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Day 13 – The Beach And The DiCaprio Paradox

March 16, 2010

Dateline: Islands surrounding Ko Phi Phi Don, Thailand, Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I’m at the beach. I’m also at The Beach, as in the one featured in the movie starring that really hot French girl and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Unfortunately, the really hot French girl doesn’t appear to be here. Instead, there are hundreds of tourists including an old, fat, hairy Russian grunting next to me, trying to get a Japanese couple to move away from the Maya Bay Krabi Thailand sign. Instead of playing cricket on the beach with bohemian youths, I’m jostling people from Italy, Germany, China, and America for sun and shade. We are all looking for a spot between the powerboats where we can get a clear view of the bay. Like all celebrities, The Beach seems much smaller in person.

I don’t hate these people, though. It’s hard to.

This is the nature of the traveling game. If some place is worth going to, eventually, it will be crawling with tourists. So long as transport keeps getting cheaper and people continue to become richer, places like Maya Bay will become more crowded.

Of course it would be better for me if there were fewer people here. That’d be true, though, for a lot of things. Freeways in Los Angeles would be more pleasant if more people were too poor to have cars. Chowing down on sweet, crispy, dry fried chicken would be easier if fewer people knew about the deliciousness served by San Tung Chinese Restaurant. Getting into Harvard would be easier if there were fewer rich Texans bribing the school so their sons get in and cheerlead.

Thin the herd for just about any activity and things get nicer.

That’s the thing, though. We’re all part of the herd. If you’re lamenting the crowds, that just means you’re either one of the crowd or you wish the crowd there was smaller and included yourself.

That attitude’s kind of lame, though. It’s like those elitists that start to hate something just because everyone else starts to like it. Was Green Day really that different after Dookie or did they become lame because your little sister started to like them? Did Roberto Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful really make a mockery of the holocaust or did the hype of the Oscar win do it in?

It’s hard to say, but more often than not, something’s popular for a reason.

Take Maya Bay for example. I know that, as an object of nature, I love it. It’s a crescent cove surrounded by high cliffs on all sides. The sand is soft, fine, and white. The water is an unreal clear emerald green and there’s some good snorkeling a short swim from shore. Take away the crowd and it’s an undeniably beautiful place. I would love it for what it is.

Everyone else loves it too, which is why they’re here. It’s also why the snorkel spots Lars and I and the rest of our speed boat see are crowded. These spots are beautiful. People want to take part in the beauty.

I am one of those people.

Together, I and the rest of the interlopers have changed the character of the beautiful object. We’ve removed the tranquility and the peace and, most importantly, we’ve removed the exclusivity.

That’s what every one of us wishes we had. Exclusivity. It’s selfish, really.

So, I can’t hate the crowds. I’m here, right? I’m one of them.

In the crowds, though, I can find a spot for myself and find some tranquility. Some beauty. A way to make the place my own in a way that doesn’t wipe the rest of the tourists off the planet.

I can’t have The Beach from the movie. It’s just too beautiful to be kept a secret for long. I have to find what beauty I can in what’s here amongst the tourists.

Now, if I could just find a hot French girl.


Stupid Travel Tip of the Day: Only visit the insanely gorgeous Phi Phi islands during worldwide flu epidemics.

Not So Stupid Tip: Consider chartering a longtail boat out to Maya Bay for a day. If you can get a group of people together, you can keep the costs down. Go to Maya Bay either early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Word is the tourists thin out because most are on pre-planned speedboat trips that stop there for an hour or so closer to the middle of the day. Lars, 24 other people, and I went there on a pre-planned speedboat run. That was fine for what it was, considering we also got in some good snorkeling. If you charter a boat, you can tell the driver where you want to go and for how long.

You can hire longtails out of Phi Phi Don, which is right around the corner. If you decide to hire a boat out of Railay, Ao Nong, or something around there, consider springing for a speedboat. Not sure how long it would take in a slower long tail, but the speed boat took 45 minutes. That’s quite a while to be on open water.

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