My journey from the island of Koh Samui to Tonsai Bay near Krabi was the lengthiest & most complex one-day trip of my travel through Thailand, but also the most eventful. I travelled more than 300km by minibus, ferry, modern bus, pickup taxi, old bus, moped taxi, longtail boat, walked through the ocean and climbed a dark path through narrow rock crevices after sunset – all in one day and with my full baggage.

When I came to the island of Koh Samui, I had booked a room at some hostel a day before. I already had paid for two days in advance, when I realized that not only my hostel was located in the middle of a village full of hotels and tourist shops, but also had some nasty dark spots in the bathroom that looked suspiciously like mold.

I tried to make the best of it and left for the beach. It wasn't easy finding my way past all these hotels, that were plastered one after another, standing between me and the ocean. So I started using the main entrance to some hotels, acting as a guest, only to sneak past the huge hotel pool to the sandy beach. After sunset back in the hostel I found that there were shelves with DVDs spread all over the house; and my room had a DVD player. I only found two interesting DVDs that didn't have their discs missing: a documentary about some special kind of jazz music and a quirky comedy called "Nacho libre". That was my only evening sitting in front of the TV in Thailand, so it was a welcome change.

The tourist village

The best part of my visit to that tourist hotel village was, that there were only few tourists. I felt that the taxi drivers there were getting really annoying: When I was walking down the streets, being seemingly the only tourist, every passing taxi driver would honk at me, offering to take me somewhere. After two days I was glad to leave this place.

Now I wanted to go somewhere quiet and peaceful. So I searched the islands map for green spots with nice beaches and used that information to filter the different accommodations. I found a promising place situated at the northern coast. Right after breakfast I checked out and headed to my new destination. Its name: "Escape Beach Resort".

I decided not to go there by taxi, but use a "Songthaew" - a pickup truck with two benches on the back. This is the preferred means of transport for locals. Those trucks always travel along a certain route. If you want to get on, you simply waive at the driver. You can get off where you want and pay a small fee to the driver.

a trip in the pickup taxi

After getting off the Songthaew at the main road, I walked some minutes to the place where Google Maps thought "Escape Beach Resort" would be. As it turned out there was no beach in sight, but a small office building. I was amazed how helpful the young lady at this office was, even though she never had heard of my destination's name. A couple of phone calls later she gave me detailed instructions how to get there. She said I should take a taxi to a certain hotel and my place wouldn't be far from it. Then she told me, I should certainly NOT WALK there.

Of course I tried to walk there. When I reached the main road I had to take a break in the shadow. The midday sun was burning onto the asphalt and made every step more exhausting. Another Songthaew brought me 1km closer to my destination. I got off and walked another kilometer along a small road into the forrest. It took me onto a big hill with the hotel, which I was told about earlier. A security guard looked at me in disbelief, while I was walking past him in the oppressive heat with my huge backpack and my shoulder bag.

A steep path led down the hill and I could get a first glimpse of the place, where I was going to spend more time than planned.

Escape Beach Resort

Escape Beach Resort consisted of a small area with serveral huts placed tightly together. Right next to the beach was a small swimming pool and a restaurant. When I entered my own hut I realized that everything there looked stylish & brand new, because as it turned out, the whole resort had just been built and opened only a few months earlier. Although I had booked and paid a single room, I slept in a double bed.

They had around 60 rooms, but I only saw maybe 15 other guests. From time to time I had the area around the pool for myself. The beach was literally empty. Sometimes I could walk a kilometer along the ocean without seeing anybody.

the empty beach

I spent my time relaxing, reading, listening to music & podcasts, swimming, walking around the beach and enjoying delicious thai food in the restaurant. After the busy streets of Bangkok and that village full of hotels I could finally come to a rest and process all those new impressions I had gathered so far. I decided to stay there some more days, changed to a bigger room with direct view of the ocean and relaxed even harder.

The time passed by and I remembered that I had to get back to Bangkok eventually to catch my flight home. I had heard about the incredible landscape around Krabi and figured out, I still had enough time to go there before flying back. So I bought a bus ticket to Krabi, booked a room and also arranged a flight from Krabi to Bangkok.

I was picked up by a minibus in the morning together with a french family. The driver placed a small sticker with the company's name on my shirt. We were running late, so the driver was quite in a hurry. The french family was increasingly freaking out because of the driver's risky overtakings. But their screaming didn't impress him much and we arrived at the port just in time to put our baggage into a 90ies style coach and enter the ferry.

Ferry leaving Koh Samui

The brown seats under deck had big holes in their upholstery. In front of the first row was an old, middle sized TV screen. It was showing some thai soap opera, but the antenna didn't seem to work very well. I spent most of the time watching the other mostly local passengers and worrying that I didn't lose that sticker. It had already come off twice and I wasn't sure if they would let me get on the bus without it. After all, the staff on the coach didn't seem to talk english.

The bus first went to Surat Thani, the capital of the province. Before we got there, suddenly the coach came to a halt near a big intersection. A small family from England and I had to get off the bus. They gave us our baggage and drove off, leaving us confused.

A minute later a pickup truck stopped. The driver looked at our stickers and helped us get on the back of the truck. We went into Surat Thani and stopped in front of a small shop.

Songthaew Taxi

Between paintings of Buddha and golden decorations I saw a banner hanging over the checkout counter, showing the same logo as our stickers. I was told someone would pick me up 15 minutes later. So I sat down on the floor to wait. The english family was eating ice cream, when I noticed a 20cm long centipede running between my legs. At least I was calm enough to take a picture.

giant centipede, seen while waiting

Eventually the family, who was on their way home, was taken to the airport and a guy showed up, to drive me to my bus. When we arrived, a chubby man saluted him like his brother. He turned out to be the conductor of the bus, that would take me to Krabi.

The bus had seen better days. Rusty steel pipes covered by synthetic leather formed the seats. Additional cooling fans had been installed under the roof. The rear view mirror in the front was hung with garlands of colorful flowers. But my favourite part was the gear leaver. It had a big, red striped sock pulled over it and a small blue towel was affixed on top of it.

The old bus

When my bus finally drove off, it was 3/4 full. All the other passengers seemed to be Thais. Apparently neither the conductor, nor any other passenger spoke English. Our route took us straight through the jungle. We came across multiple palm oil plantations and some small villages. Every couple of minutes we stopped to let someone get on or off the bus. After 160km and countless stops we arrived near Krabi.

I walked along the road and hopped on a Songthaew, that took me into the city. From my guidebook I knew that my destination Tonsai Bay was only reachable by boat. I came across some moped taxis and asked one of the drivers how to get there. He gave me a helmet, I fastened the straps of my huge backpack, climbed on the passenger seat and off we went. I had to cling to the driver to not get blown off by the airstream, as my backpack sticked out over my head. We went west and soon had to stop at a gas station. While filling up the tank I admired the steep rocks covered in green, surrounded by dense vegetation.

at the gas station with the Moped taxi

He dropped me off at a small pier with a lot of longtail boats. The sky started turning red, as the day drew to a close. When I bought my ticket for the boat, I learned that there is no boat transfer to Tonsai Bay that late in the evening. Instead they could only take me to Railay Beach. From there I would have to continue on foot. Before we could put out to sea, I had to wait for more passengers. The boat would not leave with less than 6 people.

Our view of the coast from the water was quite spectacular. Bizarre rock formations covered in plants were moving slowly past our boat. Soon we could see the lights of Railay Beach.

Longtail boat

Railay was a small village, mostly inhabited by travellers. Actually it had two beaches: Railay East, where our boat landed, and Railay West, which was right next to Tonsai Bay where I was headed.

It was rather dark when I crossed the village, as they didn't have any streetlights, let alone real streets. Upon arrival at Railay West I encountered a couple of people sitting at the beach with candles, enjoying the last moments of sunset over the ocean.

Evening on the beach

I decided to change from flip-flops into sneakers and walked to the spot where a connecting road to Tonsai Bay was marked on Google Maps (which has been removed as of today). I came to the end of the beach but couldn't find any road or path. As I was searching around, some guy who also was looking for the path to Tonsai Bay, joined in and we searched together. Soon we were a small group of 6 people and found the entry.

We had to walk a few steps through ocean water, filling our shoes with sandy water. Then the real path began. The problem was, it was no ordinary path, but a steep and rocky trail through the forrest. Sometimes when it was especially steep, there was a rope affixed to the trees to hold onto. At one part we even had to squeeze through narrow rock crevices, where my backpack touched the walls on both sides. Then the trail led us downhill. Suddenly there were stairs cut into the rocks. From there on it was quite easy moving forward and soon we could see the beach of Tonsai Bay bathed in moonlight.

I walked to my accommodation. My feet hurt and I didn't have a real lunch yet. I got my own lodge in the forrest with a spacious bed and a balcony. After dinner I went straight to bed. I had no idea what I would find outside the next morning.

Tonsai Bay Resort

When I woke up and looked outside my window, I was impressed by the high rocky walls that were rising up less than 50m in front of my lodge. As I walked down the forrest to the restaurant at the beach, I noticed wild monkeys jumping through the trees above my head. While eating breakfast outside the restaurant, I overlooked the beach and watched some people climbing around 30m high in the rocks right next to the restaurant. Tonsai Bay is known for being a top climbing spot. Maybe 80% of the people I saw there were obviously climbers. I myself hadn't ever tried climbing before, but only a few months later, back in Germany, I took my first climbing class. I believe Tonsai Bay inspired me and I still climb regularly today.

High wall at Tonsai Bay

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Christoph Rohrer



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