“The first I´d heard of the beach was in Bangkok, on the Khao San Road” – Alex Garland ´The Beach´ (1996)
Since the release of the 2000 film, ´The Beach´, Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi Leh has been an absolute hot-spot for tourists, all eager to experience the paradise portrayed on the screen. I loved the novel by Alex Garland and the film, so visiting the beach was the main activity on my Koh Phi Phi bucket list. But after reading some other blogs and reviews, and hearing from other travelers how over-rated it was, I was prepared to be disappointed.
I organised my trip with P.P. All Seasons Travel, which was just a little shop on the island I happened to pass by. Their sign ´early morning Maya Bay – get there before everyone else´caught my attention immediately; I knew I didn´t want to visit when the hordes of tourists were there because I´d seen a photo on someone´s blog of all of the speedboats lined up along the shore. Not the kind of paradise I wanted to see. Then when I spoke to the guy he told me that there was a limit of 10 people on his boat, which clinched the deal for me (I´d read so many reviews from people saying that their boats were overcrowded and felt unsafe, and I´m not good on a small boat at the best of times!).
We left at 6am the following morning, and took a fairly choppy long-tail boat ride to the bay for sunrise. When we pulled in, I knew I´d made the right decision by coming on an early morning trip because there was only one other long-tail boat of people there. We hopped off and it was exactly how I imagined (unfortunately without Leonardo DiCaprio), just a stretch of white sand, the ocean and the cliffs. The epitome of paradise.
We had 3 hours there so I spent some time wandering through the trees (searching for Leo) and then just chilling on the beach, thinking about the novel and understanding why Richard, Etiénne and Francóise (fictional characters, I know!) were so in love with the place. If I had a few close friends with me, I could have stayed there myself!
At about 7.30am the boats started coming in and depositing their large groups of tourists on the beach, and when it was time to leave the place was full. It felt weird to think how secluded and private it had felt only a couple of hours before.
My suggestion is that if you´re thinking of going, just do it. It´s all well and good reading reviews and blogs etc, but you should go and make up your own mind. If I´d listened to all of the blogs, reviews and friends who told me it was over-rated, I wouldn´t have gone myself, and I really loved it. Go for a sunrise tour though (there are a couple in Koh Phi Phi) because then you get to see ´The Beach´ how it was portrayed in the book/film.
Note: the National Park that the bay is located in costs 400 baht (approx £9) and I´m not aware of any organised tours including this in their price, so it´s just worth asking about it when you visit the tour companies. My trip with P.P. All Seasons Travel was 600 baht/£14 so 1000 baht/£23 all together.
P.s. I went in the rainy season so my photos don’t look as great as others do, but it was still beautiful! It didn’t rain atleast!