Reflections on Tonsai
The rest of my trip to Tonsai had: lots of great climbing, a rest day where Robin and I went sea kayaking (different muscle groups!), and Robin’s first grade 5 leads (including one onsight!) I led a 6b+ and toproped a hard 6c. I’m not ready to lead a 6c yet. If only I could stay another week…
Like I said, Tonsai is a great place! There’s a friendly community, mostly made up of climbers. The population is small (probably under 100 permanent, 400 transient at this time of year) and it’s almost completely isolated at night because the hike from Railay becomes significantly more difficult and dangerous even with a flashlight, and longtail boats don’t run.
There are about 25 longtail boats based in Tonsai. Other vehicles include: 3 pickup trucks, about 6 motorcycles with cargo beds, and about 10 regular motorcycles. The longtail boats are moored with old climbing ropes, of course.
I’ve learned that when renting a climbing rope, it’s important to check the length and make sure the middle point is marked (as well as checking for excess wear and abrasion, which you should do with your own rope anyway.) Also, a reminder: always tie a knot in the other end of your rope when leading. I’m very glad I did :)
After climbing, Tonsai has a decent nightlife. It’s not a spring break-style party like you’ll find on other beaches, and there’s almost no dancing. It’s mostly people sitting around and talking, and an occasional live band – which is more my scene anyway.
A couple of hints of Burning Man are around: there are generators everywhere at night, random bars with random decorations (though they charge for drinks), and firespinners! Some of the resident climbers have taken up firespinning in the evenings, and they’re really good. There are also slackliners, and one guy (at least) who combines both!
Reggae music is everywhere, and Bob Marley seems more popular than the King of Thailand (anyone who has ever been to Thailand will be amazed by this last statement.)
The food in Tonsai is great! The cheapest places to eat are the most popular. These are the "chicken ladies", two restaurants based out of shacks on opposite sides of the main road. They have big communal tables where people are (as usual) happy to talk to strangers. The most common morning food is sticky rice with mango (and there’s a recipe in the climbing guidebook for when you get home.) The most common morning greeting is "are you climbing today?"
Everyone lives in a hut: maybe with power, maybe with running water. Nobody complains. Everyone just wants to climb!
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