Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mango sticky rice in a climbers' paradise

Approaching Tonsai
“For the stone from the top for geologists, the knowledge of the limits of endurance for the doctors, but above all for the spirit of adventure to keep alive the soul of man.” --George Mallory, British mountaineer 

We were really tired of spending Ramadan in Muslim countries. It turned into a real hassle in Maldives and Indonesia so we made a game time decision to seek out the Buddha instead. Luckily Thailand isn't too far from Sumatra so we jumped on a quick flight to Krabi via Kuala Lumpur (KL). This, of course, wasn't part of our budget plan but we decided it would be worth it nonetheless.

Our evening spent in KL was surprisingly fun. We stayed in the budget friendly Chinatown area and explored the local night market for street eats and cheap gear for Burning Man later that month. Then we zipped back to the airport and hopped over to Krabi. 

We stayed in Tonsai, part of a series of three beaches on an isolated peninsula on the Andaman Sea that doesn't have road access. Visitors have to take the traditional long-tail boats from Krabi beach to get out there. We wandered around for a while in the jungle up behind the beach searching out places to stay. Tonsai is the cheapest of the three beaches on the peninsula but we were still surprised at the costs. 

Our guide only climbed barefoot
Lucky for us, the week turned out to be indeed well worth it. We signed up for a three day lead climbing course with Basecamp Tonsai, the most reputable climbing operator in the area (German-managed). Before starting our sabbatical we had spent a year climbing three to four days a week in a climbing gym in San Diego. Climbing in Tonsai blew all of that away.

The rocks in Tonsai are absolutely epic. Spires of limestone jut thousands of feet up from sparkling tropical ocean and verdant jungle. We were there in the 'wet' season and it rained for about three hours total for the whole week were there. There are a lot of overhangs so even if it rains a lot of the rock stays dry. There are tons of bolted routes for sport climbing and literally thousands for trad, which attracts some very serious climbers. Even during this low season, most of the decent places were pretty full and the majority of the best climbers we saw were from Spain, Australia and England. 

Eliot leads a beach route
We had a blast learning how to lead climb. For the uninitiated, lead climbing is when you set up your own safety ropes as you make your way up the rock. It means you often take longer falls than you otherwise which alters the psychology of your climb: you tend to be more risk averse. We climbed all day every day and even tried deep water soloing, climbing without safety but jumping off into the ocean. Unfortunately on the last day of our class Drea took a dangerous fall and hurt her ankle. It could have been a lot worse so we racked that up as a win.

The other rockin' thing about Tonsai is that once you're done scaling rocks, you get to gorge on delicious Thai food and wash it down with Eliot's favorite: Thai iced tea! We gobbled up mountains of mango sticky rice to fuel our climbing adventures and look forward to returning to Tonsai to sharpen our skills some more!

But we had a flight back to California via Singapore scheduled for the next week. Some might say it was the end of our trip but we thought it was just the beginning. We were headed to Burning Man.

Co-posted on

Drea's about to fall
Drea's awesome belay attitude!

Eliot fends off local mozzies

Not bad, not bad at all

Deep water solo territory

At last, Thai iced tea...


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