Beneath Giants – Ton Sai & Railay, Thailand

This is going to be a picture-heavy post, just a headsup. I’ll lump some of the random pics at the bottom.
Ton Sai motto, summed up well.
At first it isn’t really straightforward how to get to Ton Sai Beach. It’s not talked about much in our guidebooks, and we didn’t see a whole lot of detail about it online. Just mentions of a few places that rent out bungalows, and a concrete wall. We first heard about it on our first night in Krabi, from a German backpacker in a small Rasta bar.  She said that Railay Beach was too busy, and filled with resorts (our guidebooks shared this opinion) but that neighbouring Ton Sai beach was much more chill. Not easy to get to though, something about scrambling over rocks or waiting for low tide. We were intrigued.
So we went by boat from Krabi to Railay, the popular resort area surrounded by huge limestone cliffs called karst. Ton Sai is the next beach north of Railay, so we had to start there.
The karst topography around Krabi and Ao Nang, viewed from the boat heading to Railay Beach.
Before hearing about Ton Sai, Railay was our original destination.  We had heard good things about Railay from friends and relatives, but the internet suggested it was now a haven for expensive resorts and travelers with larger budgets than us. As it turns out, the internet doesn’t lie. Though beautiful, with its surrounding of massive cliffs and intoxocatingly warm water, Railay is not cheap. It may once have been for backpackers and budget travelers, but it’s most certainly not anymore.
Railay Beach – we somehow managed to get a photo without the hoards of tourists.
Railay Beach
At the north end of Railay beach we saw people scrambling up some rocks, in amongst waist deep water and some waves. This is the path to Ton Sai. Climbing up the sharp rocks kind of made me feel like the penguins from the recent series of Plant Earth 2. The French tourist in front of us, Guillome from Paris (we had met him on the boat earlier in the day) plunged almost entirely into the water while trying to get up the rocks. He got back into shallower water and frantically checked his bag to see if his camera was ok.
The “forest path” to Ton Sai beach. I swear its more dramatic when the tide is in! Even at low tide, you need to be careful of the sharp rocks.
Once up the rocks, it’s 15 minutes of up and down, beneath massive cliff frequented by rock climbers (Ton Sai is apparently well known for rock climbing).  We later found you can take a boat from Ao Nang to Ton Sai, thereby avoiding the rocky path.  That’s less fun though isn’t it?
When you finally get to the beach, the view is amazing.  Its the picture used for the main photo of this post.
Ton Sai Beach, with the ubiquitous longtail boats.
This monkey and his troop were happily eating leaves in the trees above us right on the beach.
Not a bad view, from under the shade at the beach.
The beach is surrounded on all sides by huge cliffs, hence the title of this post. There isn’t much at the beach except for a bar and the entrance the only resort here. But if you follow a path away from the beach, you find a weird grouping of anti-establishment hippie hangouts. Every bar has some variation of Bob Marley playing, and there is plenty of graffiti decrying capitalism and the internet.
The “Capitailist Zone” refers to the lone resort on the beach.
The accommodation is rustic to say the least. Bungalows, going back up towards the cliff. Ours is really basic – a double bed, a mosquito net, a combined toilet and shower room, and that’s about it.
Our cozy bungalow – not bad for $18 a night. Cold showers are nice in this heat, and at night it cools down for easy sleeping.
The path up to our room is a requires caution at night, and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if more than a few people have turned their ankles on it.
The vibe here changes throughout the day.  In the morning plenty of people are up early to get the best rock climbing routes.  The afternoon sees the beach get busy, though not nearly as busy as the neighbouring beach at Railay.  By 5pm the beach has mostly cleared out, and those that remain have grouped together to watch the sunset (the beach faces nearly west, so there is a chance for a great sunset over the Andaman Sea. We haven’t seen a really awesome one yet because of the haze).
Sunset on the Andaman Sea
The last 2 nights there has been someone BASE jumped off of the top of the biggest cliff at the beach, right around sunset.  It must be at least 200m up.  The whole jump probably only takes 15-20 seconds, from jump to landing.  It feels much longer, watching someone run off a cliff, freefall for maybe a second, and then open their chute.  Both times we were nearly in the landing zone and I thought we were going to be in the way, but the jumped landed right beside us.  At night the crowd moves to the restaurants and bars.  I’d call them patio style, but everything here is basically a patio. There aren’t that many people around at night, and there is lots of room everywhere. One of the bars shows a movie each night on a big screen. Another has whatever game you want t0 play – Jenga, Connect 4, chess, etc.  Another has the ever popular Thai cover band, absolutely slaughtering the classics.  If you think Radiohead is bad normally, wait until you’ve heard them covered by a Thai singer who really doesn’t have any vocal range whatsoever. Oh and also this particular band has an aggressive backup flutist.
Fire-dancing on slack lines. Its a common thing in all the rasta bars here.
The “forest path” at night. There are only 2 paths in Ton Sai.
Last night we made a fantastic discovery right beside our bungalow – a yoga studio! We took a deep-flow type class, which was great.  Its surrounded by nature sounds, so it made for a great experience.  We found out afterwards that the classses are donation based, so thats very cool too.  The community seems cool, and the studio is always open to practice, or just chill in the hammocks, talk to people, etc.  We’ve since chatted with a few other yogis in town and at a restaurant.
The yoga studio! Its basically hot yoga whether you like it or not.
The community in Ton Sai has been isolated from the sea an the green space by a concrete wall.  Before the wall, it must have been a great view from the various restaurants. But now the land between the beach and the new wall has been purchased by Sheraton Hotels and the intention is to develop it into a resort.  While it would be a stunning location for a resort, it will just further strangle the interesting little community that lives here.  I imagine this is what happened years ago at neighboring Railay beach.  There is no room left there to develop, so now Ton Sai is going to be squeezed out.  Its a real shame.
Listen to Roger Waters, and tear down the wall!
What the view must have looked like, before the wall..
The artwork is great, but the view would be better.
We were originally only going to stay here for a few nights and then move on to somewhere else, but we just booked our room for more nights.  Ton Sai may not have “Thai Culture” at all, but it has something else.  And for now its exactly what we need.
More random pictures, because its so beautiful here.
– Doug / January 14, 2017 @ 1:30pm / Legacy Restaurant, Ton Sai, Thailand
Longtail boats in Ao Nang, waiting to take tourists to Railay and Ton Sai.
The path from our bungalow to the beach
Phra Nang caves.
Emily swimming under the end of the caves.
This monkey and his buddies basically attacked a restaurant we were eating at. There was a guy fending them off with a slingshot. They eventually made off with a pack of razors from the market next door.

7 thoughts on “Beneath Giants – Ton Sai & Railay, Thailand

  1. Every time I read a new post, I think “this one might be my fav.”
    Gorgeous photos! The beach looks amazing and you guys seem very happy and relaxed.
    Love it!


  2. Simply amazing.

    I was definitely waiting for this post. Love the combination of nature and what looks like the best the earth has had to offer. And the yoga?? How could it get any better?

    Um. Except there is no such thing as Radiohead being bad normally.

    I forgive you though especially because bren and I opened your gift and it’s awesome!!! He loves it. Thank you both so much. Supercool. Can I send you a pic somehow?


  3. Thanks so much for staying up to date on your posts! its so lovely to be able to read your stories while they are still fresh in your mind. Doug, your writing is excellent – when I read your posts I can hear you telling me your stories and laughing at a bad radiohead cover. Love you guys!


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