Whereabouts…Maya Bay, Thailand!

I was sorting through a few things at the weekend and came across a bunch of photos from my year of travels that I took many moons ago.  Very much a blast from the past!

There were a mixture of pics from Thailand, New Zealand and Australia, but the one that caught my eye was this one:

Maya Bay – aka the beach from ‘The Beach’…this is a photo of a photo (taken originally on a point and click film camera…remember them??!!)

It is of Maya Bay on Ko Phi Phi Leh in Thailand, better known as the beach in the film ‘The Beach’ which was released in 2000.

The photo was taken around this time of year in 2003, when my friend and I had just started out on our year long adventure and were exploring South East Asia. It certainly seems like a lifetime ago now!

We set out early from Ko Phi Phi Don on a long tail boat headed for this location, to get there before the crowds and this is what greeted us…it was truly a paradise. The beach was almost empty and it was pretty much as we had seen it in the film.

We wandered the beach, had a swim and generally marveled at its beauty and serenity.  It didn’t last though and the beach filled up after a little while, at which point it was time for us to get the hell out of there.

At the time I couldn’t believe how many people were arriving, but it was nothing compared to the numbers that were to come. But also at the time I didn’t give a second thought to our visit and the impact that it might have on the bay. It was a truly stunning place and one I wanted to see whilst I was there.

And we were not alone in that longing, as the years have gone on its popularity has led to it being increasingly inundated. The bay was sustaining extensive environmental damage, with its coral dying and rubbish becoming a big problem. According to reports it was receiving up to 3500 visitor a day, numbers this small bay just couldn’t sustain.

The Thai authorities finally closed it to all visitors last year to allow the eco-system to regenerate, and it looks as though the closure will now continue to 2021.

It’s not the first place that has closed its doors to tourists, the island of Boracay in the Philippines also closed for a while last year as well to clean it up and bring in new regulations and there have been numerous other Thai islands to stop visitors.  It’s a trend that I’m sure will continue and increase as tourist numbers everywhere soar and destinations struggle to cope.

So lets hope this closure of this beautiful bay helps it to recover, there have already been sightings of blacktip reef sharks returning to the bay, some also giving birth there, a positive sign!

As to its future? Well, that will be down to the Thai authorities to manage, but also to the actions of the tourists who choose to visit.  Trying to get the balance right between tourism and environmental sustainability will be tricky, but hopefully it will be achieved.

Posted as part of the fabulous Friendly Friday Photo Challenge.




23 thoughts on “Whereabouts…Maya Bay, Thailand!

  1. This is a beautiful place. I’m glad they have shut it down for a while. I think that’s probably a good idea. I went right after the tsunami hit and they were in the middle of a rebuild. That was an interesting time to be over there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I agree, it’s very necessary to allow it time to recover. The tsunami happened a year after we were there, I can imagine it was interesting to visit right afterwards. What an absolutely terrifying event that was, but I imagine a lot of places were never the same afterwards.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved this thoughtful post, so on point and timely. The mass hype of traveling is astonishing and it’s turned me off traveling, but I’m happy that I got to experience most places I wanted before things got out of hand. And also sad that I, too, ignored the environmental consequences of all my traveling and working in tourism. Things look so different now, don’t they? So much more obvious.
    Anyway, this was also a nice trip down memory lane. It made me remember how I received The Beach as a book when it had just come out, and I read it and loved it. Just over 20, I was probably right in its target audience back then. And then they made it into a film and left out many details from the book, as always, and I didn’t like the film as much. Your post also made me reminisce how I had a travel year in 2002-2003, too, in France and Italy, and actually continued that lifestyle until 2010. Good times. Feels like such a long time ago! Are you still in contact with your backpacking buddy?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh thank you so much. As soon as I saw the photo I knew exactly what I wanted to write about. It feels so long ago now but it was only 16 years, but what a change has happened in that time. The explosion of the number of tourists everywhere just astonishes me and I find the subject of overtourism very interesting. I agree, I am really glad that I traveled back then because things are so different now. The environmental concerns that we see now didn’t really cross my mind though at the time, but again I guess that is sign of how things have changed. I still love to travel but the sheer numbers of visitors to certain places do put me off going. a) it just gets too crowded and b) I do feel guilty adding to those numbers in places that are already struggling to cope (Venice is a place that springs to mind in these terms). But with regards this post, I loved The Beach and couldn’t get those images of ‘paradise’ out of my mind. I saw the film before I read the book, so only realised there was so much more to it at a later date. I am still in touch with my fellow backpacker, she is one of my closest friends and it’s so lovely to be able to look back on our adventures together. It sounds like you had similar adventures at that time too? Were you traveling and/or working in Europe? It sounds very interesting!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Our experiences and thoughts do sound similar! Especially regarding overtourism. Maybe I should do a blog post on that, now that you inspired me! I also remember you did a similar post on overtourism in Nepal – was it you?
        I was studying, working and traveling, just hanging out, in France, Italy, and Greece and also back home I was working in aviation and other tourism jobs… and studying, too 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        1. They do don’t they! Yes, I posted about the queue on everest a little while ago, it was unbelievable! I’d love to read your thoughts on the subject of overtourism if you decide to write a post on it 🙂 I will no doubt be revisiting the subject again as it’s something that can’t be avoided I think. Wow, what great times you must have had! Have you written about them at all?

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Brings back happy memories to me. I had many trips to Maya during the eighties when it really was undiscovered (I was lucky in that I had Thai friends in Krabi who took me there) and in 1973 I spent a week on Phi Phi Don but I remember it mostly because I couldn’t sleep due to the sound of coconuts crashing to the ground all night. I hope the Phi Phi Islands do recover but I think it may take a long, long time. Last time I was there – about ten years ago I think – they were a disgrace and tourists were behaving very badly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh how amazing! What a different experience you must have had back then on the island! What sort of infrastructure did Phi Phi Don have back then? When I visited there were still huts on the beach but I can’t say I heard any crashing coconuts during our visit, it was too crowded for that. But we could hear the sea from our bungalow, which at the time I found just amazing. It sounds like the development has continued though and I’m not sure I’d like to go back now.


  4. It’s the right decision to shut it down unfortunately, keeping thousands of tourists away has to improve the environment doesn’t it? Shame for visitors but probably the right thing to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I agree, it’s a shame for those who want to see it, but it just can’t sustain those numbers so shutting it down seems like the only option. I hope it does the trick and when it is finally re-opened it is managed well. Unfortunately I think this is just a small example of the damage we are doing to our environment, but at least positive steps have been taken in this instance.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Brought back memories of when I visited in 2004. Thailand is becoming overrun by tourists and it’s getting harder to find the not-so-traversed destinations there…

    I first visited Thailand in 1985, 1989, 2004, 2014, and 2016 – the changes over the decades are immense as have the people changed also.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t been back to Thailand for a while now, but it was busier than ever then, so I can only imagine what it’s like now. Those visits in the 80’s must have been a completely different experience, how fantastic to have been able to visit back then!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Well I will be heading back in that direction next year so maybe! I feel the same about visiting Angkor Wat back then too, I feel lucky to have seen it before the crowds. You’ve also explored Laos then? I have only visited Luang Prabang but it was great and I really want to see more!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I spent 2 weeks in Laos back in 1989 – that was hard travelling (check out my post if you have time). Then spent over 2.5 months in Laos in 2014 travelling from the north to the south of the county – spectacular! Love Laos.

            Liked by 1 person

  6. You and I have talked about this before. When we go sightseeing, we go there knowing it’s a privilege and we take care of that place. It’s unbelievable how other people have completely no regard for it. I’m not sure how, but it seems to me that traveling used to be a lot more expensive. Not everyone was able to go wherever so those that did, knew how to act. Now, with all those different vacation deals anyone can travel here and there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, absolutely, as you say it is such a privilege isn’t it to be able to visit these places, it’s so important that we treat them with the respect they deserve. It’s sad that some people don’t do this, especially with the numbers of tourists there are at these sorts of sites these days.

      Liked by 1 person

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