Don't Tell Everyone But . . .

by Neil Campbell, Dec 21, 2003 | Destinations: Thailand / Phuket

Beaches? Once you've seen one you've seen them all or so I used to believe. Just like Bill Hicks used to say "beaches are where dirt meets water." Of course there are some good examples out there, throw in a few palm trees and a coral reef and you might just have something. The problem is when you find a good beach the chances are that Marriott or Hyatt probably found it first and proceeded to build a great square luxury apartment block right in the middle of it.

In the sixties when Joni Mitchell prophesied that they'd pave paradise and stick up pink hotels the flower people couldn't believe it, executives however struck up feasibility studies and now thirty years on, you'll find it hard to find a paradise free of them.

Two days ago in the middle of Phuket, Thailand's tourist Mecca, I found one. Nui beach sheltered by geography, as it's almost impossible to reach by road and protected by an owner who frankly refuses to let the likes of Marriott get their hands on it.

The road to Nui is a hair-raising trip, especially due to the fact you'll probably be making it on a one hundred cc Honda moped, full of hairpins bends and hills with insane gradients. If you survive the two-kilometer journey the Promised Land truly awaits you.

First impressions of Nui Beach will no doubt conjure images of the Hollywood block buster The Beach with it's glorious remoteness and sprinkle of ramshackle huts but above all the sheer natural beauty of Nui would make it the scene stealing star of any movie.

After the motor-cross style track you'll be glad of a chance to relax and there's few places on Earth more serene than the pure un-spoilt environment of Nui beach. The bay itself consists of two sheltered sandy beaches separated by a large rocky outcrop. One of them shelves beautifully for swimming and the sand keeps precious feet safe from the peril of jagged rocks and sharp coral while the other is more shingle in consistency and leads out to a virgin reef teeming with marine life.

You can hire masks and snorkels from the restaurant for the inexpensive price of fifty baht a day, that's just over one US Dollar, and spend the day in the biggest aquarium you've ever seen. Within five feet from the shore we spotted a shoal of juvenile Blue Fin Barracuda lurking menacingly in the warm waters. Other stars of the morning were a rare glimpse of a pipefish and a huge lobster. Fish are safe in the bay because the beach's owner has fought the dynamite fishers with almost religious fervor and now they actually avoid the bay entirely preferring quieter victims for their ecologically devastating fishing practices, which involve using explosives to stun the fish regardless of the impact such methods have on the coral and other fragile marine flora and fauna.

Spending the whole day at Nui is a great idea, not least because the journey down will startle you so much that you may attempt to stall the ascent as long as possible. There's a restaurant right on the beach serving basic but substantial meals and a little bar with a view over the whole bay. From the rocky headland round the valley up the hill side with to it's wild jungle and dense undergrowth. There's plenty of wildlife round Nui beach and keep your eyes open on the track down for green snakes, pythons, cobras and wild boars. If you're really fortunate you may catch sight of Monty the giant python who has been seen by many a passing visitor and the staff themselves. Monty seems to be almost as much a monster as Big Foot or the Beast from Loch Ness and reports put him at a gargantuan seven meters, surely a record, and with the girth of a slim mans waist.

Nui beach can be reached by taking the road from Nai Harn to Kata and looking out for the rustic signs on your left. There's two different tracks one, allegedly, for mopeds and one for 4X4 vehicles and jeeps. You can also reach the beach by boat from either Kata or Nia Harn and you should expect to pay about 1000 baht for the whole day, so it's a good idea to travel in a group. The beach doesn't seem to appear on any maps, probabally a good thing as it give the whole place an aura of mystery and helps preserve its sanctity. The road to Nui beach can be treacherous at the best of times, Thailand's roads can be pretty grim but this one is really shocking and this cannot be stressed enough, but particularly during the rainy season and there's a very real chance of being stranded there if the weather takes a turn for the worse. So be prepared for a longer stay than you had bargained for and you should be ok. At this time there is no accommodation on the beach itself but there are plans to put up a few basic bungalows on the hillside for next year. If you do get stuck however there are a far less pleasant places to spend the night than this little haven of a bay.

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