The Beach – on the tourist treadmill in Thailand

Back in 2000, Leonardo Di Caprio starred in ‘The Beach’, a movie based on the book of the same name by Alex Garland. Much of the movie was filmed on Maya Beach, Ko Phi Phi Lee Island.
This is the ‘The Beach’ today, or more accurately, this was it yesterday. I haven’t seen a stretch of sand this crowded since a trip to the Canary Islands in 2007 when Norwegians lay jowl to jowl, saddle bag to saddle bag, soaking up the winter sun.
But there was no sun bathing on Maya Beach yesterday.

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We landed on the strand, our boat parking alongside at least 30 more tourist-laden vessels, as part of an island tour. We were like tourists on a treadmill, with water and cola included in the deal, except of course there was no actual running done because on Maya Beach there was barely space to walk. The sand was silken, and if you could photoshop the boats and people out of the experience as easily as a newspaper can for a photo, it would certainly feel like paradise. But yesterday, paradise was reduced to a photo bombing opportunity. I envisage hundreds of Facebook profile photos updated last night with images of tourists against a backdrop of, well, hundreds of other tourists taking new Facebook profile shots.

Years from now, anthropologists viewing these scenes, will be able to examine the aspirations and behaviour of middle-class travellers in 2014. Today, ecologists must be crying. Yesterday, I almost was.

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