I’ve been to Tonsai two years in a row and have to confess that I’m truly fond of this little slice of bohemia. I know it probably won’t be to everyone’s taste and I’m actually happy that it won’t be. Because if it were it would soon become like most other tourist infested places in Thailand. I also have to admit that this little rundown of Tonsai beach is mostly for you fellow climbers out there since climbing is the predominant activity in the area.
Tonsai is located in Krabi and is nestled between the town of Aonang and the more known Railay Beach. The easiest way to get there if you aren’t in Krabi already is to take a flight to Krabi airport and then either grab a bus, dirt cheap, or a taxi, about 200bath per person, to Aonang. Since there is no road leading to Tonsai the only way to get there is to grab a long tail boat. Which you can easily do from Aonang beach, tickets are bought at a stall above the beach and should run you about 100 bath.
On the boat ride out the first thing you’ll notice is the massive limestone pillars that seem almost haphazardly strewn in the ocean along this stretch of coastline and after taking that in for a few miles you’ve arrived at Tonsai Beach. On the far left of the beach is the long tail boat men’s hangout and at the far right there is a few buildings. If the beach is lined with buildings and pale tourists you’ve gone to far and arrived Railay beach, a much more crowded and more expensive option. If you want to visit Railay it is just a short walk from Tonsai through a stretch of forest along the beach. Railay beach is a nice place to have next door, but overall Tonsai is more my speed.
Anyway on arrival to Tonsai there is mostly jungle and you can choose wether to go up on your far right or left, it doesn’t matter since there is only one path leading around Tonsai. Once you get passed the initial few buildings on either side of the beach you’ll arrive at the main path housing some decent bungalows and quite a few nice places to eat. Quick tip: When in Thailand eat thai-food, much better quality and it will save you a bundle of cash. Unfortunately they have now built a wall around the main forest area for some reason, something that has upset all the repeat visitors to Tonsai.
According to me climbing is something everyone should at least give a go while they are here. Tonsai and Railay is both perfect places for climbing, with climbs ranging from 4 to 8c. And for those of you that don’t know climbing grades it means from very easy to virtually impossible. If you’ve never climbed before I can recommend at least signing up for a half day excursion with the guys at Basecamp Tonsai, which will include great guides and all gear needed. Seasoned climbers can rent or buy gear there as well. As for a guidebook I can recommend King Climbers route guide book. What’s nice with King Climbers route book is that the proceeds goes towards rebolting routes with titanium bolts. Both Tonsai and Railay is strewn with good climbs and you can easily spend a few weeks here just trying out new routes. To me there is something magical with the limestone that just makes you want to smile and try harder, perhaps that is because I come from a country consisting of granite, granite and more granite…
So what else does one do in Tonsai? If you get tired of climbing and
the beach you can rent kayaks and some snorkeling gear at a reasonable price. As for nighttime activities there are two bars at the beach where you can grab a cold one and watch the sunset and perhaps play a game of Jenga.
If you want some more action there are several bars that serve up cold refreshments further up from the beach that has a more lively scene and the occasional fire show or live band.
Or you can simply go down to the beach and enjoy the stars.
And since this is Bohemia you can expect some drunken slackening, yoga… and a, hmmm, herbaceous atmosphere.
I have really enjoyed my stays in Tonsai, no matter if I’ve been climbing all day or just slouching around on the beach I would each evening look out over the bay with a cold Chang in my hands and get the feeling that I could probably stay for a few more days before moving on. There is something magical about the place that is hard to put a finger on. It’s if there is something in the air, pun intended. Anyway If you feel like living the island life for a while or just want to get away from all the bustling tourist and visit a laid back beach Tonsai might be worth looking into. And if you’re into climbing and think you might enjoy scenic climbs on the beach I only have one question; Why haven’t you been to Tonsai yet?
P.S. Beware of naughty monkey!