After spending a few days in Krabi Kyle and I took a longtail boat to the Railay peninsula. We were recommended by friends to stay in Ton Sai, a tiny beach village nestled among sheer limestone cliffs and frequented by rock climbers. Ton Sai has a much more rustic, hippie vibe than the flashier Railay beaches, which suited us. I found us accommodation at Chill Out bar and bungalows for 300 baht per night (about $10).
Ton Sai was a fun spot. Good food, good people, good vibes... It kind of reminded me of the surf scene on the Bukit peninsula in Bali, except with climbers. And I felt like the kook, the odd one out, because I don't climb. However, when in Rome.. so Kyle and I signed up for a "Deep Water Soloing" climbing tour.
The day of the tour a group of us piled into a longtail boat and headed out into the bay dotted with tiny islands with massive limestone faces soaring straight up from the water. We soon came up on Poto island, where ladders from the base of rocks dangled into the water. The boats anchored and our guides lit up spliffs while they waited for us to get ready.
I watched as the first crew was ferried by kayak over to the ladders. Deep water soloing is rock climbing on rocks over without ropes, so when you fall you fall into water. No problem, right? Only thing is, it's not hard to climb up 10 meters, but jumping off a 10 meter cliff into water is, well, a bit scary.
I stuck to the lower shelves, reminding myself once again how much I dislike heights and how hard climbing is. Over and over, I watched really good climbers who had never deep water soloed before, easily climb up 25 or 30 meters, before looking down and realising, "oh, shit, how do I get off this thing?" Quite entertaining, really. Our guides were amazing, climbing higher and faster than anybody else, only to do a backflip off a tiny ledge into the water. They make me believe that Thai ninjas might still exist.
The tour wasn't all climbing -- we went to a beautiful beach for lunch, went kayaking and snorkelling -- all the things that I generally laugh at people for paying heaps of money to do when I am on the boat (Rutea). Fortunately Thailand is cheap and laid back and the whole travel by land gives me a different perspective on things.
Take for example, Chill Out bar. Chill Out is a great place to chill, have drinks, meet people and party. It is not, however, a good place to sleep. After two nights of bands playing until 5 AM we had to change venues because I could not sleep. And I need sleep. We had a great time in Ton Sai and learned a good lesson: don't shit where you eat -- don't party where you sleep, and were well prepared to head to the island of Ko Phi Phi.
Phi Phi is known for three things: partying, diving, and where the movie "The Beach" was filmed. I (obviously) was most interested in diving, and with dive shops lining the streets, figured it would be a good place to get my advanced certification. Upon arrival we, along with the hundreds of other tourists getting off the ferry, were inundated by people trying to get us to go to their hotels. Kyle and I decided to take our chances and set off alone, walking to the far end of town. We found a nice (relatively) quiet guesthouse to stay at. After getting settled we set off to see the town and to check out dive shops.
My first impression: Phi Phi -- where Thailand meets Disneyland. Shops selling trinkets and clothes, dive dive dive shops, restaurants, bars.. And a loose party atmosphere. But I hadn't seen anything yet.
In the evening, after finally choosing a dive shop to do my course with (, Kyle and I went for another cruise around town. I didn't want I party because started my course at 7 the next morning, and because I had a bad rumble in my belly. Regardless, I was fully entertained by what we found.
Has anybody really written about what the night life in Phi Phi is like? Because it is kind of insane. The bars, of which there are tons, are packed. Vendors on the street sells buckets of vodka and red bull or whatever else you could want. A man with a monkey will let you hold it and take pictures for a few baht. Want a massage? No problem. Weed? Ask at the bar. I am sure you could get harder drugs if you were looking.
At one bar there is a Thai boxing ring where they encourage drunk people to get up and beat the crap out of each other. After all, each contender gets a free bucket of drink, and if that is not incentive then I don't know what is. The entertainment and gimmicks go on and on. And that is just the bars.
If one manages to find their way through the shit show and down to the beach, they will find a full on rave scene. The bars pump out techno from huge amps while Thai boys spin fire. A massive jump rope is lit on fire and people are encouraged to jump in it, and the same with a ring of fire. People swim in the water and run down the beach naked. Anything goes. It's like Las Vegas, except they don't have to worry about law suits.
Around midnight, just as the party was picking up, Kyle and I headed back to our room. I was looking forward to a nice quiet night sleep -- my first in about a week. Except that at 3 AM I awoke to find that the rumble in my stomach had turned into full on warfare and, sparing you the intimate details, I was very sick for the next 12 hours. Food poisoning? GI issues? Stomach flu? I'll never know, but it really sucked.
Fortunately the people at Aquanaut dive are super relaxed and I was able to postpone my course a few days so I can fully recover.
This brings us up to date. The weather is hot and beautiful but I am keeping an eye on the massive cyclone that just hit the Philippines and is headed toward Vietnam and north Thailand. If anything, we might see some rain and wind -- a minor inconvenience. My heart goes out to all the people who lost family, friends, homes and livelihoods in the Philippines and elsewhere.