There are countless gems waiting to be uncovered in Asia, especially if you are backpacking Thailand. There’s a reason why it is one of the most popular Asian tourist destinations on the map.
Phuket Island is probably one of the most famous Thailand destinations. We found it touristy and overrated, but there’s no denying that you’ll be able to find plenty of things to do outside of the loud bars, posh restuarants, and hip cafes.
John and I both wanted to see James Bond Island and Phang-Nga Bay, so we spent our first evening in Phuket strolling around on Rat U-Thit Road in Patong Beach for travel agencies.
Our half-day excursion with Sim’s Tour included a stop at James Bond Island in beautiful Phang-Nga Bay, Thailand. Phone 076 263 177 or 076 26 3855. You can contact any tour agency in Phuket for details.
We found plenty of travel agencies and eventually decided to go with Sims Tours. We booked a half day tour to see James Bond Island and beautiful Phang-Nga Bay National Park just before the sun sets – the absolute best time of day to be out on the water. We paid 800 Baht for our tour and were picked up in front of our hotel at noon the next day by a luxury coach bus. We had a rather long journey overland to our next destination, but the hour and a half gave us time to plan our activities for the next week. I also caught up on some local history, which is one of my favorite past times.
Our tour included a stop at Monkey Cave Temple, (Wat Tham Suwankuha) which is the first underground temple I’ve been to in Asia. This temple is rather unique as it is home to hundreds of long-tailed macaques that are more than eager to share your lunch with you. Unlike the temple monkeys of Bali, these monkeys are much more aggressive and I was a little more fearful of approaching them as our guide said they had been known to bite! When I got a look at their sharp teeth, I heeded his advice and didn’t venture too close. Nevertheless, they are an integral part of this place. They’re everywhere!
We entered the underground temple after passing through a monkey sanctuary and stopped to marvel at the 200 year old reclining gold Buddha before emerging into a natural limestone cave with thousands of fruit bats hanging from overhead! From the temple, we were transported a short way to the pier, where we boarded a long tail boat to begin our excursion through Phang-Nga Bay.
We admired miles of unspoilt mangrove forest before entering the bay area. I’ve never seen anything as magically beautiful as Phang-Nga Bay. The 1 million year old limestone cliffs jutted from the water like strange appendanges and the green-blue water seemed otherworldly. We couldn’t get enough of the scenery and sat quietly in the boat, trying to capture every moment. The upcoming attraction turned out to be a small piece of pleasure in the magnificent scenery of Phang-Nga Bay.
This long-tailed boat slipped silently through the water behind us. Sea-kayaking is also another spectacular way to see Phang-Nga Bay.
We dropped anchor at Ko Ping Kan where Roger Moore and Christopher Lee filmed “The Man With The Golden Gun.” We thought our trip was worthwhile but we had some experiences that might be a turn off to some folks. The island is really cool, but it’s overcrowded with tourists – all wanting to take the perfect picture. Can’t say I blame them. We were there for the same thing. We weren’t expecting to be dumped off with quite so many tourists.
The island is compromised of two huge stone outcrops joined by a beach. We were a little disappointed to see rows of vendors selling overpriced souvenirs. Be aware that most of the seashell trinkets for sale are imported from the Phillipines and Indonesia. Phuket and surrounding areas were stripped bare of shell life long ago to meet consumer demands. Even on a tiny beautiful island out in the middle of nowhere, we were still chased by blatant consumerism!
We treated ourselves to a couple of cold drinks and got down to exploring the island. At one point, we actually had to wait in line to get photos of the beach from a higher vantage point! I found that our photos were spoiled because there were so many tourists in it. It was a little frustrating, but we dealt with it. Despite some lost photo opportunities, we were still pleased with our time on James Bond Island. We enjoyed forty-five minutes on the island and were more than happy to move onto to our next destination.
Our last stop of the day was at Koh Pannyi, a Muslim ‘sea gypsy’ fishing village, to sample the fresh catch of the day. We took a stroll around this amazing village built on stilts over the water. Over 1700 people live in the village, which has been there for over 300 years. They live on what they can make and catch with their own hands and, of course, the money they make from tourist who are brought here to enjoy the fabulous fresh seafood and textile shops. I didn’t feel comfortable taking pictures here and felt very much like an intruder, especially as we weren’t taking advantage of the souvenir shopping.
We returned to our room later in the evening and went for a quick dip in the warm Andaman sea before grabbing a slice of pizza and heading to bed after our long tiring day. The tour was the best part of our stay in Phuket. Despite the crowds at James Bond Island and the far-reaching fingers of consumerism, we really enjoyed the magnificent view of Phang-Nga Bay National Park and found it all culminated in an unforgettable day.