TRAVEL TO “JAMES BOND ISLAND” – Everyone is writing about James Bond lately as the première date, 09 November 2012 (mark your calendar!), of the new James Bond film “SKYFALL” approaches. So, I thought why not share my travel experience visiting James Bond Island in Phuket!
James Bond Island is just one of the tours offered from the Patong Beach, Phuket area in Thailand. This particular tour is an all day tour and in my opinion well worth the trip.
After making your reservation and paying for a spot on the tour, you will be picked up early in the morning from your hotel on the date of your tour and then taken to the departure point for your voyage out into Phang Na Bay. If you have an expensive camera, I would recommend you take some sort of a waterproof bag with you to protect it. There are some great Nikon and Canon snorkeling cameras on the market that are ideal for these types of trips because of the possibility they could get wet. During this trip you will also be provided a lunch, a sea kayak tour of the limestone cliffs, and the opportunity to paddle yourself, hopefully with someone special, in a sea kayak to one of the secluded beaches for a quick swim.
As you travel to James Bond Island, you’ll get to view and enjoy the many strange, yet beautiful, limestone cliffs jutting up out of the water. I had always seen these types of natural ocean formations in the movies and it was incredible to actually get to see them in person. Some have hollowed out areas at their base which make ideal fishing spots for the locals because they provide shade for the fishermen from the hot sun and a place to anchor or tie off.
The first stop of the tour is at Koh Panyee (Koh – เกาะ – translates to “Island”) where a Muslim fishing village exists that is built on top of stilts in the water of Phang Nga Bay. Koh Panyee is not too far from James Bond Island. This village is also referred to as “The Sea Gypsy Village”. This village is so secluded yet surrounded by the beautiful sea and limestone formations.
This village is an incredible sight to behold to say the least; that these people live day after day out there is incredible. I wish I could join them! I was kind of disappointed though because we were only given 20 minutes to look around and then we had to go back aboard our boat.
When you first exit the boat dock area there is a restaurant, souvenir shops, and pearl shops. The pearl shopkeepers area selling all kinds of pearls and pearl jewelry if you are into such baubles. It seemed to me, although I am not someone you would call a pearl authority, there was just about any size, shape, or pearl color available you could desire for purchase. I had never seen so many pearls in one place in my life! Prices were quoted by the shopkeepers, but of course you can try to barter with the seller for a ‘better price’. The only draw back would be if you wanted to exchange or return your purchase. Koh Panyee is kind of an out of the way location, so if you choose to buy something, choose wisely.
After visiting Koh Panyee, we traveled on to our main destination, James Bond Island. I was excited for this part of the trip because I am a big James Bond movie fan. However, all these little extras like visiting the “Sea Gypsy Village” of Koh Panyee, even though briefly, were awesome extras to experience.
Koh Ping Ghan
The tour boat finally stops and anchors and you are brought to the shore of Koh Ping Ghan in smaller, long boats. From here you can get a great view of Koh Tapu, also known as “James Bond Island”. Koh Tapu translates to “Nail Island” from the Thai language.
Along the beach front of Koh Ping Ghan where they land the long boats, there are yet again souvenir shops selling items made from seashells and wood. I checked out what they had for sale and bought a carved shell as a souvenir for myself because here I was… the island they filmed yet another classic James Bond movie! The place where they filmed part of THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, which stared Roger Moore. I was here! One more James Bond movie location checked off of my bucket list!
The tall, limestone cliffs of the island are naturally carved out in areas to include some deep, hollowed out caves. One of the caves even had golden statues of Buddha set deep inside of them. This strange, but beautiful landscape laid out in front of me was incredible and I was in constant awe as I tried to absorb it all and of course capture the moment digitally.
Behind the souvenir shacks is yet another beach on Koh Ping Ghan, and this is where you can see the iconic limestone structure that played a key role in the Bond movie; standing tall in all it’s majesty in the green waters of Phang Nga Bay, “James Bond Island”. The shape of this natural structure is just one more of natures amazing sculptures you will find in Phang Nga Bay. This particular monolith is also a protected site by the Thai Parks Department and boats of any kind are not allowed to go close to it.
After we finished taking in the sights, we bid farewell to James Bond Island and Koh Ping Ghan. It was time to go sea kayaking around some of the limestone cliffs and get a close up look. The large tour boat provides kayaks and a paddler for you to make this part of the journey. Before this segment of the trip, a tasty fried chicken lunch was served by the crew onboard which is part of the tour package which I mentioned before. The deck crew and paddlers were young Thai guys who were awesome hosts. They would answer any questions you had in their ‘Thai-English’ or playfully joke around with the passengers. Their upbeat personalities really added positively to the trip as well.
The water was so incredibly clear and green in color. The surface of the water was so still, only disturbed by the ripples and small wake our paddlers created. It was so serene just slowly moving between, under, and around the cliffs. You have to be sure to take your camera during this part of the trip because there are many beautiful sights to capture and enjoy later. Don’t forget to bring your waterproof bag with you and keep it handy just in case.
Following the sea kayak tour, it was back to the tour boat and a chance to paddle a sea kayak on our own to a secluded beach, well kind of secluded because the other people with us paddled there too for a swim before heading back to port.
Other items you might want to bring are sunscreen, a swim suit, a towel, and maybe a hat. It does get pretty hot especially during the summer months; I went during June with my wife. She opted to wear my ball cap, a bandana on her face, and a light, zip up jacket. Why? Especially since it was so warm? Well, here is some Thai trivia. Some Thai women do not like to get tanned. It’s a social thing and although she was sweating buckets, she didn’t complain once. The only time she took it off was when we went swimming. One other item to mention, the crew works hard to make sure you have a great time. When you reach port, they will ask if you liked the tour and if so, could you could ‘donate to their cause’. I didn’t have a problem with it because they did a fantastic job for us all. It’s completely voluntary as is the amount you wish to give.
Travel to James Bond Island yourself if you get the chance; in my opinion it’s well worth it! I know it’s a “touristy” thing, but we had a lot of fun with the crew and our companions as well….except that one Japanese girl, but that’s another story in itself…
Have you had a chance to go James Bond Island? What did you think of your journey? Feel free to leave a comment and remember your information is not shared or sold to anyone. Promise.
Safe and happy travels to you no matter where you ‘wander’ to!