Freddie and I awoke with horrific hangovers. This was meant to be a climbing day, but we quickly changed our plans. We had two full days left in Tonsai – these were going to be climbing days but we instead decided, one day for drinking, one day for climbing. Today could be our drinking day.
We clambered onto our balcony, cracked open a bottle of Thai whisky – Hong Thong – and began playing Christmas songs at extremely high volume. It was mid December after all. Singing along at the top of our voices, ‘OH I WISH IT COULD BE CHRISTMAS…. EVERYDAAAAY!’ We managed to disturb everyone in the entire vicinity.
Eventually we’d drunk enough to totally overcome our hangovers, so we ventured out to the next bay around – West Railay. As there is no real path round to Railay from Tonsai you either have to get a boat, or follow a small overgrown path over a huge hump in the headland. It takes about 20 minutes and you must clamber over huge boulders, through think jungle vegetation and navigate around cracks and caverns that emerge at your feet as the waves have washed the ground away. Obviously we chose the path, as we could save money on a boat and of course it’s way more fun. But with our bellies full of Hong Thong it wasn’t exactly easy. We stumbled and clamoured through all the obstacles, but eventually emerged out on to the beach of West Railay. You basically just appear out of the jungle on top of a rock, and surprise all the sunbathers who had no idea there could be a path anywhere in the area. We hopped on to the beach and wandered through.
Railway is the main area for easily accessible climbing, but it’s also extremely built up. The beach out front is beautiful but sadly has a lot of boat traffic. It is still a stunning place to hang out and swim, with the huge cliffs rising out of the seas in the background.
But the heat was too intense for us – so we wandered through the built up centre of the island to get to East Railay. This is a stretch of hotels and restaurants that has a great chilled out vibe, but has no real beach to speak of – the concrete path just drops off straight into the ocean. Nonetheless it was a great place to hang out, drink beers and eat pizzas.
In fact we had a lot of beers, and even stopped at a tiny little bar where the owner let us play some criminally loud drum and bass through his speakers while he knocked us up some fantastic cocktails. We smashed a few drinks here, watching the waves crash on the mangroves at the shore and spotting a slow loris climbing in the trees above. But it soon got dark – and we had plans.
We’d discovered a bar earlier that day that had a Thai boxing ring. ‘This could be a good opportunity to experience the real Thailand’ we thought. So we grabbed some beers and settled in the crowd. A really annoying Westerner with dreadlocks became the announcer, and introduced first up some fire poi. I’m not gona lie, it was pretty impressive, but it felt a bit odd watching extremely young local boys spinning fire round for the entertainment of drunken foreigners. But we let it slide and waited for the main event – the boxing.
Two men came out, introduced by the guy in dreads. They began to fight, and it was pretty brutal. But the way it was happening didn’t sit right with Fred and I. It felt less like a competition between athletes and more like a show spectacular put on for tourists alone, in which the aim was to have as much violence as possible for the sake of it. No finesse or skill like you’d normally find in a bout. It all felt pretty exploitative, and so we left downhearted.
We headed back to the beach to journey home to Tonsai. On the beach it was pitch black. We were very drunk wandering along and spotted a weird light floating in the ocean. It was travelling alongside us and we couldn’t work out what it was. Some underwater creature with a luminescent trap on its nose? A local searching for precious items to sell in his shop? Aliens perhaps? Eventually we worked it out – someone was walking in the sea with a torch on his head. We laughed at the pointlessness of his situation, and christened him ‘Mr Lightyhead’.
Then we got to the path to Tonsai, over the rocks. Or at least we got to where the path was meant to be. My phone, our only source of light, had ran out of battery a few metres back. At the time we’d concluded it would be easy to navigate with our hands. But now we realised this was going to take a very, very long time.
We walked up to the shoreline and tried to work it out. Eventually we spotted a gap in the treeline which had to be the path. Only it was 3 foot deep in water. There was nothing for it, we had to wade. Into the sea we went, where to our delight our feet were lit up by a plethora of bioluminescence, helping us to avoid the sharp rocks hidden beneath the surface. But still at the entrance to the path we were feeling blindly with our hands, grasping for rock to see if it was smooth from the feet of travellers past. Eventually we found the start, and getting washed about in the waves pulled ourselves up. We’d made a start, but now our minds were filled with despair. It was pitch black. Utterly dark. We were going to have to feel our way every single inch, every tiny step. Soaking wet, covered in sand and dirt, we tried to overcome our trepidation.
But then he came out of the darkness. Came to rescue us from the smothering blackness of night. Our saviour. Mr Lightyhead.
By sheer coincidence he was returning to Tonsai too. His head torch, once mocked, now a ray of burning hope. We clung to him as he took us through the jungle, over the rocks, around the holes. Every step appreciating just how long this would have taken on our own.
After 20 minutes smiles beamed on our faces as we reached the sands of home and we thanked Mr Lightyhead with every bit of gratitude left in our hearts. We decided to find out who he was and where he lived so we could thank him properly the next day.
But when we turned around. He was gone.