So when you picture the Thai islands, beautiful beaches, wooden huts and limestone rock formations in the background are what you see. The famous image of which is seen in the almost cult classic film The Beach, starring Leondardo Dicaprio. Being one of my favourite films for as long as I can remember I was eager to finally walk onto The Beach, to sit and admire the view as Leonardo himself does. When on PhiPhi it was annoying to be repeatedly told that the trip was overrated and apparently the worst word backpackers can hear, “touristy”, ignoring that silly advice Emma, Lauren, Lucie and I excitedly made our way towards the small wooden boat, decorated with colourful ribbons on the front panel.
With a set itineray for the day we headed straight for Monkey Beach, which started off pretty cool watching the monkeys climb the trees, play with their young and run around on the sand. We got as closed as we dared for photographs and watched as a larger monkey stole and drank somebody’s water bottle, they’ve definatley done that before we thought, and must be so used to tourists gawping at them. After a while the monkeys seemed to get fed up, as more and more boats turned up at the admittedly very small beach, getting closer and closer to the wild animals and their children. Unsurprisingly, the monkeys got annoyed and territorial, within seconds they had lashed out at several people, scratching, jumping and biting anyone within reach. It was quite scary and felt like a scene from a movie, as hoards of people screamed and ran into the sea to escape, The girls and I included. Everyone made their way back towards the boats, and the monkeys screamed, bared teeth and showed their wild side. Our boat guide was trying to scare them backwards, which worked eventually and we all clambered aboard, to find a young girl on our boat crying and panicking about her scratches. I felt bad for the monkeys, they had their children with them and were just protecting them from the hoards of people encircling them, I suppose they were reminding everyone that they are wild animals, and not tamed animals in a petting zoo to prod and gawp at. We dropped the upset girl back off at the island so she could arrange rabies shots at the hospital and continued on our way, shocked but not overly surprised by what had just happened.
For us, the next part was a bit boring, we had not paid extra to do the cliff jump, so spent a while watching and waiting as others climbed the cliffs and jumped into the water. Instead we ate, fed the fish our leftover bread and peered into an old Viking cave built into one of the cliffs, where apparently the drawings of Viking ships inside the caves were drawn by sea gypsies and pirates who stopped there for shelter during the monsoon season, and Swift birds live in the cave making their nests out of their own saliva, which is then harvested and used in Chinese cooking as birds nest soup. It’s one of the most expensive animal products consumed by man at $2,500 per kilogram…sounds delish.
Next up was the classic snorkel trip, surrounded by brightly coloured fish and desperately avoiding the large black spikey sea urchins below. It was a nice snorkel spot and luckily we had really good weather despite the recent storms!
Next up, finally, Maya Beach. The Beach I had been waiting for. When we got there, there was no beach, and the sea was just crashing up against the rocks. I was annoyed that we may have been brought here at high tide…and therefore unable to see the beach, but of course I was wrong.. We waded through the water, climbed through a cove being hit by the sea waves and then along a rope obstical course, which brought us out in a large jungle beach area. I followed the path and walked through the palm trees sprouting up from the sand, and made my way down to the beach, instantly I felt like I was in the movie, and couldn’t help but run a little onto the beach in my eagerness. I sat and took it all in, it was an impressive beach, smaller than I imagined and I could see the gap in the rocks leading out to sea, whereas in the film it is fully enclosed, but still, I was excited! We took heaps of photos, played in the warm sea, wrote in the golden sand and watched the sunset behind a gorgeous view. It was everything I thought it would be, and wasn’t actually that busy, although I could imagine it packed out during high season.
We slowly made our way back along the path, and down the rope climbing frame, taking it in turns to climb through the cove when the waves seemed to have a quick break from crashing through and clambered back into our boat ready for the next stop, which was a lovely lagoon. Lauren had cut her leg quite badly on some coral so the girls stayed in the boat to rest, I had a little swim in the impossibly clear water before I was pulled back into the boat for our final stop. It was getting dark now, which was perfect for our next activity, swimming with the glowing plankton. Our boat was connected to other boats and we all jumped in, splashed around and marvelled at the plankton glowing around us, although not quite as bright as those off Koh Rong it was still fun to do, and was a nice end to the day.
We celebrated that night with a night out, lots of buckets and dancing on the beach before we said our goodbyes the next day. Lucie, Lauren and Tom headed to Phuket, whilst Emma and I headed to the boats to make our way to Koh Lanta. I was sad saying goodbye, after spending the majority of my Asia time with these girls, we reminisced over our meeting on Cat Ba Island, bonding over sea food fried rice, meat on a stick and our love of food, and of course all the dramas we had overcome in the last few months.