Maya bay is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It is so beautiful that they used it to film the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Beach”. It is located on the island of Phi Phi Ley, near the tourist haven of Phi Phi Don. Most tourists from Phi Phi Don hire a boat taxi and head out to Maya Bay for a few hours, ruining the picturesque setting with their loud noises and tiny speedos. Courtney, Jamie, and I had a plan to defeat the other tourists and have the beach all to ourselves.
We had a heard from a few travelers along the way that the only real way to see Maya Bay was to book a Sleep Aboard Tour. There is one company that has permission from the government (It’s a national park) for this type of trip. They take a small group of travelers out on their boat in the afternoon, arrive at Maya Bay just as the rest of the tourists are leaving, take you to the beach for some swimming and relaxing, feed you dinner, give you a bucket of fruit juice and rum, play music, and participate in your drinking games. After that, they take you back out to the boat, let you swim in the amazing light show of the phosphorescent plankton, then set you up with a pillow, sleeping bag, and mattress on the deck so you can fall asleep under the stars. Back to the beach for a while in the morning before the next group of tourists arrive, then back to the boat for breakfast before finally heading back to Phi Phi Don. How could we possibly pass this up?!?!
We booked our trip online a few days in advance, and we got a confirmation and some instructions. We booked ferry tickets for that morning from Krabi, and grabbed some yogurts from 7-11 for breakfast. Our ferry tickets included a van ride from our hotel to the pier, so it was a relatively easy journey from Krabi to Koh Phi Phi.
We hopped off the ferry and made our way to the travel office where we were able to leave most of our stuff while we were on the boat. We grabbed a quick bite to eat at a local Italian place and then it was off to meet our boat. We found it at the pier with plenty of time to spare, and eventually headed off to Phi Phi Ley.
Along the way to Maya Bay, we stopped at a few interesting places. The first was a place called the “Viking Caves”. Apparently pirates used to hide out here 500 years ago, and found out that making soup from the nest of the swallow’s that roost here is actually nutritious because it is made from the saliva of the swallow. Today, those same bird’s nests sell for 6,000 Euros per kilo in Europe, making it some of the most expensive spit in the world. There are a few Thai guys who live in the cave, and climb to impossible heights using only bamboo poles tied together to reach these nests.
We also stopped at a small bay to do a little snorkeling. Courtney is getting braver by the day and jumped right in (not off the top of the boat like I did, but close enough). We swam for a while with the fish while Jamie kayaked around us. Eventually we got back on board for a quick snack as we made our way to Maya Bay.
If you’ve seen the movie, you know exactly what I’m about to describe because it looks just as beautiful in real life as it does in the film. The bay itself is fairly shallow, and you can see right to the bottom. The water is a beautiful green color in the sunlight, and the entire thing is surrounded by high, rocky cliffs except for a small opening out to the ocean. It’s absolutely breathtaking. We took our big boat just a little ways into the bay, and then rode the dingy to the beach itself. We arrived around 5:00pm, and most of the tourists were leaving as we arrived. It was awesome to watch everyone else leave, and then have the beach all to ourselves.
We lounged around till about 7pm, and then all got together for very tasty dinner of rice, vegetables, and chicken curry. It was so good that I had to get seconds, and once we were all full, out came the free buckets of booze. We taught the people around us how to play “Horse Racing”, which we had learned from our friends on the Condor in the Whitsundays. After a few rounds to get everyone socially lubricated, our Thai guide suggested we switch to everyone’s favorite game, Circle of Death. I have to say, that game is twice as fun with an international crowd. “Never have I ever killed a chicken.” Also, things get interesting when you have to explain what streaking is to people who speak very limited English, but they’re face sure gets red when they finally understand and then take a drink as they sheepishly look at their friends.
Around 11pm, we headed back to our boat and started seeing tiny flashes of light in the water as we drove. The lights were little plankton in the water that glow blue, green, and yellow. From the surface of the water, they look like a few tiny little lightning bugs. Once we reached our boat, however, I put on a mask and snorkel and got to see just how amazing they actually are. Underwater, there are literally thousands of them around you, and they are ‘activated’ by your motion in the water. Swishing your arms and legs creates a spectacular light show that could have only been made better with a Pink Floyd soundtrack. It was insane.
After drying off, we found a couple mattresses and sleeping bags on the roof of the boat and stretched out for a peaceful night’s sleep under the stars… Or so we thought. That’s when the real adventure began.
Around 1am, I woke up to a light drizzle of rain. I gently shook Courtney awake, and she promptly looked up at the sky and simply pulled her sleeping bag up a little higher, rolling back over to go back to sleep. Then it started raining a little harder. Enough that we decided to move down underneath the tarp on the upper deck. There were a few holes in it, but it kept us fairly dry. Then the bottom fell out… Of both the sky, and the tarp we were hiding under. We dragged our soaking sleeping bags and selves down below deck with the rest of the passengers.
The problem with “below deck” is that there was a door with a missing window, multiple windows that refused to shut, and two giant bay doors towards the back that had no way of closing. Also, the roof leaked in multiple places. I found the girls a relatively safe spot and a few dry sleeping bags and went into damage control mode. We moved most of the stuff from the leaky spots to dry areas, and then our guide attempted to cover up the bay doors while myself and a med student from Ohio St. fought a losing battle of covering the missing front window with a sleeping bag. About an hour later, the rain finally subsided and we were able to take inventory of our situation. The girls were still dry and sleeping, hugging the dry laptop, so I was able to help a few other people find a safe spot before finally grabbing one of the last dry sleeping bags and crashing for a few hours at the front of the boat.
We got up around 6am to a very apologetic crew and headed back to the beach for a little more private time before the rest of the Tourons (Tourist Morons) showed up. Once they did, we went back to our boat for a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, and fruit. We waved goodbye to Maya Bay, knowing that it was going to be a trip that we would never forget.