Tonsai: Christmas, Sangsom, and Rock Climbing

One of my favorite places in Thailand was Tonsai. It’s a prime climber destination with a super mellow vibe throughout the beach town. I met 7 of my friends from the US here to celebrate Christmas last winter. We fit all 8 of us into two rooms with two twin beds in each room. Obviously, we were all very close.

The Peace Love Tacos crew altogether to celebrate the holidays.

I rolled in to Tonsai with one of the others from up north in the evening on Christmas Eve. Of course, everyone else was already there and they had been letting go of the idea of us showing up in time for Christmas because we had ended up on this beautiful farm that I talked about here on Amanda’s Wanderlust.

With about five different modes of transportation that day though—including a train, bus, open air taxi, scooter, and a long tail boat—we had made it in time to party all night and into Christmas morning with our festival family.

Our longtail boat that we had to wade out to waste high water to enter that took us to Tonsai.

Our Christmas in Tonsai had fire shows, live reggae, way too much Sangsom, slack lining, new friends and almost some accidental drunken enemies. Overall the night was raging and Christmas had been brought in with a bang; a bang that was ringing in the majority of our heads the next morning…

Sometimes, you just shouldn’t go buy that fourth bottle of Thai rum. Noted.

The rest of the stay in Tonsai was a little more active, thankfully. One day, three of us went rock climbing. As we were walking away from the rental place, Basecamp, I realized I had dropped a climbing shoe. Shit. We spent a minute looking, then I sent the boys ahead saying I’d catch up after dealing with my careless mistake. After searching some more and then revisiting the rental place again to see if someone turned it in, the women just loaned me another pair, said cross my fingers that someone finds it and go enjoy the climbing day.

Literally as I walked out from under the roof of their patio, it started raining. Lightly at first and within 20 yards it was pouring. So, I began running to the spot I knew I’d find the guys. I sprinted past the storefronts, receiving a few looks of pity and maybe a giggle or two, and by the time I was almost there, it stopped raining. Hilarious, I thought. I climbed up the spot, which was right at the beach, hiked in a ways to the sound of a group of people who were all climbing out from their dry spots to get ready to climb again, including my friends.

Everyone looked at me with big soft but humorous eyes; I was soaked to my skin. I met a few people and settled down for a minute to take off any bit of clothing I could without getting naked.

The view from where we were climbing.

I waited my turn, watching the more experienced climbers around me problem solve their way up the cliff side. At ground level, you couldn’t see the ocean because of trees surrounding us, but as you got about 20-30 feet up, you could turn around and see the entire beach along with some of the very large limestone rocks out in the water where fish were probably feeding and in the next couple days we would discover caves the size of kayaks.

The route we picked wasn’t too difficult but as I hadn’t climbed in years, it took me a minute to gather myself once I started climbing. But at the top of this route, there was a little perch, perfect for one person to sit and really look out at one of the most gorgeous beach views.

I love the free-spirit and commitment in climbers. Not just the people who climb here and there (like myself) but climbers. Those who go chasing cliff faces around the world and look at anything vertical and figure out how to climb it, in their heads at the very least.

It represents a certain resistance to societal norms and complacency. It is fed more and more every time one removes theirself from the comfortable feeling of having one’s feet more or less directly under one’s shoulders. Then even more with every successful and more difficult ascent.

Climbers are a little crazy. Going up against gravity for fun like that.  No doubt, there is wildness in it. Another beautiful absurdity that aids in the maintanence of a culture bewildered and dazzled with the abilities and potentials of our own species.

“Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.”

— Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary (1857)

Oh, and when I returned to Basecamp, the women running the shop told me I was as lucky as could be and that someone returned my missing climbing shoe! Thank you to whichever passerby saved me about fifty bucks that day.

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