The Thai bay made famous by the hit 2004 film The Beach has been confirmed to reopen later this year after four decades.
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The island of Phi Phi Leh has been subject to much criticism from environmentalists, who say it will remain an artificial island, even if the government will try to turn it into a nature reserve.
The film’s decision to screen the Bahamanese director, Stephen Frears, in front of a TV studio in Bangkok to announce the move was taken by a team including Donald Crowhurst, who had the 1947 “black rhino” crash and swim in the Gulf of Thailand.
The movie was filmed on the island, which has very few inhabited areas. It is situated about 550 miles east of Bangkok and was the most expensive made movie by British screenwriter Mike Thorne.
The Beach stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Bosworth as two backpackers who leave behind the empty beaches of Thailand and go in search of paradise on a remote island, only to face back-breaking labour and an almost impossible battle to survive.
It was the second movie filming on Phi Phi Leh. The filming was done in the 1970s, but this was the only filming done on the island by the makers of the 1962 film Parable of the Sower, about a Thai former soldier who travels to America.
The original production design, by American architect Stephen Blake, has inspired several films, including Mission Impossible: Impossible 3, which was filmed on the island in 2001. The island now becomes the site of filming for TV dramas including Crossbones, and most recently Fear the Walking Dead.
Still from The Beach.
The island also had a brief cameo in the Disney film National Treasure, starring Nicolas Cage.
The only inhabited part of the island is an old army fort, where most of the filming was done. Several local villages have been destroyed by developers who wanted to build luxury resorts on the area.
Leo DiCaprio in The Beach. Photograph: PR
The bay is used as a site of filming now to showcase Thai culture. It has the south-east Asian marine iguana’s trademark reddish-brown hide, as well as stingray and fish-tailed snail.
The Gulf of Thailand was named by the first US marine surveyor, J F Walton, in 1867, and is a frequently sought-after filming location. All but one of the 112 islands in the South Pacific Ocean ringed by its seven seas are now recognised as being part of the “kingdom of the sea”.
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For decades the French, Dutch and British colonial governments tried to co-exist with the many small islands. Local people frequently fought to keep the islands clear of destruction.
In 1930, the US Navy placed its first fleet off the coast of Thailand, with 6,255 sailors patrolling the Indian Ocean.
In 1987, at the site of the supposedly doomed space flight of Voyager 1, China beat the US to create the world’s most advanced aircraft carrier, carrying 58,000 tonnes of cargo and armed with 14 destroyers and an anti-aircraft gun tower.