Friday, March 21, 2014

Tonsai Beach Thailand, an extreme adventure paradise

Okay, I am excited to write about this place, it is an Adventurers paradise, literally. Imagine your typical day of rock climbing high up in the air, over looking the ocean, and then jumping off the rock face and doing a back flip into the ocean. At night you watch the sunset on the beach with your favorite meal and drink in hand, watching people juggle, dance, and 3 or 4 people Base jump from the highest mountain and land on the beach in front of you (This really happens every night). After the sun goes down you head to one of the beach bars, and watch the King Cobra show, or local teenagers do fire tricks you didn't even think possible, head to your bungalow or tent a little after midnight, and then do it all again the next day.
Scenery on the boat ride over to Tonsai from Krabi

King Cobra Show Tonsai

Tonsai beach is a relatively recently created town designed for tourists. It used to be an empty beach with no one living there, until people discovered it has world class rock climbing. The are no roads here, and no police. You have to take a boat to get here. I like rock climbing, although I don't live for it. Tonsai is world famous for deep water soloing, which is rock climbing above the ocean, and you are not attached to ropes. When you feel you have gone high enough, you jump into the ocean below where there is a boat waiting to pick you up. I came here to do this specifically.
Deep water soloing

The first day I got to Tonsai, I took a long tail boat from Krabi. Upon arriving in Tonsai, most of the rooms were full or a little bit pricey (around $20 a night). I brought my army sleeping bag and foamy all the way from Canada, so I thought it was time to test it out, and decided to camp on the beach that night.

In the afternoon I signed up for single pitch rock climbing. There were a lot of people doing it so a little busy, but it was a lot of fun and had fun talking to people from around the world. I then met a friend for dinner and chilling on the beach. The night didn't actually end for me until about 1am after the King Cobra show. I didn't set up my camp yet, so headed to the end of the beach, and set up near this other tent.
Top rope rock climbing

It honestly was cool to try camping under the stars beside the beach but really sucked because I didn't realize how many $%$#in bugs there were . I barely got any sleep as my body was always slightly exposed to the elements, or I was way to over heated in my sleeping bag. I woke up at about 6am to the sounds of two early risers already starting to climb. It looked like I was 17 again, with red dots all over my arm and face from bug bites. Oh well its a cool story, and it made me thankful for a bungalow the next night.
View from my sleeping bag
waking up in the morning, at about 6am!

The deep water solo trip got canceled that day, but I met these two guys from Vancouver and they wanted to explore this secret lagoon there friend had told them about, and they invited me to join. It ended up taking half a day but was one of the best adventures of the trip. You have to go down this small trail, and then up this mountain, and then way down into the lagoon. It was pretty much rock climbing the whole way into the lagoon. The lagoon looked like something out of Jurassic park. There was a cave to explore on one end (filled with mud and a lake that goes who knows where into the ground), and you could swim in this pool. I didn't bring my camera as I knew I was going to get muddy and wet, but if you go to Tonsai or Riley beach, I would highly suggest going out of your way to find and explore the Secret Lagoon.
One time I counted 20 wild monkeys in the morning walking from my bungalow to the beach, there almost scary jumping over your head and such!

The next day all three of us and a bunch of others signed up to do the deep water soloing course. The night before though, I spent it shivering and puking, so I had to cancel. (Food poisoning is common in Tonsai because there is no regulations due to it not being an official town) I had an Albino frog in my room on my curtain to keep me company and take care of me for the day, and it was good to just relax until I felt better.
The bungalow where I stayed at had a very friendly community. My neighbors included a German girl and British guy. The British guy liked to hang out on the porch for hours, and when I had a few beers with him, he was on his 14th of the day at about 4pm. My neighbors had really inspiring stories, and we had many hours of great conversation over my time there.
View of Riley beach

Riley Beach from the sunset view

The next day I did go deep water soloing. The first part of the day we went to this place where there were tons of routes to climb, and it was fun and relatively easy, and jumping from about 10 meters high was great. For lunch we stopped on a beach and also had time to snorkel. The second half of the day, is another story. There was only one route and you had to reach it by swimming to a ladder, and then climb the ladder about 5 meters high, and then start climbing. If I had known how hard the climb was I would not have done it, but when you travel or live “never try, never know”. Once I got up on the rock, I started to climb. I got to this part on the rock where it was a really sketchy hold for my skill level and being tired from the climbing earlier. At this point going down wasn't an option, and jumping wasn't either as I couldn't turn around to face the water, and I was about 10 meters above the water so I didn't want to go backwards in case I didn't land feet first. After about 5 minutes, I prayed for life and made the hold, and made it! I was about 15 meters high when there was a ledge to turn around  and face the ocean to jump into the ocean once I finally caught my breath. This is probably the most dangerous thing I have done this year, and although it's a cool story and was fun, it could have turned out bad, but that's the thing about Thailand, you decide for yourself your limits, instead of having a bunch of rules ;)
Crazy skilled climber from Alaska

Where to go next?

Almost as high as I got before jumping
This guy did the impossible climbing all the way there from the same ladder

My friend Simon from Koh Phanghan met up with me in Tonsai again, and our next destination was the island of Koh Pipi, ranked by many to be the most beautiful island in the world.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Krabi Thailand, go off main street to find hidden paradise and adventure

I left Dave after that as he was hitch hiking to Malaysia, and I was headed towards Krabi to do some deep water soloing (rock climbing without ropes: when you fall you fall into the ocean below). I hitch hiked the 200 kms, took me about four hours. I was impressed with the kind of hearts of those who stopped to offer me rides. One couple even offered me money (I am assuming they thought I was down on my luck because I wasn't on the bus), but of course I am not going to take people's money because I am hitch hiking to meet local people and learn more about Thailand/ get to my destination quicker and easier often times. People were quite interested in where I was from, with the most common questions being what my job was. When I rode in the back of truck beds, many other drivers would point at me and laugh/ smile and wave, with one truck full of workers even waving there Thai flags and blowing there whistles of the protest movement and cheering to me.
Pictures on the road to get to Krabi in the back of a pickup

Krabi is a medium sized town on the ocean. I met a girl named Caroline from Sweden on top of this giant temple called Tiger Temple and we decided to go exploring together. She has a very interesting story and has been traveling to a lot of places and works as a model and professional dancer. A boat driver named Mohamed offered to take us around and see the Robinson Crusoe cave and some islands, for about $20 each. We accepted, and had an amazing afternoon. We went to a deserted desert island to swim and relax, fed monkeys, saw a wild Iguana, went to this crazy fish farm where I fed snapping turtles, and some different scary fish, explored these serisouly amazing caves, and there were very few other tourists around. Unforutnately I don't have a lot of pictues as Caroline took them, and was supposed to give them to me, but we lost contact becuase when I was supposed to meet her the a few days later I couldn't get out of bed because I was shivering and puking due to food poisoning and I am assuming she thought I bailed :p

On my way to Tiger Temple, I thought this was it, but there was no one else here, and it was still under construction and closed. Glad I don't read Thai, and I got up early, as it was really cool and a bit scary being so high up a lone and without railings

The temple under construction beside Tiger Temple

The steps up to Tiger temple (over 300). These Thai ladies stopped me on the way up to take many photo's, I guess I am famous :p

The big Budda on top of Tiger Temple

Caught a wild cat, monkey, and dog all in the same picture

Thailand's number 1 guide, Mohamed! Aboard our private long tail boat the Musira!

In the background is the Robinson Crusoe Cave (the pointy mountain under my right hand)

Inside one of the caves

Bats, there were 1000's

Above the cave

 Krabi is an awesome town, I only spent 2 nights there though, as I then took a boat to Tonsai (next post). I would highly recommend this place, and doing the adventure I described above. There is also a great night market, with amazing food, music, clothes, and other things to keep you busy. Lot's of bars, clubs and places to hang out and meet people as well, both foreign and local. Make sure you stop here for a day or two on your way to the amazing islands close by.

Awesome tropical shakes for around a $1 US

My new Tattoo (will last for two weeks)

Krabi Night Market

The local Karaoke stage

Some new friends I met, Tony on the right invited me to join them to eat

They like to beef up there cars and have huge sound systems

Friday, March 14, 2014

Hitch-hiking to Khao Sok National Park

After leaving Koh Phanghan, I got on a boat headed towards Khao Sok National Park. On the boat leaving the island I met an American guy the same age as me named Dave. He was traveling around Asia by hitch hiking, camping and playing trumpet for money (he didn't have any money except what he made playing). I convinced him to come to Khao Sok, and he convinced me to hitch hike (which I was planning on doing anyways). After loading up on some food in Surat Thani, we hit the road.
Some fishing boats in the harbour at Surat Thani

Me and Dave on the road
We got picked up pretty quickly by a mom and her kids going home from school. Me and Dave got into the truck bed, and she drove us out of town. From there we got a bunch more rides in the back of truck beds. We stopped at this huge Thai market on the side of the highway. I fed a monkey some oranges, and when Dave tried to get close to the monkey it tried biting at him.
The evil monkey
People in the market stared and smiled and laughed at us, it was great to see some local Thai culture. We hitchhiked into the night towards Khao Sok. I felt bad because this group of Thai's gave us a ride through the jungle at night, only to realize after dropping us off that they were not even going that way, and that 8 of them had driven us 40km out of there way. I would not have agreed to it had I known, but I am grateful for there generosity. For the last two rides we met this Russian couple that was also hitch hiking, so there were four of us (The Russian Couple had hitchhiked all the way from Russia). At midnight I convinced Dave to stop and we got a hotel, as I thought it would be a real danger to get dropped off in the jungle, not knowing where we are and setting up a camp, and passerby's could easily rob us and get away with it, as we wouldn't be able to see them, or chase after them not knowing where we are in the jungle. The next day we hitch hiked into Khao Sok and went hiking. It was great hike, some huge bamboo trees, saw lots of cool river spots, monkey's playing in the trees, elephant crap but no elephant sightings.... The next day we joined a two day tour where we took a boat across the lake and stayed on this floating village and went caving, kayaking, and other things. It was an amazing two days, here are some pictures:
Swimming in the deep, deep lake

Are long tail boat

Hanging out at night on the floating village

Caving (some parts you have to swim through

the view from our porch

are bungalow on the floating village

Khao Sok is the largest park in Thailand and had some beautiful sites. It is one of the last places in the region where wild elephants still exist. If you come to southern Thailand I would highly recommend going to see it and getting a boat onto the lake. The two day tour was one of the funnest and most memorable experiences of my whole trip. Also it's only like $70 for a two day trip everything included!