Riding a Longtail to James Bond Island, Thailand.
By Cacinda Maloney
I had been waiting for this day to come and now here it was. Stepping into the color-worn, long-tail boat (Ruea Hang Yao (เรือหางยาว)), I knew this was a trip of a lifetime and today was my lucky day. My milestone birthday had arrived and I needed something BIG to make an impact, and this was BIG! “Welcome to South East Asia!” I said to myself!
We had a spent the morning at the Suwankuha Temple, also known as the ‘Monkey Caves’, which is about and hour and half drive outside of Phuket. The first thing I noticed after getting off of the bus was the wild monkeys. They are everywhere: up, in and around the caves, which lead to the Buddha statues inside. People were feeding them anything and everything and they were taking it. They were so mesmerizing, I think I could stand there for hours and watch them.
This is a great stop along the route to the islands, so don’t overlook it on your way to the longboat ride. There appeared to be many tour operators, so I am sure you can find one to guide this trip for you from your hotel if you don’t have a car, otherwise, you can just take the drive out here and hire one of the guys from the shore.
Once we arrived at the docks, roughly 15 minutes away from the caves, the excitement began to build. Life jacket strapped and in the boat, I noticed that she kept shooting me with her camera, so I shot back. Later I came to realize it was for photography sales at pennies on the dollar upon our return. How could you not buy one from her?
Then off we went, at first, gliding and then speeding through the mangrove covered islands. The air, wind and water, splashing my face and hands, hanging on with all my might, I didn’t care. I was in the front of the boat and this was bliss!
It seemed like forever before we got there, but skimming along the ocean inlet was the best part. Not long after, the longtail boat I was riding in went thru a drive-through cave. Soon more and more boats began to appear on the water,
and I knew we must be getting close to the famous island. Arrival was a breeze, as they threw the step-stool down into the wet sand and we easily stepped out of the boat onto the viewing island’s small beach of Koh Ping Ghan.
My first sight was of the vendors, selling every kind of junk you can imagine, but I wanted to get pass them as quickly as possible to see what this place was all about.
And then, there is was:
James Bond Island.
When I first heard of this trip, I couldn’t wait to see this tiny, little island that made this limestone rock so famous so long ago. It was practically the star of The Man with the Golden Gun, even more so than James Bond himself! It stood there, at only 66 feet, jutting out of the water, and not very wide in diameter. It is really just a limestone out in the bay of Phang Nga, and is also known as Ko Tapu to the locals.
With my camera in hand, I took as many shots as I could, walked around the island and went inside the caves. Fortunately the island is protected and no tourists are allowed to dock on the island.
Soon I was back on the longboat and cruising over to a fresh lobster lunch, which was at a restaurant on the Muslim island known as the Sea Gypsy Village (locals call it Panyee Island).
I highly recommend this tiny island, as it is a floating, wooden village built on a platform that is tied together out in the middle of the ocean! It is an incredible site to see and the seafood lunch of lobster and pineapple made it a spectacular way to spend my birthday lunch!
After lunch, I walked along the wooden platform to the shops, markets, and restaurants, as well as the path that leads you to the town, the schoolyard and the floating soccer field where the children of the village gather to play.
It is highly recommended that you take a day trip out to James Bond Island, even though there will be droves of tourists, you can time it just right to enjoy your own bit of paradise! Half the fun was getting there! I loved it!
Disclosure: My trip to Phuket and James Bond Island, Thailand was provided by Thai Airways, in conjunction with the Tourism Authority of Thailand.