The third island that Sam and I decided to hit during our week of island hopping in the South was Ton Sai. Ton Sai beach is next to the Pinterst-famous Railay beach. Both are technically just beaches that are a part of Krabi next to Ao Nang, but for the sake of island-hopping I’m just referring to them as islands.
Longtail ride of death #2 of our week in the islands, en route to Railay.
Ton Sai is a small little hippie beach, full of shroom shakes and Thai people with dreadlocks that may possibly be actually Jamaican. It’s full of little backpacker bars coated in neon paint, some super cool graffiti, and has a really nice beach that’s far less crowded than Railay. So after getting a 450 baht package van and ferry ride from Ko Lanta to Ao Nang to Railay, Sam and I were pumped to find a water taxi to check out this little oasis.
Ton Sai had been recommended to us by a few people. “It’s a cheaper version of Railay” they said. “It’s a cooler off-the-beaten-path-more-hippie version of Railay” they said. “You can stay at Ton Sai for cheap and just walk over to Railay when the tide is down” they said. “It’ll be fun’ they said.
After hopping off the longtail from Ao Nang(the unsafe longtail that basically almost sank because it was so overcrowded and full of luggage), we sought a water taxi driver to take us to Ton Sai. The tide was down, so according to what we had been told we could walk, but we didn’t know how to get there and we were carrying our heavy backpacks. Plus it was 95 degrees, but it’s always 95 degrees so I guess that’s not a very valid point.
We were bargaining with a water taxi driver to take us to Ton Sai along with one other very lost-looking Chinese girl, when fate intervened. A middle-aged trustworthy-looking American guy cut into our argument and said to us in a low voice “Don’t pay for a water taxi, it’s just a 20-minute walk that way” before he pointed to the right down a nice-looking sidewalk. Sam and I looked at each other and said in unison “never mind!” to the taxi driver and headed off down the yellow-brick road. The driver laughed as we walked away and said “it’s 40 minutes away” but we assumed he was trying to take advantage of us tourists and kept walking.
For some reason we were getting harassed more than usual by random resort-workers and travel agents to come stay at their resorts. Maybe because we look like walking targets with our blonde hair? Or maybe because it’s off-season for tourism so they need business more than usual? But either way, it was irritating. So when we passively and annoyedly replied “Ton Sai” to a resort worker when he asked us where we were going, we initially ignored him when he said we were going the wrong way. But then a Thai woman that looked like she was also a tourist offered to help us, and showed us a map. We were indeed headed in the wrong direction. We couldn’t get to Ton Sai by walking around the perimeter, we had to walk across the little peninsula, through the area that hadn’t yet been developed by resorts.
Why we missed this first sign that the American guy was full of it is beyond me. But it was the first indication that we should’ve just sucked up the 100 baht and taken the water taxi. The second one came when we asked another resort worker to point us in the direction to Ton Sai, and he again laughed and said it was very far. This was after he had tried to get us to stay at his resort, so we again didn’t believe him. “Thais are so lazy!” we said to each other(which is kind of true when it comes to waling places). Another shop owner told us that she didn’t know how to get there because she had never walked there in her life. “That’s the most Thai thing I’ve ever heard, that she’s lived here her entire life and has never walked to Ton Sai” Sam exclaimed. Again, not an entirely invalid point, Thai people do not like walking.
Graffiti wall in Ton Sai.
We eventually found ourselves on a path that seemed to be leading through some tall grass. We assumed that the rough grass that we could barely see through would only last for a few hundred feet, and that we would soon be walking along the pretty coastline across sand while the tide was down.
We were right about one thing. The tall grass did end. But then it escalated into a full-blown forest, and before we knew it we were in the middle of the jungle in Thailand on an island with no cell-phone service and heavy bags to haul.
The path wasn’t even a nice hiking path. It was full-blown rocks and roots, and narrow enough that we had to walk in single file. Had we not been dressed in our island attire of flips-fops and patterned rompers and not been carrying 30 lb bags, it would have been hard. Plus it was the middle of the day, and per usual it was absurdly hot.
I was unsure for a moment as to whether we were on the right path, but then we stumbled onto a small abandoned shed that had graffiti on it, including “Ton Sai Beach à” with an arrow pointing down the path. We were deep enough into our pride and the jungle at this point that a little graffiti was enough confirmation to keep going.
Then the path started to go uphill. I kept thinking about scary movies where hikers had gotten lost in the woods and never retured(ex. Blair Witch Project) and really freaking wanted to turn around. But Sam insisted that we were on the right path, and that her 2 bags that she was carrying were super heavy and we had to keep walking.
This whole time our eyes were peeled for snakes and huge spiders. I’m horrified of finding Spiders in my apartment, so trekking through their natural territory was quite stressful. We actually stumbled onto some marble-sized shiny black egg-looking things, and I honestly think they might have been huge spider eggs. Not wanting to scare myself, I still haven’t looked up what they were, and I have no plan on doing so.
Then I kid you not, electrie wires started running across the path. And not just on the ground where you can easily step over them, they were hanging 2-3 feet above the path, in clumps of 4 at a time, so I literally had to contort my body through them like a spy. Sam actually tripped and grabbed onto one mistakenly, #blessed that it didn’t snap.
After our 40 minute walk through Dante’s Thai Inferno, we saw hope in the distance. There were buildings, and buildings usually mean people! To our disappointment(again), upon approach we realized that they were actually dilapidated old bungalows. I would have thought they were abandoned, except for the fact that one unfortunate soul was out wacking monstrous weeds in the 95 degree heat. We had finally reached Ton Sai, and there was a population of about 20 on the entire beach.
After we passed the creepy empty bungalows, we passed some more backpacker-looking-type accomodations. By backpacker type I mean they looked cheap. By cheap I mean there were literally mattresses and hammocks out on dirty-looking decks. We did see some other backpackers, about 8 total, and every single last of them dreadlocked and tie-dyed.
Then we passed the bars, which were also empty aside from one or two Thai rastas. The signs for shroom shakes and neon graffiti were the only real indication that we had in fact landed on Ton Sai, and not stumbled onto a random little town near Railay.
We stopped at bungalow after bungalow, looking for a clean place to stay. The only one we found that actually had other people in it was still a 10 minute walk from the beach, and the room we were shown didn’t have electricity that functioned. I know, 10 minutes from the beach, soooo terrible. We were spoiled after staying in a beach hostel on Phi Phi were we could roll out of bed and swim in 85 degree turquoise water. So we kept walking, thinking we would find something.
Before we knew it, we had landed at the beach, and it looked like it was soon to storm. “Where you go?!” the water taxi rasta drivers yelled at us. We ignored them for a few minutes, but then decided that since no one was on the island it wasn’t worth it to stay in a gross accommodation. Like the true fake backpackers we are, we bargained with a taxi driver to take us back to Ao Nang so we could get a bus back to Phuket and stay in Sam’s apartment. Not that it was much of a bargaining process seeing as every taxi driver on the island was present, and we had no other option to get back to Railay besides swimming. After we settled on a price and started to head towards the long tails, it of course started to downpour, preventing us from leaving immediately and getting us stuck on Ton Sai for another hour, sitting with all 20 people inhabiting Ton Sai at the moment hiding underneath a porch.
Then we hopped into yet another life-threatening longtail, and landed (relatively) safely at Ao Nang, before making our way to Phuket. I’m sure Ton Sai is nice during high season or even just in nice weather, but we couldn’t do it this time. A day trip would have been enough. I would like to go back, it was cool to see all the graffiti and the rasta bars, but I’ll definitely be taking a water taxi for $3 US.