Cliffs, beaches and James Bond – Phang Nga Bay

Phang Nga Bay

Nobody should leave Phuket without seeing Phang Nga Bay. With cliffs towering right from the water it’s one of Thailand’s most iconic places. The size of it is impressive as well – the national park area of the bay is vast and consists of at least 40 small islands among which you can sail for days.

There are many ways how to explore Phang Nga Bay, the most popular being to use a longtail boat – the one which is very long and slow. You can either rent your own or join a group, depending on your preferences. Using this option you can expect to only get to the main attraction of the national park, James Bond island, and back while still viewing the great nature on the way. Only a small stop for lunch is scheduled.

I wanted to get the most of Phang Nga Bay in a day, so took a tour with a speedboat (I’ve booked my trip with Phuket Adventures and have no complaints whatsoever – they provided the best service possible). In the end it turned out to be the best bet, thanks to a much quicker transportation and more stops on the way.

At 8:00 a.m. I was already picked up from the hotel and brought to a beautiful marina with several speedboats waiting. I was the first one to arrive, so had to wait for other members of the group to arrive. With such view I couldn’t complain, though.

Waiting for the boat to take us to Phang Nga Bay
Waiting for the boat to take us to Phang Nga Bay

When it was time to board one of our guides was very eager to take a photo of everyone. At that point I thought it’s silly and maybe was necessary to keep track of who boarded the boat. As found out at the end of the trip, this photo was printed out, put in a frame with the picture of the Phang Nga Bay and offered to you at around EUR 15. In my experience, it’s one of the main souvenir types in Southeast Asia.

One of our boat guides
One of our boat guides

Finally, everyone was on the boat and ready to go. The boat carried around 20 people out of which there were several Australian families, Asian couples, Italian couples, American couples – basically people from all around the globe.

Even though the pier is private, the water is not. Same as everywhere there are old and loud fishing boats all over the place – same as those that didn’t let us sleep several days earlier (see Exploring Phuket island and Patong by car). This time I managed to get a closer look at one of them, though.

Local people travel in not-so-safe-looking boats
Local people travel in not-so-safe-looking boats

As soon as our speedboat started to move many small islands with small private beaches began to appear wherever you look.

Small islands along the way
Small islands along the way

To lighten up the experience members of the crew started joking around that majority of islands have their names based on what they look like. I’m not sure if that is correct, but I was explained that these two are called hedgehog and elephant in Thai (I didn’t check).

Some islands are given names depending on how they look like
Some islands are given names depending on how they look like

Speaking about the crew, in total there are 5 people working on one boat for 20 people. They are very positive and active (of course, why wouldn’t you be around here) and make your experience fun.

Our crew
Our crew

In the meantime, islands around us started to grow bigger in height, but not necessarily in width, resembling cliffs more and more.

Green water
Green water

At one point, when we reached a beautiful lagoon with azure-green water the captain said it was time for our first stop of the agenda. I thought we stopped for swimming, but it turned out to be exploration of a cave.

First stop - the cave
First stop – the cave
The cave only appears when the tide is low
The cave only appears when the tide is low

It is possible to get into the cave only early in the morning, because during the day the tide is higher and the pathway is completely flooded. Equipped with helmets and flashlights we followed our guides through the cave.

So it's possible to even find it
So it’s possible to even find it
And go through it
And go through it

After around 100m of walking through a narrow path water at knee-deep level and several times hitting my head against stalactites I made it through to one of the coolest places I’ve ever been to. Literally, it’s a tiny natural garden, located inside an island and surrounded by cliffs. The only way to get in here and get out is through the cave.

How do they find these kind of places in the first place I have no idea
How do they find these kind of places in the first place I have no idea
There are mountains all around
There are mountains all around

However, there isn’t much to do around there, except watching monkeys living high in the trees. So we went back to the cave we came from which from the first look you wouldn’t even spot.

We got here through that small hole
We got here through that small hole

After some time spent on the island it was time to move further. The horizon revealed amazing view on the Phang Nga Bay and I understood that magnificent tiny islands are literally everywhere you look.

Phang Nga Bay islands in the distance
Phang Nga Bay islands in the distance

At this point we started to overcome some of tourist vessels that were in the middle of their journey to James Bond island and were quite happy with the speed of our adventure.

Some people travel on slower boats
Some people travel on slower boats
Wooden boats give special atmosphere
Wooden boats give special atmosphere

There are so many beautiful and similar islands and it’s hard for me to understand how it’s possible to navigate here. I just kept taking photos and already from the beginning was lost in the beauty of the place.

Next stop - James Bond island
Next stop – James Bond island

Finally, we stopped at one of the island beaches where a lot of tourist longboats were already parked. Even though these are much slower than the speedboat, they still remain the most authentic way to experience Southeast Asia. And it’s the perfect solution for those who are not in a hurry.

There were lots of old style boats parked already
There were lots of old style boats parked already

After a short hike to the other side of the island I discovered that this was that place which was portrayed in one of James Bond movies (“The man with the golden gun”, to be specific). I did not recall that many tourists in a movie, though.

This rock formation was used in the James Bond movie Goldfinger. Hence the name
This rock formation was used in the James Bond movie Goldfinger. Hence the name

As anything in this region, the nature is great. However, when you look at the island from a different perspective it doesn’t look as deserted as it appears in postcards and photos. Instead, there is a big market selling all sorts of souvenirs, beach wear and food in the place where 007’s hut should be located.

Now it's more like a market and a photo stop
Now it’s more like a market and a photo stop

Next on the agenda was the stop for swimming at one of the beaches in Phang Nga Bay, so I had to get back to our boat to move on. Apparently, what I’ve experienced on this island is not considered crowded at all, because I came off-season and earlier than most of those who arrive with longboats.

On the way we also stopped for lunch at one of the islands which turned out to be a small Muslim village, containing only a Mosque, a big seafood restaurant with gift shop and a pier.

We had lunch in the Muslim village built on stilts
We had lunch in the Muslim village built on stilts
After lunch - a stroll through the local market
After lunch – a stroll through the local market

After approximately an hour-long stop, stuffed with food from all-you-can-eat buffet we continued our journey through this amazing archipelago.

More rocks
More rocks
Vastness
Vastness

Almost every island on the way has one or several beaches that appear to be deserted. Nonetheless, our destination was not one of these.

Private beaches
Private beaches

Instead, we arrived at a more commercialized beach, where you can rent a sleeper and an umbrella, if you’re too cool to lie down on the sand. Locals here are eager to offer you cocktails, ice cream, coconuts, photo with a monkey and basically everything they have. They are even not afraid to go into the water and almost swim with you.

Speaking of swimming, people are just staying in the water with their head out and not moving (as if they are just not willing to face the local traders).

Everything is ready for tourists
Everything is ready for tourists
Locals offer coconuts and cocktails - the only place to hide is in the water
Locals offer coconuts and cocktails – the only place to hide is in the water

I quickly got bored and went around the island to explore the nature and was rewarded with a beautiful place that looked like a place where “Survivor” TV shows could be filmed.

I went around the island to find more wild views
I went around the island to find more wild views

An hour later it was time to say goodbye to beautiful Phang Nga Bay and set sail back home after a packed day of emotions and memories.

Going home
Going home

As mentioned in the beginning, I’m glad I took a speedboat instead of the slow one and managed to see more activities and nature with fewer tourists. The only drawback is, of course, the persistence of local people, but as I was here only for the nature it didn’t bother me much.

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