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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Return to Ton Sai

From Ton Sai, Thailand

Draws hanging up to dry in the hut

Ton Sai, Thailand - Same same but different. As ever, returning to Ton Sai brings lots of familiarity and lots of change. With the never-ending cycle of construction here, bars have been torn down, some to be replaced and some to be slowly swallowed by the jungle and leave them only as memories in my own head. That old bar where I went for my lunches - gone. Bee in his amazing little coffee shop, Sea of Love - moved, although still with a warm welcome to an old customer (yes, he still remembered me after 15 months).
And of course, being a tourist area of Thailand, the prices seem climb at a pace that seems to defy even my own plummet in climbing grades. A rough comparison, the Lonely Planet (usually good for a rough benchmark and only out by maybe 10-15% on prices after it's publication) is a full 100% out on accommodation prices for the Christmas high season this year in the newer resorts. Pretty eye-opening, especially considering there hasn't been that much improvement in standards in the time since I last visited!
Still though, the people are as unbelievably friendly as ever, and that's just the locals. A smile everywhere you go, and some of the most relaxing vibes from everyone. Any time of the day, there's a bubbly "Sa wat dee" (Thai for hello) for us all - these people don't ever seem to be down, although living in a tropical paradise probably helps :) Anyone who has a kid would love here, the Thai''s cherish family values so much, all kids are adored here (and there's quite a few here at present meaning it feels like a giant creche!).

From Ton Sai, Thailand

Unknown climber on the classic 6c+, Lion King on the beach

And of course, the climbers are as open and funny and generous, and it really leaves it as a struggle to think that I'm only visiting this place again. If I ever settle, hopefully it's a place where I'm surrounded by as much generosity and fun as I see here. I've already been offered a free rope, I owe too many beers (easily returned it has to be said ;), and had too many offers of place to stay around the world. Of course, the winners in this stake are, as ever, the Americans who are the most generous of all. I'm fairly certain I've a place to stay in pretty much every state now!
In short, we're already finding it hard to justify the trip to Malaysia for climbing now, and most likely will only make the trip for a day or two now! Too easy to get settled here and be distracted by the mountain of activities to do here. Now, where do you rent the kayaks and snorkels......

From Ton Sai, Thailand

A busy evening at the Freedom Bar - big crowds at this time of year!