Rejoicing in having a new working keyboard, I'm going to blog.
This might be a little dramatic and over descriptive, but that's cause I want you to have a picture in your head (there's actual pictures too) and I hadn't been climbing in seven months okay!! I lugged all my crap to Thailand and I was starting to get discouraged thinking I was never going to use it... I was a little excited.
Two weekends ago, as a final vacation before the new school year officially started, we went to Krabi with a couple of friends from another school. Krabi is a provence about 9 hours south of Hua Hin, our destination was the Ao Phra Nang Peninsula; this is where the famous Railay (East and West) and Tonsai Beaches are, home to some of the worlds best rock climbing (so they say). From the town of Ao Nang, the only way to get out to the peninsula is by long boat, ours took us to Railay West, and we wanted to stay on Tonsai... had we known what was next we probably would have asked our boatman to take us straight to Tonsai. Turns out that Tonsai and Railay West are actually connected during low tide, but during high tide you have to take "just a 20 minute walk" through the forest. Actually it was more like an hour, through the freaking jungle, around a mountain, on a path where every log you had to step over (they were at groin level) had a swarming colony of little red ants on it... mmm. There was also scrambling involved, we were carrying all our bags with climbing/camping equipment and clothes for five days, AND we were wearing flip-flops.... yaaaaay. I don't know what it is about the jungle, but by the time we came out the other side my whole body was kind of burning and itching. But it really wasn't that bad, I jumped in the ocean at Tonsai [the beach by the way was indescribably beautiful], cooled off, and took a shower in our beach-side bungalow, and sat down on the beach for a late breakfast/early lunch.
*Side note: Thanks to our overnight bus, we were on Tonsai by 9 am, which was great.
A little bit about Tonsai: it's considered the "backpacker" beach of the Ao Phra Nang, and the Railays are the more developed (more expensive) beaches where there are more shops and things. But I don't know if it was because of low-season or because of it's remoteness, but Tonsai was absolutely deserted, I mean nobody there. At one point from our bungalow's restaurant, you could look out towards the ocean [towards all the small, beautiful, limestone islands guarding the entrance to the small bay that was our beach and Railay West, only adding to the scene] and aside from a cluster of long boats to the right of the beach, there was nothing and nobody there, nobody swimming, maybe two or three people would walk by in an hour up and down the beach; but this place was awesome. And it was cheap! To your right a massive limestone cliff begging to be scaled. To the left and to my back, along the beach and facing the water, were a couple more huge limestone faces. All the climbing on Tonsai was intermediate to expert/very difficult climbing, so due to our group of new climbers (and me being 7 months out of shape) we stuck to the easy routes on Railay East. That didn't stop me from ogling the rock on Tonsai though.
Okay so the first day pretty much got relegated to eating/relaxing/recovering on the beach; oh and Peter and Emily almost getting lost in an ocean kayak, but they were fine, just really tired by the time they got back. We called it an early night and got up early to get going and get on the rock.
Turns out we didn't need to do the jungle hike after all! Wow... there was a shorter path to Railay West right next to the flooded beach path, still involved a bit scrambling, but it only took about 20 minutes instead of an hour! From Railay West it's a quick walk to east where all the routes we wanted were.
Our second day consisted of making sure everybody had the right shoes and harness, and finding a suitable line to start with (and at the same time avoid the sh*t ton of people with guides taking lessons). First route went smoothly, Chessie's first time lead belaying and everybody else's first time climbing. We moved on to a second route which went even better than the first, not everybody made it to the top but we had fun and by the end of the day everybody was hooked to climbing and was juiced to try more the next day (I mean who wouldn't be). The bay that we were climbing over in Railay East was beautiful, a wide muddy mangrove beach when the tide was out, and a shallow bay when the tide was in, again surrounded by beautiful limestone cliffs and jungle. Awesome when on top of the wall.
The next day we got started even earlier and this time headed to Diamond Cave Wall to avoid the crowds at the easy routes on Railay East. The plan worked, Diamond Wall was beautiful rock; lots of layers of nice shelves, flakes and cracks. First route went smoothly, everybody made it to the top. The second route on Diamond was cooler, 22 meters, the highest of our trip, had an awesome view. Diamond Wall was set in a little jungle valley in the middle of the peninsula between Railay East and West; so the view was from quite aways up above the tree tops and you could see the mountains on either side. Finally made it back over to Railay East for one last route; this Pete decided he was ready to try leading something easy, he did well but got a little terrified at the top. As the sun went down we walked back across Railay West and over to Tonsai, an amazing end to a amazing day, the setting behind the islands off Railay and Tonsai. Our last day we just relaxed for a few hours before departing back Krabi city to catch our overnight bus back to Hua Hin. It was the perfect vacation right before we had to go back to work.
I ended up buying a Thailand climbing guide book, cause we saw that there was a wall nearby us in Hua Hin. Turns out only a 45 minute motorbike ride away is a small, but sweet little crag right on the beach near a national park.... New weekend spot maybe?