Thailand is no secret. It was clear from our short time in the famous mecca of South-East Asia that the unparalleled beauty and friendly, welcoming nationals has lead to widespread development to accommodate for the ever growing influx of foreign travellers and touring Thai’s a like.
Tonsai Beach in Railay is one of the few places that has been left relatively untouched by this rapid change. Situated on the mainland, separated by the incredibly dramatic and beautiful limestone craggs and karst making Railay one of those dream like destinations.
Unreachable by wheels, it was a long tail boat that poots the tourists over to the beach, inevitably as and when they want to sail (a full boat, be prepared to wait). It’s only really the motorway of diesel powered long tails that detracts from this paradise. There are times of day when the noise does get a little too much.
The small crescent beach decorated by shacks and bars, with little concrete in sight, with a road set back that runs parallel is all there is to Tonsai. Electricity is temperamental powered by generators hidden in the jungle. The accommodation is far from cheap by South East Asian standards, but affordable in Thailand. Josie flexed her haggling skills to bag us a nice enough fan room with a mozzy net at 500 baht a night.
It’s one of those places that casts a spell on you, everyone is working at half pace, life slows down, the world seems to just relax on Tonsai and put a smile on everyone’s face.
The wood shack bars, advertise special shakes, happy smokes, and it quickly became clear that Tonsai really is the kind of secluded stoner beach resort many dream of when they think of Thailand. Slack lines, hammocks, crystal sands, epic scenery, turquoise water, no cars, no haggling, no worries. From the other world bar to the food mecca of ‘Mama’s Chicken’ shack, the best and cheapest sticky rice and BBQ chicken cooked up by Mama a rotund Thai lady with a smile on her face all day every day.
We spent a day in our canoe paddling out to the Karst peaks that emerge from the water across the sea, finding secluded empty beaches, framed by the cliffs. We also explored the West and East beaches that make up Railay bay. The other beaches are clearly more up-market and still look relatively un spoilt with no high rise blocks and still a conservative attitude to concrete. It was one of those perfect days travelling, when your swept away by your surroundings, spending a day in pristine calm sea and Thai sunshine.
Railay’s epic cliffs are also globally famous as a rock climbing mecca. Whilst neither myself nor Josie had ever climbed anything except for a tree we thought it would be worth trying our hand at the day excursion to ‘Deep Water Solo’. After heading out in a long-tail boat to some massive over hanging cliffs it was time to swim over and try our hand at climbing for the first time, without ropes, with wet hands, soggy chalk, lots of people and only the water below as security. To say it was difficult is an understatement. The rocks got wet and slippy very quickly and your arms and hands got tired very quickly. It wasn’t ideal, still though trying to hold on for dear life then falling back in to beautiful blue water is still fun. After lunch at another secluded beach it was time to try another huge ‘roof’ cliff. This time an epic and intimidating stalactite. It was actually a little easier than the previous wall and I managed to get up to the top and jump over 15 metres down in to the sea, nerve wracking but incredibly rewarding. The hardest part was the rope ladder to get up to the rock as Josie found out. It was a fun way of trying our hand at climbing and even if we weren’t up to the standards of some incredible agile climbers on the trip it was worth a go (it was a little expensive for what you got though in the end).
We met some nice English gap year travellers and a couple of Californians, including the hilarious youtube rapper 'Stankin Rankin' who we spent the evening with at some of the beaches choice shacks blasting out reggae till the early hours, taking a walk through the pitch black jungle on the way.