Scary Night boat, hammer-head leeches and Chilling in Tonsai


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June 30th 2009
Published: July 21st 2009
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Part 1 - the scary night boat...

So thought i'd try and save myself a few baht and a nights accommodation by taking the night boat to Surat Thani, glossy picture of a room full of bunk beds on the boat in the travel agent didn't look too bad, and surely there will be loads of other penny pinching backpackers doing the same thing eh? it'll be fine, i told myself....

... was dropped off by the taxi to port at around 8.30pm, boat wasn't due to sail until 10pm however i'd been told that the beds go really quick and everyone gets there really early to save a space etc etc, so i'd done what i'd been told and was dropped next to a huge, rusty, ram-shackled cargo boat that was currently having piles and piles of gravel loaded onto it by a forklift truck.... i checked twice with my taxi driver that this was definitely the right boat... he just grinned and said 'yes mam, this night boat' with a big toothless grin..... Great!! made my way onto boat, tried asking directions from one of about 15 thai men stood around on boat, none of them spoke
Cute Thai GirlsCute Thai GirlsCute Thai Girls

on Sonthalaw from Krabi to Ao Nang - these lucky girls had just been bought a kitten!
any english but ushered me towards back of boat and pointed up a very narrow, steep and precarious looking set of stairs. After struggling up the slippy steps nearly getting wedged in by my back back i entered a large room that wouldn't have been out of place in some dingy prison (or at least this is what i would have imagined a dingy prison to look like....). Rows of mattresses lined the floor and on a shelf above these rows more were stacked. It was filthy and rusty and smelt damp and only one of the fans appeared to be working - worse than that though there was not a single other westerner, let alone anyone who could speak english on the boat! started to get slightly concerned about my decision...

...I sat looking out the window for a long time, no other passengers.... got quite worried... started to work out what to do... was on the verge of gathering my belongings and leaving boat when a very chirpy guy from Chicago bounced into the room and reassured me that he'd done this trip several times before (worked as dive instructor on Ko Tao and was on a Visa run) and that it was a bit basic but perfectly safe - i was just really really early! PHEW!!! by the time the boat set off there were about 12 other travelers settling into the bunks, and soon after we set off i fell asleep and didn't wake again until we arrived in Surat Thani.

Was met on the boat in the port by a guy from 'Starlight Travel' and was driven the 4 hours to Krabi in my very own air conditioned people carrier - a benefit of traveling in low season, not many people about and those that were didn't fancy leaving the sunny east coast to go to the west coast where it is monsoon season. was dropped at the bus station in Krabi then got in a songthlaew (pick up truck type taxi with benches in the back, very cheap local form of transport) to Ao nang and got dropped on the beach, was going to stay there for a night before traveling to Tonsai but when i arrived it was very busy and touristy and so i decided to get straight over to Tonsai. Jumped in a longtail boat and made the journey round to Tonsai bay.

Part 2 - arriving in Tonsai...

Walked along the beach for a bit and found a restaurant with big bamboo furniture and a few people in there reading so popped into get a Banana Lassy (lassys are my new favorite thing! like a milkshake but made with yogurt - delicious!!). The Waiter introduced himself as Zero and was really friendly and chatty, he asked if i had any accommodation sorted and offered to show me the huts at the back of the restaurant. They were very basic, walls made out of bamboo with a gap between the top of the wall and the ceiling that was made from corrugated steel. the bathroom was a corrugated steel lean-to with half of the outside wall completely open to the elements, very very basic but for 150bht (3GBP!!!) a night i thought i'd give it a go at least for one night!! Tonsai is very small with a single dirt track that loops from one side of the beach in a sweeping arc through jungle and rejoins at the far side of the beach. off this road are a handful of small resorts (some closed for low season) with between 10 and 20 huts in each, some concrete, some bamboo, some metal, in each varying in levels of comfort depending on budget. I was quite happy that i had got a good location and price where i was, and all the staff were really laid back but super friendly and the restaurant always had a few people in it so I decided to stay there a few more nights. Along the beach are several bars and restaurants but as it was low season not many were open meaning everyone congregates together in the same bars in the evening. The beach was surrounded by sheer cliffs with stunning rock formations and loads of stalactites - a climbers paradise! And thats where most of the residents were during the day, climbing, boldering and potholing.

I settled into a sun-lounger on the beach and read my book for a few hours before Zero ran out and said 'inside, quick, big rain!' ... so i did as i was told and sure enough moments later the dark clouds swirled overhead the wind strengthened and the heavens opened. This is not like the rain we are frequently subjected to in england
Rain!Rain!Rain!

proper fat heavy rain... so refreshing!
however, no annoying drizzle that threatens to turn into something more and generally doesn't, this is proper rain, big fat rain drops that pound the rooftops and immediately drench everything. It is amazing to watch the swirl of a rain storm come into a bay over the ocean, it looks like a wall of water moving towards you. I sat in the restaurant with steaming cup of tea and watched the monsoon for about 20 minutes and then it stopped, just as suddenly as it had started and the clouds started to dissipate and the sun came out... and then the giant mosquito's came out!! I am not joking - these things were the biggest mosquitos i have seen sofar, and the little buggers got me 5 times in about 30 seconds! I ran back to hut to get some repellent and found a whole load of them in my hut too! fortunately attached to the restaurant is a 'supermarket', officially the smallest supermarket in the world i reckon, which is not staffed but if you look through the window or stand by the bar a little old lady appears to open up and help! Found heavy duty mosquito coils and headed back to the room to gas them out!

As i returned to the restaurant with my book (managed to get through 3 books on Tonsai - was so lovely to have so much free time to just chill and read!!) a pair of rather bedraggled guys were pulling a kayak up from the beach. They introduced themselves as Stephen (from Dublin) and Enrique (from Madrid) and they had been kayaking around the bay when the monsoon hit, must have been quite scary as the waves pick up loads and the rain is so heavy you can't see 10 meters in front of you! chatted to them for a while.... more tea.... they'd met the day before on a boat over from Ko Phi Phi, and we arranged to meet back up later that evening and go for some food. Went to an amazing seafood restaurant on the opposite end of the beach from where i was staying, they had a big chilled counter and a BBQ so you go and choose the fish you want and they cook it for you, i had a big chunk of tuna which was delicious! we sat near to a group of americans and ended up going for a drink with them afterwards at the small world bar which is run by some Thai rasta's with dreadlocks, all wearing slightly different bob marley t-shirts, very cool bar with tree-house type structures on stilts with big decks covered in pillows and Thai mats. They also have a tightrope strung between 2 trees which they use as part of the fireshow they put on with fire sticks and fire poi. They also make one of the best mango smoothies i have ever tasted!

Part Three - First night in Tonsai...

Electricity in Tonsai only comes on between 6pm and 2am so when i got back to the hut put on the fan and put camera battery on to charge, only have one converter plug so having to juggle charging. Lit another mosquito coil and dived into mosquito net and quickly tucked under mattress to stop giant mosquitos following me in. At this stage i already had about 3 gecko's on the outside roof of my mosquito net making a racket! I had no idea that Gecko's can be so loud!! Outside the jungle instrumental was in full swing, frogs, crickets, gecko's and the occasional succession of 'thud, thud, thud' as the local pack of monkeys jumped over the tin roofs of the huts... doused myself and the inside of the mosquito net with insect repellent then went to my 'en-suite' to brush my teeth and discovered one rather large frog had taken residence in my bathroom. When i got up in the night to use the bathroom was when i discovered the 'hammer-head leech type thing'...... i tiptoed round it silently squealing so as not to startle it...not sure whether it can hear? or detect fear? very scary looking thing about 10cm long and 1cm wide.... went and got camera and took photo for identification purposes with the restaurant staff the next day. Got up early and headed to restaurant to show Zero the picture, he called over lots of the other staff and they all made wide eyed expressions at each-other and started clucking and talking to each-other very fast... 'still in bathroom?' Zero asked cautiously... 'No' i replied which he translated and seemed to calm them, 'how big?' someone else asked... more gasps as i indicated the size.... they all look at each-other then Zero announces '... Ok, not
inside my bamboo hutinside my bamboo hutinside my bamboo hut

....note the indoors/outdoors theme going on, ie. not a solid wall in sight!!
dangerous, no worry'. Somehow i am not too convinced that this is an entirely accurate statement however i am happy to believe this and make sure that everytime i go to said en-suite i go in armed with my head-torch and some kind of aerosol to fend off said beasty should it return... i am treated to a cup of hot tea (at no charge!!) and am told i am a very brave girl, apparently most girls on their own would not stay and be very scared.... which makes me wonder if i should be? All part and parcel of the adventure and new surroundings, and apart from scary bugs this place is amazing!!

Part 4 - Hiking to Rai Leh and back again...

By this stage my ankle is starting to swell a bit (did i mention in last blog about Coral cut??) so i decide to walk around the bay to Rai Leh Beach to find the pharmacy, only accessible when the tide is out between 8.30 and 10.30 in the morning. i'd been told the route round got a bit rocky so put on my walking shoes and my day-pack and set off along the beach..... 'a bit rocky' was a slight understatement, i ended up climbing over big rocks and squeezing through tight crevices saying 'don't fall, don't fall, don't fall' in my head as i did so. Saw another couple coming back the other way... they had given up... but i pressed on and soon afterwards (and very smug at managing it!) i found myself rounding the corner and stumbling onto a very white very wide and completely deserted beach fringed with lush greenery and bathed in bright sunlight. Totally worth the climb! The initial awe however was soon to be quelled when large, shiny, modern resorts began to emerge through the trees ... paradise has been commercialized and the suitcase brigade taken residence... which i know has happened all along the coast and helps local economy blah blah, but compared to the atmosphere in Tonsai it is a brutal contrast. i sit and have a juice in one of the cafes on the beach, feeling quite grubby and unkempt next to the ladies in matching linen trouser and vest combos with perfectly manicured nails sat with men clicking fingers at the waiters (the most annoying thing ever!!!). Decide to make my visit
The walk to PhranangThe walk to PhranangThe walk to Phranang

the caves lining the path to the beach.
to the pharmacy then head back to the more charming version of paradise i am staying in - find the pharmacy, am reassured my ankle is not infected only inflamed, am given some anti-inflamatories and given directions back to the beach... unfortunately it is the wrong beach, but discovered Phranang Cave beach which was also a nice beach, would have been a lovely beach were it not so busy and had loads of speed boats lined up along the shore delivering boatload after boatload of daytrippers.

By the time i got round to the right beach the tide had come back in so the only option to get back to Tonsai (if i wanted to avoid the extortionate price the longtail boat drivers wanted to charge for the short trip back around the bay) was to go up and over the cliff and back down the otherside. The boys had done it the day before and said it was quite an easy climb up from Tonsai but got very steep and tricky in places, and they were climbers... decided to give it a go anyway and was very proud when managed to scale the first section (completely verticle with
monkeys!monkeys!monkeys!

that woke me up every morning at 6am running over the corregated steel roof!
a few indentations for leverage! but the was a rope hanging down to use to pull yourself up) the walk across the top of the ridge was really dense jungle with a craggy path running through it which was actually quite a pleasant walk and i passed another traveller from glasgow who had been over in Tonsai climbing who reassured me the rest of the route got easier from there. passed three Australians with big backpacks on who were climbing over to Rai Leh Beach - insane, i just had my small day pack on and was finding it quite tough! got back at around mid day and spent the day reading an extremely trashy chick-lit novel about a personal shopper (there was no other english language options unfortunately) terrible read but a very good way of switching off for a few hours of sunbathing. Again met up with Stephen and Enrique for dinner who bought along Dave, a south african who lives in london and we also met up with an American girl called Katie that i had met too. After dinner went to a bar and played pool for a few hours before heading back to the Small
Cute Kitty!Cute Kitty!Cute Kitty!

flip flops make great toys!
World Bar for a few beers.

The next day i caught a long tail boat back to Ao Nang with Dave and Enrique (who went over to wonder round and get some supplies) and spent a couple of hours wondering round (not long as had my very heavy backpack and hand luggage!) and waited for the bus for my trip back to bangkok.

Checked back in to Villa Cha Cha at around 5am and headed out to catch up on email and to book my flight for the following day to Taipei to visit Jo and Akira.


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cat napcat nap
cat nap

my lap obviously looked like the perfect place to snooze whilst i was reading...


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