You’ve seen it. Or, at least, you’ve heard of it. Playing on hostel screens all across Southeast Asia, the movie “The Beach,” starring Leonardo has been declared a “must-see” for all travel enthusiasts.
The premise is that a young American man with a longing for adventure arrives in Bangkok, Thailand. He walks through frenetic Kaosan Road, through the neon-lit streets, past drunken backpackers and street vendors. He’s yearning for something different. At his guesthouse he comes in contact with a mentally disturbed man who tells him of a secret paradise–a pristine island, hidden by limestone cliffs–hidden from tourists.
And so it goes: Leo finds a map, he convinces two other wanderlusts to join him on the adventure of a lifetime, they find the beach, Leo falls in love (as he does), and eventually human nature rears its ugly head and paradise is lost.
The unfortunate irony is that the movie conveys a very clear message to its viewers: the ability to preserve an untouched nirvana is futile.
Here’s an image taken of the famous “Beach,” Maya Bay. Note, this was not during high season. And although there was virtually no space to lay a towel or enjoy some solitude, our guide said the amount of tourists doubles during the months between November and March.
As so often happens, the media has helped a beautiful country gain tourism dollars, but in the process, has unintentionally ruined an idyllic, largely unexplored, paradise.
Not to say the whole day trip from Ao Nang was a bust; it was actually a nice day. And, as a traveler who had done the whole watching-“The Beach”-in-the-hostel-thing in her 20’s, I had to go. But Maya Bay was my least favorite place my family and I went during our week vacation.
The photo above was taken while approaching the first stop on our tour, Bamboo Island. We went with a company called Ao Nang Orchid, booked through our hotel. The picture below is from the shores of the island.
After about an hour relaxing and swimming at Bamboo Island, we headed to Leo’s beach, Maya Bay, then to Phi Phi Don for lunch. The beach wasn’t too impressive, but the buffet lunch was.
After lunch, we hopped back on the speed boat to enjoy some snorkeling in Monkey Bay. For me, this was the best part of the trip. The water was clear, the reef was active, and the area was rich with sea life.
Would I recommend a day trip to the famous Koh Phi Phi? Absolutely. But don’t get your hopes up. The otherworldly island depicted in the movie no longer exists. But the islands surrounding do–and they are pretty spectacular. And, to quote Leo’s character, “[Paradise does exist], but it’s not some place you can look for. Because it’s not where you go. It’s how you feel for a moment in your life when you’re a part of something. And if you find that moment, it lasts forever.”