Mark JohnstonBEACH BUM LIFE IN THAILAND Mark Johnston January 8 Thailand, Travel 4 Comments A few days ago on Ko Phi Phi, I listed my day’s activities in my journal: sleep in, eat brunch, go to beach, shower, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, take nap, eat dinner, play backgammon, watch Always Sunny…, go to bed. That could be an official doctor-written treatment for post-Nepal-trekking syndrome, which, it turns out, is best treated in Thailand. Britnee had planned this from the start. After wearing ourselves out by trekking the high-altitude trails of Nepal, we would follow it up wearing nothing but swimsuits, tank tops and flip flops in Thailand. Our first stop: Patong Beach on Phuket’s west coast. Although we’d been warned that Patong was jam-packed with tourists and best avoided, Britnee and I fell in love with it as soon as we arrived — due to the frigid cold in Kathmandu we’d just escaped. Our time in Patong consisted of big English breakfasts, walking through a dazzling shopping mall to the beach, sleeping, reading, $6 hour-long massages and lots of Magnum ice cream. So, when we packed up after one week to catch a ferry to Ko Phi Phi, we both had a hard time leaving. Sure, there was plenty more to see in Thailand, but after seven months of exhausting travel, all we wanted was a comfortable bed, good food and NO MORE TRANSPORT! Was it worth packing up and moving again? Easy answer — yes! We arrived on Ko Phi Phi Don with plans of doing more of the same: being lazy beach bums with the added bonus of touring nearby islands. Unfortunately, a rough bout of food poisoning — suffered by yours truly — cancelled our tour, but thankfully our extended stay allowed us to reschedule. So after moving on to Klong Muang beach and enjoying New Year’s Eve at Ao Nang beach on the mainland, we turned back to visit Ko Phi Phi again and this time we’d get what we came for. Maya Bay was the setting of Danny Boyle’s film The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and based on the novel by Alex Garland. In the film, DiCaprio’s character Richard is given map that leads to a “legendary island paradise where some other wayward souls have settled,” and Maya Bay provided the film crew with the perfect setting for that fictional paradise. Our tour set off via long-tail boat from Ko Phi Phi Don and, after a quick stop at a small beach to view some monkeys, crossed the sea to neighboring Ko Phi Phi Lee. Circling the island, we craned our necks to stare up at towering limestone cliffs topped with dense jungle, then dove beneath the crystal-clear water to snorkel amongst neon-colored fish and coral. Soon thereafter came the crown jewel: Maya Bay. It was more crowded than anyone would hope, as dozens of long-tail boats ferried tourists right up to the soft-sand beach. But everyone was there for the same reason, to admire the heavenly landscape that rose steeply out of the shimmering green water, which would be difficult not to enjoy. Well, maybe not everyone. One guy we saw spent his entire visit snapping selfies while flexing out in the water. Hope he got what he came for. As we lay on the warm sand, I told Britnee I’d been having trouble fully appreciating our experiences until they’d passed. Maybe it was made harder with the distractions of exhaustion, illness or hunger — or the travel overload of months on the go — but I had no such trouble there and then on that island paradise. On the boat ride back to Ko Phi Phi Don, we had one last treat in store: nighttime swimming with bioluminescent plankton, just like in The Beach. Stopping close to shore, we waited for the last light to fade and then forgot about sharks and jelly fish and jumped into the dark ocean. For the next 20 minutes we flailed our limbs in the water — much like a wounded fish might do, attracting sharks — and watched as another of nature’s miracles lit up in the water around us like thousands of fireflies. Another swimmer seemed disappointed, saying it wasn’t like in the film. But maybe if he smoked the same amount of drugs the characters did, he’d get a similar effect. For the rest of us, though, it was a magical ending to a somewhat crowded day in paradise. Then we did return to Patong Beach, for an entire month! 4 Responses Hannah January 11 Beautiful. Sounds idyllic. Is it odd that I am already looking forward to my time of doing little-to-nothing on a Thai beach, and we havent even left our homecountry yet! Mark Johnston January 12 Not at all odd. Especially in winter time! Safe travels.