Have you seen The Beach? I have (what a legend, etc) and I quite liked the look of the beach in it - specifically, Maya Bay on Phi Phi Leh Island. Nice little secluded beach there, all sunny and blue and sandy and sexy and yes-I-am-having-a-lovely-time-thanks-very-much. Obviously, I never went there, because by the time I was old enough to ‘go travelling’ it had been ruined by a million knobheads in backwards caps and neon face-paint. Not for me.
And this is something with which Thailand’s National Parks and Wildlife Department agrees. The beach, made famous by the 2000 film directed by Danny Boyle, gets about 200 boats and 4000 visitors every day, which is taking its toll on the poor coral reef and the zippy little fishies in the water, so they’re shutting it down.
For four months from June, it’ll completely close to the public and then after that, the number of flip-flop-wearing lunkheads stomping on the sand will be closely controlled. Thon Thamrongawasawat, a marine scientist and member of Thailand’s National Strategy Committee on Environment Development, said:
“It’s like someone who has been working for decades and has never stopped.
“Overworked and tired, all the beauty of the beach is gone. We need a timeout for the beach.
“This would be a good way to start managing our tourist destinations. And we can improve on what we learn after the first year.
“We know that it’s important we manage our resources well. It’s not about more numbers of tourists but about sustainable tourism that benefit locals as well.”
Thanya Netithammakum, head of Thailand’s National Parks and Wildlife Development also said:
“If you ask me if it is too late to save our islands, the answer is no.
“But if we don’t do something today, it will be too late.”
What they’re hoping for is a similar regeneration to the one seen on the islands of Koh Yoong and Koh Tachai, which closed in 2016 and are slowly returning to their beautiful younger years. Which is nice, ain’t it?
“I have always dreamt that one day we could work to bring her back to life. I have been following and working on Maya Bay for more than 30 years.
“I had seen it when it was a heaven and I see it when it has nothing left.
“Anything that we can do to bring this paradise back to Thailand is the dream of a marine biologist.”
Controversy arose during the making of the film due to 20th Century Fox’s bulldozing and landscaping of the natural beach setting of Ko Phi Phi Leh to make it more “paradise-like”, with the alteration of some sand dunes, and the clearing of coconut trees and grass to widen the beach.
Despite a fund put aside by Fox to return the beach to its natural state, lawsuits were filed by environmentalists who believed the damage to the ecosystem was permanent and restoration attempts had failed. Following shooting of the film, there was a clear flat area at one end of the beach that was created artificially with an odd layout of trees which was never rectified, and the entire area remained damaged from the original state until the tsunami of 2004.
The ensuing lawsuits dragged on for years and, in 2006, Thailand’s Supreme Court upheld an appellate court ruling that the filming had harmed the environment and ordered that damage assessments be made.
So it’s a good, if belated, effort, but I reckon just get Leo to pump a few million into it and we’re sorted, no? It’s his fault it got shat on in the first place. Bloody Leo, ruining beaches since 2000.