Tonsai is probably on a lot of climbers lists of places to go. There are not many places in the world where you can climb beautiful routes right on a picture perfect sandy beach.
Tonsai has climbing for all levels but if you really want to get the most from it you want to be climbing above 6c. On the main strip of beach the easiest route is a tough 6a, and its quite polished because everyone seems to want to warm up on it, get there early to avoid the queue! There are many routes in the 5 range but generally they are out of the way and get taken up all day by the climbing schools. Also remember the heat, I really struggled and it effected the grade I could climb, it’s not like climbing on a crisp winter morning in England.
So what gear should you bring? Most of the routes on the main beach are really short, 10 – 15 meters so if you want to keep your luggage down pack a 40 meter rope and 10 quickdraws, a few slings (most anchors are rings) and locking carabineers. There are a select few 30 meter routes so if that is your thing pack accordingly. If you are travelling like us and you only have shoes and a chalk bag there is still some great traverses and boulders. But I guarantee you will get talking to other climbers and before you know it they will offer you a harness and a belay.
Tonsai itself is a great place, if you are a climber everyone will be on your wavelength, it’s very easy to make friends. The restaurants are all very basic but the food (from Mama’s Chicken) is some of the best we have had travelling the world and is so cheap, you can get traditional Thai dishes for £2.20. The bars are great places to chill out in the evening and practice your slacklining skills, if you are lucky there might even be live music.
Other things to do
Thailand is hot and you will need to get up early to face your project before it’s too much. Most people tend to climb in the early morning and late after noon, but what is there to do in the mean time, campus? There is so much more to do than just focus on climbing, Railay is a short walk over the rocks at the end of the beach and its a beautiful place to go swimming and relax, the sand is soft and the water is really warm. If you fancy a hike you can head up the almost vertical trail to get a view over the whole of Railay, wear decent footwear and avoid if it is wet. If you are a dare devil there is a lagoon as well, but it’s very dangerous to get to. However if you just want to relax our favourite place was Phra Nang beach. This secluded paradise had some good bouldering on the beach and a caves to explore.
There are two good films about Tonsai, Fading Paradise and The Titanium Project. The former is a short film about how Tonsai is changing and a huge wall has been erected to make way to a large hotel complex .The second is a feature film all about climbing in Tonsai and was created to generate money to help with the cost of replacing all the bolts to titanium, the climate on Tonsai has cause some bolts to fail. Fortunately all the main areas have been titanium bolted and are now perfectly safe but the effort still continues so if you are planning a trip, help out, buy the film and possibly save a life.
How to get here
From Krabi town you can get a taxi or Tuk Tuk to Ao Nang, costs can vary, we pad £4 on a shared Tuk Tuk getting there and £10 in a taxi getting back. Tell the driver you want to go to Tonsai and they should drop you by the beach where you can get a traditional long boat around the cove, there is no road access to Tonsai. Each boat costs £16, divided by how many people want to travel, so just sit and wait for 8 people and it will be £2 each. There are no cars in Tonsai but it’s very small and you can walk anywhere you need to go.
Best time to come and where to stay?
Apparently Tonsai gets seriously busy in the high season Dec – March so make sure you book your accommodation in advance. But if you plan to come out of season you will get the best prices by just turning up and asking around. Tonsai is really small so just stay anywhere that you can find in budget. We stayed in Dream Valley Resort which was £30 a night, but had everything you could want and an amazing breakfast buffet. We have been told you can get bungalows for as little as £4 per night, but with no shower or electricity so there is something for everyone.
Tonsai is a climber’s paradise but unfortunately not everyone is respectful and some people would call it a dump. The amount of rubbish from tourists and construction workers is horrific and totally unacceptable. It really would not take much effort to get the place cleaned up and fortunately people are taking steps to help. Trash Hero’s is a weekly event at 4 PM on Thursday that gets anyone who is willing to help together to pick up trash across the beach and jungle area. I don’t know how long it has been going but if you do visit Tonsai please be conscious of your rubbish, maybe become a Trash Hero yourself and help out on a Thursday.
If any readers have ever been to Tonsai I’d love to hear about your experiences and what you thought of it, especially if you visited before the wall was put up.