I know I’m behind in posting about our epic Thailand and Cambodia trip- I mean, we’ve been home for over two weeks, but I want to make sure I have all my pictures ready and the details from each day included for everyone!
On our last day in Patong, we scheduled a tour with Viator through the famed Phang Nga Bay, northeast of Phuket in the Strait of Malacca. It consists of over 40 islands with limestone cliffs and sea caves, and is home to the famous James Bond Island, best known from the movie “The Man with the Golden Gun.” Julio and I always said Thailand is our favorite place to vacation, so there’s no doubt we’ll be back, but we have several other areas to explore so we wanted to check off as much in the Phuket area as we could during this trip.
We got picked up from our hotel around 8am, and it was a short ride (especially compared to the day before!) to the Phuket Royal Marina to catch our speedboat. This tour was much smaller compared to our Similan Island group; we only had 20 people on our boat, which allowed everyone to sit in the shade comfortably throughout the ride, and gave us room to spread out.
Our first stop was a tiny island about 15 minutes directly east from the marina called Khai Island. Our guide told us there was snorkeling there, as well as free beach chairs and umbrellas, and drink stands to buy fruit shakes. Julio and I were looking forward to some more snorkeling and we were both glad and disappointed with our experience. There was a large crowd of people standing knee deep right next to shore and once we got in the water, we realized they were feeding bread to hundreds of fish, which was causing a flurry of fishy activity around people’s ankles. Most of them were yellow and black striped fish, but there were a few parrotfish in the mix too. Julio and I swam out to see what was in the surrounding area, but it turns out the lure of fresh bread was drawing most of the fish in to shore, and there wasn’t much to see in the deeper water. We headed back in to sunbathe but I was able to snap a great photo of us snorkeling with dozens of fish within arm’s reach, which I had been trying to do with my GoPro the day before.
Our second stop was James Bond Island, best known as a setting in the 1974 Bond thriller, The Man with the Golden Gun. Our boat dropped us off on the west side of the island, and it was a short climb over to the center to catch a glimpse of the infamous limestone tower. You aren’t allowed to swim in the area and the water isn’t particularly clear anyways, plus there’s an area cordoned off by some buoys in the water so you can’t get too close to the tower itself. But by standing on shore we got some great snapshots and did a little exploring through the caves on the south side of the island. Most of the tourists were obviously taking photos of James Bond Island, so we had the cave area to ourselves and took some cool pictures as we watched long tail boats arrive and depart with their passengers.
Lunch was served at a restaurant on the island of Panyee, which was a Sea Gypsy village settled by 3 Indonesian families several hundred years ago. Now the entire island is built above the water on stilts, and includes shops, restaurants, homes, schools, and even a cemetery. We enjoyed a small buffet of Thai food that included chicken, shrimp, some veggies and pineapple. I had heard there was some shopping to do on the island so I finished my lunch quickly and headed to the store. Well, there were shops on the island but I can’t imagine anyone buying anything there because of their ridiculously inflated prices. I understand that they need to transport these items from the mainland first, but 350 baht ($10) for the same pair of shorts that I bought on Phuket the day before for 120 baht ($3.40)???? I don’t think so. Julio also thought twice about buying Thailand shot glasses we had been eyeing on Bangla Road- the woman wanted 800 baht for a set of two which is $22!!!! We ended up buying the same two shot glasses for 200 baht back in Patong that night ($5.70). Needless to say, we left empty handed.
The 4th stop on our tour was Hong Island, which means “room” or “space.” Essentially this island had a cave in the middle it that is only accessible at low tide, when you can take a small canoe and paddle through it. We got off our boat at a small floating dock near the island and boarded our canoe, and lucked out with an English speaking guide. He paddled us around the island, stopping to generously take a few photos for us and pointing out different rock features. As we paddled into the cave, the water was so shallow our canoe was actually brushing the bottom and yet the ceiling was only a few feet above our heads. The space inside was beautiful, with the sun beaming in and the vines and plant life hanging down from the rocks. After our 40 minute tour (for which we tipped our guide 100baht, he was excellent) we got out of our canoes and back onto our speedboat, headed for the 5th and final stop of the day.
To cap off an amazing day of sight-seeing in Phang Nga Bay, our guide took us to to an all but uninhabited island named Rang Yai island. It consists of a few umbrellas and beach chairs, a beach bar, and uninterrupted stretches of white sand. We practically had the entire island to ourselves, and Julio and I hustled right over to the bar, ordered two delicious and colorful cocktails, and planted our bottoms in a beach chair. We only spent an hour on Rang Yai but Julio and I both agreed we could have packed a lunch and spent all day here. Drinks and plentiful sunshine, clear warm waters, what more could you ask for?
We had a quick ride back to Phuket Royal Marina and the included hotel transfer back to our hotel in Patong. For $91 a person, this tour exceeded my expectations and was a perfect addition to our Phuket itinerary. I couldn’t believe we were stopping at 5 islands in one day, and getting back to the hotel two hours before we had on the previous day for the Similan Islands tour, but we never felt rushed and we had plenty of time at each stop to enjoy the sights. I would definitely recommend this tour to anyone looking for an all-encompassing day trip to Phang Nga Bay.