We could see the lights of all the higher-end resorts surrounded by the limestone cliffs as the faint bar music resonated offshore to the boat. It was about a half an hour past sunset as our longboat cruised directly towards East Railay when we made the driver stop the boat about 1000 feet from shore, part of us slightly confused, but most of us just completely knowing that we were getting scammed. We had negotiated and pre-paid for a ride to Tonsai Bay, apparently another 45 minutes around the Railay peninsula, but now we’re sitting out in a boat arguing that they’re taking us to the wrong beach with a guy who doesn’t speak any English. We wanted to stay firm and tell these guys to “f*ck off,” but being tired and in need of more big Singhas, we forked over an additional 100 baht each (a little over $3.00) for a ride the rest of the way.
Even from a distance and in the dark, Tonsai Beach looked beautiful. Much like Railay, the shadows of the karsts were rising 500 feet above the resort and down low, the limestone walls were painted orange with floodlights. During low tide, Tonsai Bay is pretty much impassable with the exception of the Western edge and even there, the driver was ‘threading the needle’ in the dark between the seemingly invisible rocks as he slowly rammed the other ‘docked’ slowboats out of his way. We were still a ways out from shore when the driver hooked up the ladder and hopped out into thigh-deep water, grabbing our bags and motioning for us to get out. We were stumbling over rocks and mud through the dark the rest of the way in.
Tonsai is apparently a rock climber’s paradise and I think everyone else vacationing there knew it besides us. As I sat finishing up my second (amazing) iced coffee and contemplating moving onto a cocktail somewhere well-south of noon, the rock walls adjacent to the restaurant at Tonsai Beach Resort were covered in climbers and more were flocking down the beach with ropes and gear. I felt worthless, but I don’t climb and didn’t really feel like doing anything else. So the rest of the day a few, of us just hung at Chill Bar – a beach bar primarily made up of tiered bamboo decks covered in colorful pillows to lounge on. We watched some afternoon storms roll through, listened to some music, and drank a ton of Singha. Pretty perfect.