What do you do when you’ve enjoyed 2 of the 3 things a region is famous for? Go for the third right? So we set out to complete the trifector with Daniel and Nina, our comrades from Finland.
Large limestone cliffs and pillars, or “karst”, are common throughout mainland SE Asia, but in Krabi they are particularly dramatic. Sea kayaking is one of the best ways to enjoy the karst, where caves and other eccentric formations are common as the sea meets the soft stone.
Our trip started with a 45 minute drive to Ao Thalane, where we got a quick briefing and got our “kayaks”. From there we paddled into the thick tangle of mangrove forests, where the trees use their roots like stilts, climbing directly out of the salt water. We planted a few new mangrove shoots ourselves, giving the mangrove a little help rebuilding since the Tsunami.
At times it seemed that we had become irreversibly trapped, but the cacophany of roots, like a mischievious group of mirrors, was only playing tricks on us. There always seem to be a channel just wide enough to fit a kayak through. We drifted slowly through the maze, only the sound of our paddles interrupting the rythym of the cicadas.
Next we entered a deep canyon; the steep limestone walls adorned with vines and dense green foliage. It would have been no surprise to see a teradactyl swoop by. Brightly colored tropical birds skimmed the water and the splash of large fish occasionally startled us. Monkeys played on the river banks, squeeking and hissing as they flipped from branch to branch. It was as if, for just a few hours, we were allowed to enter a different world.
Back on the mainland we splashed in a clear blue swimming hole, formed by a limestone sinkhole hundreds of feet deep. Elephants passed by and fish nibbled at our feet. The precarious rope swing, defying all engineering principles, stayed intact as we launched ourselves in. The truck dropped us back off at are starting point before we’d even dried off, leaving us happy but itching for more.
Sadly Daniel and Nina had to leave the next day, so we sent them properly with a feast followed by a spectacular sunset and small fire on the beach. Val and I showed of our impressive Muay Thai skills sending a clear message to passers by that this was a private party, only good friends allowed 🙂
The next day we relocating to Tonsai beach where we again rented a kayak and paddled into the sunset. Passing impressive formations, rickety long tail boats, and rock climbers clinging, impossibly, to the cliff faces. We met an English chap by the name of Tom. He happened to need a climbing partner, “how about two?” we asked, “the more the merrier” – perfect.
For another two days we defied gravity. As I shook the rust of my rock skills Val cast her fears aside and danced her way up routes she would have never considered just days before. Tom, having been there a while, took us to all the best spots where we left a little of our sweat and blood, a small trade for some of the best climbing in the world.
Our visit culminated in the January full moon. What better excuse to party? An impromptu group formed and we set off to conquer Tonsai beach. Over dinner we laughed heartily at a rendition of “Tom & the Tarantula” (worthy of it’s own post). Buckets of drinks, pulsing rythyms, heartfelt conversations, and a well timed Gloria Estefan song later we stumbled back to our trusty bungalow, reveling in the glory of goals accomplished.
Will we return someday? Perhaps a better question is: How long can we stay away?