Our names are Marco and Sara.
What else do you need to know? Things about our family or where we are from? None of this matters. Not after crossing the ocean and getting free, looking for something more beautiful, something more exciting, and yes, we admit, eventually more dangerous.
The adaptation of the irreverent presentation of the American Richard (Leonardo di Caprio) suited us perfectly as, like him, we walked along Bangkok's most famous backpacking street – Khao San – adrift and harassed by agents of the most diverse businesses, looking for a place to stay.
Hungry and torn after the long journey from the western end of Europe to Southeast Asia, we lacked the patience for the painful process of choosing a room.
We were the first one we looked at, in a guest house with little or no difference from the one in which Richard installed himself, where he soon met the lunatic and ill-fated Daffy (Robert Carlisle) who handed him the central object of the plot, the map of the secret island.
The Khao San Road Must-Have Thai Ritual and Hitchhiker
We left the backpacks and some other stuff. We went down the steps of the Oriental pension to have lunch already very late.
With the afternoon ending, we return to the hustle and bustle of the Khao San Road, where hundreds of young travelers returned from day tours, just arrived from different parts of Thailand or neighboring countries, drank the last Chang and Singh beers or made the last purchases. of counterfeit goods before returning home.
A few hours later, the atmosphere would become much more intense.
The bars increased the volume of music, the consumption of alcohol intensified and the farangs (So the Thais call foreigners) lost souls gave in to their most basic instincts including the unavoidable desire that made them probe the Western and Thai opposite sex more desirable and accessible.
We sleep more with the jet lag that with each other while dozens of young prostitutes and ladyboy proactives assumed their attacking position in the street and the atmosphere of the place continued to degrade.
As for other travelers, Khao San was, for us, a mere starting point. It wasn't the first time that we went from there towards the south of Thailand.
In both, we spent less than the 4.000 baths (less than €100) that Richard and the French couple spent reaching the coast of Ko Phangan, from where the three swam the last kilometer to the island that the map shared by the American convinced to find out.
And they had to swim because no boatman wanted to take them to an island part of Koh Phi Phi National Park.
From Ray Lay Beach to Phi Phi Islands Breathtaking Retreat
The first time, without his map or any other way to get us into trouble, we continued on to Krabi's privileged coastline.
There we surrender to the lazy beauty of Ray Lay Beach, surrounded by vertical limestone cliffs and as such accessible only by boat.
From Krabi, we moved to the Phi Phi Islands, at the time, the most yearned for Thai stops.
Upon arrival, a huge fleet of long tail boats colored occupied most of the sand of Phi Phi Don, the mother island of the archipelago.
In front of the quayside of the Muslim village of Ban Ton Sai, a dense forest of coconut trees filled its flat lands and even invaded the slopes of the higher ends of the Don.
This forest sheltered and gave shade to countless guesthouses, bars, restaurants, massage parlors and diving centers among countless other businesses.
We joined vacationers from all over and took shelter in a stuffy and humble local hostel.
"The beach". Danny Boyle's Classic That Eternalized the Hitchhiker Way of Life
It was 2000.
That same year, it debuted almost all over the planet "The beach”, a film directed by Danny Boyle from the novel of the same name by Alex Garland, writer, compulsive traveler, introspective, always unhappy with what traveling represented and should represent, with what was good and bad in the way of travelling. westerners:
“Tourists went on vacation while travelers did something else. They traveled." it was one of his favorite perspectives on the subject.
We soon realized that the Phi Phi were still occupied by a mixture of both.
And that, decades after the Western pioneers visited them, the former predominated.
An admirer of Garland, Boyle enjoyed the success of “Trainspotting” (“No Limits”) and of “A Life Less Ordinary" ("Different lives").
He moved to Thailand in early 1999, after recruiting an adolescent Leonardo di Caprio and, in full rise, consummated the more than melodramatic, mellow protagonism of “Titanic”. Boyle filmed the book's little-altered plot in some of the Thai dream settings.
One of them was less than two kilometers from the guest houses in which we lodged. In 2000, it was just one of countless beaches hidden by the even more abundant clusters of verdant rocks projecting from the bottom of the Andaman Sea.
"The beach” went around the world. It may have divided the moviegoers. It left an indelible cultural trail for the new millennium backpackers.
The following year, the daughter island of Phi Phi Leh, and in particular the Maya Bay where the film's most enviable and abominable scenes take place, began to gain popularity.
This was helped by the opportunism of small agencies in Krabi, the Phi Phi Islands and boat owners who began to highlight it in their posters and tour brochures.
In "The beach” Maya Bay was the scene of the carnage caused by the shark that killed the Swedish brothers in charge of fishing.
The outsiders who continued to flock to Phi Phi Don, these, above all, did not forget the almost immaculate coexistence of the community in its hidden Eden.
And, others, the erotic nocturnal scene between Richard and Françoise in the waters to which the agitation of the plankton had given a mysterious blue glow.
Unsurprisingly, paradise began to receive daily hordes of visitors. The footage had already left changes in the landscape that irritated part of the native population and environmentalists.
Despite the controversy, the daily invasions continued for three years, a period in which they made a profit for the owners of the picturesque but deafening long tail boats.
The Landslide Tsunami of December 24, 2004
So it went on until, on the morning of December 24, 2004, a simple geological whim proved that paradises, as we are used to appreciating, are where the Earth wants them.
An earthquake with a magnitude greater than 9.0 shook the Indian Ocean floor for more than eight minutes.
It generated a tsunami that caused widespread destruction in different parts of Asia and, in particular, razed the isthmus of Phi Phi Don, a few meters above sea level and where most of the tourists, travelers, workers and residents had just awakened.
The waves and the massive marine flow that followed claimed thousands of casualties. They almost completely devastated the dense forest of coconut trees and most of the buildings.
They also destroyed the fleet of long tailboats which, in addition to being the island's brand image, has long carried the farangs more spared on their little excursions from snorkeling and other tours.
Surrounded by cliffs except for a small entrance, Maya Bay suffered little or nothing. The Lonely Planet guide reported that the stronger waves that entered only cleared it of non-native vegetation added in 1999 by the film crew.
Instead, Maya Bay benefited for some time from the tourist unavailability of those parts of Thailand. She found herself, again, almost secret.
In the feature film, the community of “The beach” ends when other backpackers to whom Richard had given a copy of the map arrive on the island and arouse the wrath of the Thai owner of the local marijuana plantation.
This one had already warned the original group that it would only admit them to them. He then convinced charismatic leader Sal (Tilda Swinton) to take down the culprit.
Confronted with Sal's unscrupulousness and the likelihood that the same could happen to them, the community abandons the secret island of the screen.
The Post Tsunami Return to the Phi-Phi Islands
By 2006, the opposite was happening with the real island.
Despite the many years later, when we returned to the Phi Phi Islands, the desolation caused by the tsunami was still very visible. Some rubble and the occasional shipyard evidenced the reconstruction.
The coconut forest and the fleet of long tail boats no longer existed. In the case of boats, they had been replaced by dozens of modern boats much less noisy but without the traditional charm of their predecessors.
It was on board one of them that we returned to Maya Bay. We found it full of these boats, overflowing with visitors from the four corners of the world and with signs indicating the evacuation routes in the event of a tsunami.
In “A Praia” already back to Bangkok, Richard assumes “What about me? I still believe in paradise. But now, at least, I know it's not a place to look because that's not where you go.
It's how we feel at a certain point in our life when we are part of something.
And when we find that moment… it lasts forever.”
We too returned to the Thai capital and Khao San. And there we found ourselves in a community, already with too many of those who Alex Garland and the alter ego Richard defined it as "the cancers, the parasites that ate the whole world."
Travelers with no interest in other people and places on the planet who only wanted to reproduce, in other places, the same reducing and decadent behavior that they had at their doorstep.