Where to next af­ter The Beach?

With the iconic Maya Bay tem­po­rar­ily closed, Lee Cobaj se­lects 10 al­ter­na­tives rel­a­tively un­touched by tourism

The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - FRONT PAGE -

Like many a Hol­ly­wood star be­fore it, Maya Bay, made fa­mous in the 2000 Leonardo DiCaprio block­buster The Beach, has be­come a vic­tim of its own suc­cess. Over the past five years, its blonde bomb­shell of a beach, cir­cled by a cur­tain of wavy lime­stone moun­tains and kissed by daz­zling jade-green wa­ters, has at­tracted nearly 10 mil­lion peo­ple. But, as of last week, it’s closed in­def­i­nitely to al­low the ma­rine life to re­cover from the ef­fects of over­tourism.

“With so many long-tail and speed boats ar­riv­ing ev­ery day, plus fer­ries pulling in for photo ops, we’ve seen the shal­low corals dy­ing off,” said Klaus Thumm, long-time res­i­dent and owner of H2O Sportz Phuket. “On top of that, vis­i­tors are uri­nat­ing in the sea and most of the boats use ma­rine toi­lets, which they also dump into the wa­ter.”

Hap­pily, Thai­land – and its neigh­bours – have dozens of beau­ti­ful beaches worth seek­ing out. We’ve com­piled a list of some of our favourites. Which­ever new hot spot you hit, be re­spon­si­ble by re­mov­ing all of your own rub­bish, don’t ab­scond with seashells or sand and use an ocean-safe sun­screen such as All Good Sun­screen But­ter (£7.50) – no one wants a re­peat of Maya Bay.

AN THOI IS­LANDS VIET­NAM

The di­a­mond-shaped is­land of Phu Quoc in the far south-western reaches of Viet­nam flew un­der the tourist radar for years. To­day much of its shim­mer­ing shores come with a con­struc­tion site sound­track and in­creas­ing beach traf­fic. But just off the south coast, a slice of Eden re­mains. Pack a pic­nic and hire a boat from Phu Quoc’s port to take you the mes­meris­ing An Thoi Is­lands, a speck­ling of 15 isles, se­cluded coves and colour­ful coral reefs al­most com­pletely de­void of hu­mans.

The Hol­i­day Place (020 7644 1770; hol­i­day­place.co.uk) has seven nights stay­ing at JW Mar­riott Phu Quoc from £1,099, B&B, in­clud­ing flights from Heathrow and trans­fers.

TAI LONG WAN HONG KONG

Three-quar­ters of Hong Kong is green land, home to bird-filled wet­lands, moun­tain­ous parks, se­cret wa­ter­falls and golden beaches. The finest of these is Tai Long Wan, a bow of fine sands and opal-green wa­ters coiled in sub­trop­i­cal rain­for­est. It’s at the end of a seven-mile hike, so bring sup­plies. And if you don’t want to trek back, walk to neigh­bour­ing Ham Tin beach and jump on a speed­boat to the sea­side vil­lage of Sai Kung for £15.

Bam­boo Travel (020 7720 9285; bam­bootravel.co.uk) of­fers five nights at Ho­tel Icon from £1,395, B&B, in­clud­ing flights from Lon­don with Cathay Pa­cific.

KHLONG RAHAN THAI­LAND

The is­land of Koh Kood on Thai­land’s east­ern seaboard is beau­ti­ful, which makes it a mir­a­cle that it has re­mained rel­a­tively un­touched by tourism. More than a dozen beaches frame the is­land, each a vi­sion of crys­tal wa­ters, icy-white sands and tran­quil tidal pools, but if you want to en­sure the only foot­prints on the beach are yours, seek out Khlong Rahan. The only com­pany you’re likely to have is the her­mit crabs. Light­foot Travel (0203 950 5105; light­foot­travel. com) of­fers seven nights at Soneva Kiri from £3,611, B&B, in­clud­ing flights from Heathrow and pri­vate trans­fers.

SOK SAN CAM­BO­DIA

You can al­ways find a quiet spot on Sok San, also known as South­west­ern Beach, which un­rav­els across four miles (7km) on the is­land of Koh Rong. From shore, slip into an aqua won­der­land of sea­horses, di­a­mond fish, goat­fish and grouper. In the evening, bi­o­lu­mi­nes­cent plank­ton will flicker in a glit­ter-fest of light. The crea­tures are more sparkly the darker it is, so avoid a week around the full moon.

In­side Asia (0117 244 3380; in­sid­easi­a­tours.com) has a 10-night Cam­bo­dia in Style tour, in­clud­ing four nights on Koh Rong, from £3,170. Flights not in­cluded.

BINH LAP VIET­NAM

Naval base turned is­land idyll, Cam Ranh Bay, on Viet­nam’s east­ern flank, is pinch-me per­fect with barely an­other per­son in sight. The en­tire bay is speck­led with sen­sa­tional is­land beaches, such as Binh Tien, Binh Hung and Nha Cu, but the most en­chant­ing of them all is the se­cluded Binh Lap, more Sey­chelles than south-east Asia.

Red Sa­van­nah (01242 787 800; red­sa­van­nah.com) has seven nights at The Anam re­sort from £1,320, B&B, in­clud­ing flights from Heathrow with Viet­nam Air­lines.

PINK BEACH

GREAT SANTA CRUZ IS­LAND, PHILIP­PINES

The Philip­pine ar­chi­pel­ago is made up of 7,641 is­lands. Para­keet-green man­groves blended with baby-blue wa­ters and salmon sands paint a fan­tasy back­drop at Pink Beach on Great Santa Cruz. The rosy hue is the re­sult of bil­lions of bits of red or­gan pipe coral erod­ing into tiny frag­ments. Vis­i­tor num­bers are re­stricted (ar­range en­try through the lo­cal tourist board) and fa­cil­i­ties are few, which makes it the per­fect spot.

Qatar Air­ways (qatarair­ways.com) flies from Gatwick to Manila from £600. Philip­pine Air­lines op­er­ates five flights a day from Manila to Zam­boanga City from £117 re­turn. Dou­ble rooms at the Ci­tyinn Ho­tel (cityinnho­tel.wee­bly.com) start from £20, room only.

TAN­JUNG RHU LANGKAWI, MALAYSIA

Tan­jung Rhu is far and away the most beau­ti­ful beach on Langkawi: two miles (3km) of broad ivory sands fronted by a glassy aqua­ma­rine seascape punc­tu­ated with dra­matic lime­stone karsts. A hand­ful of high­end re­sorts, in­clud­ing the Four Sea­sons Langkawi, are set around this pub­lic beach, but day-trip­pers are few, giv­ing the en­tire stretch the feel of a pri­vate es­cape. If you’re look­ing for some­thing to do, swathes of shad­owy man­grove for­est frill its edges and make for fab­u­lous kayak­ing.

Wix Squared (0203 808 6383; wixsquared.com) of­fers seven nights at the Four Sea­sons Langkawi from £2,165, B&B, in­clud­ing pri­vate trans­fers and flights from Lon­don.

TUBKAAK THAI­LAND

It’s only 12 miles (20km) along the coast from Krabi, but feels a world away from the hordes of tourists who de­scend there ev­ery year. White sand swirls along the shore, form­ing dip­ping pools and In­sta-per­fect sand­banks. Long-tail boats wrapped in rain­bow-coloured rib­bons bob along the lu­mi­nous green An­daman Sea.

Flag one down for a ride over to nearby Hong Is­land, where you’ll find a su­perb M-shaped beach and a se­cret la­goon in the rain­forested in­te­rior.

Kuoni (0800 138 7195; kuoni.co.uk) of­fers seven nights at the Amari Vogue Krabi from £1,438, B&B, in­clud­ing flights from Heathrow.

DON DAENG IS­LAND LAOS

Beaches don’t get much more se­cret than Don Daeng’s in the wilds of land­locked Laos, which only ma­te­ri­alises in the Novem­ber to April dry sea­son as the Mekong river re­cedes. Recog­nised by the Un­esco World Her­itage Cen­tre as a Cul­tural Land­scape, the en­tire scene looks like some­thing from a 19th-cen­tury wa­ter­colour paint­ing; wide sandy banks, rick­ety bam­boo bridges, monks put­ter­ing past in boats, rice fields sway­ing on the hills. The swim­ming is won­der­fully cool and re­fresh­ing, but stick close to shore to avoid cur­rents. Trail­find­ers (020 7084 6500; trail­find­ers.com) has five days in the Si Phan Don re­gion from £744, in­clud­ing full-board and pri­vate trans­fers and guides. Flights not in­cluded.

PU­LAU TIGA MALAYSIAN BOR­NEO

A gor­geous 20-minute wind-in-yourhair boat ride from the Sabah main­land lies a clus­ter of small is­lands that burst to the sur­face as mud vol­ca­noes in the late 1800s. Two cen­turies later, they were made fa­mous as the set­ting for the first se­ries of the Bri­tish and Amer­i­can ver­sions of the re­al­ity TV show Sur­vivor. And, while not ex­actly a se­cret, the is­land’s earthy beauty re­mains in­tact. There’s plenty of vi­brant ma­rine life – fan corals, par­rot­fish, green tur­tles – to keep snorkellers happy, while in­land there are mud pools for a DIY spa.

Turquoise (01494 678 400; turquoise­hol­i­days.co.uk) of­fers a 14-night Bor­neo tour, in­clud­ing seven nights at the Bor­neo Ea­gle Re­sort, flights from Lon­don and pri­vate trans­fers, from £4,910.

ROUGH AND SMOOTHKayak­ers at Tai Long Wan in Hong Kong, above; a tra­di­tional boat at Sok San, Cam­bo­dia

BLOCK­BUSTER SET­TINGLeonardo DiCaprio in

DIVE RIGHT INKoh Kood in Thai­land, left; Binh Lap, Viet­nam, right

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