Monday, 13 February 2012

Postcards from Paradise - Truly Asia

I said the adventure would continue, and boy, what an adventure it was!

We crossed the border to Malaysia, unbeknown to us too late for the last bus or taxi south. We were stranded, stuck, and generally felt a bit stupid – thankfully, we would soon fall on one of the most helpful people of the trip, a local policeman who would drive us around and organise everything for our unexpected stay in this sleepy little town.

It turns out this kindness is not uncommon in this part of the world (except in taxi drivers) and the next morning we made the short trip to Bukit Keteri, still clueless but forever hopeful that fate, or luck would see us right. Stopping at a small “cafe” just opposite the impressive Cliff, the locals greet us with a smile and a wave as we drop our heavy packs and sit down.

“Hello, 2 kopi ice please. Oh and do you know a place we can sleep?”

It is as simple as that! Food, lodgings, and new friends – I am starting to like life in Malaysia. The cafe is run by Liza, who along with her husband, brother, mother and children, makes us feel completely at home. Lisa and the kids prepare us a perfect little nest in the shape of a mosquito net on a raised, covered gazebo, and after call us back to the Cafe for the first of many amazing meals. Food at the front, sleeping out the back, and an amazing cliff just across the road – what more can you ask for?

Mmmmmmmmm... Me Gureng

The climbing at Bukit Keteri is world class and very unique. Bulging blank bellies of white limestone occasionally dotted with giant pockets and melting tufas make for very powerful and dynamic climbing. Routes are often bouldery revolving around one specific crux section but there are a few slightly more pumpy offerings, although they are the minority.

The most striking route of the cliff is the amazing 7b+ Belly Button Window. In addition to being fantastic climbing it is also the most obvious line I have seen in Asia – from the road it stands out like someone has marked it with a highlighter. Obviously, we made a beeline for it on day one and its quality didn’t disappoint.

Read more and see some pics at JPClimbing

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Postcards from Paradise - Ton Sai... too bad!

I guess the good luck and permanent smiles could not last forever! This week’s Postcard from Paradise is sadly a little more negative than the last few weeks offerings. Perhaps we are difficult and ungrateful, perhaps the excellent places we have seen over the last 3 weeks have set our expectations too high? Either way, if you don’t want to hear about the darker side of travelling, it might be best to skip this and wait until next week. For easy laughs and a good feeling inside, click here instead...

This trip to South East Asia was always going to be more about exploration, but after a few weeks of jungle bashing and bolting, the idea of plentiful convenient cragging, and the chance to try some harder routes started to appeal.

We left Bangkok early one morning on a flight to Krabi, and by 10am were searching out a place to stay on a very crowded and smelly Ton Sai beach. I had spent a few weeks here in 2007 during my first SEA trips, and I was sad to see how rapidly things have changed, and not for the better.

Hectic (usual) scenes at the Ton Sai Roof

Ton Sai was never going to win any hygiene awards, but now things are getting grim, with piles of garbage and raw sewage everywhere - there are just too many people for the area to handle. Terrible stories of contaminated water from neighbouring waste systems, and ugly infections from the dirty sea are common place. It’s such a shame as the views and situation are breathtaking, truly magnificent – another sad case of paradise lost?

To read the rest of the post, along with more pictures, go to