the cheaper places on the island to stay. The bamboo room was very atmospheric but the floor felt like you could fall right through it. Later we would see that half the posts supposedly supporting the bungalow were several inches too short and didn’t reach the ground (scary!!!).
So the following day we moved to a concrete bungalow (700 baht/US$20 per night), which felt a little more solid.
We spent three days here swimming, reading on the beach, and generally enjoying the beauty that is Ko Lipe. And, on one particularly inspired day, we watched the sunrise on Sunrise Beach:
And the sunset on Sunset Beach:
We had some great dinners here too…there is a place at the very end of Pattaya beach where you can walk up and choose your fish from a huge platter of iced seafood treats. They weigh it, grill it, and serve it to you at your table on the beach. YUM!
We LOVED Ko Lipe!
We really didn’t have a plan as to where we were going after we arrived in Bangkok…and, as we’ve discovered, even if you *think* you have a plan, SE Asia has other ideas for you. Jeremy remembered that a friend of ours from SF, Jeremy Sugerman (I will refer to him as “Sug” to avoid confusion), is often in Thailand for 6 weeks around January/February, so we emailed him…and sure enough, he was in Krabi, a small beach town in Southern Thailand near Phuket which is known as “Climber’s Paradise” due to the fact that it is surrounded on all sides by enormous limestone cliffs. We’ve heard about Krabi for years because many San Francisco climbers often visit. That, combined with the fact that Sug was there, was all the reason we needed to head down south.
We booked a flight to Krabi in Bangkok. In SE Asia, you can book airline tickets the day before you want to leave, and they’re still pretty cheap. Also, the price a travel agent can offer can be cheaper than one you can find on the internet. We spent about 2500 baht (approx. US$75) per person for a one-way flight from Bangkok to Krabi. This isn’t a rock-bottom price, but given the fact that the bus ride to Krabi is 10 hours long, we decided to spend the dough.
Sug was staying on Hat Ton Sai in Krabi, a tiny beach area accessible only by boat. So, after we got off the plane in Krabi, we took a bus to Ao Nang, where we boarded a longtail boat to Ton Sai. That’s a lot of different transportation for one afternoon! It was low tide where we got to Ao Nang, which meant we had to walk through the water to board the boat since they can’t get to shore (and there is no pier). Thank goodness we have hybrid wheelie/backpack bags! We had agonized over this decision before we left on our trip—Jeremy just wanted a wheelie duffel bag and I insisted that he find a bag with backpack straps. In true Hermann fashion, Jeremy found the bag that worked for him, and then rigged up a backpack using detachable straps. Hey, whatever works. I felt really bad for the people who didn’t have backpacks. None of us expected that we would have to haul our bags across the beach and then through the water, but it was extra tough for the non-backpackers and some of their bags got quite wet.
The boat ride into Krabi is really beautiful. Krabi is a stunning place—it is quite dramatic with all the rocky cliffs—and the landscape is very different from other parts of Thailand.
Sug had hooked up a room for us at Dream Valley Resort, where he was staying. Our bungalow was cute from the outside, but quite basic inside, and at 650 baht (approx. US$18.50) per night (including breakfast), it was one of the cheapest places to sleep. This means Ton Sai is not the most economical accommodation in Thailand, but it is certainly a lot cheaper than the next beach down, Hat Rai Leh, where rooms can go for at least 2000 baht per night. Ton Sai is run on generators, so you only have electricity in your room from approx. 6:30PM until 8AM. At least you can run the fan at night! A few more details: the toilets do not flush (you have to dump a bucket of water down the loo), the showers are cold, and the beds are HARD! Even for Jeremy and I (we love a firm bed), these beds were like concrete slabs. So, very basic indeed!
But most people are not in Ton Sai for the accommodation: they are there to climb. Literally, every rock wall you see has been bolted and there are people climbing it. It really is a sport climber’s paradise. Given that Jeremy and I have not been on a wall for over a year (and probably at least 5 years since we’ve been on real rock), we didn’t pack any gear with us on our trip. But it’s easy enough to rent shoes and a harness here on Ton Sai.
Our first day out, we went with Sug, Janet (a great gal—Sug’s friend visiting from SF), and Sug’s friends Chris and Kindy (who have a gorgeous house in Rai Leh) to Thai Wand wall, and then to another location (I forget the name). NOTE: We took to calling Sug the “Mayor of Ton Sai,” because he knows EVERYONE! He has come to Krabi for the last 9 years (and he stays 4-6 weeks each time), so he truly is the mayor.
And, the awful truth: I was pumped out after two climbs. Jeremy managed to finish 4 climbs that day.
We ended the climbing day with beers at Sawasdee bar at sunset.
In fact, this is part of the general “schedule” of events every day on Ton Sai: get up early, eat breakfast, climb, lunch at the chicken ladies (some women who have food stalls by the beach selling yummy grilled chicken), climb more, beers at Sawasdee bar at sunset, followed by dinner at Banyan Tree.
Jeremy and I couldn’t take part in this daily routine the following day because we were SORE. Oh my, a year off the rock and we were little weaklings. So, we decided to go out sea kayaking. Hey, guess what? It turns out that the same muscles you use to climb are the ones you use kayaking. So, it wasn’t much of a rest day for us.
Jeremy and I planned on staying in Ton Sai only about 3 days or so, but then, as I said earlier, SE Asia had other plans for us. Jeremy came down with a case of “Ton Sai belly,” a stomach virus that kept him bedridden for about 24 hours. So far, I had escaped the virus (Sug had it the day before), so I went out climbing at Eagle wall with Janet and a cool German girl named Hannah.
Again, my limit was two routes, but this time it wasn’t my muscles but my belly: I felt the rumblings and the cramps…I had came down with the virus too. Let me tell you, it’s no fun being stuck in a bungalow with no air conditioning (much less electricity) when you’re sick. And, the bed felt even harder than hard with all our achy muscles against it.
But honestly, it wasn’t so bad for our first time being sick. It only lasted a day and the cramps definitely weren’t as bad as the times I had food poisoning. Besides, we need to toughen up our stomachs if we are going to make it through Asia.
So, we ended up staying in Ton Sai a little longer than we wanted to, and I have to be honest here: even though the climbing is great, I still can’t understand why all the climbers think it is heaven on earth in Ton Sai. Many people literally stay for months and they can’t even fathom why you would want to leave. I mean, it’s nice, but the beach is a bit polluted and during low tide the shore is muddy and littered with dead coral. Plus, Jeremy thinks water table is contaminated (the water coming out of the sink is quite stinky), which basically means there is no way you can stay healthy on Ton Sai, because everything is washed in this water. Honestly, it kind of grossed us out a bit. Maybe I am being too prissy, but I just thought, “Thailand HAS to get better than this.”
But I don’t want to end on to sour a note. We had a great time climbing again and it was fun hanging out with Sug and meeting Janet. We met a lot of cool people who helped us figure out where to go in SE Asia and how to get there. But in the end we were glad we were only spending a few days in Ton Sai.