James Bond Island: we expected worse.

Phang Nga Travel Blog

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We all get identifying stickers so we don't get lost.
Today we took one of those huge group tours to “James Bond Island,” so named because it was a 1974 filming sight in the Bond movie, The Man with the Golden Gun. The trip actually bought us to several islands in the Phang Nga Bay National Marine Park.

I was really expecting the worse from this trip. It has to be bad … everyone on the island is selling trips to it. And I just hate these types of organized tours. Chris (TB: reikunboy) even posted a recommendation that we cancel the trip! So, really, we went into it with our eyes open. We were expecting the worst.

The minibus picked up us at 7:30. From there we stopped at five other places to pick up passengers, which took about 1-1/2 hours. (See, there’s one reason to hate group tours right there!)  The passenger list was very promising, though.
Relaxing on the comfy plastic chairs on deck.
In just our little group, we had two ladies from Canada, two guys from Israel, a couple from Turkey, and another couple from India.

We finally arrived at the boat. I am sure this vessel had had many years of useful service, but those years were long over! It was old and decrepit (and did not match the photo on the brochure, by the way). For seating, there were some small plastic chairs set up on the top deck, which was covered. We were lucky to get the chairs, as there were not enough for all until later, when the crew retrieved more from storage.

We headed out, the engine complaining and kicking out black smoke the whole way. It was only 9:30, but one guy (from South Africa) already had a beer. Over the course of the day, he finished one after another.
Our little madhouse.
We watched in amazement. Steve said later, I don’t think I have ever seen anyone drink that much beer! Even in college! We went to school in Wisconsin, so that is saying a lot.

It was pouring rain, which prompted the crew to lower the tarps along the side of the deck. These things are usually see-through, but not these. We were surrounded by natural beauty, but were riding it the equivalent of a box car.  The engine fumes were trying to kill me, and the smokers were finishing the job. It was the most miserable boat ride.

The crew did their best to make things bearable. They took drink orders, they passed out fruit and cookies, they told little jokes. I appreciated their efforts, and I think the others did too.

We passed by our first stop, because it was raining too hard to go off the boat.
View from the boat.
Then after about two hours, we finally came to James Bond island, and luckily the rain had let up a bit. We couldn’t see the island (which is really more of a large rock formation) from the boat … we had to take a longboat to the beach, and then walk past a series of vendors trying to sell us cheap jewelry and other schlock.

On the beach in front of the famous rock, there were crowds of people in various weird poses. It is quite the thing to get a picture of yourself “hugging” the rock, “leaning” on it,  or even wearing it as a hat. (A number of those creative photos can be found on this web site!) The amazing thing was the numbers of people -- despite the rain, one almost had to push through crowds to get on the walking path that allowed us to see the rock at different angles.
Do you like my hat?
It was easy to see why they came though, as it was a truly gorgeous area. (A very, very large man from Russia was wearing a Speedo and kind of ruined the picturesque setting a little bit :^)

The rain started really coming down, and rain ponchos were selling like hotcakes back at the souvenir stands. As I was juggling my camera, my bag, my towel, and trying to get my newly acquired poncho over all this, a lady kept waving bracelets in my face, “good price!” I got away with just the rain poncho purchase though.

From there, we went to Hong Island, and were taken off the boat in small plastic kayaks. (The guy from South Africa brought a fresh beer with him on the kayak, of course.) Since the boat was tippy and it was raining I left my camera behind … and really regretted it! We paddled through some barnacle-encrusted tunnels to a lagoon surrounded by amazing spans of cliff and rock.
Fellow paddlers at Hong Island.
It was so beautiful, I wish I could describe it, but all my words are too flimsy.

Unfortunately the island and its inlets were overcrowded with other tour groups making the same trip. But there were a couple areas, when we went around a corner, when it was quiet and I could imagine we had the place to ourselves. It was then I decided the bad boat ride, rain, and the crowds were worth it to be in this amazing place on earth. (Steve disagrees. He said the whole thing was unforgivably sullied but the lines of kayaks going through the tunnels, and the groups of big boats floating all around. Steve agrees that the place is amazing, but would have rather not seen it at all, then to see it under these conditions.)

Back at the boat, the crew had set out lunch.
Lunch is served!
The group descended on it like locusts! An Indian family and I hung back, inquiring about vegetarian food, and two big platters were procured for us. It was really good. I chatted with the Indians for a bit, and later talked at length with their super-inquisitive 15-year-old son. He asked about where I live, where are the best places to go in the US, and a million other questions about schools and visas and the like. The dad, gray haired but energetic, wore a permanent and genuine smile. (Later in the trip, the dad has some sort of seizure in the water and had to be rescued! I didn’t see it but the Canadian ladies brought me up to speed. His son gave him an inhaler and then he seemed fine for the rest of the trip.)

The next stop was Lawa Island (at least I think that’s what it was.
Lunch is consumed!
It may have been another of the Hong Islands). Mr. South Africa got a fresh beer, and we all got into our little boats. I stupidly left my camera behind once again. It wasn’t even raining! I guess with the bad luck I have been having lately, I didn’t want to press my luck and risk dropping my camera in the water. We paddled through a long dark tunnel and listened to the bats inside, then came into another beautiful lagoon. Stunning!

Our next stop was the “swimming and relaxation” portion of the trip. We parked near Naka Island, where many other boats were already crowding the area near the shore. The rain had stopped, so Steve and I sat in front of the boat with the guys from Israel. We were handed coconuts to drink from and the one guy said it was just like being on Survivor, which was pretty funny.
Other boats on the same trip.
We watched the crew get high (not the captain! It was the kayak paddling guys) and the Israeli told me the punishment for getting caught was 15 years in jail. Doesn’t seem to be much of a deterrent though, at least to these guys.

We stayed there quite a while, watching the crazy people on the other boats do flips into the water. The guy from South Africa,  who at this point had guzzled more Singha than I could count, didn’t seem drunk at all. Amazing.

Then it was time to head home. I stayed in front as long as possible, but the splashes soon sent me to the back deck area, to breath the engine exhaust again.

It’s difficult to say if I would recommend this trip or not. Phang Nga National Marine Park is truly gorgeous, and really shouldn’t be missed.
View of our swimming area.
But the beauty is marred by the traffic, and as tourists, we are definitely part of the problem here! The traveler’s dilemma: you go to get away from it all and see the beauty of other countries… only to find that everyone else had the same idea!

stabber911 says:
I had the same trip, but of course each boat differ a little. I enjoy the trip though, I know it is touristy but that would also be expected. my idea is to at least go.(beside there is no other way into ko Hong)
Posted on: May 17, 2008
cmgervais says:
Narisa! Hi! I heard about those guys with the long boats, but where we went there was just one guy who wanted about $80 for a couple hours! That's why we did this tour instead...
Posted on: May 16, 2008
narisa says:
We didn't have time to do this, but in Krabi you can rent one of those long wooden boats for about $40-$60/day and the driver will take you to whichever islands you want to go to for as long as you want all day long! It'll still be crowded I'm sure, but at least you can go at your own pace. BTW, I'm totally jealous of that fruit picture you sent me, the ones on the right (the purple outside with the white on the inside "monkuut" are my favorite. If you count the little cloves on the bottom of the fruit, that's how many white sections are on the inside! :)
Posted on: May 16, 2008
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We all get identifying stickers so…
We all get identifying stickers s…
Relaxing on the comfy plastic chai…
Relaxing on the comfy plastic cha…
Our little madhouse.
Our little madhouse.
View from the boat.
View from the boat.
Do you like my hat?
Do you like my hat?
Fellow paddlers at Hong Island.
Fellow paddlers at Hong Island.
Lunch is served!
Lunch is served!
Lunch is consumed!
Lunch is consumed!
Other boats on the same trip.
Other boats on the same trip.
View of our swimming area.
View of our swimming area.
Steves tour group sticker.
Steve's tour group sticker.
Rain in the distance.
Rain in the distance.
Could be worse - we could be ridin…
Could be worse - we could be ridi…
Trying to filter diesel exhaust!
Trying to filter diesel exhaust!
Steve is safe from the rain for no…
Steve is safe from the rain for n…
One of the crew members had an int…
One of the crew members had an in…
People photograph the scenery.
People photograph the scenery.
An island we passed by.
An island we passed by.
Island detail.
Island detail.
View from the boat.
View from the boat.
Other boats on the same trip.
Other boats on the same trip.
The beach by James Bond island.
The beach by James Bond island.
Our chariot -- the crappiest boat …
Our chariot -- the crappiest boat…
Steve on the longboat.
Steve on the longboat.
The souvenir stands one must crawl…
The souvenir stands one must craw…
Our long boat to James Bond Island.
Our long boat to James Bond Island.
First glimpse of James Bond Island.
First glimpse of James Bond Island.
Steve hangs out at James Bond Isla…
Steve hangs out at James Bond Isl…
The infamous James Bond Island.
The infamous James Bond Island.
Now, why does he wear that? I will…
Now, why does he wear that? I wil…
James Bond Island.
James Bond Island.
the caves (and tourists) near Jame…
the caves (and tourists) near Jam…
Steve hides from the rain.
Steve hides from the rain.
Downpour!
Downpour!
My fetching new rain poncho.
My fetching new rain poncho.
The guys from Israel.
The guys from Israel.
Fellow paddlers at Hong Island.
Fellow paddlers at Hong Island.
Me and Steve at the front of the b…
Me and Steve at the front of the …
Bats!
Bats!
More bats!
More bats!
Lots and lots of bats!
Lots and lots of bats!
My new shirt! Fun to have somethin…
My new shirt! Fun to have somethi…
Phang Nga
photo by: ilserita