Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sea Kayaking Koh Yao Noi and surrounding islands
Andaman Sea, Thailand
After waiting out strong winds for three days on the magical island of Koh Yao Noi I was able to prepare a sea kayaking trip to explore the karst islands off-shore. Kitty of Koh Kayak rented boats and overnight equipment to us for a truly meager rate and after shopping in the local Thai markets for curry paste, tuna, rice noodles, coconut milk, beer, and vegetables we were able to set off in the afternoon for Koh Hong. What followed, in the next three days and four nights, was some of the most outstanding scenery, fun adventure, and perfect kayaking around a chain of unmatchable islands. The first evening we snorkeled colorful and brilliant coral reefs in secluded bays, then explored a jungle salt water lagoon rimmed by noisy bird calls. We found a deserted beach and camped with views of the wild islands ahead of us.

The next day we found a cove full of tourists and therefore a small Thai bar with beer. It felt amazing to be so alone in the islands and then to come across the only services we needed: a bar. We carried our own food and water but our drink supply was quickly shrinking so we spent the afternoon drinking Thai whiskey and watching the water monitor tease the house cats. We met some Canadians with a sailboat offshore and were welcomed onto their boat for an evening of wine and cheese (a very special commodity in the waters of Thailand). As the sun set we set out for the shore of Pak Bia to light a fire and prepare camp. When we began to pull the kayaks from the sea the water lit up with phosphoresence and instead of cooking dinner we snorkeled into the dark waters playing with the bubbles of light all around us.

In morning the winds had come up and the crossing to Koh Ku Du and the northern tip of Koh Yao Noi looked choppy and far. Unfamiliar with the craft we were a little nervous when we set out into the whitecaps - but this is the Andaman. The water temperature in bathtub, and sun is hot, and the many islands help to limit the fetch and thus the swells. The morning was nonetheless a real sea kayaking experience and we were thankful for the spray skirts and rudders on our well-equipped boats. Another beautiful jungle cove was reached, where just up from the sandy shore a massive old-growth banyan tree was discovered. The water was still warm, or warmer, and the day passed by quickly as we swam and drank rum and Coke by the deep blue sea. We had to launch again to watch the sun set of the western shores of the Phuket Peninsula and then located a deep bay ringed with wild limestone towers. The water in the bay was shallow and therefore limited any sailing or powered boats from entering. It was clearly a home for sea kayaks and we quickly made camp at the edge of a tall cliff face. Monkeys played in the trees above our camp, the tide came up to meet the white sand, stars were out, dinner was Thai-style potatoes and vegetables, we finished the Bicardi. Life was easy, warm, great.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dispatch - Jan. 19th, 2009
Koh Yao Noi - Andaman Sea, Thailand

Have arrived and explored a slightly populated jungle island perched in the sea. We, the natties, have met up with friends that have put a lot of time and money into developing climbs on the limestone walls - they have been instrumental in arranging boats and transportation to access these remote climbing areas. It has been like living in a dream on this magical island, the climbing has been perfect in quality and position. I am happy to have been climbing routes just a few years old and was so happy yesterday when we spent the day on a terrace above the sea climbing 6c+ - 6a routes. I said many times yesterday that it may be one of my best days climbing... ever.

Today I will depart for a multi-day sea kayaking adventure into the small islands off-the-shore of Koh Yao Noi. I am looking forward to exploring the jungle islands and azure coves in a deserted island park over the next three days. The oppurtunity for exploration and adventure in this region is truly endless. The Thai people and expats living here are more than helpful in arranging everything. I am happily lost in the island vibe. Pictures and stories to come soon...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dispatch - Tonsai, Thailand, midday Jan. 12th

It is completely hard to believe that a week has gone by since my last dispatch. I was more than surprised to login and subtract today's date from that of my last post. Tonsai has this magical way of eating away at the days of your life without you feeling sad or worried to have lost them. Each day is made up of so many different hours of individual experiences that it becomes a place where your mind no longer registers days of the week or length of stay. Instead, here, I rather focus on and remember climbs, meals, swims, people, beers, slacklines, bungalows, Thai friends, and full moons in a collection of events seperate from the calendar.

The climbing has been fantastic for me. I was excited to come here at the end of my trip with some strength and mind built from the climbing in China and Laos. It has paid off, as I am climbing confidently and strong and routes that would have been out of reach during my last trip here. I have enjoyed many days at crags high above the sea in the breeze with views acrost the karst and emerald water. The limestone here, I remember now, is uncomparably strong, the routes uncomparably thoughtful and beautiful. To top it all off a roving band of natties has amazingly all found their way here and to be it these places with 6 close friends adds to the expectionality of each day.

Life in the limestone jungles continues....

Monday, January 05, 2009

Dispatch - Tonsai Beach, Thailand - January 5th, 2009

I welcomed the New Year tubing and rope swinging on the Nam Song (river) in Laos. We made a quick trip of getting to Tonsai by flying Laos Airlines to Bangkok, and Thai Airways to Krabi. What could have been an arduous bus and train journey was accomplished in a quick day (well worth the money). It felt good to arrive back at Tonsai, a place that was Michelle and I's home for over two months in 2006. Not much has changed except the prices and it felt great to be recognized by a few Thai friends I had met years ago. I am taking a few days to get used to the humidity and heat after getting a little climbing in yesterday. Swimming and beachy hangout time has been fantastic. On the to-be-written list: "The westernized wildside of Vang Vieng" and "Tonsai Time: meeting friends at the other side of the world."
All is well.