Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Where the f* am I?

That's what I had to ask myself when I arrived in Ton Sai. Because it's paradise! I flew from Udon Thani to Bangkok and then to Krabi on Sunday. From Krabi I took a long tail boat to Ton Sai beach.

As the boat approached the beach only accessible by boat or a steep hike, I was speechless. It goes from a perfect little beach to jungle to mountains. Huge limestone cliffs jut up all around.
Ton Sai: This little town is packed with climbers. You can sit in a restaurant on the beach and watch people climb. Reggae music is playing everywhere and chill bars line the beach. I followed my hand-written map that Ashley made me up the hill to Jungle Hut guesthouse. The only bungalows available were way up the steep hill. As I lugged my huge bag up a group of folks sitting on their porch made me promise to come by when I was checked in. Turned out to be 4 Americans and one Canadian. I was shocked to see so many Americans. They were a rowdy bunch who river guide back home. So instead of checking out the town or going swimming that first night, I sat on the porch socializing. At Sawadee Bar later I met Akem from Germany who mentioned he and friends were climbing a certain route for some good photos ops the next day. I asked if I could tag along and take pics and we said we'd meet at noon. The bar played great music, people were attempting the slack line, a guy through fire on the beach, the waves rolled in and breeze was steady. That's when I had to ask myself where the f* I was.

My first night in my bungalow I slept really well because I was so tired. I woke to this:

I also woke up to a huge spider bite, a swollen eye lid and holes in my underwear undoubtedly chewed by a rat. But I slept through it all. I'd been warned about the monkeys breaking in, making a mess and stealing things, but not the rats. I headed for breakfast down by the beach and got to see some monkeys. They were the nice non-stealing kind and were jumping around eating in the trees above me. So cute! There are also many adorable kittens here- monkeys, kittens and climbers, what else could I ask for?
I checked out the climbing on the beach and spent an hour just laying in the sand and going for a swim. I met Akem for lunch and went with him and a Bulgarian couple to take photos of them climbing. Someone was already on the route so we did some other climbs first. They were really nice and did some easy stuff so I could partake. I climbed Groove Tube, which was awesome! You climb up a rounded half-tube in the rock and then look down at the incredible view. I got to do another great climb there before we headed for the cave. The cave has a 7a+ (=hard) route along the top of it that makes for great silhouettes. I was very excited to be shooting and watching these great climbers. Then they said I had to try it. So I did it:
Ha I wish! That's as far as I got. But it did make for a great pic and at least I got a hand on it. I also had a fun swing when I fell off. We headed for a sunset beer and later got some great BBQ fish for dinner.

The next day Akem was extremely nice and took me climbing. He taught me how to lead climb so that I can lead my own routes instead of having to have someone else put the rope up for me. That means you clip into bolts along the way. It's a bit scarier because if you fall above the last bolt you'll fall at least that far. Akem was a great teacher and I started on really easy routes. We hiked over the mountain to the other side to a wall called Diamond Cave. It was packed with climbing school folks, but we found a spot. I led three routes no problem. It was scary at parts when you think you just can't fall, but it felt amazing to finish successfully. The fourth route was a bit harder and I only got half way up. I know I could have done the move, but I was too afraid of falling at that spot. I can't wait to go again! Today I went scuba diving. It's half moon and the conditions are great. So I just did a local dive. It'd been three years since I dove in Oz so I needed a refresher. Maria my Swiss dive master was awesome! She made me feel very assured and calm. We took a long boat out to a small rock island and after going over everything jumped in. She made me do some skills just 2 meters deep and I was able to remember how to clear my mask and regulator. We dove for about a hour only going 12 meters deep. We saw lots of beautiful fish and coral. We saw a lion fish, shrimp fish and large barracuda. It was great! I felt very comfortable back in the water. After lunch on the boat we did a second dive at another little island. This time was even better. We swam through schools and schools of fish. They were all around me moving different directions. It was incredible to look up and watch them move like one big fish. We saw two Morea eels. I spotted the second one and he was huge! We saw beautiful nudibranchs as well. I think I'm hooked. I might go again tomorrow to Phi Phi island where it's even better visibility and you see reef sharks and more fish. Wish I had pics to show.

This place really is paradise. There's hiking, climbing, diving, swimming and relaxing. Everyone I meet has been coming back for years and I can see why.

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