When we were traveling in Thailand in 2009, Sky and I were both rock climbing at the time. We loved rock climbing so much, that we packed our harnesses and shoes with us on that trip. We opted to leave our rope at home because, my god, rope is heavy and certainly nothing you want to lug around on your back for five weeks.
Before our island hopping really began, we spent a night at Kho Sak National Park where we stayed at “Our Jungle House”. Upon arrival I couldn’t get over where we were. We were in the middle of a tropical jungle with rooms levitated into the tree canopies above us. It looked the the Ewok village in Return of the Jedi. At this trip in the journey, I had caught a bug and I was not feeling good. Luckily, my doctor gave us a couple of Z packs before we left for our trip. As soon as I started feeling the gunk, I started taking them. Day two is always the worst and that happened to fall on the arrival day of our journey to the park. We went upstairs and I crashed out for most of the day. At one point I woke up to gibbons playing on our deck.
The following day wasn’t too much better. I was still sick, but we managed to go on a small hike about 3-4 kilometers (about 1.8 – 2.5 miles). It wasn’t long, but we wound taking a bath in the river and saw butterflies, dragonflies, and a monitor lizard basking itself on the sunny rocks. As we strolled back to the Ewok village, something caught my peripheral vision as something black slithered it’s way past us. We were walking on a path, and a raised ledge was above our heads expanding into the jungle. I screamed a little knowing that I had just saw a snake. Sure enough, about thirty feet from us (10 yards), a black King Cobra sat coiled staring at us while it’s hood exposed itself to us. Sky thought it would be funny to antagonize it a little and hissed at it. I practically jumped on his back. We made it back unscathed, but it left a vivid memory in my mind for the rest of my life.
After a quick night in Phuket Town (which isn’t really worth a mention except to steer clear), and in Krabi (which was delightful), we boarded a sawng thaew to Ao Nang. It was about a ten minutes long boat ride out to Ton Sai were the name of the game is rock climbing on this island. Serious rock climbers from around the world come to this island to take on some of the most difficult routes in the world. I felt terribly out of place because as much as I enjoyed climbing, it wasn’t something that I lived to do. It was also very intimidating to see serious women climbers with buffed out limbs ready to tackle the rock. My long and lanky body was more of a crab climbing rock and not a spider. It would have been easier to be a spider. But I crab I was and still am. We did sign up for a guided climb the day after we arrived, so all intimidation aside, I was committed.
Our bungalow at the Countryside Resort was lovely. It was almost like the jungle tree houses where we had just come from, except lower to the ground, and closer in proximity to the other houses around us. People are showering right now, and getting ready to go out to the bars on the beach for the evening. We had no idea what was in store for us until we got down there ourselves. I was a giant party happening on the beach. Alcohol, pot (which is highly illegal in Thailand), and a lot of other things being passed around without the worry of having a crackdown by local police. It was insane. One bar that we went to had a slackline. As soon as we came back to Hawaii, I bought one for Sky’s birthday. That’s how crazy fun it is. And to see how balanced and good these people where on it. I stood entranced for the most part just watching the agility.
We spend the following day rock climbing at various spots on the island with our tour guide. First we took a long boat to our first climbing area. We each got three climbs in, the last rating a 510. It was a hard climb and I must have peeled off at least a dozen times. But I made it with a lot of perseverance and determination. We then climbed up another route that lead us through a cave to the other side of the island. We each rappelled down and walked across Railey West beach to Railey East. There we did a few more climbs before it started down-pouring. We got rained out and took coverage at a coffee bar. Once the rain past we walked back to Ton Sai for a last climb. There were three of us on that tour group that day. Myself, Sky, our tour guide, and this guy Ryan from Australia. He was a really good climber, he did a 513 or something like that. That night after we showered and got ready for another night out, I watched the lightening light up the night sky illuminating the mountainous peaks that we had just climbed. We both loved Ton Sai and wished that we could stay there forever.
Lao Liang is another beast within itself. We took a ferry boat out to the secluded island where only a handful of us were allowed to visit. We spent a few night there glamping. If you have never heard of glamping you should google it right now. It’s glamorized camping to sum it up. Think of camping with the luxury of having a fan in your tent, with beautifully decorated linen and lights. Its the way I’ve often thought about retirement. We met Beat and Franca on that island excursion and immediately hit it off with both of them. There are both photographers and were from Swizerland from the Swiss Alps region. We did some more rock climbing there, and met more rock climbers. We also met Sue and Alix on that trip. Two lovely ladies from Australia that really helped push me to give it all I had on the rocks. They were awesome, and I really liked their sense of humor and positive personalities. I can’t tell you how many times we joked about the Crocodile Hunter and all of the words that aren’t used in Australia. Like “Crikey!”.
We took a long boat out to a beautiful island for some pristine snorkeling. I have never seen such crystal clear water, and vivid colored coral in my life. The ocean with swimming with more beautiful water than we have here in Hawaii. Probably because of proximity, and not many people make it out to that island. The two days later, Sky came up to me and asked if I wanted to go kayaking. The nice thing about the island was that all of the rental was included with the cost of our stay. So taking out a kayak was as easy as slipping it into the water. We started casually kayaking around the island, taking in the limestone cliffs and the stalactites that hung from parts of eroded rock. Many times I thought about the island as a church as it’s sheer limestone cliffs towered over us like a cathedral. Streaks of quartz glimmered in the sunlight which in return refracted off of the oceans emerald water giving it the appearance of a mirage.
Once we traversed past the second island we decided to head out to the snorkeling spot where we had been two days before on Tangeng Island. It seemed like an extremely long paddle but with some cajoling from Sky, we headed out into open water. The open ocean water was calm that day and hot. it was like traversing the desert sands except with water surrounding us. I tried to forget about the large aquatic world that lived below us and reminded myself several times to relax. Just then a large fish jumped gingerly out of the water. It only took us about forty-five minutes to get to the island. Which felt much longer. But once we were there, we had the whole island to ourselves and were greeted by the familiar rocks and beach that we so enjoyed two days prior. The waters were teaming with yellow, green tan, flat, mushroom shaped and pipe shaped corals, fish and hundreds of fish swimming around us. We saw sea cucumbers and sea anemones with long spikes giving us a peak of yellow and purple iridescent centers that were mesmerizing. We left the island around 3:15pm which was a good decision because it took us two hours to get back to our island because we were fighting the current. When we made it back it was 5pm and everyone was concerned for us. They were about to send out a search party. We told them of our adventure and what we had accomplished and was told that trip was about 10 kilometers (6.21 miles). No one had ever done that before, so we got a free drink from the bar. Cheers to the Chamberlains.