I was about 15 when the film The Beach was released in cinemas. I can’t remember if I read the book or watched the film first, but I loved both of them. This wasn’t the first time I had heard of people going ‘off travelling’ as it had been common with British gap year students for some time, but it certainly got my imagination going. I’ve now watched the film many times and I’ve been obsessed with finding deserted islands like this ever since.
Everyone knows that Maya Bay is the place where scenes from The Beach were actually filmed. But, when planning our trip to Koh Samui in Thailand, I was excited to learn that the nearby Angthong National Marine Park was one of the places that originally inspired Alex Garland and where the story is supposedly set.
Angthong is an archipelago of around 42 Islands, accessible on an organised boat from the larger island of Samui. There was no doubt that we would be visiting this place! Of course, this is in the busy, popular beach holiday destination of Thailand. Would I really be able to find a deserted island paradise?
After much research we chose a fantastic sounding dive and snorkel company to take us out there from Samui (They are called 100 Degrees East and I seriously recommend them). They were more expensive than other tours but we chose them because of their interest in the environment and the fact that they only take out small groups.
After a bumpy boat ride (it was a windy and slightly grey day in paradise), we began to see the cliffs rising up from the sea. This was actually my first trip to Thailand and I must have exclaimed “This is how I always imagined it!” several times. We snorkelled in warm water, spotted hundreds of fish and swam right into the middle of a huge school of them. Sadly, there was also some rubbish floating around the water and washed up on some of the beaches. Our guides collected as much as they could during lunch time.
On one island we hiked up to a view point to see the lagoon that supposedly inspired Alex Garland. It was beautiful and you could definitely imagine Leo jumping in there! You are not actually allowed to swim in the lagoon however, as authorities are worried about it becoming contaminated.
We were so lucky as, other than hiking up to see the lagoon, we rarely saw any other tourists outside of our group of 10! We visited several quiet, empty beaches and even kayaked over to one of the most stunning, deserted beaches I have ever seen. It was only accessible by taking the kayak and was a true cast away, secret island! Sadly, we don’t have any photos from that one as we didn’t bring the camera in our kayak. But let me tell you; there was no doubt in my mind that this was was The Beach!
I have since found out that, with a little research and preparation, you can sleep in Angthong National Marine Park. A few bungalows and tents are available to rent from park authorities. This really would be the ultimate secret beach experience; imagine having all those islands just to yourself at night time! You could wake up early and kayak to where ever you wanted!
After we returned to Beijing, I reread The Beach. Reading it again after visiting Samui and Angthong cast a whole new light and sense of excitement on the story. I was happy to confirm the places all match up and, although never explicitly stated, it is clearly set in Angthong National Marine Park. It turns out The Beach location is not completely fiction after all. If you could find someone willing to take you over in a boat and leave you there, I really believe you could live undetected on an island for a while. I just hope it’s minus the chaos of the book/film ending! 🙂
Have you ever been to Angthong? What about another deserted island?