Cambodia and Thailand - February 2011
Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text:
Koh Phi Phi (pronounced pi-pi) is in fact two islands. The biggest, Koh Phi Phi Don, where we live. And the smallest, Koh Phi Phi Leh, uninhabited. Which keeps, in spite of the cargos of tourists to unload there, allures of island with the treasure, of island of cinema.
Excursion in long-tail boat
Let's be clear: it's not an "adventure" at all. All the tourists worthy of the name make the stroll in Phi Phi Leh (tourists of which we are obviously part, my travel companion and me, what we totally assume during this mini Thai stay of 2011).
The excursion is not an expedition. In short or long version, in speed-boat or long-tail boat, chartered or private, in the morning or in the afternoon, it is sold by all the agencies, hotels and guesthouses of the island...
Nevertheless. I love this landscape of spectacular karst cliffs...
When, after having skirted the cliffs of Phi Phi Don, we see Phi Phi Leh approaching, in the axis of the bow of the long-tail boat, one has the impression of discovering a mysterious island, inaccessible, lost in the ocean... An illusion that I savor with delight.
So beautiful on the horizon
And she is beautiful, Phi Phi Leh. Even from afar. Before as after the excursion, I never tire of photographing its so singular silhouette, which appears on the blue, from the beaches of Phi Phi Don.
Beaches not so crowded, moreover, contrary to what I feared. It is rather a good surprise. Even on those accessible by foot from Tonsai, the tourist "village" of Koh Phi Phi Don, you can still find quiet corners, take pictures without fearing the crowd.
Ploufs in the emerald water
So yes, I am very happy to have done it again, the walk in Koh Phi Phi Leh. To have bathed again in the emerald water of its creeks and beaches dominated by stunning cliffs. To have been able to observe some fish, already, in flippers-mask-tuba. And to have been able to see a lot more.
The rocky walls plunging almost sheer into the water are vertiginous. Their sight always gives me the same euphoric feeling, a little exhilarating. I have seen them many times on previous trips, it is not a discovery. But I notice with pleasure that I am not blasé. The sensation does not dull.
Of course, we are not alone. Of course, we are startled when a group of Asian tourists, a few meters away, starts shouting from their speedboat at the time of the photo-souvenir. Of course, we find it a bit ridiculous, to have to go wading in the water all at the same time, at the same places, on order of the boatman.
"Now, swimming and snorkeling. Fifteen minutes. One, five. » He wouldn't want his pronunciation to make us confuse 15 minutes with 50 minutes. We'd just have to extend our watery frolics! Apart from that, he's not a talkative or jovial guy. Well, it's true that he's working... And walking tourists, that can't be a fun job every day.
Maya Bay, the beach neither secret nor deserted
The last stop, before the sunset, is Maya Bay, aka THE Beach.
Yes, this is the famous beach where the (bad) movie was shot The beach, with Leonardo Di Caprio and Virginie Ledoyen.
Maya Bay is a superb white sand beach, at the bottom of a bay defended by impressive cliffs. A real movie beach, a Hollywood dream. Unfortunately victim of its success...
This time, we get more than half an hour. So nice.
Well, I had no illusions about what was waiting for us at THE beach. It's confirmed: there are as many people in Maya Bay as in during my last visit, in 2007. I had warned the other girl, so that she would not be too afraid... The crowd is dense on the tongue of flour sand, so soft under the feet.
Update 2022: Maya Bay, suffocated by overtourism, was closed in 2018 by the Thai authoritiesThe explosion of tourism from China, in particular, which now represents nearly a third of visitors to Thailand, has not helped matters. Thailand was planning to reopen Maya Bay in 2021, it will finally be the 1er January 2022by limiting the number of people. To protect ecosystems, quotas are effective, we saw it in Sipadan in Malaysia. So, it's a good initiative. By the way, two to three months after the closure of Maya Bay, the sharks came back: "We went from 5,000 tourists to about 60 sharks." sums up a Thai marine biologist, specialist of the issue, interviewed in a report for Correspondent on France 2. The association Ocean Quest began replanting coral "cuttings" in the area by fixing them to the glue, with success.
Fortunately for my friend and me, we are at the end of the day and the speedboats come from Phuket start to leave. Soon remain only the long-tail boatsOne by one, they too leave. The beach regains a semblance of calm.
It is in the shade, the setting sun illuminates only the cliffs at the entrance of the bay. It would probably have been better to come very early, at dawn, before the daily crowd. Another option: you can also camp at Maya Beach, which allows, in principle, to enjoy it a little bit outside the busy hours.
At the end of the day, we find a more serene atmosphere, which reminds us of what Maya Bay was, before the movie The beach and the tourist frenzy.
When we leave, the Moon is already visible and the shaving sun gilds the cliff. Ultimate looks for a beautiful wooden sailboat that we cross the road ...
It is understood: Phi Phi Leh is neither a mysterious nor a secret island. But we can pretend that it is, for the time of the crossing... before coming across the other boats on excursion!
And to dream of the day, when, perhaps, Maya Bay will become again as beautiful under the surface as above...