Questions and Answers
For more questions and answers, please see a similar page that I put up for my trip to Thailand in the winter of 2005. I'll try not to repeat myself, so see that page for travel basics. Questions and answers about climbing are held here.
- Where did you go?. I flew into Bangkok and spent a couple of days kicking around there and climbing near Lopburi. I then flew down to Krabi in the south and made my way to Tonsai for a week of climbing. From there I bused and boated to Ko Libong, an island in the Andaman ocean south of Krabi and nearest the town of Trang. I then made my way back to Bangkok via Nakhon Si Thammarat.
- How long were you there? From December 10, 2006 to December 29, 2006. By my count, this is 20 days.
- How did you get there? I flew from SeaTac to Bangkok via Taipei on EVA Air. From leaving my apartment to getting into my hotel in Bangkok took about 27 hours. I found EVA Air to be quite comfortable and would happily fly them again. My flight had the added benefit of arriving around 11 am in Bangkok, rather than the more traditional hour of 2 am.
- Who did you go with? I went by myself, but spent quite a bit of time with others. My friend Mike lives in Bangkok with his wife, Wallapak, another friend of mine. I spent time climbing with Mike, then met my sister Anna and her friend Brian for a few idyllic days on Ko Libong.
- Do I need to hire a guide for climbing in Thailand? This depends on if you have your own gear with you and how willing you are to lead climb. My friend Mike did all the leading, though by the end I would have been comfortable doing much of it. The main service the guides provide is in hanging ropes and belaying people who don't have partners. If you have a partner, gear, and enough experience to lead, then there isn't a reason to hire a guide. In Tonsai, the climbing is right there, however in other parts of Thailand you'll need to hire someone to drive you out to the crags.
- How do I get to Tonsai/Railey? The easiest, fastest, and most pleasant way is to fly from Bangkok to Krabi. You can book flights electronically, for example on 12Go Airlines. Tickets cost about $40 and the flight takes about 80 minutes. From the airport get a taxi from the ticket stand inside to Ao Nang. This costs about 800 baht and you can't bargin. Nor can you get a taxi from the outside: The drivers will simply send you back inside to buy a ticket. You might be able to walk out to the road and flag a driver down, but this seems more trouble than it is worth. The ride to Ao Nang takes about 30 minutes and the driver will drop you off at the ticket counter for the long tails if you indicate you are going to Tonsai. Buy a long tail ticket and tell the pilot where you're going (i.e, Tonsai, Railey East, etc). A ticket is 80 baht.
- What kind of camera did you bring? I brought a Nikon D70 with Nikon 18-70 DX and 50 mm f/1.8 lenses. I didn't use the 50 mm very much this time around. I shot RAW files and fiddled with them a little bit on the computer when I got home. I took about 500 pictures in all and didn't come even remotely close to needing to recharge the battery. I also brought a small Olympus Camedia D395 point and shoot digital for times when I didn't want to bring the big digital DSLR.
- Where didn't you go that you wish you did? I'd like to have had enough time to spend a week or so at Ko Tarutao Marine Park further south. My sister and Brian got a few days there, but I had to come back. I could have gone with, but would only have been able to spend a day or so there.
- What is Chang? Chang is a brand of beer commonly available throughout Thailand. It runs about 6.2% alcohol and is less hopped than Singha, the other big beer brand. It is cheap and not especially good, but seems to be ok for the hot climate.
- What is Som Tom? Som Tom is a very spicy salad made from green papaya. If you've had it in the United States, you've got the wrong idea of it. Som Tom should be blazing hot, with several bird peppers per serving, and explode with a combination of saltiness, sourness, and sweetness. You should find little dried shrimps in it or, if you're lucky, mashed up land crabs. I don't bother ordering this in the US because I never get anything that remotely resembles som tom. Eat it with sticky rice.
- What is Graprao? Graprao refers to a common Thai dish that sort of means, "prepared with chilis and basil". Again, I haven't had good graprao outside of Thailand: It usually comes out as a generic, gloppy stir fry. Graprao should be made with loads of basil, garlic, and chilis, where they are acting as vegetables, not seasonings, along with dark soy sauce and fish sauce. You normally have some finely minced meat in it along with a friend egg on top. Graprao mu is graprao made with pork, while graprao kai is made with chicken. Regions have different styles, and I've gotten bits of squid in some places and in others fresh green peppercorns (eat it all!). Here is Wallapak's uncle's recipe that I got via Mike, adapted slightly.
Heat oil in a saute pan or wok until blazing hot. Toss the garlic in and stir fry until it smells good (about 8 seconds). Add the meat and stir constantly, keeping it from clumping together. Cook well, about 5 minutes or so. Add the two sauces and stir for a couple of seconds, adding water if you need more sauce. Add the peppers and stir for about 30 seconds. Add a bit of salt if you need it. Turn off the heat and add the basil, stirring so that it wilts. Serve over rice with a fried egg.
- 1-1.25 lbs ground pork (best), chicken, or turkey
- 1 head garlic, crushed and roughly chopped
- 10-25 Thai bird peppers (use serranos if you can't get bird peppers), crushed and sliced. Do not seed.
- Two fistfuls of whole basil leaves (the more the better). Using mint instead is interesting. Using cilantro is boring.
- 2 Tbs dark soy sauce (regular won't work, you need the sweetness of the dark).
- 1.5 Tbs fish sauce.
I like to add a few more vegetables so that I get about 4 meals out of this recipe at home.