From Krabi, we took a 45 minute journey to Rai Leh by long tail boat. A long tail is a narrow boat that has an extended propeller shaft -known as its long tail- that allows the boat to perform sharp turns, handy for getting out of busy harbours. Long tails are iconic to this part of Thailand and I always wanted to travel on one. When we were told to board at the pier, I was one of the first to jump on.
The sea was calm and the trip went smooth. It was another baking hot day with the temperature up around 34°C but the canopy on the boat gave us shade and the sea spray felt refreshing as it splashed in from the sides. We could see our destination off in the distance for the whole trip but it wasn’t until we were within a few kilometers that we could really appreciate the beauty of where we were heading. As we approached Rai Leh the karst rock formations that are common on the Andaman coast grew up in front of us into immense orange cliffs on all sides. I craned my neck skywards and was speechless.
Rai leh is known as the rock climbers paradise of Thailand. The long tail dropped us off on the east side beach which is known as the resort beach. We wanted to get to the climbers beach known as Ton Sai as fast as we could. The only problem was that it was on the other side of the peninsula and involved walking a jungle path. We got our packs on and walked over to the west side beach. We had a long walk up the beach which was not made easy by the midday sun and heavy packs. At the end of the beach was the start of the jungle path that lead to Ton Sai. The start of the path was near vertical and you had to use ropes to scale it. I decided to go up a few feet while Jasmin stayed at the bottom and watched the bags. I didn’t have to go far to realise that it was going to be near impossible to climb with our packs (we were both carrying front packs as well as backpacks). Then we met 2 dutch girls carrying large luggage who were also trying to get to Ton Sai. We decided the best way was to get a long tail to bring us over for 50 baht each.
Getting off the long tail on Ton Sai, one of the dutch girls fell out of the boat into the water with her backpack on…ooops. We then went up to a bar to ask about accommodation. The bar man had 2 meter long dreads and pointed us down the beach. He told us to come back to his bar that night because he had a bong and magic mushrooms. So this is Ton Sai, ‘I thought.
We quickly booked into a room and in our tired state we didn’t notice the mold and appalling state of the place in general. We wanted to sleep but we decided to go for a beer and some food with the Dutch girls instead.
It didn’t take long to meet climbers on Ton Sai. In the evening we joined a group and we got to do some climbing with them. During my time in Rai Leh I mostly went bouldering. You could climb quite high and jump off into the extremely fine sand without getting hurt. The ultimate on Rai Leh though is deep water soloing. This involves climbing overhanging cliffs that go out into the water without a rope. When you have climbed high enough or get tired you simply let go and fall into the water. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try this. I would have loved to, but it involves chartering a long tail for a day which is expensive unless you can get a large group of people to share the cost. Oh well, I have an excuse to go back there again I guess.
Like most places in Thailand, Rai Leh has its high and low points. Lowest point was the accommodation. Everywhere we stayed was terrible. One place had 20+ holes in the floor, a gecko hole in the roof, termites in the wood, a broken window and cockroaches and creepy crawlies everywhere. On our third day there we decided to fork out some cash and stay in a resort that had a pool and usable toilets. The high points though made it all worth while. Ton Sai beach was the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. All the bars are made from drift wood and are run by Rastas. The mood there is super laid back. Ton Sai also has the best sunsets. It’s just magic when the sky goes a deep orange and the large cliffs turn silhouetted as you sit there using a cold beer to sooth your aching hands after a days climbing.
A special mention has to be given to the Highlands Coffee Shop on east Rai Leh…I drank, without a doubt, the best coffee I’ve had there.
Thanks to Jasmin who took the Pictures of me climbing 🙂