From the island of Koh Tao, I ventured Inland towards the South coast. My first destination was Koh Lanta, which is a small island only a kilometre off the south coast. I was about to experience my first rain in 5 weeks…
After a boat, two hot buses and a short ferry ride, I arrived. Once I checked into the hostel, I joined up with two Canadians I had first met in Bangkok, Cassie and Cristina. They were at the last leg of their adventure, and were therefore inclined towards the cheapest possible street food (something I could definitely get on board with). Koh Lanta is essentially a single road following the coastline, with dusty restaurants and shops squeezed on all the pavements. Together, we rode up and down the coast, finding quiet spots for a drink along the way.
One afternoon we visited an animal sanctuary, and took the opportunity to walk one of the dogs down the surrounding dusty tracks. As soon as we returned an unusual cool wind swept by. We quickly learnt this was the first sign of thunderstorm, as some ominous grey clouds started to approach. The cats and dogs knew what was about to hit and quickly returned indoors, so we agreed to do the same.
We raced the storm back to our hostel on our bikes, weaving through traffic who were making similar journeys back home. The thunder crackled behind us, and became louder every passing minute. Suddenly the droplets started to fall, and flashes of lightning illuminated the hills around us every 30 seconds. The storm was winning the race. Soon, the light rain turned into a heavy monsoon, making it almost impossible to see whilst riding. With seconds to spare before abandoning the ride and look for shelter, the bright sign of our hostel appeared. We pulled over and stood dripping in the doorway, counting ourselves lucky that we made it home.
After a couple of nights of soaking up the sun and rain on Koh Lanta, we ventured inland towards the coastal district of Krabi. The main towns of Ao Nang and Krabi were pretty soulless, filled with endless arrays of tourist stalls, western restaurants and resorts. However, in between the two main towns lay a small beach called Railay. Renowned for its incredible cliffs and caves towering over sandy beaches, it has been a famous location for backpackers and climbers for many years. Unfortunately over time, it has become increasingly popular, and therefore hotels had started to crowd the coastline. Due to the vertical cliffs which wrap around the area, it’s impossible to access Railay other than by boat. On arrival in Krabi, I spent a night in Ao Nang before excitedly taking a taxi boat to Railay, which lay just around the corner.
Golden cliffs arose from the ground, draped in deep green plants. White sands were greeted by soft turquoise waves, where tourists soaked up the sun. As we are currently in the low season, there were relatively few other travellers around, so at times we bad much of the beach to ourselves.
We were actually staying in a village next door called Tonsai. Whereas Railay has definitely been breached by the tourist train, Tonsai is still a hidden refuge for backpackers, where you can experience a simple life and mix with the locals. Even when speaking with other backpackers, they would ask how we had heard of Tonsai. You could see why they wanted to keep it a secret; the village was a beautifully simple assortment of bungalows, alongside various local restaurants and bars, untouched by the touristic town next door.
Power is supplied by generators within the village, so your bungalow fan, light and socket would only be on from 6pm to 6am (which generally meant your hut would heat up quickly to unfortunately wake you up around 7am). Bars were put together with an assortment of wood, with thatched roofs on top. Hammocks lay between the pillars and cushions were strewn across the floors. Quirky memorabilia and flags decorated the walls and reggae and rock music filled the air. Along with your regular bar drinks, they would concoct some makeshift versions of classic cocktails if you were brave enough. Beyond the bar menu, you could easily ask for a locally cultivated joint, magic mushrooms, or even ‘jungle juice’ (a concoction made from boiled coca leaves). In this secluded area, no one was really watching and you could pretty much do what you want.
During low tide, the waves retracted and the rocks beneath revealed themselves so you could walk between Railay and Tonsai. However at all other times, you would have to venture through the surrounding jungle or alternatively clamber over some boulders which separated the two beaches. So we spent much of the daytime in Railay, and the evening was spent in Tonsai. We were joined by Cassie and Cristina when the sun was shining (as they were staying in the air conditioned comfort of Ao Nang), and spent our time in the water, exploring the area and creeping through the surrounding caves.
The days were always hot, and the nights were always wet. With highs of 40 degrees, and nighttime lows of around 28, it was always sticky environment. Luckily, you quickly grew accustomed to your constant state of sweat, and a cold shower was the luxury you always looked forward to. Toby and I also turned 26 on our final night in Tonsai, so we celebrated falling onto the wrong side of 25 in style. It rained every night we were staying there but that night it rained the heaviest, causing the pathways that ran through the village to temporarily transform into small rivers. Fortunately we could watch the monsoon madness from the comfort of our cushioned bar seats as the night continued to its blurry end.
And then suddenly, we were gone. After an amazing month of embracing the islands and coastline, I finally head north towards to jungles and waterfalls of the mainland. Hopefully I’ll be able to get rid of some of this sand…