Fervent enthusiasm, sweat, jocular competition, humility, unspoken respect and a whole rope-load of trust. These are the hallmarks of a climbing community, which is exactly how I would describe Tonsai. The cove, about half a mile wide, is made up of several stunning vertical faces of limestone crowded with stalactites that make the rock look like it’s melting. The most challenging wall hangs right over the most central section of the beach, inevitably leading to a sore neck for anyone enjoying a beer at the bar below.
Climbers mill about casually, carefree but purposeful, exposing dark tans, fading tattoos and powerful shoulders (yes, ladies too). Rarely a t-shirt in sight. Amongst the relaxed vibes, friends are pushing each other to get that next hand-hold so they can give a limb or two a much needed rest on some tiny ledge. “You got this man. One more push!” If it weren’t for the ropes and harnesses, you’d think these guys had been out on the surf all day. Except there is no surf because this is Thailand and the sea is idyllically calm.
In fact, once you’ve experienced the sport, there’s no escaping the fact that it’s cool. The lifestyle here’s pretty clever too - up early(ish) for a breakfast of fresh fruit and eggs followed by some invigorating and adrenaline-powered climbs before the sun gets too much. After a swim, a massage and some sunset climbing (on the beach, obviously) there’s still time for a drink while the birds fly home over your head and darkness sets in.