This year marks a mind-boggling 20 years since Alex Garland’s cult novel, The Beach was published. Yep… I bet that makes you feel preeettty old? We all know the tale which follows the journey of Richard, a young traveller seeking more than your average ‘backbacker experience’ and happens upon a seemingly edenic beach paradise on a picturesque castaway island in Thailand.
Now, if the book wasn’t enough to inspire mass wanderlust, the film release certainly did the job of capturing the imagination of travellers who wanted a slice of that ‘castaway’ feeling that Thailand promised. The question is, 20 years on (and swathes of tourists later), has Thailand still got it? For us, the answer is ‘YES’ and here’s how you can find it (the Rickshaw way)…
Waterfalls & Jungle Trails
Who could forget the film’s famous heart-thumping waterfall scene? Set in the heart of Khao Yai National Park (just 3 hours outside of Bangkok), the waterfall known as Haeo Suwat is now a popular attraction in Thailand. But there’s more to Khao Yai than this famous spot don’tchya know…
If you head to Khao Yai, you can also go wildlife spotting on a safari, witness a mighty bat exodus at sunset and stay in a charming bungalow set amongst beautiful gardens.
Escape Ko Phi Phi’s crowds
The film’s famous jaw-dropping beach was the most iconic destination in Alex Garland’s story- and it’s not hard to see why. With its powder-white sands, turquoise waters and towering limestone mountains, the beach paints the ultimate paradise picture. But since gaining in popularity among day trippers, Ko Phi Phi’s ‘castaway’ Maya Bay is no longer quite so, er… castaway.
So if you’re keen to find a more authentic slice of beach life in Thailand, here’s where to go…
Go Robinson Crusoe on Ko Hai
Lovely little Ko Hai is a teeny spec of an island just off the coast of Southern Thailand (Krabi province). Hidden well away from the tourist throngs, here there ain’t much else to do but relax on the beach or cool off in the crystal clear waters (tough, eh?). Wade ankle-deep among shawls of fish, sup a beer at sunset and fall asleep in your own private beach veranda. Sigh.
Discover the flavours of Ko Lanta
Escaping to Thailand’s beaches doesn’t mean you have to spear-fish for lunch and live off coconuts every day! In fact, there’s plenty of good grub to be had and Ko Lanta offers the perfect combo of vast white sands and mouthwatering dishes. Why not try your hand at cooking up sizzling coconut curries, fresh papaya salads and spicy noodles on a half-day cooking class? After learning the secrets of Thai cuisine, you can spend the rest of your days exploring hidden lagoons by canoe, diving or simply lazing on the veranda of your bungalow.
Explore secret islands and snorkelling lagoons
If you’re looking for paradise in a nutshell, Ko Yao Yai’s got it! One of Thailand’s quieter and least developed beach spots, Ko Yao Yai is surrounded by rocky islands and full of secluded coves just waiting to be explored- making it the ideal place for a ‘desert island’ experience. Day trip to nearby lagoons (that just so happened to be made famous by James Bond’s Scaramanga), go snorkelling off abandoned beaches and enjoy some local seafood before stretching out in your own beach bungalow. Oh yeah!
Get lost amongst giant trees and lakes of Khao Sok
In the climatic end of Garland’s book, Richard finds himself alone and stir-crazy in the middle of the jungle. Now, I’m not suggesting you take a leaf out of DiCaprio’s book and start eating live caterpillars in a make-belief video game world, but I would suggest some tropical time-out in the jungles of Khao Sok.
Journey deep into the jungles of Khao Sok in southern Thailand, spot wildlife and fall asleep to the sounds of the wild in your own jungle lodge hidden amongst limestone cliffs. Then top your trip off with a night on a secluded floating raft, surrounded by spectacular rock formations jutting from the glassy lake.