Recently I had the pleasure of spending some time with three Australian dirtbags who I miss very much now that they're gone. We'll just call them Michael, Adam and Luke. Because those are their names. This is the story of doing a rather popular multi-pitch route on Ton Sai named "Big Wave" with two of those aforementioned scumbags. Although Adam has many talents, (including fire-twirling, convincing absolutely any woman he deems attractive that he is not the dirtbag we all know he is, and causing ceiling fans to burst into flames, thereby torching his passport) he will be the first to admit that climbing is not among them.
Over breakfast, we decided to do Big Wave in the afternoon. It's four pitches of 6a-6b climbing. Pretty breezy, and loads of fun. We had a late lunch and didn't get going until four o'clock, by which time Jean, the self-described "dirty French asshole" had joined us. Luke and Jean went up first, with Michael and I second. While being eaten alive by mosquitoes at the base of the climb, Michael and I wondered if we had, and further, if we should bring, our head torches. I decided to go and get mine, a decision we were very grateful for later on. The climbing went well. The first pitch is sharp and awful, but plenty of holds. (This pitch is shared with the 3-pitch beauty and the beast and is the reason for the line in the guidebook: "Climb the beast to get to the beauty.) The second was mostly uneventful, except for a sketchy traverse due to me climbing up the wrong side of a tufa. The third was incredible and fun, and the last one provided a singular moment in my year-long climbing career. As I was climbing the fourth pitch, I could see the top belay station, an ugly hanging belay that would be madly uncomfortable for one person, let alone four. Just as I was picturing my legs going to sleep in my harness, I realized that I could hear Jean and Luke's voices much closer than the top belay. As they came into view, I saw that they were sitting in a little cave, a belay station halfway up the fourth pitch for the purposes of shortening the rappels, laughing and smoking a joint. Climbing up to them, I got comfy on a jug with my right hand and smiled as they passed me the joint. I took a few hits, we laughed at the novelty, and I kept climbing. Just after clipping the chains, I felt a bite on my back, followed by giggling below me. I looked down to see that Luke had brought his bloody air gun up with him.
Cool Hand Luke. Sharpshooter of Big WAve.
Once I belayed Michael up to the hanging belay, (and he had been shot a few times from below) we took a few pictures to celebrate. It was getting a bit dark, so we wanted to hurry.
Me at the top.
Me and Tonks snapping victory in the dying light.
Once the photo shoot was finished, Michael and I rappeled down to the little cave and we all had a celebratory smoke together. Happy that we'd made it up. Confronted with an incredible view of the valley. Reluctant to start down. Finally, we tied the ropes together and started the first of two long rappels. (about 50M each). I was the last to go down, and by the time I started the first rappel, I needed to put on my headlamp. We did the last one in the dark, nervous, but safe with a headlamp at the top and the bottom. I was glad I got to be the guy with the headlamp, it was super cool to watch Michael and Luke descend into darkness. Once we were all on the ground, we checked a watch and found out it was 7:30. We headed straight for the bar, and that was that.
(above left) The last picture from the top.
(above right) Luke again, this time rappeling into the dark jungle.
So, a friend of mine recently brought to my attention the fact that I haven't been writing on my blog. Well, cut me some slack, I'm living in a bamboo bungalow in the jungle surrounded by a fortress of limestone cliffs. If I wanna use the interweb for any substantial amount of time, I must make the trek to the mainland, yadda yadda yadda. Oh who cares.
Ton Sai is AMAZING! Gorgeous limestone, all of it bolted, everywhere. So, a day in the life of an unemployed climbing bum:
In the mornings, most of the crew meets at the little shack near the beach officially called "The Rendezvous" or something, but only referred to by us as "Chicken Mama's" owing to the fact that one of the friendly proprietress' many specialties is barbecued chicken. She also cooks a mean omelet for 20B, and this holds second place behind mango sticky rice as the most popular breakfast. Rubbing our eyes, talking-smack and planning the day as people rotate in and out, we figure out where we're climbing, finish breakfast and usually Dum the beach dog gets a few scraps from the table. (Side note: Dum is an incredible machine. Though I seem to remember people saying dogs can choke on cooked chicken bones, he demolishes them with the zest of a wood-chipper and doesn't bat an eye. I wouldn't be surprised to walk up one morning and find him gnawing on a hunk of depleted uranium.) From there it's off to the rock, possibly packing some of chicken mama's take-away along if we're going to one of the more remote walls.
Ton Sai, Railay East and Railay West are home to a couple dozen of the sweetest limestone crags around.
After a full day of climbing, with lunch at Kruie Thai or Chicken Mama's (or if you're really in the know the "Curry Man" behind Chicken Mama's) thrown in the middle, people retire to their bungalows for a couple hours, or the night, before those that are up for a party head to one of the few bars open during low season. The "few bars" is a little misleading. In Sokcho, a town of 90,000 people that is not particularly seasonally based, there are only 3 or 4 that we frequent. On Ton Sai alone, without going over to Railey, there are at least three popular options: Sawatdee Bar, Chill-out Bar, or Small World Bar. After a few beers, many spliffs, maybe a fire show, possible slacklining, and every once in a while, some dancing, everyone stumbles off to their bungalows (or someone else's) in preparation of doing it all again. Here's the view from the bungalow I shared (up until two days ago) with a Frenchman named Roman:As you can see, we're a well-oiled machine over here. Laundry is a constant companion on the porch, because if you don't catch the sun, it can take a week for your clothes to dry in the humidity. MMMMMMM......Musty!
On rest days, I usually spend some time at Pyramid Bar run by an incredibly friendly man named Chai, and his sister Nee. They have shitloads of comic books, and are right down the street from Nut and Thom's where you can get a killer massage for 250B. So that's "a day in the life of".
Now, I figured some of you might be interested in the day to day goings on here in Ton Sai, but before this blog becomes some sort of travel guide for the incredibly lazy, I'd like to relate some more personal experiences. See next post.
After spending 3 more days in Bangkok than I had planned, due to a certain Aussie who I had a damn good time with, I took the all-night bus from Bangkok to Krabi. It's amazing at how quickly one adapts to new surroundings. The first couple days in Bangkok, I spent probably double what I had to on everything, because I suck at bartering. I'd say that on the way out of Bangkok, I had my first encounter which I dealt with properly. I got in a tuk-tuk (motorcycle taxi with seats attached) and told the guy I wanted to go to the hospital, then the bus station. After asking me where I was going, he told me that to get a ticket to Krabi, I have to go to the tourism authority of thailand. I said I was pretty sure I could get a ticket at the bus station, to which he replied "not at this time of day." I told him to take me to the hospital, and of course on the way we stopped at the Tourism Authority of Thailand. Pulling up, he pointed across the street to the police station, and said "See! See!" as if the presence of a police station somehow legitimized this place. I wasn't sure about all this, but went inside. From the minute I walked in, everyone was incredibly friendly and smiling, asking me where I'm from, why I live in Korea, etc. Finally,
"Where are you going this evening?"
"Ah, Krabi, long ride. You want air-con bus?"
"Well, my friend, if you want air-con bus, the ticket is 1200 baht."
"Well that's funny, because this book here tells me the ticket is 580 baht."
"Ah, but you buy ticket from me, 1200 baht, you exchange this voucher for ticket at bus station."
"Why don't I just buy the ticket at the bus station?"
"Cannot, my friend, cannot....(as I'm leaving) My friend, wait my friend!"
At first I was pissed and found this hard to believe. This guy was going to sell me the bus ticket for double the price and was willing to downright LIE to me to get it. I thought about how many people must fall for it, and sort of understood. I may be repeating myself from an earlier post, or just an email I sent someone, but we come here and get SO MUCH for so little, I suppose it's easy for them to see us as walking dollar signs. One thing I do find odd is that the TAT is listed in Lonely Planet as a source of information. Strange, cuz it's obviously just a con-job. Anyhow, I went to the hospital to get a vaccination for Hep-A I hadn't managed to get in Korea, and got to the bus station and took the bus to Krabi. For 580 baht. Yeah, that's right, not ALWAYS a sucker.
On to more exciting things! Krabi, Tonsai, climbing YES!!!! SO MUCH FUN MY HEAD IS GOING TO EXPLODE. First day I climbed only a couple pitches and went to bed. Next day, deep water soloing. DWS, for the uninformed is when you climb with no ropes or "solo" over deep water. So rock climbing, but with big scary falls not onto a rope or crash pads, but into the ocean. I think the biggest fall I took was probably 5 or 6 meters, but that was high enough for me. Scary and awesome.
New friend Patrick and I got up at 5:30 to try and beat the sun to Thaiwand wall, hoping to do some multi-pitch. Hangovers, and the fast sun meant we only did one pitch, but watching the sunrise over the bay was unbelievable.
Climbed on Tonsai for about 5 days before heading to Phuket to meet my friend Guy, an English bloke I know from Korea. Had a good time in Phuket, which was far too expensive. Now writing from Krabi, taking a boat to Tonsai in an hour or so. Probably won't write again for a while, as internet on Tonsai is ridiculously expensive, but when I pass back through Krabi, I'll do an update. Much love. Here's some more photos:
The right hand side of Tonsai, just around that bend is Ao Nang, and then Krabi.