Where We Be
|Two Sea Tour thought of everything -- including a golden gun
so we could pose for pictures in front of James Bond Island!
Phang Nga ("PANG-uh") Bay is located northeast
of Phuket and is similar to Vietnam's Halong Bay
with its sheer karst formations jutting out of the
water. The national park has 42 islands and
covers an area of 400 sq km. Our trip with Two
Sea Tour -- TripAdvisor's #1 ranked tour in
Phuket -- wasn't cheap at $140 US each, but it
was worth every penny for the quality of the
experience. We loved (and hated!) the early
start time which let us beat the tourist crowds:
we awoke at 4:45 am for a 5:15 hotel pickup time.
Our boat departed Ao Por Pier at 6:20 am, just in
time to enjoy sunrise views with breakfast. Our
group of 11 was small for such a big boat -- one
reason the tour comes so highly rated. Before
long we reached Panak Island where we climbed
into kayaks. Our guide did all the paddling so all
we had to do was enjoy. We entered the lowest
sea cave we've ever been in -- we had to lay flat
on our backs just to get in. After a long, dark
passage (with bats!) we entered an isolated
lagoon surrounded by natural walls on all sides.
Next up was Hong Island, where we paddled
through tightly packed karst scenery. Then it
was on to James Bond Island -- the premier
attraction in the park thanks to the movie The
Man With the Golden Gun. Two minutes of
screen time has resulted in millions of visitors
coming here over the years. Thank goodness
it's gorgeous enough to live up to all the hype.
Afterwards we enjoyed a delicious lunch on
board, finishing up with a swim in a secluded
lagoon on Lawa Island. What a terrific day!
|After several days of relaxing we felt ready to do some exploring in this beautiful corner of the world
|The limestone karst formations in Phang Nga Bay are colorful and gorgeous
|At Panak Island we had to lay flat on our backs just to get into the sea cave -- shown straight ahead of Robin. The tides
mean you can only enter certain caves at certain times of day, and this was our cave for this trip. We glided through some
50 meters of cavern -- with bats and extremely low ceiling -- before emerging into a lagoon. Not for the claustrophobic!
|The sea cave is the only entry or exit point to this secluded
lagoon with cliffs rising up to an open sky. What a spot!
|We met some strange creatures inside the lagoon, like this mudskipper --
an amphibious fish that uses its pectoral fins like legs to outrun its enemies
|Our guide Philippe showed us how mangroves drop
seed pods like this to root and produce new trees
|We spent a good 45 mintues inside the lagoon. Philippe requested total silence for a few minutes. I can still hear
that woodpecker's staccato hammering echoing hollowly inside the walls. We exited the same way we came in.
|A shuttle took our group (half French and half American) to
Ping Gan Island, known for its great views of James Bond Island
|And here it is -- the photogenic island that features
so prominently in "The Man With the Golden Gun"
|Pin Gan Island is also known for its sheer slabs of
leaning rock -- always good for a few silly pictures
|The views really are spectacular from here
|We climbed to a lookout point and finally got the chance we've been waiting for!
|Two minutes of screen time from a movie back in 1974 was enough
to turn this into a major (and well-deserved) tourist attraction
|Our fun-loving guides liked to photobomb, but they let us get off one clean photo at right
|Back on the main boat we enjoyed a delicious Thai buffet lunch
cooked on board. We ate while making our way to Lawa Island.
|This private strand of beach on Lawa Island was our final stop of the day
|We jumped into the incredibly salty water
of Phang Nga Bay and swam to the beach
|We had about an hour to relax and enjoy this little slice of heaven
|On the way to our next destination we passed this local
fisherman, one of many who call Phang Nga Bay home
|We did some more exploring near Panak Island before returning to the boat
|It was still only 8:30 am when we began kayaking near Hong Island.
This enormous sea cave was just one of the natural attractions.
|Can you see Scooby Doo and a piranha fish in these rock formations?
|We paddled among a tight collection of karst islands in complete
privacy and quiet -- no other tour groups had arrived here yet
|It's not often you get to kayak in such a pristine
place all alone except for your own little group
|Back on the boat, we made our way towards James Bond Island (Koh Tapu)
|The day was just dawning as we pulled away from Ao Po Pier on the northeast side of Phuket
|We watched the sun rise through dark clouds while munching on breakfast
|They take on many different shapes -- like this half-submerged camel
|Big boat, small group -- that's the motto of Two Sea Tour. Their website says, "The finest
kayaking tour in Phuket," and we'd have to agree -- the quality is second to none.
|Let's start with our route. Our driver picked us up at our hotel in Patong Beach and drove us directly to Ao Por Pier. We explored
Phang Nga Bay the rest of the day, kayaking at Panak Island with its ultra-low sea cave, kayaking again at Hong Island with its
beautiful karst scenery, visiting Tapu Island for views of James Bond Island, and swimming at Lawa Island's secluded beach.
|The colors of the rocks seem to change as the day goes on
|Also this venomous banded sea snake,
which has a potent neurotoxic venom
|By the time we were leaving, the place was starting
to get crowded -- and by mid-afternoon it will be a zoo
|You know you're on a deluxe tour when
your guide serves you fresh fruit on the beach