“Trust me, it's paradise. This is where the hungry come to feed. For mine is the generation that travels the globe and searches for something we haven't tried before. So never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite & never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience— And if it hurts, you know what? It's probably worth it.” – Alex Garland, The Beach.
I guess the trouble with finally going somewhere you hold so highly in your expectations is the fear that it will not reach them. For the longest time, I had longed to visit Maya Bay - I was so sure it would be everything I expected it to be and more. It never once crossed my mind that perhaps my expectations were far too high nor my assumptions maybe a little too naive. After all, how could paradise be anything other than a haven?
But here it is.
My Big Confession.
I was disappointed in Maya Bay.
I know. I know. You’ve seen The Beach. You’ve witnessed Leonardo Dicaprio explore the golden sands and crystal waters, it is a stunning, tropical paradise. It’s heaven on earth. How the hell could I be disappointed with paradise?
After The Beach was filmed, Maya Bay was put on the map. People would travel from across the world to catch a glimpse of the beautiful island. With popularity, came tourists and with the tourists came money. There is no such thing as capping or regulating visits to the island. If you have the money to go, then you will go, regardless of how many people are packed onto the small bay at any one time. The island sold its soul to the tourism devil, and it ain’t getting it back anytime soon.
Looking back, I was naive but i imagined it to remain exactly as it was in the movie. Untouched and unchanged. Idyllic. I wanted to stumble across it the same way Leonardo did and fall completely in love with its isolated beauty.
This did not happen.
Believe me, Maya Bay has changed.
There is no “stumbling” up on the island, tours are advertised every where once you arrive on Koh Phi Phi which is the only access point the island. On the “tours” hundreds of boats cram into the small bay. Tourists line the sand, so many of them it’s difficult to walk without standing on someone. There is no unspoiled view, instead its hoards of people clambering over each other to take a photo.
The water is no longer twinkling with mystery, the cliffs no longer protecting the islands secrets.
I can’t explain how disappointed i felt. Maya Bay was on my bucket list, it was what i had envisioned true paradise to be like, so stepping off that long tail boat, I honestly thought we had docked in the wrong place. It is still a gorgeous island, the water is still incredibly blue and the sand still wonderfully white, it just wasn’t what i had expected or hoped it would be. It had lost its magic.
There are still near-enough deserted islands in Thailand and many other South East Asian countries. Sadly, Maya Bay just isn’t one of them anymore.