Tonsai (Thailand): the rock climbing paradise

I set foot in Thailand on the last Saturday of November. It was early in the morning and the sky was still a bit dark, just waking up. Stepping out of my bus at the Malaysia-Thailand border, the first sunbeams of the day welcomed me. The “Land of Smiles”…

Except that while I waited an hour and half in line to get through customs, my bus left. Just like that, without reason and without me noticing.

Without me.

And with my backpack (which means more or less my life).

It finally ended well, as I only lost a bag of fruit and a delicious banana bread. Nothing dramatic when you’re in Thailand.

So I went to Ao Nang by my own means. Two days later, I had a small bungalow in Tonsai (one of four beaches connected together, but accessible only by boat), sleeping a few minutes’ walk from the ocean.

To summarize, Tonsai is a magical place that I strongly recommend to all climbers. The beach is a little heavenly with virtually perfect palm trees, a fantastic climate and almost sublime water.

I say “a little” and “almost” because in Tonsai, climbing is the only absolute. It is also the only religion of an awesome community.


I didn’t really have any expectations for Thailand. In fact, I expected to be disappointed, especially about the idyllic beaches being soiled by human vices and Mother Nature hurt by industrial tourism. Binge drinking, endless parties and pollution, this is what I expected to find next to this turquoise water.

I was not completely wrong.


Bring your hammock and sleep for free on Tonsai Beach!

Yet there was a variable that would change the whole equation, and that I had forgotten. I was not forced to travel in Thailand this way. It was even possible to experience the country according to my interests, and see what it had to offer.

All that to say that in two weeks in Tonsai, two weeks of pure existential delight, I spent some of my best moments of 2015. Swimming, kayaking, walking on the beach, on a “slackline”, eating exotic fruits non-stop and rock climbing. Especially rock climbing. Everywhere.

I could never say it enough: if you like climbing, this place is a must. Routes for all levels (from 5 to 9), feet in the sand, chest in the sun, staring into a postcard-like horizon and absolutely fantastic crags. I still can’t get over the awesomeness of this place.





There is also many multipitch opportunities – this idea to climb several pitches one above the other to reach higher (as Francis and I did in the French Alps and with Sam in Spain) – and I had the chance to do some with an experienced Brazilian friend. A perfect day…




And then, deep water soloing (DWS). There are great spots for it all around the islands. DWS means to climb in a swimsuit with only climbing shoes – without a rope and gear – on a cliff plunging into the sea. An activity that makes me want to raise my hat to God. Seriously this place is great.



Thank you, really, for inventing this.



One thought on “Tonsai (Thailand): the rock climbing paradise

  1. Pingback: My best travel moments of 2015 | Poet without borders

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