I had been waiting for this day to come and now here it is my 50th Birthday. 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!
James Bond Island
We were about to tour James Bond Island and I couldn’t wait. The locals know it as Khao Phing Kan or Ko Khao Phing Kan located in Phang Nga Bay northeast of Phuket. The islands in this area are made of limestone karst and this one happens to be a karst tower jutting out of the seawater. James Bond Island is a part of Ao Phang Nga National Park. It lies about 135 feet from the shores of Khao Phing Kan and is approximately 65 feet tall. Locally they call it Ko Ta Pu or Ko Tapu, but for me it, I just call it JAMES!
We had spent the morning at the Suwankuha Temple, also known as the ‘Monkey Caves’, which is about an hour and a half drive outside of Phuket. The first thing I noticed after getting off 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.
Great Stop before James Bond Island
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.
James Bond Island Here We Come!
Once we arrived at the docks, roughly 15 minutes away from Suwankuha Temple or “the caves”, the excitement began to build. My life jacket was strapped on and I was in the boat. Then I noticed this woman with camera. She kept shooting me with her camera, so I took shots back with my camera! Later, I realized it was for her photography sales at pennies on the dollar upon our return. How could you not buy one from her? She was so sweet and cute!
Off in the Andaman Sea
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 pure bliss! The boats were so colorful against the backdrop of the green and blue water.
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 through a drive-through cave. Soon more and more boats began to appear on the water, and I knew we must be getting close to this famous island.
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We Arrived! JBI is Straight Ahead
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 past them as quickly as possible to see what this place was all about.
And then, there is was:
James Bond Island.
The Man With The Golden Gun
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 rock jutting out in the bay of Phang Nga, and is also known as Ko Tapu to the locals. But it was so stunning to look at!
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 so no tourists are allowed to dock on the island.
Sea Gypsy Village Lunch
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 that the locals call it Panyee Island.
And we were Hungry!
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 sight to see and the seafood lunch of lobster and pineapple made it a spectacular way to spend my birthday lunch!
Walked Around the Village
After lunch, I walked on 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. There is plenty of souvenir shops and lots to see on this island.
It is highly recommended that you take a day trip out to James Bond Island, even though there will be droves of tourists, but if you time it just right you can enjoy your own bit of paradise! Half the fun was getting there! And I loved every minute of it! Thanks, Thailand for a joyous 50th birthday!
Disclosure: The writer believes in full disclosure and wanted to let you know that this trip was provided by Thai Airways, in conjunction with the Tourism Authority of Thailand. As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations, meals, and other compensation.