Cath's accommodation strategy and record is flippin incredible. And once again she pulled one out the bag, this time with a bit of a twist.
After arriving in Krabi quite late, we caught a cab about 30 km north west of Krabi to a remote part of the coastline. The place we stayed was called Bananas bungalows, which are very simple and rustic bamboo huts overlooking the mangrove swamp and owned by an eccentric German called Ollie. As we arrived at night we weren't too sure what the setting and landscape looked like, but could hear loads of creatures everywhere, frogs, insects and all sorts of mangrove tidal creatures, really cool, and took us a while to get to sleep with all the wild around, something we haven't been used to living in the UK for the last 4 years.
Anyways, we woke up in the very early hours in the morning to Muslim call for prayer echoing off the mountains and beautiful sunrise streams of light coming through all the little holes in our bamboo hut. We were absolutely taken aback when we walked out our hut to see the most beautiful setting - a lively tidal mangrove swamp with all sorts of weird noises and high karst mountains everywhere! Beyond the mangrove swamp and a walkway we could see sand extended far out! Such incredibly good value, and a great experience, the accommo was close to the cheapest we had paid to date in Thailand.
We hired a scooter and explored the area. Unfortunately we were occasionally caught out by heavy rain on the road and had to duck off into a side street cafe or shop to cover from the rain. The landscape and driving was awesome. After getting a bit wet, we found refuge in a new coffee shop / restaurant. We were apparently only his second western customers, had he had a only been open a month. He was so excited and charismatic! Such a nice guy! He introduced us to his family and chatted to us for quite a while, showed us his Facebook page and website etc. He was very passionate and excited about us being there, and we had a great time chatting to him and waiting out the storm in his shop.
We got back to the bananas late afternoon to tide going out and a brilliant sunset scene in the making so decided to go for a little walk over the walkway through the mangroves and across the sand. The water had pulled back about a kilometer and it was fascinating to see what was left on the sand, first hermit crabs, then a little further thousands of small starfish and then jellyfish and the weird colourful sponges and then plants with huge red and purple starfish with black spikes! There were loads of local woman walking along the shore collecting clams for their dinner so we helped them a bit. On the way back we had to move quickly as the tide was pulling in but when we got to the swamp it had these weird fish in it that almost looked a bit like squid. The swamp is sooo noisy and creaks and bubbles constantly - reminded me of ginger beer.
After some research we realised that Krabi covers quite a big area and as much as we had enjoyed "Bananas", it was time to venture over to the more mainstream and well known area of Ao Nang and Railey. The latter being a headland "peninsula" separated from the mainland by huge mountains and cliffs, so the only way to get there is to catch a long tail boat from Ao Nang, the touristy and beachy area across to the Railey area. We stayed on a beach called Ton Sai, which is very much more low key and rustic than the other beaches of Railey.
The scenery is superb! Just unbelievable! We found our way to our bungalow up on the hill at the back end of Ton Sai, which is basically a small settlement of extreme adventurer hippies who are passionate not only about rock climbing but seem to have the time to perfect all sorts of weird and wonderful skills- hula hooping, tight walk rope walking, fire dancing etc. Very chilled out and relaxing. The average person over here could be on the cover of men's health or something, minus the dreads and all the weird tats, but they are in all in incredible shape, 8 packs and not an ounce of fat, built arms etc. As soon as we realised this was a rock climbing paradise and one of the ultimate destinations for climbing we realised why.
We made our way down to the beach towards sunset and noticed loads of rock climbers doing there thing on the over hangs next to the beach. These guys are incredible! So strong and talented! Anyways while we were sipping on a beer admiring the sunset and scene, Cath pointed up to the top of the mountain right above us. I thought she was pointing to a huge stalactite near the top, but suddenly we saw a base jumper taking a big leap. It was literally only seconds but after a few attempts his shoot did not open. It was just so shocking and it all happened so quickly, but after you could see the utter desperation in his attempts some sort of material opened up a little ( maybe 10 or so metres above the ground) barely I would say, but enough to stop an absolute free fall into the ground. He hit the ground with a big thud and was steps away from loads of people milling around one of the rock climbing areas near the beach. So so lucky he didn't hit anyone. It was all beyond words! We kept our distance . People gathered around and there were conflicting views as to how to treat him or whether he was even alive. Eventually, a couple of people with first aid or a medical background stepped in, and stopped the local Thais wishing to put him on a boat back to Krabi as soon as possible.
Unfortunately this is Thailand, so the thought of a medic helicopter flying into this isolated beach soon vanished after these guys were still trying to attend to him after 30 to 45 min. It was all very shocking and quite a few people were in tears. We have our doubts whether this guy will make it, we tried to distance ourselves as the other guys were doing what they could. They eventually took him off, but he was not in a good way at all. We later heard that he had stabilised, but had some extremely seriously injuries and it was still a bit touch and go. It took just a few split seconds, still can't believe it, and the whole beach was in utter shock the rest of the evening, the atmosphere was very sombering. He hit the ground so hard! I can't believe he could potentially live through that, so so lucky, and would be a testament to the way those guys treated him on the scene.
The next day we decided to spend valentines day exploring the beaches in and around the area. Railay beach is one of Thailands top beaches with powdery white sand and lovely blue water, it's hard to believe it separated from the rocky Tonsai by a short jungle walk. We hopped from beach to beach on the headland, each with its own unique character and settled for lunch on Phra Nang Beach which had an awesome spin on street food - boat food! About 10 boats equipped with a makeshift kitchen and about 4 Thai woman pulled up on the beach and people flocked to buy a cheap tasty meal for lunch. The food was absolutely delicious and the setting was incredible - we couldn't believe that could make such a variety of food in a small little boat kitchen.
We finished off the day by climbing up to a lovely viewpoint on one of the cliffs and then down into a Lagoon which was sunk into the middle and close to sea level. It felt like we had hiked into a volcano and a Nat Geo photo shoot - we eventually climbed back to the main path covered in red mud and absolutely exhausted!
After spending a few days watching these rock climbers scale just about every available cliff face we though we should definitely give it a try so we signed up for a 1 day rock climbing course. The guide took us to one of the easier cliffs to learn from and we stood their waiting for our 'health and safety briefing' and a step by step guide on all the equipment and commands etc. We soon realised that this is Thailand and we were handed a rope and a harness and taught how to tie the very important knot that connected us to the man on the ground and . . . off we went with a cheerful word of encouragement from our teacher . . . You climb your style . . . 100 different climbers 100 different styles!
Um . . . ok?
After a few climbs we were having a ball . . . with a lot of adrenaline pumping through our veins! We climbed up to some lovely viewpoints that looked out across the bay and the assailed down again. It was a nervewracking experience but well worth it once we were back on the ground!
The next day we headed back to Ao Nang to sort out some things for Gregs work. We had a lovely street food dinner and soothed our aching climbers muscles with a massage! Next up would be the ferry to Koh Lanta