Arriving at the Pier in Phang Nga Bay, I had a slight panic at the not-so-ready looking longtails boats ready to take us out exploring amongst the bay’s famous islands. As you can tell from this picture, it wouldn’t be crazy of you to do the same.
After a mild (and silent) panic attack, we made our way down the steeps covered in clinging mussels and made our way from boat to boat until our rather large group was settled in these colourful people movers. The boats are relatively comfortable with cushions and a covered area to avoid the heat of the sun. Luckily, our guide had also made sure that a cooler full of drinks and fresh fruit were on board.
Heading out towards the distant islands, I was really surprised at how fast these boats can move through the water. Whipping up the sea water below us, and throwing quite a bit of into the boat, we made our way towards one of the more famous islands in this archipelago, James Bond Island, or Koh Tapu as its formally named.
The reason for the spy movie reference is that the island was used as one of the locations in the movie The Man with the Golden Gun in 1974. The distinctive features of this island include the pillar of rock sticking out of the sea in a small bay around the far side of the island, as well as a limestone cliff that split and landed in the soil.
We drifted into a small bay that was rather empty when we got to the island. It was pretty peaceful with only a small concession stand and nobody else about. Hopping off, we found a small pathway leading around the side of the island which we dutifully followed. Once around the first corner, the column of rock sticking out of the sea was perfectly positioned for a photo opportunity and instantly recognizable if you’ve seen the movie (or pictures from it in my case).
As we carried along the path down towards the beach, I admittedly had a bit of a shock. Right there, in the middle of this enormous bay on this tiny island was a market way too big for the space it took up and a large dock behind it for bigger boats. I think the shock came from knowing where we had landed on the island and how crazy the crowd of tourists here was in comparison. The worst part for me was that the stalls were really only selling rubbish souvenirs!
Our group took a few photos and walked back to the longtail boats almost immediately to get away from the chaos on the beach.
Afterwards, and after a cocktail, I was a little sad by how such a beautiful place has become overrun by vendors and big tourist boats. There’s nothing really special about this place anymore and it’s really become one of those spots to just take a photo and move on. I guess with a mass tourism destination like Thailand it’s not really a big revelation, but I can’t help but think that if authorities just moved the market off this island, the experience would be so much better.
If you’re headed to James Bond Island for the photo opportunities, look to taking a longtail boat instead of the bigger tourist cruises. Coming in on the smaller beach was a lovely experience despite the chaos on the other side of the island.
Remember to also pack a waterproof bag for your camera and phone as the everything on the longtail basically gets a little damp from the open sides.