In this, the fourth part in our series of film locations, we look at one of the most famous film locations in the region. Koh Phi Phi, location of the hit 2000 film, The Beach.
We also have films starring Sean Connery, Nicholas Cage and Sylvester Stallone.
The Beach (2000)
We avoided this film until now but of course could not ignore it all together.
Based on Alex Garland’s superb 1996 book of the same name, this Danny Boyle film, who also directed Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Days, 28 Days Later and Trainspotting, changed tourism for Koh Phi Phi in Thailand
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio the film follows Richard and his travels through Thailand, finding his way to a beach paradise inhabited by a group of fellow travellers.
The waterfall scene, where DiCaprio and others jump from a high cliff to the water below, was filmed at the Haew Suwat Waterfall in Khao Yai National Park in Central Vietnam.
The falls lies at the end of Thanarat Road in the centre of the park which is around 3 hours from Bangkok by bus. Don’t expect the falls to be as spectacular as in the film though. The drop is around 20 metres, still significant, into a beautiful bowl of water. It is a wonderful location but not as high or dramatic as depicted in the film.
The main location used, that became a mecca for tourists, was Maya Bay, on the island of Phi Phi Leh.
The production decided that the location was not the complete paradise that they needed and undertook extensive landscaping, making changes to sand dunes and removing trees to increase the size of the beach. Digital effects were also made to create the overall effect. Although attempts were made to return the beach to its original condition, a number of lawsuits were filed by environmentalists who believed the damage to the ecosystem was permanent and restoration attempts had failed.
Maya Bay was also damaged during the 2004 Tsunami on 26th December. Although the Bay itself escaped the worse of the tsunami it was still extensively damaged as monster waves hit the island.
However massive damage was done to the bay by the sheer number of tourists flocking there.
It is estimated that there 170 people visiting a day in 2008, by 2017 that had increased to 3,500 with reports of up to 5,000 per day on the busiest days. Maya Bay became anything but a paradise with tourists battling for spots to take pictures and boats cramming the waters. Extensive damage was done to the beach itself and the coral in the bay was all but destroyed.
A temporary ban on visitors was implemented in 2018 which was subsequently extended and continues today. There are reports that the coral has started to recover and that blacktip reef sharks had been sighted in the bay again. There is no fixed date when Maya Bay will reopen but when it does, visitor numbers are likely to be restricted and controlled.
The lead single from the soundtrack was Pure Shores by All Saints which reached number 1 in the UK, selling 824,000 copies, and also sold well throughout Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The official video was filmed on a beach but in a lot less glamorous location. It was filmed in January 2000, mostly at night, on a cold Holkham Beach in Norfolk, England
Starring Sean Connery, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Ving Rhames this crime thriller featured a number of scenes set in Malaysia around Millennium Eve.
The Prime Minister of Malaysia was reported to have been unhappy that the Kuala Lumpur skyline was digitally added to waterways and village in Malacca depicting the Petronas Towers near to an impoverished area.
Bangkok Dangerous (1999 & 2008)
Two films in one here. The original film, made by the Pang brothers, was a Thai crime thriller. The brothers remade the film with Nicholas Cage in the lead role as a hitman.
Filming of the remake took place mainly in Bangkok during August 2006 although Tham Khao Luang in Phetchaburi was also the setting of the cave scenes.
I actually saw this film on a plane from London to Bangkok, luckily the car chases, gun battles and violence depicted in the film were nowhere to be seen during my visit.
Rambo 3 (1988)
John Rambo is again played by Sylvester Stallone in this third in the Rambo series of films.
The film starts in Thailand living in a Thai monastery where he is helping with construction work in the grounds. He is also fighting in krabi-krabong matches in nearby Bangkok.
The monastery scenes were filmed in Chiang Mai and other scenes were filmed in, a not so near, Bangkok.
Main photo credit Noppadol Niyomthai on Unsplash
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