If you haven’t spent an entire month in Thailand, there’s probably one of three reasons:
- The middle-aged / elderly European gentlemen who strut around with their teenaged Thai brides or “companions” give you the creeps.
- Walking by bars containing nothing but slinky women playing pool in the middle of the afternoon smacks of an uncomfortable underworld Thai tourist brochure.
- The costs of a month long (plus) holiday isn’t within your budget
If any of the three above are keeping you from hunkering down in the Jewel of the Orient, let me offer a solution.
Ton Sai Beach:
No arm-candy toting Teutonic Sugar Daddies
Clean, off-season accommodation for $8 a night.
A haven for rock-climbers, Ton Sai Beach is a place where everybody learns your name. I’ve made roughly 20 trips to Thailand, but I’ve never found a place as homey as this. Most of the travelers staying there are (like our good host) young and thrifty—while others are just plain young and broke. But that’s the beauty of Ton Sai Beach. You don’t need plenty of money to stay there. And the accommodations are fabulous: chalets with ceilings fans, impeccably clean linen sheets, and bathrooms that are scrubbed spotlessly on a daily basis.
And here’s the best part: the (typically) dull folks who prefer to stay at the Hilton or the Shangri La don’t bother to show up at Ton Sai. Ok, perhaps I’m being a bit too judgmental, or hypocritical. My wife and I do spurge on the odd five star evening, but we’ve never left a swanky resort with a new friend.
Needing some time to chill, and a place to do put some final editing touches on a book I just finished, we visted Ton Sai in early August.
We flew to Krabi, from Singapore, costing roughly $120 return.
And from the airport, we grabbed a public tourist bus which took us to Ao Nang. The Lonely Planet describes it as a dead-end jumping point to more desirable destinations, but that’s one of the things I love about The Lonely Planet. They aren’t always right.
Offering Thai food, western food, and massages for less than $8 an hour, it’s a perfectly relaxing spot. The main drag runs parallel to a perfectly sandy beach where you can swim in some of Thailand’s most beautiful waters, or just hang out on the beach.
We spent a day in Ao Nang—enjoying three massages (yeah, we’re a couple of bums) while chuckling at some of the varying accommodation prices.
You could stay at the JMansion for roughly $12 a night (which we eventually did) or splurge on any number of places, a few hundred meters away, charging into the hundreds of dollars for a bed and pillow…for the gullible.
A word about JMansion: the Lonely Planet suggests that it’s so popular that you need to book your room with the kind of advance you’d normally reserve for a Canadian MRI. (Editor’s Note: LOL! Canadian MRI. That’s funny but sad at the same time 😉 )
But the Lonely Planet has doomed this place by putting such a coveted title on it. We nearly didn’t bother to check it out, which would have been a mistake. It wasn’t full at all…not even close.
Taking a $4 boat ride to Ton Sai Beach brought us to heaven. And before long, if you make the same trip, you’ll make lifelong friends with the world-travelers choosing to climb the amazing limestone cliffs, sometimes for months at a time.
The food is amazing, and most of the visitors at Ton Sai eat at the same alley, where you can gorge yourself on delightful Thai dinners for less than $3 a plate, while sharing stories and tips of your daily adventures.
(note* 70 Thai Baht is $2.30 Canadian)
As someone who never rides roller coasters, and whose fear of heights keeps him off ladders, I was reluctant to try climbing. But we hooked up with an eccentric, deep-thinking Australian and a Texan rock-climbing master who encouraged us to give it a whirl.
As a guy who had three ribs removed during surgery two years ago, I was pretty cautious about giving it a go. But I soon realized that I could have trusted any of those “tourists” on Ton Sai. Nobody was pretentious. Everybody was helpful. And each of them had their stories—whether they were escaping from the rat race, whether they had never entered it in the first place, or whether they were right out of high school, seeking a bit of adventure.
I realize one thing.
If you’re young, and you haven’t taken a trip such as this, then you must.
Life has a way of sucking you into its vortex of responsibilities.
And as much as we’re supposed to be “financially responsible” there’s something to be said for extending yourself for a bit of adventure, even if it financially sets you back a bit.
How much would such a trip cost?
Here are my estimates for one month’s vacation from Canada or the U.S.:
Food and Drinks: $450
Twenty massages: $160
Grand Total: $2400
And if you do happen to see a Middle-Aged Sugar Daddy on a rock with his arm candy, take your hat off to the guy.
He’s going to be interesting.