May 17 Back to Railay (Day 233)

This morning as we walked to and from the restaurant dining room I wondered about the history of this resort site. The rows of coconut palms made me think it was originally a palm plantation. But then I know nothing about coconut palms! These must be mature trees since there are signs warning of falling coconuts! It turns out that it takes only 5 to 10 years for a coconut palm to mature and depending on the species and climatic conditions, it can start bearing fruit in as little as 3 years, and continue producing fruit for up to 70 years! So this could be a young or an old plantation! I did some further research and discovered a different story altogether! It all starts with those climbers we saw yesterday. Thirty years ago Tonsai Beach was “discovered” by the rock climbing community and the cliffs afforded challenging routes. A village on the beach was established that catered to the transient climbers and yoga aficionados, the backpacking set, the retro-hippies of the 90’s. Then in 2014 the beachfront land was sold to a hotel chain with the intention of building a mega resort. The village of Tonsai was forced to move inland and a concrete wall was built around the beachfront land. Tonsai Displaced 2014. We finally noticed the wall around the plantation/resort and looking at Google maps we saw a road, a few accommodations and restaurants sited behind the wall. We decided to go check it out on our way to making arrangements for our longtail boat ride back to Ao Nang.

“The Wall” the resort side looking into the coconut grove, and the ‘village side’ decorated with art!

According to this article; Tonsai 2014 vs. 2019, work on the mega resort was never even started by 2019 and the residents and visitors used the wall as a canvas for their art and protest! Life here still had the laid back vibe of backpackers and climbers apparently.

A great and simple guide for life! I especially like the quote “If you don’t have enough time stop watching TV”!

We walked up the dirt road, passing a few open air restaurants set between falling down shacks and at least one still-operating hostel type accommodation.

The road was deteriorated and we wondered if a storm had damaged the area.

This hotel/bar is definitely out of business!

The road narrowed, then became a path as the buildings became more rustic and dispersed and seemingly empty.

As we meandered up the road we were joined by a young lady on her way through the forest to Railay Beach. This is the 2nd route to get there other than the beach front hike! We followed her lead as the road turned to a path. We spotted a lizard or two, but no monkeys or tropical birds.

After an hour of walking the forest opened up and we came to some nicer, more up to date accommodations at the edge of the Railay Beach community.

We made it back to Railay Beach, the longer jungle route! Again we revived with the help of some ice cold beer, chips and water. According to; Rock Climbing Tonsai 2021, the climbing on Tonsai and Railay Beaches is still awesome, but a lot of the amenities have moved to Railay Beach. Rather than return the way we came we decided to make a loop and return via the beach route we used yesterday. As we walked through town we were rewarded with an encounter with the local monkeys; long tailed macaques.

These are the first we saw of the troop. All the monkeys were busy feeding on wild food (except for the one with the water bottle!) and were not aggressive to the people passing by admiring and taking pictures. There were several infants being carried by their mothers.

We spotted this mother and nursing infant farther down the street. Love those Spock ears!

A panorama of Railay Beach, more ‘beachy’ than Tonsai which is jagged rocks at low tide. Maybe that’s the reason the mega resort never came to be!

We made it back to Tonsai Beach, showered and got in the pool finally! And treated ourselves to coconut beach drinks while the late afternoon thunderstorm came through!

Later I learned from a resort employee that Covid-19 basically killed the businesses behind the resort wall and the proprietors just walked away to let the jungle take the land back! I further deduced that this resort wasn’t even built until at least 2020!


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