Tonsai beach . . . The name alone will get any climber’s heart beating and palms sweaty. Limestone cliffs the size of sky-scrapers rising straight out of the water or towering above the beach. However, even ignoring the sweltering humidity and ravenous mosquitos, regular climbing bolts rust-out here faster than MySpace went out of style. Fortunately, a dedicated crew has launched the THAItanium Project to rebolt this epic climbing with rust free titanium bolts safe for the seaside.

Then again, skip the bolt-, sling-, and anchor-worry all together and enter the world of Deep Water Soloing. Awesome reduction of the sport boiled down to you, the rock, and the water. Test your skills on a difficult roof problem just a few meters above the water, or test you nerve on an easier line up and up and up the cliff. All safe landings at the right tide.

Next stop in the Andaman Sea was the island of Koh Phi Phi. Really two beautiful islands full of cliffs topped with lush forest and bordered by white beaches connected by a narrow isthmus of sand separating the two turquoise bays. Unfortunately, this island community was devastated by a tsunami not long ago. Fortunately, the vendor stalls and shacks have been rebuilt and you would never know it ever happened. There does seem to be an overall lack of foresight and planning to create a sustainable community friendly to the tourist surges as each ferry arrives. The actual craftsmen and their shops get swallowed up in the sea of uniform stalls selling the same mass produced t-shirts and tank tops. Among the disgusting to marginal restaurants is one hidden gem. Anna’s restaurant serves fresh and brilliantly tasty traditional Thai dishes alongside hamburgers and European fare. This was a welcome respite from the lukewarm buffets and raw seafood displays among melting ice dripping onto the walkway in front of each establishment. The stagnant melted seafood soup was not the enticing welcome smell to draw us in from the street.

This does seem to be the perfect location for adventurous “spring-breakers” with bass-blasting clubs doling out free buckets of spiked drinks to limbo champs or voluntary nudity. There is a gluttony of street vendors that will grill any meat meat or seafood you want on a stick. And there is no better place to get a traditional bamboo tattoo/scarification.

There is some climbing on Koh Phi Phi. However, the only Titanium rebolted routes are routinely bogarted by the local guides with no serious plans for continued improvement of routes on the island. Fueled by the fear of missing out on our last chance for DWS, we reluctantly signed up with the larger of the two outfits still operating in Phi Phi. The stage was set for an amazing outing. We had a private boat and English-speaking guide to visit a beautiful bay surrounded by sheer cliffs. Unfortunately the bay was difficult to navigate full of speedboats choked full of tours from Phuket discharging oil, garbage, and tourists donning life jackets throughout the water. Our prior experience from Tonsai beach was half the price with ten times better climbing. As for our English-speaking guide; Sweet kid, seemed content with the climbing and, although he could point out the islands’ more popular sights, offered no additional information. Later, thirty seconds of google searching the “Viking Cave” yielded 100 times the information gleaned from our guide. This and caves like it house the highly sought after birds’ nests made of spit. Supposedly, these fetch top dollar in China as birds’ nest soup.

(Big sigh) . . . and Phuket. BTW, the H is silent. Less beautiful beaches with far more tourists. However, more obnoxious than the tourists here are the hawkers. From taxi drivers to tailors and from restaurant waiters to lady boy masseurs they just about drag you into their entrepreneurial dungeons as you try to pass by unnoticed. English is not widely known and much is lost in translation. Thank goodness for our daily yoga practice- all the teachings I am learning from Nathalia remind us to be peaceful and calm with all the chaos this city brings.

There is as much Russian as English on billboards and menus to cater to the crowd. Of coarse it can’t go unmentioned – Thailand’s Sin City – Bangla Street. Thai interpretation of A Go-Go dancers and the infamous Ping Pong shows advertised blocks away, even at the ice cream parlors.

We did splurge on air conditioned dining with recognizable food and service at the Hard Rock Cafe. We even returned later for Reggae night. Although it consisted mostly of rock covers and a fire show.

Trying to pick and choose from the “to-do list” we attended the Simon Cabaret. Beautiful and elaborate costumes and stage sets; Convincing lady boys; But marginal dancing and horrible lip syncing.

No trip would be complete without some Thai massage, and we found the most respectable looking place that wouldn’t break the bank. It was well worth it. Lastly, we made it onto Thai TV while attending the Asian Beach Games.

We constantly battle the duality that any beautiful location faces. The legendary scenescape has brought us here . . . Unfortunately alongside the masses. At times it’s even difficult to fake the serene tranquility in such a crowded environment. Pictures require strategic framing to cut out the gawkers. A sound clip or a picture of the reverse angle would expose your true surroundings. At the end of the day we remember we are tourists as we survey the globe. However, we keep careful notes of the people and the culture. Then, someday we’ll return to a place we love as adventurers and explore what the land truly has to offer.