If you’ve seen Facebook pictures of friends visiting Thailand, you might have seen them, possibly coy in beachwear, against a backdrop of turquoise blue waters. Thailand offers several picturesque island backdrops, but apart from Coral Island, the others that most Indians land up on are the Phi Phi Islands or James Bond Island.
The latter two are the most obvious choices for people visiting Phuket or Krabi. While Similan Islands are also an option - preferred by serious divers on account of more abundant marine life - they are further off and the seas rough enough to make unseasoned travelers throw up their breakfast.
The James Bond Island tour, also called Phang Nga Bay tour, is so popular that almost every travel agency worth its salt will have it on its list. Although the local name for the island is Khao Phing Kan, it got the moniker after Roger Moore as James Bond in ‘The man with the golden gun’ landed here seeking the Solex Agitator, a device that harnessed solar energy to dangerous effect. A face-off with the antagonist Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) led to Bond retrieving the device before the island’s limestone cliffs were blown apart.
You won’t get that thrill when you land here, but you’ll be treated to a view of the Andaman Sea, an islet called Ko Tapu that not only featured in the movie but has also served as background to countless selfies to date, and part of the greenery that makes Ao Phang Nga National Park a natural treasure.
In the shallow blue green waters of the Phang Nga Bay is a karst landscape with vertical cliffs and overhanging rocks having craggy, icicle-shaped formations jutting from their underside. When you pass by in a boat, it gives you the feeling of being an ancient seafarer discovering the mysteries of the sea.
But the ‘aha’ moment will most probably be canoeing in the open sea through caves shaped by natural forces. Experience the joy of an adventurer as your guide squeezes the canoe through dark, narrow passages to reveal a pool of water surrounded on all sides by towering limestone formations. If you can kayak, you could go further to discover secret lagoons and island caves, or explore Thailand's largest remaining mangrove forests. You might even spot sea snakes and flying lizards in the protected environment of the bay.
Should this not satiate your appetite, there’s more. As the boat approaches Ko Panyee or Panyi, a village built entirely on stilts comes into view. This is where you have your lunch, gazing out at a sea where long tailed boats ferry tourists between the nearly 70 islands in the bay. On Panyee, you could potter around shops which stock colourful sarongs, seashell jewellery, and other knick-knacks. The next and last stop will be Naka Island for a luxurious and safe swim, or beach lounging. Given that there is so much to see and do, you would most probably feel that the tour is worth the hype. Go, give it a whirl!
The author is a travel writer, blogger, and amateur photographer. She blogs at https://pixelvoyages.com and vlogs at http://bit.ly/2pNmXYC