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January 18, 2005

The Beginning of the End: Ton Sai to Bangkok

The week I spent in Ton Sai was a fine way to complete my journey. The atmosphere there is so chill, and the community of foreigners and locals is so devoted to climbing that this beach may actually be a little paradise. The place is very developed for tourism (there are hundreds of bungalows) but, much like Muang Ngoi in Laos, it has a good feel to it. Perhaps that impression is due to the fact that there were few visitors for the high season since the Tsunami caused many to change their plans, but also it may be because the majority of visitors are climbers, many of whom stay for extended periods of time (I didn't meet anybody who had a shorter stay than mine). As a result, I think the climbers tend to socialize more with the locals, and treat them as equals. It helps that the Thai climbers are true monkeys on their home turf, and the climbers from the rest of the world are respectful of their skills. It is very common for Thais and visitors to hang out together.

I spent some time on the rocks which was a nice feeling after so much time spent on horizontal ground. I also drank a lot of beer with my dreadlocked climbing guide while listening to Bob Marley in an open-air bamboo bar. In fact, the entire town seems to have a fascination for "Bob", and for Jamaica by extension. The green-yellow-red tricolor is more visible than the Thai national flag. It's a little disconcerting at first, but it fits well with the town's attitude.

A hang-out. Notice the T-shirt colors.

Cliff and longtail.

Going climbing in these parts sometimes means getting in a boat first.


Afternoon beach scene.

View from top of climb.

On Sunday afternoon I stepped into the warm blue water, and heaved my huge pack over the rail of a wooden long-tail boat. I clambered aboard with marginally more style than the Lowe Alpine, and sat facing the golden beach, the jungle, and the high cliffs beyond. The engine banged to life and the stunning panorama slid to my left as the boat driver maneuvered us away from the beach.

I was very conscious that this was the beginning of the end of 4 months of travelling for me, but I didn't feel a pinch in my heart. The day's destination was Bangkok, and two days later Southern California.

I took a night bus to BKK, accompanied by another Ton Sai climber. We arrived at the lovely time of 5:30 am in this crazy city. I made my way to my favorite hostel by a combination of city bus and subway. I found out the next day that the metro had an accident that same morning. It happened two hours later and three stations away from where I got off, but I got emails asking if I was onboard that morning. Well yes, I was onboard, but it goes to show how close one can be to a news-making incident and not suffer any consequences. I think I can draw a parallel here with the way people perceive SE Asia after the Tsunami, but I am a little too rushed to get into that right now.

Being in a town that lives to Bob's rhythm was a fine thing, but Bangkok moves to a tune that is ear-piercing and head-ache inducing. If it existed, a CD of this music would actually deserve the "Parental Advisory" warning label.

After claiming my plane ticket I enjoyed shopping and visiting tourist hotspots on my last full day.

This afternoon I head for the airport...

Posted by piegu on January 18, 2005 10:12 PM
Category: Thailand
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