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Beach Camping in Ko Phi Phi

by Daniel Lawton

I think that this is the most uncomfortable I have ever been, I thought to myself. I knew it wasn’t true, but that didn’t make me feel any better.

I was lying on a crude sleeping pad on Maya Beach, an uninhabited island in Southern Thailand. For those Leonardo DiCaprio fans out there—and I know there are many—this is the actual place where the 2000 movie “The Beach” was filmed.

Of course, as you may expect, real life is a bit different than it is in the movies, especially when you’re recumbent on the sand, yards away from where a poisonous snake was sighted hours before. There was also the issue of sand crabs, ranging in diameter from two-inches to two-feet, which popped out of the earth every few minutes.

All of these creatures were fun a few hours ago, when I was sitting around a campfire watching our inebriated Thai guides play awful-sounding Coldplay covers, but now that I was actually laying on the beach, the presence of so many urchins left me feeling unsettled. Regardless, I tried to turn my thoughts away from what was crawling around me and focus on the stars that radiated in the clear, dark sky overhead.

I had ended up on Maya Beach via a camping trip I saw an ad for in Phi Phi Don, one of six islands—5 of which are uninhabited—that make up Ko Phi Phi. I had posted earlier about a hike I did on the main island, during which I came across a massive mutant-looking lizard.

This trip was billed as a hip, little camp out that involved some snorkeling, a beach-side cook out, late night swims in glowing plankton and then a relaxing night camped out under the stars. Everything went as planned, except for the camp out.

The sleeping bags were old and moldy, the pads provided thin and the pillows gross, but, honestly, the most difficult thing to deal with was the sand. It was everywhere; in my shorts, my hair, my eyes, my shoes and, worst of all, my sleeping bag.

I slept a total of three hours the whole night, waking up every few hours to make sure I wasn’t being devoured by crabs. It made me realize that beach camping can be totally rad or totally awful, depending on how you do it. For some people, maybe sleeping on the sand isn’t so bad. But, before you get all hung up on the romance of snuggling up with your significant other on the sand, remember one thing: you’ll likely be spooning with a few other friends as well.

Did I have a good time camping on Maya Beach? Yeah, gorgeous sunsets, clear-blue water, night swims with glowing plankton, all of that stuff is pretty stellar. But next time I decide to spend overnight on the beach, I’m bringing a tent. That’s for sure.