This incredibly rare sight of an empty Maya Bay was a shot I had in mind for a very long time. By 6am the cove is completely full with tour boats, yachts, kayaks, you name it.
We woke up extra early to ensure we were the first boat to arrive that day, leaving the harbor of Koh Phi Phi while the sky was still pitch black.
The story of this image: As any filmmaker with a drone will tell you, it is critical to know the current laws - so I researched everything I could before we went.
Soon after taking the photo, two Thai, obscenity-screaming policemen came charging across the water on what looked like an inflatable raft with a motor. I knew what I was doing was not illegal, however I knew they were not coming over to congratulate us for being the first boat to arrive that day lol I quickly packed away my drone as they pulled up. Without hesitation they boarded our boat and tried to take my bag - I was not thrilled with the idea so instead, they took me and the bag…forcefully.
The two men carted me to the beach and, as soon as we hit the sand, began ripping through my bag. They tore through every pocket trying to find every SD card I had - once they had all the cards they pulled out a card reader and began deleting all the files. 😶 Once finished, they brought me over to this grass hut, gave me a ticket (of which I had to pay immediately..of course). But it didn’t stop there, they took it a step further. The officers made me stand between between them and hold up the ticket as they gloated, pointing at me & the ticket, while one of their friends snapped a picture.
Devastated & humiliated they carted me back to the boat and said the next time I flew my drone it would land me in jail. I don’t think I have ever been so mad in my entire life. I knew what I was doing was legal & they knew it too but, instead of freaking out and ending up in a worse situation, I played it cool, calm, and respectable…I even smiled for the photo 😂 In the end, I believe this mutual respect for one another was what saved the day - when we got back to the hotel I decided to look at the card for shits & gigs and wouldn’t you know it…he didn’t delete a thing.
Yes I was lucky. Yes it could have been worse. And yes, I could have spouted off trying to defend my case but what I've learned while traveling is that locals deal with tourists' shi*t all day long - if you show them the respect you would show someone in your own country, it truly can go a long way.
Be an Explorer, Not a Tourist.