Sunday I really needed to leave Thailand as after exactly two months my Visa expired at this day. There are only two train from Hat Yai to the border and there are no longer ordinary trains which cross the border, except for this super expensive tourist train from Bangkok to Singapore. And as I’m for sure not a morning person, I opted for the afternoon train. It was pretty packed and I just realised later, that most of the people were tourists from Malaysia. The shuttle train only stops once in between Hat Yai and Padang Besar. Luckily the final destination is the Malaysian train station of Padang Basar. Hence, after leaving the train you queue up for the Thai border controls. Some, of the Malaysian guys knew this and were heading fast to them. After that the Malaysian border control is next to it. But as foreigner you’ve to go to another desk anyway. Then, buying a ticket for the commuter train, is just on the first floor. They do accept Thai Baht, but have a pretty bad exchange rate. Nevertheless, I opted for that and hurried back to the same platform, where the commuter train already waited. Luckily I made it, and after about 30 minutes I continued my ride. I wasn’t sure, if the commuter trains run each hour, so I was happy to get into it, and also happy to get a seat. As the train seemed to be quite popular in Malaysia. And it got even more stuffed later on, so that also the aisle was full of people. The final destination was Butterworth. From here one can just walk to the ferry pier for George Town at Penang island. Once in Malaysia the weather become pretty hazy and it seemed that it had just rained a few hours ago. In George Town I strolled through the city to my hostel and enjoyed the evening atmosphere and already detected some of the street art, just by accident.
One week ago I met at noon with Meg, and she offered me also her couch for the next night. We decided to go first to a floating market. This one was quite small and mainly focused to food. But luckily Meg got a small flower plant at a stall nearby for her place (No necessity to water, just spray it from time to time…pretty easy maintenance😏). Compared to the one I visited near Bangkok, that one was missing a bit of flair and was even smaller. Afterwards we headed to an artisan market. As Meg is Art teacher she got some inspiration here and for me it was interesting just to stroll around and have a look at all the craft work. The most interesting again was, first you have to go through the security controls but the first stall was selling all kinds of knifes and machetes. Well, that makes definitely sense. On the way back we walked along a street, and as this was directly opposite to the university a lot of hipster like Cafés were located there. Afterwards we were heading to another night market, where you can buy different things. But I don’t need anything as my backpack is already full, so again I just could have a look at all the stuff. Finally we headed to a BBQ of her colleagues…yes I got it, they were all teachers 🙈 at international schools. As I was the only non-native English speaker, it was sometimes hard to follow all the different dialects and accents. But I think I was really polite, and could follow them mainly.
Friday morning one week ago, after a stopover in Krabi and more than four weeks staying in this area, I finally continued my journey. Hence, in the morning I directly took a songthaew from my hostel to the bus station. I thought it’s well ahead before the minivan leaves. Indeed it was, as the minivan was fully booked and I needed to wait another hour. Good for breakfast, but bad for lunch, as I guessed already, that the time schedule could be a bit tough. And indeed, we arrived at Thung Song exactly at 12:19, the time when then train was supposed to leave. Nevertheless, as the last time I arrived exactly with the same train…and was two hours late…I also hoped that the train would be a bit late today. In the end, I had some luck and could directly jump into the train, but for sure without a ticket. That, was also not a problem, and I could buy one in the train, as well as some food for lunch. In the next about four hours we passed several rubber plantations, but due to the dry season, they seemed not to operate. Once I arrived in Hat Yai I was supposed to meet my host, as he confirmed just before. But somehow suddenly he changed his mind and never showed up. I tried to hook up withanother one, but that was a bit too complicated for me. So in essence, I ended up in a small hostel, and it seemed that I was the only guest in the dorm room…lucky me 😏. In the evening I went to a bar for some live music and meet up with Meg another CS’er. We got some beer and she introduced me to her colleagues or other expats. We met also one German guy, which is living since 17 years in Hat Yai. He told us also about his experience of one of the bomb attacks which happened here several years ago. Just by a big luck, he wasn’t affected, as he was just sitting in the cafe where it happened one hour before the actual detonation.
Monday morning three weeks ago I headed to the pier for the longtail boats at the eastern side of Ko Yao Noi. As I again didn’t want to pay the ridiculous price of 100 Baht for the songthaew I hitched with a scooter to the pier. Just to arrive on time. Unfortunately, one of the longtail boats was not working, so instead a speed boat was operating, but slightly more expensive. On the boat I met a Swiss couple with two small children who were travelling in South-East Asia for three months. In Talen Pier there were massive offers from taxi drivers but we refused to take their service of 500 Baht to get to Ao Nang, instead I took twice a songthaew for just 20% of the price. In Ao Nang I stayed only for 5 minutes, until my longtail boat to Tonsai Beach left. Tonsai Beach is the centre of the rock climbing community of SEA, not to be confused with Tonsai Town on Ko Phi Phi, which is a pure party island. Even if there were the first sport climbing routes set up in the late 1980’s.
I stayed there for about 2.5 weeks. It was no longer high season. Hence, accommodation was quite cheap, but temperatures were rising every day. Hence, already after the approach you were completely sweated and climbing in the sun is completely impossible. Depending on the alignment of the crag we started climbing just in the afternoon. The crags directly at Tonsai beach were most popular, especially in the morning, but also most polish as people were telling me. In the end I never tried one of the routes. I met almost only nice people around there, except the German owner of the Basecamp climbing shop. She is yelling at people a.k.a. customers when they enter her shop. Even as she is a very prominent person and one of the driving forces of the Thaitanium project (replacing all stainless steel bolts with titanium bolts, due to severe corrosion problems of stainless steel in limestone with salt water atmosphere), I didn’t want to go there and rent gear. Instead I went to Max next to the Chill Out Bar.
In this time I was staying I could do my first 6b onsight, climbed freely (without aid) a 6b+ and was seconding a 6c and super hard 6c+ (where the first ascend was made by Kurt Albert). Beside rock climbing Tonsai is still (let’s see what happens after the new construction works is finished) a relaxed area, where electricity and hence, WiFi, is only available in the evening. The atmosphere is definitely special, completely different to neighbouring resort driven Railay, like an oasis. In the evening I mostly went to Viking Bar with “Happy Hour all night” and Chase the Devil sounds from the background.
Belaying Partner: Benni, Simon
- The Groove Tube 6a+ (onsight, only start boulder hard, otherwise super easy)
- Boobtube 6b (lead, the crux was a bit overhanging)
- White Hot Hemias 6b+ (lead, but only up to the 2nd last bolt, afterwards only small holds)
Belaying Partner: Olaf
- Up in Smoke 6a+ (lead, large holds, but steps are polished)
- For Helga 6a+ (onsight, very nice route, just two overhanging cruxes and nice rest positions in between)
Belaying Partner: Kolja, Vanessa
- Caveman 6a+ (lead, very hard start boulder, and pumped after 2nd last bolt)
- Live & Let Thai 5 (lead, probably the hardest 5 in my live)
- Getting to know you 6b (lead, very nice route, but circumvent the overhanging crux)
Belaying Partner: Simon
Phra Nang Beach:
- Money Maker 6a (lead)
- Small Change 6a/5 (top-rope and cleaned the route, and set up Fertilite from the top)
- Fertilite 6c+ (Seconding, the crux is really hard and almost nothing for the feet. My first route I finished in that grade at all. Was the first route at this sector, was set up 30 years ago by Kurt Albert and others)
- Circus Oz 6a+ (onsight, very nice climb and view from the anchor)
Belaying Partner: Olaf
- Cobra Head 6a (lead, crux was pretty hard, but otherwise nice)
- Old snake 6b (lead, with two times break at the two crux, especially the first is a bit tricky, but not really hard)
- Snake Whiskey 6a+ (onsight, has lots of holds)
- Snake Skin 6a+ (onsight, nice route and moves)
Belaying Partner: Camille, Matthew
Wee’s Present Wall:
- I don’t know 6a (onsight)
- Same Same, but different 6b+ (lead, A0 at first bolt to prevent ground fall, after start boulder nice route)
- Monkey Love 6b (onsight, my first onsighted 6b at all, nice route between the tufas)
- Mala Mujer 6b (lead, missed the top out from the last bolt, and crossed over to the 6a+ next to it)
Belaying Partner: Matthew(, Camille)
- Fit to be Thaid 6a+ (onsight, very nice and exposed route)
- The Sluggard Prince 6b (lead, super hard overhanging start boulder up to the first bolt)
- White Hot Hermias 6b+ (lead with headlight as it was already dark. Stuck again at the same position, but understood the next move much better, but was too exhausted to make it)
Belaying Partner: David (he lead all the hard stuff onsight!)
Hidden World Wall:
- Space Head Gone 6b (lead, short climb)
- Acid-mouth Wife 6b+ (only lead to the crux, seconding the whole climb afterwards)
- Equatorial 6c (seconding, awesome route along the left arete of the large cave, super nice anchor point with fantastic view)
- Caveman 6a+ (leading, and belayed David from top, with going through the cave to Escher Wall afterwards)
Belaying Partner: Nicole (onsighted the first 4 routes, always before me, so the quickdraws were already pre-clipped for me)
- Guardian of the Shards of Human 5 (onsight, with normal shoes, as my toe still hurt from my climbing shoes)
- I don’t want your bricks 6a (onsight, easier than graded)
- Tonsai space Program 6a (onsight, with large steps, easier than graded)
- Actually Jaman 6a+ (onsight, grade only at the start boulder, after second bolt not harder than a 3)
- Infected mushroom 6a+ (lead, nice and easy route under the roof, overhanging moves feels like graded)
Belaying Partner: Gery, Natalie
Wee’s Present Wall:
- Roi-Et 6a (onsight, hard start and hard finish)
- I don’t know 6a (redpoint, with Trail running shoes to save my toes)
- A man can tell a 1000 lies 6a (onsight, super nice fun route)
- Same Same, but Different 6b+ (lead, my first 6b+ I ever lead, after working about one hour at the start boulder, I finally managed to climb that move freely without aid)
Belaying Partner: Gery, Natalie, Blain and a French guy which just popped up
- Easy 5a (onsight, part of Lord of the Fives, just did it because Natalie and Blain were exercising on it)
- Desayuno De Nono 6b (lead, nice 35m route, but got the worst belay of my total stay from this arrogant Frensh guy)
Deep Water Soloing (DWS):
We, Bobby, Heiko, Sophia, Pia, Kyle, David and me, rent a longtail boat and a kayak. As the famous DWS spot at Ko Poda was closed by the national park, we headed to two other spots. It has no longer that spectacular Stalactites but in the end it was quite nice. I just scratched my skin on the last route, as my right foot slipped away and the rock was pretty sharp. But luckily I just felt about 10 metres into the deep water. Doing it for one day is nice, but I guess it won’t become my famous discipline in rock climbing.
Me onsighting “Fit To Be Thaid”. It’s an awesome route with spectacular views, only topped by “Equatorial” also at Thaiwand Wall.
Friday two weeks ago I went to Ko Yao Noi, as several people recommended it as calm island with no tourists on it…well, maybe that was true a couple of years ago. Now the tourist infrastructure is more than well developed. I took the speed boat from Ko Jum, as this was the only direct connection between these two islands. Once I embarked it, I was surrounded by all the people coming from Ko Lanta and heading to Phuket, and finally back in the tourist bubble. Once I saw that, I was more than happy, that I haven’t been to Ko Lanta. There were songthaews waiting at the pier of Ko Yao Noi, and I thought oh nice. But they wanted to charge me a tourist price of 100 Baht for a 3 kilometres drive 🤨…seriously. In Krabi a songthaew costs 15 Baht whereas in Bangkok you’re not charged more than 7(!) Baht for a half an hour and 10 kilometres drive…and now you wanna charge me 100 Baht…what the fuck. No, I’m not going to pay that price. And I don’t give a fuck to your printed price list! So after calming down with a cold coke in a nearby restaurant, where I had some nice conversations with the locals…as they seemed to be pretty surprised that I was walking along here, I was hitching with two scooters to the east side of the island, where the majority of the accommodations are located. So luckily, I didn’t even need to pay for the songthaew, but as all the other tourists are doing so, “as it is still cheaper than in Europe” – that’s not an argument, it’s not surprising that the locals now have all new Toyata Hillux pick up trucks with double cabin and air conditioning. Hence, I already loved the island from the first moment.
As I was now on the island, I decided to make the best out of it. Therefore, Saturday two weeks ago I went to a beach in the afternoon. It was pretty lonely, only a handful tourists were there in the first 5 minutes. Afterwards I had the beach for my own. But the water quality was not pretty good and there were lots of rocks, if you want to get into the water.
Sunday morning two weeks ago I rented a kayak and paddled to Ko Nok in about 30 min. The island is beautiful, and sometimes you see even monitor lizards on it. I was just 5 minutes alone, after the next kayak arrived and after one hour the first boat with tourists came over. So I decided to leave, as now several of them will populate the island until late afternoon.