Lodging costs in Tonsai- what to expect in the modern era?


Original Post
JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 5

I'm pricing out a possible trip to Thailand this winter. Flights from Seattle are surprisingly reasonable ($750), and I have heard stories for years about how cheap it is for lodging and food. But many of these stories are from people who went 10 years ago, and I also keep hearing stories about how much everything has changed over there.

So what should I expect? It would be myself and my girlfriend, for 2-3 weeks, in January or February. What sort of price range to look for? Is it better to book ahead of time, or show up and be ready to negotiate? Place to stay recommendations?

Or, if Tonsai really has become an unreasonable tourist mess, we'd be open to othe SE Asia suggestions. Flights to Vietnam are also insanely cheap right now ($530), so if there are good areas there we'd be interested.

Michael Bae · · Vancouver, British Columbia · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 10

http://www.basecamptonsai.com/bungalows.htm

Basecamp is the local climbing outfit there. They rent gear, setup rock climbing sessions for newer climbers and also organized deep water soloing (although I heard they banned DWS on Poda Island, best check into this).

Basecamp also offers accommodations where I stayed (prices on website). Contact them and see if the rates are still the same. But from what I remember their pricing was mid-range and there were a lot of other options if you show up and negotiate you will likely get the best deal (was there in February 2015). Wherever you go, make sure they have a mosquito net over the bed without any holes and ask when they have electricity (not all places have 24/7 electricity and most have it only during the evening hours). Some places even have hot water and they are similarly priced to Basecamp (which doesn't).

If you are going to be there for a while, save money by buying food and supplies in Krabi. Prices on the Tonsai (more so) and Ao Nang are inflated. One tip is they sell these large white containers of distilled water (I think like 20+ liters). You will need to pay a deposit on the container but after that you can trade it in and pay a refill fee for another full container. Those containers are definitely the best buy as you'll be drinking a lot of water while you are there. Something to consider is it is pure distilled water, so just ensure you are getting enough electrolytes through your diet. Also it may be a good idea to pickup a sim card in Ao Nang if you want internet and have an unlocked phone. I tried the carriers Dtac and Truemove and I was only able to get stable signal using Truemove in Tonsai.

Chiang Mai has good climbing as well at Crazy Horse Buttress. While I prefer the style of limestone there (personal preference) the atmosphere can't compare to climbing by a beach. It is also about a hour out of town in Mae On, so if you are climbing everyday it be better to stay out near the crag. I stayed at Jira Homestay in case you are interested. Nice establishment close to the crag with a restaurant and run by an extremely nice family.

Vietnam has a few climbing options. I only went climbing on Catba Island. If I had to choose between Catba and Tonsai, I'd pick Tonsai as it has a lot more climbing variety and a really vibrant international climbing scene. The benefit of Catba is the island is pretty sleepy but it is still a resort town. When I arrived I went around and negotiated for a hotel at multiple establishments. In the end I stayed Dream Catba Hotel for $8usd a night (without A/C). There are some pretty sweet pho places on the island!

Good luck and have fun! If you have any other questions, feel free to ask.

evan h · · Denver, CO · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 205

I'd vote for Crazy Horse over Tonsai any day. I was at Tonsai over Christmas holiday in 2012. Granted, this was part of our honeymoon and we stayed at one of the nicer bungalows with AC, but we paid $100 a night! I'm glad we reserved too, as the entire island was booked up in advance. So, if you're willing to sweat it out with a mosquito net and no AC -- and if you're off peak holiday -- your prices will be much lower.

Still, I think Chaing Mai is superior in terms of overall experience -- cheaper, richer culture, much better food, etc. Plus, Crazy Horse is far better climbing in my opinion, and way less of a scene. There is a crew of locals and expats that are really keeping up with the place. They run daily shuttles for super cheap out of the climbing shop in town. Includes a lunch -- but don't look to climb hard after that gut shot!

tshapiro1182 · · Carpinteria, CA · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 0

Other places to consider:

Nam pha pay ai outside Bangkok - not enough climbing for a 2 week trip but a spectacular, cheap spot nonetheless and very easy to combine with other Thai destinations

Green climbers in Thakek Laos

Cantabacco on Cebu in the Philippines

Koh Yao noi Thailand

Koh Lao Liang Thailand

As others have mentioned: chiang Mai (stay at jira homestay) and cat ba are also excellent.

I've been living and climbing in SE Asia for the past two years and have found that prices in almost all these places are about the same - $5-$20 per night - you can find cheap hotels if you look around (lodges like green climbers, koh Lao Liang, and nam pha pay ai should be booked in advance, otherwise it's better to look around once you arrive as the vast majority of guest houses don't advertise). Food is similarly cheap.

Happy to share specific beta on any of these places if you want more info

JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 5

Thanks for the responses everyone. Regarding Tonsai, any word on how the construction of the new resort is affecting things?

tshapiro1182 wrote: Green climbers in Thakek Laos
After doing a bit of research, this place looks amazing. What are the logistics of getting there?
tshapiro1182 · · Carpinteria, CA · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 0

Was in tonsai in nov 2014, dec 2015, and feb 2016 - there's been a wall up around the property where the new resort is slated to go but I haven't seen any movement at all on construction. It certainly hasn't gotten in the way of the climbing and I doubt it will.

I haven't been to Thakek personally but I have friends who have gone, it sounds slightly harder to get to than tonsai but not by much. You fly from Bangkok to a town near the border then take a bus for about 30 minutes, stopping to deal with visas as you enter Laos. The green climber's site has clear instructions I believe. From what I've heard it's absolutely worth the time to get there

shafe071 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 5

I was just at Tonsai in August, 2016.

The construction there is a bit distributive to the beautiful landscapes of the place and the whole area is way more trashed than it used to be, but it doesn't effect the climbing. Remember the intense rain monsoon season brings and be very cautious with the food, everyone in our party of 8 got sick. Tonsai side is said to be for "the hardcore climbers" and if you stay on Railay beach you will need to wait for low tide to get to the best climbing (in my opinion) in Tonsai or hike through the jungle.

Mountain View Resort is the best bang for your buck in low season at $6/night, but prices skyrocket for high season so I am not sure when you plan to go.

Logistics on getting there is easy. You can take a shuttle to An Nong from the airport 100 THB and then a ferry to Railay Beach for 150 THB. Then we got back to the airport for 400 THB. Once you arrive to the beaches you will travel all on foot. Have fun its a beautiful place.

HelenL · · Toronto, Canada · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 176

I am going to be there in Jan. Wondering how polished the limestone is. We have a crag with majorly polished limestone and I find it unpleasant to climb as the routes feel maybe two+ grades harder!

Jon Frisby · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 25

It's crazy polished but the routes are soft so it evens out

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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