Ton Sai is a friendly, haphazard, cheap little hippie backpacker oasis, set amidst a desert of over-developed resort strips. Ton Sai is located on Railay Peninsula — the famous home of Thailand's best rock-climbing walls, and also of some of the country's most gorgeous beaches — and it's squeezed in between the beaches of Ao Nang and Railay West. It's only accessible by boat (or by several rugged walking tracks, some traversable only at low tide), and there are no paved roads (and few unpaved ones, either). I spent almost a week here in Ton Sai — if I had more time, I definitely would have done "the Ton Sai thing", and got stuck here for much longer than planned.
Like the famous tennis player, Martina is a thin, athletic girl from the fair realm of Switzerland. Martina hails from a small mountain village in the south-eastern region of Switzerland, where she's lucky enough to have been skiing her entire life. She now spends most of her winter months in a ski town in the country's Italian region, where she pays her way by working as a café waitress. Martina is fluent in German, English, French, Italian and Spanish — an impressive repertoire, even by (the not-too-shabby) Swiss standards. Martina climbed with me during this afternoon's session, where she blew us all away by conquering a climb that no-one else could.
This dude's real name is "Let", and he's my main instructor for the three-day climbing course that I'm doing here at Ton Sai. When I told Let that my name was "Jeremy", he had a lot of difficulty pronouncing it — the closest he could get was "Jet Li", and so that is now my official rock-climbing pseudonym. Let's a really nice guy: he's only been rock-climbing himself (let alone instructing!) for the past six months; before that, he spent ten years as a chef in a glamorous hotel restaurant in Phuket. His ability and his fitness levels are remarkable, considering how new he is to the sport; and after only six months of working with farangs, his English ain't so bad either.
If it's rock-climbing you're after, then Ton Sai is the place to be. In fact, there's very little else to do at Ton Sai — or in Railay — aside from lying on the beach: so if you're not into rock-climbing, then perhaps you should be someplace else. Last night I signed up for a comprehensive 3-day climbing course, with Ton Sai-based company "The Rock Shop" — and today was the first day of that course. I've never before been rock-climbing on a natural, outdoor wall; although I did a fair bit of indoor (artificial-wall) climbing many years ago, when I were a 'wee lad (plus I've abseiled down natural cliffs before). It was a sweaty, exhausting introduction to the sport — 9am-6pm, with a 1-hour lunch break — but it was more fun than anything I ever imagined; and I finished the day feeling a strong sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
First night on Ton Sai. Ko Tao is now behind me, and it's been a week since I saw any of my diving friends from Sairee. And who should I happen to bump into — walking right past me on the beach — but Caroline! Turns out that she's been here — along with all the Canadian dudes from the course — for a few days. Naturally, I was obliged to join my old buddies for a few drinks tonight: especially since it's their last night in Ton Sai, with their destination for tomorrow being the island of Ko Phi-Phi. It seems that there's only one thing, and one night, that everybody remembers about me from Ko Tao — when the crew first saw me this evening, they all greeted me with: "hey, it's vomit boy!" Uhhh... yeah, thanks guys :\.
Mathias is a quiet guy from Germany, who's spent most of his life as a musician in one form or another, and who's currently about to start work as a sound producer. That is: if you ever wondered who composes all those cheesy little sounds that are the intros to TV quiz shows and news bulletins, it's him. Mathias is in Thailand for about a month, where he's relaxing on various beaches and enjoying the warm, un-European weather. I met him this evening, when we realised that we were sharing the "emergency room" at Kiew Thao, here in Ton Sai, while waiting for our own respective bungalows to become available.
After a brief interlude in Krabi, this morning I continued on to what will be my final "real destination" here in Thailand, and for my entire trip: the legendary beach of Ton Sai. I've heard a lot about Ton Sai — particularly from my friends back in Pai — and I think it's going to be a great place to wrap things up, and to have some fun and relaxation.