THAILAND: Tonsai & Railay Beach

Our second stop in Thailand was back to Krabi Town, where we flew in, but our misadventure with travel planning did not end here. The hotel David booked had “Krabi Town” as part of the address, so when we got off the boat from Koh Phi Phi we got one of the vans going to town thinking it would get us close or maybe take us to our hotel. For some reason David refused to ask the driver when we got in the van if they would take us to our hotel, and I did not have the address, so we were just hoping we would end up somewhere close. Fast forward to being dropped off on the road about a half hour away from where we needed to be and having to call a cab. It was in the cab that we learned that the beach we were going to actually required a boat to get there, the ideal situation when you have packed suitcases and not massive backpacks, obviously. The beach (Tonsai) is connected to the main land, but there are cliffs/mountains separating it from the rest of the town, so you cannot drive there. The cab brought us to the beach where we had the distinct impression we were being ripped off by the asking price for a private boat to get to Tonsai Bay. It was that or wait until 8 people arrived to pay the “full boat” fee, so we just ate the cost and got our own private 5 minute boat ride. (Once again having to make alternate plans because of late night arrivals). Once we arrived on the beach it was only another 15 minute endeavor of dragging our suitcases up a muddy rocky path to our hotel and we had finally arrived! We enjoyed a Thai dinner and then relaxed in our room for the rest of the night.

Follow the yellow dirt road? This was the nice part of the pathway!

David picked this spot because it was known for great rock climbing and he wanted to try “deep water solo” where you get to climb the cliffs jutting out of the water and if you get tired you just let go and drop into the ocean. Since the cliffs are at a bit of an inverted angle this works out well. The first day we enjoyed the hotel pool in the morning and then set off for a trek to neighboring Rialay beach to see what we could find.

David & Matt’s shirt enjoying the hotel pool in the morning.
There is rock climbing all over the place here!


The trek to Rialay beach looked something like this most of the way with a decently well worn path, but not quite obvious enough to prevent us from going the wrong way for 5 minutes before having to turn around…Eventually we made it through the jungle portion and were greeted with gorgeous views of the neighboring beach. (Note: there is a reason I have limited pictures of Tonsai beach, it is just a bit underwhelming other than the rock climbing)…

oooohhh, aaaahhh.
Incline hand stand, because, why not?

The sand was nice and soft, and there were LOADS  of people lounging about in various states of undress. The water was warm and we enjoyed a pizza (our first non-Thai meal) followed by our new favorite dessert: Thai pancake with banana and nutella. We continued our trek across land to the East side of Rialay in search of the rock climbing place David had looked up previously (which is where I ended up with the awesome beached long tail boat cover photo for this post.) We were told that this company actually recommends other guides for the “deep water solo” adventure we were looking for, and one of them was right by our hotel, so we started the long trek back to the beach to enjoy some swimming and the eventual climb back to our beach.

Once we got back we grabbed a Pad Thai dinner (with dessert!) at one of the nearby hotels because we had 1.) heard that “Tonsai Tummy” was a thing to watch out for at this point, many people had reported sickness/food poisoning, 2.) Our hotels restaurant was always conspicuously empty, and 3.) I had eaten the exact same dish at this other restaurant the previous night with no issues. David bro-ed out in his new Chang tank top and I watched people stare transfixed at this particular piece of art on the wall outside the restaurant.

The next morning when we woke up to take our deep water solo adventure I was feeling particularly bloated (in a quite painful way) and had been up on-and-off since roughly 3am just not feeling quite normal, so I decided it was better for me to skip the trip and sleep in while David went off on his grand adventure. After sleeping in it became quite obvious to me that I had caught this “tonsai tummy” thing as I felt nauseated and highly feverish at this point. *Go body go, kill whatever that thing is inside you* They conveniently sold fever-reducer and Imodium at the little convenience store outside the hotel, so I took some of that and felt good enough to get some sleep until around 1pm, when the whole beach seems to lose power until 4pm. No big deal, I thought, I will cool off in the pool and read a bit to distract myself. It was just before 4pm when David arrived and found me laying in the open air hotel lobby on a bench trying not to puke that we went back to our room in the hopes the air conditioning would come back on any second. I spent the next hour trying not to hurl my guts out (success) and then packed our suitcases back up because we were going to fly out the next morning for Chiang Mai (yay?).

David told me all about his adventure, how it was a lot harder than he thought, and he was one of the only novice climbers on the trip, but he still had fun. They got to climb somewhere between 10-20 meters and then jump off into the water below. We now have a small collection of videos of people panicking before jumping off the cliffs too. I am super jealous as the only part I really wanted to do was jump off large cliffs into water. Something about 8 years of diving never quite leaves you. David said he had expected climbing to be difficult as a beginner, but he found himself even more exhausted than usual by the end of the trip…




…and then he promptly succumb to Tonsai Tummy as well. All night long.

As luck would have it the next morning we checked out at 6am and had to head to our Boat –> Taxi –> Airplane –> Taxi –> Hotel in Chaing Mai adventure. At this point I had not eaten in over 24 hours (only water and 4 gummy bears), so even if I was feeling off, I had exhausted all ammunition in my stomach and intestines and was starting to feel better. David was still a mess and I offered him the option to decide how our trip would proceed (after all, we already blew ~$100 in unused hotel fees in Koh Phi Phi, what’s a missed flight on an upset stomach?). He thought he had enough will power to get all the way to Chiang Mai, so we set off at 6am as scheduled. As luck would have it we happened upon a couple who had lost their phone at the airport and needed to return to get it (what a stroke of luck, allow me to explain…).


Above is the view of me looking back as I am getting close to boarding our boat. We did not realize that the tide goes out in the morning leaving a wide expanse of mud, coral, rocks, and strange sea creatures stranded and destitute. We were dropped off at that little red roofed hut off in the distance from our friendly hotel motorbike, and I decided to make sure our boat was there before hauling David and our suitcases all that way out there. I lost my flip flops about 8 times in calf deep mud and covered half my backpack in mud by the time I reached the correct boat. At this point the last thing I wanted to do was go back for my rolling suitcase and there was no way David could carry both in his current condition. Enter our new savior, the couple at the hotel lobby who wanted to split the boat/taxi to the airport that we had already booked. The guy carried my suitcase and they both walked with David out to the boat once they saw me talking with one of the drivers waiting somewhere between a quarter to half mile off shore. At that point I decided they could have a free ride to the airport because I would have gladly paid even more to not have to go back for that suitcase. (Now I know why almost everyone on that beach was a backpacker…) It seems we kept coming/going at all the wrong times from Krabi…Surprisingly the next beach over (where we were dropped off) did not have the same kind of tide issue, we just had to wade through ~100 meters of water to reach the shore.

Just where you want to be when your insides are trying to explode outside and your fever could fry an egg on your face…

We got our new friends to the airport with us, and David survived the check-in line and flight despite his immense discomfort. Upon landing we immediately phoned our international insurance company to find the nearest clinic to get some meds and assess our condition.


While the hospital was not our ideal first tour in the lovely city of Chiang Mai, it was quite clean and some of the staff even spoke English, so overall our experience at the hospital was quite positive. At this point I was even starting to get hungry, so I could tell I was on the mend; David took another day or two before he finally started to feel more normal again. After our ~$4 deductible we had antibiotics, anti-nausea, fever reducer, and electrolyte powder and were feeling a little better. We headed back to the hotel to try out a sandwich and took a much deserved nap!

Sad Dave before the hospital, happy Dave once we were given drugs. More on the fancy red convertible trucks we hitched a ride on in a future post…

Moral of the story: we later learned Tonsai beach was well known for food poisoning incidents. In fact, since we arrived we heard many people mention “Tonsai Tummy” and every time I walked by the front desk of our hotel the day I got sick there was another person there requesting medical/clinic info, complaining of a sick family member with really high fever, and inability to keep food down. We missed this in our initial booking because 1.) lots of places elsewhere were already sold out due to Chinese new year, and 2.) we booked on a Chinese travel site where reading all the reviews was not exactly an option…It’s great for climbing, but be careful of the food. We were also incredibly grateful we had only booked some of our tours/activities and had spaced them out enough that we had some built in “oh shit, what do we do now” time to work with.

I think the losing power from 1pm-4pm combined with poor sanitation habbits may have been the cause of our problems on Tonsai. Being isolated from the main land as it is by mountains, we had begun to suspect they may have used local water (instead of bottled water) for some of the desserts we tried that evening. Usually eating local food is better in situations like these (like the Pad Thai we had), but perhaps not the liquid-ey dessert we got that one day. I doubt the pizza was the cause as we ate that at a neighboring beach not known for making their guests sick, but we will likely never know. Next stop on our adventure, my favorite, Chiang Mai!



3 thoughts on “THAILAND: Tonsai & Railay Beach

  1. As my MOM used to say…. “You go where Angels fear to tread”. So glad you are home.
    in China…. My girl friend Joyce went on a wonderful trip for bird watchers…. brushed her teeth once with regular water and from that ( , Dr. said it happens often.)..she has stage 4 kidney disease. Be very careful…. Rather be safe than sorry…. May God Bless you and keep you Safe!! Love, G’ma Lou


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