So I arrived at Ton Sai yesterday. Ton Sai is the backpackers beach (basically cheaper and grudgier) in the area, and I actually like the scenery more. The setting is cozier, with massive imposing cliffs surrounding the beach (which is admittedly worse for swimming and sun-bathing, neither of which I particularly cared about). I found a cheap private bungalow in the back of the forest behind the beach. The bungalow is mostly wood and bamboo, and setting is perfect. The woods are filled with birds and animals; the nights quiet and still, except for the sounds of nature.
Ton Sai also has the advantage of being close to Rai Lei and Pranang, two of the nicest beaches in the area (Pranang is actually ranked by many as the second nicest beach in the world). Before visiting Pranang, I took a fairly steep hike and climb up to viewpoint over Rai Lei, and then another climb to this absolutely marvelous lagoon. The trail plunges straight down into this beautifully quiet and cool canyon, insolated from the sounds and chaos of the outside world. The canyon continued down to a crystal clear lagoon, surrounded by massive cliffs on all sides, with stalagmites hanging off the cliff faces.
After the lagoon, I made my way to Pranang for the sunset and some juggling. The beach definitely did not disappoint. Limestone islands rise out from the ocean, soaring cliffs with stalagmites form an auditorium-like setting, and crystal clear waters top it off. On one side of the beach, you can explore several caves. One of them leads into a pitch black chamber, where you feel your way through a small opening until a glimmer of light reveals the way out.