Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Heading back North to Bangkok

Hey all,

Thanks so much for the great comments! Good motivation. For the last week or so, we've totally checked out of the electronic world and it felt great, so I haven't posted for a bit.

We've got some great images, but, we leave Railay for Bangkok in one and a half hours and we've got a few things to do, so, I won't be able to get any up at the moment.

Longtail boat, to Swathang (open air truck) to Bus, to overnight train to taxi should get us to some decent accommodation in Bangkok. We hope to hit up the infamous Chattara (sp?) weekend market, see another temple or two, get a traditional Thai massage and maybe even China town before we leave in a few days.

Thanks so much for following along! Chok de Kap!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

'Round the halfway mark of the trip.

I think I understand why Shenku's book is titled the "art" of Shenku, or the art of traveling. Travelling can be done with style and grace, or, it can be done awkwardly with very different results. I like to think that Jo and I are more of the former style. Yikes, lot's of Yankee's seam to adopt the later. Sorry fellow country folk, but, it's true.....

Jo is on the mend, she got out for a big swim with Steffan today, I got a great climb in on the 1, 2, 3 wall before it started downpouring this afternoon. So fun, pulling over tufa's, stalagtite's of the wildest shape and size. This place has a very dreamlike geography. I feel so lucky to be here enjoying it.

I have been able to onsight 6a+ pretty regularly over the past two days, I need a bit of courage to bump the grade.

Comments people, I need them for motivation! Don't hold back!

Here's some photos from the last few days:

Sunset as viewed from West Railay last night.

We learn basic Thai from our housekeeper Sau everyday, while we help her continue her understanding of english, which is quite good. She's learning to write english too, amazing memory.

English Rob enjoying the excellent 6a+, "Dr. Jeckell & Mrs. Hyde" at the 1, 2, 3 wall. I led it clean after the super bouldery start that I needed to take on. This would be a very powerful climb to red or pink point. Crux is at the first bolt.

Is this blog worthwhile for anyone? Is anyone reading it? What would you like more of? Thanks in advance!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Well enough to take it easy...

Longtails lined up in Railay Bay this morning.

Today was an absolute blast. We awoke to a beautiful morning and went down to our "regular" breakfast spot, "Yam Yam's." Our favorite breakfast has become sticky rice prepared with condensed milk with 1/2 a mango. It's amazing! I added in a fried egg & toast this morning for extra sustenance. We sat down on the beach and enjoyed some "real" coffee. Most of the coffee is prepared with some type of "ground" that they add directly to hot water. When I saw it prepared this way, I figured there would be grounds at the bottom, but, nope, it just dissolves. Weird stuff.

We then walked across the intensely beautiful Phra Nang beach on our way to a crag known as Escher World. We arrived a bit late, as it was already getting sun by 11 or so this morning. We scoped the place out and ran into a guided group. This guide was not the type to shout each moves instructions to his clients, for which we were grateful.

I've been climbing at my standard moderate level, leading 6a & 6a+. But, my goal out of this trip is to lead 5.11. As the guided group finished up, I asked if I could pull our rope through the 6b+. (5.11 a/b) He obliged, and soon we had a TR setup on a super fun route!

Those who know me well know that I generally talk sh!t on projecting, likely because I haven't done too much of it. Today we both projected the 6b+, Jolene got up it too which was awesome. I'm pretty psyched on the route, and after 4 or 5 sessions, I can clean the crux on TR. I replaced the sling that protects the crux as it was looking pretty nasty. I'm hoping to go back tomorrow and warm up on the adjacent 6a, and then, with a little luck & a dash of skill, go for a redpoint on the 6b+. Seams like an achievable goal at this moment.

Around 4:00 it started raining, and not just the in fast out fast convective storms that we've had every day. No, this rain meant business. We retreated into a cave opening and looked out while a storm lashed the coast. The intense weather got the animals on the move, and a monitor lizard, about 1.5 m in length ran across the jungle just 10 m in front of us. Knarly! Biggest lizard I've ever seen. I was on-guard for more animals on the move, notably snakes......

After the rain backed off (a bit) we decided to work our way back towards the beach, and to our delight the rain had forced everyone off. We skipped, ran and giggled our way along the beautiful empty beach. Paradise.

We stopped near the south end of the beach and went for a swim. Jolene is an absolutely wicked swimmer. I've always known this in theory, as she was a lifeguard for years, but, I'd never actually experienced it. She gave me a few lessons, and had me breast stroking properly, even with the appropriate kick. We giggled and enjoyed the buoyancy of the ocean as we swam around in the rain watching the dramatic lightning in the distance.

From there, it was back to E. Railay where we stopped in at our favorite Thai food joint. The place just has a sign saying, "Thai Food." The proprietor is an awesome lady who whips up amazing authentic Thai food. It's great, as we always learn a new phrase for two from her, and she tells us all about the food. Tonight's thick red peanut curry was amazing.

That's about it for now. Hoping to send my first true project tomorrow and continue to enjoy this little slice of what I truly feel to be a paradise.

"Yellow for the gold, that they stole....."

This spider is the biggest I've seen to date. With his legs, he's far bigger than my palm, about the size of my hand/fingers. Eek!

Can't seam to rotate the clmbing photos. I'll hope to get some in the next post. La gorn kap.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Railay East highlights.

We've been on East Railay beach now for a few days, the first 3 days we got some nice short routes in. The last two, Dr. JoJo has kept me on strict R&R, as I've had two fevers reaching towards 102 F. Thankfully, I haven't had one today. It's great to be here with Jo, being sick and traveling by oneself would be hard... It's so tempting to get out on the karst pillars despite feeling quite low energy. But, I'm on the mend in a big way today, so, *hopefully* we will get out and climb again tomorrow.

The Karsts rising out of the Adaman Sea are absolutely amazing. They are all limestone, and quite textured. Unlike at home, the objective hazard has less to do with the quality of the rock, and more to do with the quality of protection. Standard stainless steel expansion bolts have a pretty short life in this humid/salt infused air. The scary thing is that they can look fine from the outside, but, inside they can just be a pile of rust. There is a solution, titanium glue in bolts and staples. According to the books and local guides, the only bolts you can trust are those that feature red hilti glue. If you show up with a supply of this stuff, you're treated like a god. Next time, I'll bring a bit of it. There are something like 800 routes on the phra nang peninsula. There are plenty in the 6 range, which encompasses 5.10 a - 5.11 b. If I'm climbing in the 5.11 range by the time we leave, I'll be psyched! JoJo is hoping to start leading again on some easy routes tomorrow, which I know she can handle physically, but it's her head that needs a bit of work yet........ She'll get it for sure.

The bungalow we stayed in for the first few nights, 750 Thai baht per night (about 25 USD), expensive by Thai standards, but, a great place with a Robinson Crusoe kind of feel. The north Daimond wall rises up in the background.

Jo working out the moves before her TR start on a 6a+ on the 1, 2, 3 wall. This is a great spot to get comfortable with the area's climbing, but, you've got to time it right as it's "guided" most of the day. This entails a bunch of Thai guides screaming at their newbie clients, "Right foot up, right foot up! Left hand out, left hand out more. Is left foot broken? Why you no move left foot?" Needless to say, we're not frequenting this crag too much now....

Two classic Thai longtail boats with a ferry in the background. The longtails are ingeniously simple, I'll do a post on them later. They've got the "re-use" part of the 3R's dialed here.

The locals talk a lot about "Freedom" here, and not in the dept. of homeland security kind of way. There's a lot of dreadlocks around the peninsula and reggae can be heard quite often. Of course, I'm not complaining, rather, we're loving it. Pictured here is one of the local beachfront bars, the, "Skunk Bar."

I'm hoping to get across Phra Nang beach tomorrow to climb in the Escher World before the sun starts roasting the place. That beach is incredible, and we'll be sure to grab some photos. Time for another Thai Gatoraid and maybe some time by the pool.... Much Love, Grant & Jo.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Images from a foriegn Metropolis...

Hey all,

I'm feeling a bit wrecked at the moment, caught a nasty cold/flu here in Railay, so, no climbing, beaching or other stresses for me today... he he he.....

Here's a little feast for the eyes. Certainly no photo shop I can use here, so, all images are as captured.

Smiling Buddah at one of the smaller "Wat's" in Bangkok

Figured it was best to pay some respect to this figure before climbing all over an area with TONS of snakes...

Jo acuating the gong. This had an amazing tone that resonated through your body. Quite addictive. Sort of a deep, Ohm sound.

Another Wat as viewed from the public river ferry/taxi. Can't remember the name at the moment....

Yet another temple. These places are pretty cool!

Amazing Thai food near Rambutri street in central Bangkok.

My favorite image from Bangkok. The train station just before our long and chaotic journey South.

Why yes, I'd love another Chang beer babe!

I'll get some more content up this evening. We're loving Railay. I'm back to my moderate climbing level, french 6a+ (5.10 b/c Yosemitie) Now, the trick is to get healthy and get to 5.11!

Thanks for tuning in!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

2 Days in Bangkok

At first, Bangkok was a little intimidating, and our original plan was to book it for the South of Thailand immediately, but, as we were packing up to go, we decided we'd take things a little slower, and spend a day in Southeast Asia's, "City of Angels." Second travel lesson: Create some type of game plan in a "safe" place (i.e. room or restaurant) before heading out onto the street! As soon as you are looking at the Lonely Planet guide, your another floating Dollar sign out there to be taken advantage of. We were mildly "touted" by a taxi cab driver who seamed all so helpful. He also was not running the meter on his cab. He took us to a few different places, all of which were super expensive tourist traps. We reisted, and took matters into our own hands after parting with about 200 b, or $6 USD. At the train station, we purchased our own tickets for the following day. We also got some great advice from the railway staff, and set out to see some wat's (buddhist temples.)

After visiting the temple, we wandered about central bangkok for a bit, taking in the sensory overload in all it's glory. Crossing any street is an excercise in critical mass. It's a delicous banquet for the senses for certain. We wandered back streets, took in amazing and cheap street food, and explored for the better part of the day. We started negotiating public transport. We found our way to the river and took the public ferry back a stop near our guest house on Rambutri road.

That evening, we ate a delicoius little Thai Muslim Curry restaurant in the bangpaulu district of Bangkok. Incredible dining, very little english understood, and a grand total of 169 b.

Yesterday we toured bangkok once again using Tuk Tuk, high speed Sky train, and river taxi. We visited the MBK "mall" which is like an american mall, but you can barter, and the whole experience is absolutely ridiculous! The Thai food court however, was awesome, Jolene particularly liked the iced coffee. I was glad to leave after getting some provisions for our trip!

Last night we began a 17 hour journey south. We started with the overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Sarat Thani, then got on a 3 hours bus, then a taxi, and we're now oh so close to our final destination, Railay beach. It's been an excerise in Chaos to say the least, but we're reveling in the experience, and filled with the rush of doing something that we've dreamed about for so long.

This internet connection is poor, and we've still got to get on a long tail boat to get to Railay, and then secure accomdation for the evening, and there's only 3 hours of daylight left, so that's it for now. Hopefully Railay will have a better internet connection, but, likely not.... I'd like to put more photos up, but, it's not working to well right now..... More to come.... lah gorn kap! Grant & Jo.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Welcome to Bangkok!

Woah! We arrived in Bangkok around midnight local time, which is 15 hours ahead of Mountain time. We decided to go "adventure" style, and didn't book anything in advance. We managed to get our visa's, a taxi to Rambutri, and a guesthouse. Our friend Anna recommended the Four Sons, and low & behold, we found it! 450 baht per night gets us a decent little room, with a shower over the toilet. We had two tiger beer each, and went to bed somewhere around 3 am local time.

First lesson, don't use the towels provided. They've got bugs in 'em, and the bugs bite! I'm greatful we decided to bring the 'lil travel towels.

Our original plan was to rush to Krabi town via the overnight train, but, we've decided to hang out in Bangkok today, and leave tomorrow night. This place looks like it has so much to explore! Today's agenda includes visiting a temple, a Thai market, and hopefully a real Thai dinner somewhere. I'm looking forward to leaving the Tourist ghetto that is the Khoa san road area.

That's all for now, I'll start posting photos soon!