Thursday, February 23, 2006

Tonsai Dreamin'

On Tonsai Beach, the locals spend their time following their dreams. One man explores uninhabited islands cataloging rare species of tropical birds and monkeys. Another climbs Krabi's immense and vertical rock walls, without ropes or harness, despite the fact that he's an amputee (right arm). A young boy is constructing a giant butterfly collection to, one day, be entered in the Guiness Book of World Records as the largest of its kind. You may be thinking, 'what an amazing bunch of people', and they are... in their dreams... for the people here spend most of their day sleeping. And since I am here I'm doing as the locals do: sleeping, daydreaming, vegging out.

I watch the passing clouds and see rare and unknown animals: rabbits with elephant trunks and serpents with riders who sit upon their camel-like humps. I see faces of old women and wise men - even monsters - in the shadows on the rock walls surrounding the beach. I see kayakers approaching and imagine them to be pirates so brave and bold they come to plunder in broad daylight. Bikini-clad women are mermaids from the sea, given legs upon land by the grace of the shadow-crones in the limestone cliffs. The enormous spiders in the forest are spirits of shipwrecked sailors. And the sailboats in the bay are all mine, each and every one of them, waiting to sail me around the Indian Ocean in search of a secret island known to the sea creatures as heaven. Ah, if only it were all real. Sometimes a good imagination can be devastating. I'm a daydreamer here and what is the beach if not the perfect place to entertain fantasies?

The "real" Tonsai, in comparison to the surrounding tourist hot spots like Ao Nang and Railay Beach, is a lost tropical paradise. I say 'lost' because it is more like a pirate ship than a luxury liner; it's more backpack than suitcase; it's hand painted signs versus glossy brochures; it's fisherman pants instead of 20-pocket khakis. There are no high rise buildings or asphalt roadways... no souvenir shops strung together like the shell necklaces they sell... no tourists promenading in newly acquired vacation attire. It is only accessible by boat. The beach is not superb - in fact at low tide the water retreats so far from the shore there is nothing left in the bay but mucky rocks. At high tide it's much more scenic, but still too shallow and rocky for swimming. And here in lies Tonsai's greatest asset: a shitty beach (when compared to others). I don't think it's shitty myself, it's just not 'ideal' and most tourists head for the ideal and consequently spoil it. Not on Tonsai.

It's a favorite of rock climbers, but you don't have to be Spiderman to enjoy this place. Scuba and kayaking and snorkeling trips can fill days. A quick trip by longtail boat takes you to unpopulated islands - limestone outcroppings that jut out of the sea and appear to 'drip' rock... stalagtites cling to vertical walls and resemble a dripping candle that has hardened into something bizarre and beautiful.

At night, bonfires light the beach, fire dancers spin flaming batons and people lounge on bamboo mats laid out on the sand, a reggae beat here... dance music there... It's surprising, really, to see a crowded restaurant at night. In the daylight hours it's as if hardly anyone is there at all... perhaps they're all too high up to notice, scaling the rock walls. Or perhaps they are all below the sea. Or perhaps they are like me, off daydreaming somewhere no-one but them may go.


Post a Comment

<< Home