We’ve all dreamed up our own version of paradise. For most it includes a tropical beach on some remote island in some foreign land. For some, like me, it’s a discovery. When I used to romp around in the woods as a kid, I would think about the little places that were waiting to be discovered by me alone. As we mature, we forget to use our imaginations to create these individual Shangri la’s. We accept that Atlantis isn’t real and stop sticking our head into the water. We tell our complacent old selves that paradise is a waste of time and focus on fine tuning our realistic minds. But no matter how logical we try to be, finding paradise is something you cannot deny.
I remember when my aunt took me to see the movie “The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio. I was so excited to see it then, and to this day deem it as one of my favorite movies. It planted the idea that paradise was out there, and it was mine for the taking. The movie had everything: adventure, seclusion, risk, exotic women, new-age living, and of course – the beach. Something about those crystal clear waters and hidden coves makes you forget that this is a real place. The beach does exist, and I’ve seen it.
From the mainland of Thailand, we took a ferry to the island of Koh Phi Phi Don. This island is Shaped like an “H.” High rocks form the sides and the village sits on a sand bar, sandwiched between two tropical bays. The island was completely destroyed by the tsunami in 2004. The newly developed island is a un-orderly clustered hodgepodge of tight streets and shanties. But the sea foam green water of both bays, contrasted by the eggshell colored sands, will make you forget about the disease ridden medieval setup on the sandbar. From here, you can see Koh Phi Phi Leh in the distance to the south. Karst peaks, covered with a green tattered blanket, it looks impenetrable. The whole island is a national park and is therefore uninhabited. That was our ultimate destination.
We hired a longboat to take us to the Phi Phi Leh for snorkeling. But because we were coming out of the rainy season, the water was too dangerous for the boat to reach Maya Bay and the beach. So the boat driver dropped us on the other side of the island. He tied his boat to a rock in the bay, we dove off the boat, and swam to a little passage in the rock face. We reached a shallow lagoon and waded onto the shady beach and began our trek to Maya Bay. We walked under a canopy of palm trees and could see the rock faces to our left and right. I had “Porcelain” by Moby playing in my head as we came to a thicket of small tropical plants. There was a narrow path made of sand and in the distance we could see light catching the surface of the sky blue water, through the trees: Paradise.
We walked down the path, under the line of palm trees, and into the sunlight of Maya Bay and “The Beach.” It was surreal. We had arrived. I made strait for the water. This was paradise. You can’t deny. No matter how many tourist ridden, overrated, trashy beaches I’ve seen, one could not un-see the beauty of this amazing place. Joe and I splashed around and wave-hopped like kids. We walked up and down the beach seeing the bay from every viewpoint we could. Then I sank into the sand and told myself “Happy Birthday, you lucky duck.” I spent it in paradise. I have spent the last three months exploring the beauty of this world, and it just keeps getting better as I go.
I discovered the beach. I discovered the unadulterated, untouched, un-liquored, un partied, pure paradise of the beach. I was a kid, living in a fictional paradise that one could only imagine up. The tropical waters, the white sand, and everything I saw didn’t seem real. But it was. This paradise, I couldn’t deny.