Out Of Asia

After Koh Lao Liang, we returned to Ton Sai for a final week of climbing. By now our fitness was reasonably good, and so we spent this time trying ‘projects’ as well as visiting a couple of new areas. We also tried to swim in the warm sea as much as possible, and appreciate our incredible surroundings, aware that we would soon be moving on to a very different environment.

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View of Ton Sai and Railay from Pra Nang peninsula

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Another redpoint attempt on ‘Tidal Wave’ (7c) – close but no cigar…

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Luke onsighting the fantastic ‘April Fools’ (7b)

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The interesting approach route to ‘The Keep’

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Getting to know the local wildlife

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The end of another day

We’ve had a fantastic time in Ton Sai, and have loved the climbing here. Most of the rock is superb quality and really fun to climb, with lots of stalactites and pockets. The only thing that would improve the climbing would be a significant drop in temperature, but if you plan to do nothing but lay still on the beach then the conditions are just about perfect! It has also been great to stay in a single place for so long, having spent several months moving on every few days. We’ve met a lot of great people and will have fond memories of Ton Sai.

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Goodbye Fon kaaaaaa!

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A leaving treat

Leaving Ton Sai concludes the Asian portion of our trip – my first time in Asia, and Charlotte’s second. It is an incredible continent to travel on, with every climate, landscape and culture imaginable. Here are some of the things we have learned in Asia…

– You can transport absolutely anything on a scooter.
– The capacity of any vehicle is (n+1), where n is the current number of people on board (our best sightings were 5 people on a scooter and 12 in a car).
– An Indian taxi ride is not complete without at least one detour (for the driver to buy cigarettes / run an errand / pray at a shrine / any other number of possibilities) and several serious traffic violations.
– Road Law is closely based upon Natural Selection; small things move out of the way of big things
– ‘Health and Safety’ is a purely Western concept (watching a guy push a chainsaw forwards through a beam, in bare feet and with no safety equipment, was a highlight).
– The price for absolutely EVERYTHING is negotiable – from meals and hotel rooms, to currency exchange.
– When in Asia it is essential to be in all of your own photos, ideally pulling a strong pose.
– “Now” means soon (ish).
– “Soon” means at some point, maybe.
– “Same” almost always means different.

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Heavy Goods Vehicles

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A talented subject

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A tried and tested classic

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Going the extra mile

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For the perfect selfie

After an overnight stop in Bangkok we are moving on to New Zealand, one of the countries we have been most excited about visiting. Aside from the obvious attractions, we are very much looking forward to some Western comforts – 24 hour electricity, hot water, pavements, being able to drink tap water… 6 months in Asia has left us with very low standards!

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Far From The Madding Crowd

If there was a heaven for climbers Koh Lao Liang would be it. We heard about this island from a friend back home, and so several months ago we booked a stay in one of the “luxury tents” on offer. We thought that after a couple of weeks of learning how to climb again in Ton Sai we would be fit enough to get the most out of a new destination.

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The approach

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Koh Lao Liang

Koh Lao Liang refers to a pair of islands in the Phetra National Marine Park in the Trang province, and it is the smaller of the two which hosts the private beach resort. The islands are located off the southern coast of Thailand, and from Ton Sai it is a 2 hour minivan journey followed by another hour in a long tail boat. The only accommodation on the island is a series of large tents, which can host a total of around 40 people at any one time. Looking out over the Andaman sea you get a sense of being far removed from the tourist scene, which in many ways detracts from the beauty of some of the more popular Thai Islands.

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A tent with a view

Koh Lao Liang is the perfect climbing destination for many reasons, but not least because of the enforced climbing times. When in Ton Sai to get the coolest temperatures you need to climb early in the morning or late in the afternoon; but due to the aspect of the crag on Koh Lao Liang climbing is only possible after 11am, meaning getting up early was totally unnecessary. The ocean breeze was also a welcome relief after the unrelenting heat in which we had been climbing on Ton Sai.

Keeping occupied during the free mornings was no problem at all. We would spend time enjoying breakfast (in particular the Nutella!), followed by swimming/snorkelling in the crystal clear waters and sunbathing on the pearly white sands. Its position in a National Marine Park means that you are never far from tropical fish that wouldn’t look out of place in Finding Nemo; and in fact this was our preferred referencing tool when describing what we had seen while snorkelling and kayaking around the island. For both of us this was our first time snorkelling – and what an introduction it was. Everywhere you looked there were a kaleidoscope of coloured fish who were making homes in the newly formed coral (much of the existing coral died when the island was hit by the tsunami of 2004).

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Circumnavigating the island

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Like a fish to water

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Another stressful morning

With only 5 days on the island we were keen to get as much climbing in as possible. Like Ton Sai the climbing on Koh Lao Liang is characterised by huge stalactites and long bulging tufas; however the routes here receive far fewer ascents. This means the holds are less slippy, but at the same time some of the holds and stalactites can break off! By the end of our time we had both made good progress and climbed some amazing routes. My highlights were an onsight of ‘Captain Thin’ (6b+), and a redpoint of ‘The Golden Triangle’ (6c+) on the iconic Red Wall. Luke managed an onsight ascent of ‘Fool’s Gold’ (7b+), a route which he had seen photographed in a climbing magazine years ago, and had wanted to try ever since finding out it was on Koh Lao Liang. All of the days achievements were suitably celebrated over dinner with friends, beer and beautiful moonlit views of the ocean.

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‘Fool’s Gold’

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‘The Golden Triangle’

We are now back on Ton Sai with a renewed drive and a list of classic routes to complete, and with only a week left the clock is ticking….

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