I don’t normally buy into the touristy “tour this awesome place!” type packages, but early on when I looked into Thailand ‘Stuff to Do’ one of the things that showed up in my searches was James Bond Island. You know, the island featured at the climax of the 1974 Roger Moore classic, “The Man with the Golden Gun’. As a Bond fan (and a fan of movies in general) I yelped with joy. I’ve been looking forward to this for some time.
I awoke with a spring in my step and had a splendid breakfast (there’s a breakfast buffet at our hotel in Karon Beach, and it has BACON.) At twenty past noon, my bus arrived and I set out. Indi was not interested, so she stayed back and had a relax day. After picking up the rest of our party, we set out on the hour-and-a-half drive north to Phang Nga Bay.
Our guide was an older Chinese man named Sapah. He was decked out in jeans, a vest, and a stereotypical white beard-and-stache combo. He spoke decent English (thick accent though) but was rather soft spoken and often had to search for words. Along the road, he pointed out the palm oil plantations, the rubber tree farms, and went over our itenerary. “First, we go to Suwankuha…monkey…temple and cave, ladies and gents. Monkey VERY aggressive, not to be feeding. Rabies. Like mad dog or cat, if bite. Maybe have to see doctor.” I was sitting up front and watched him speak into the bus microphone and it was endearing to see him clench his eyes shut while he searched for the right words.
We arrived at the Suwankuha Temple before I realized it (an hour of Dramamine-induced daze will do that to you) and got out. The grounds were indeed overrun with Macaque monkeys, similar to the ones I saw in Ubud, Indonesia…only they were much less shy. And the ones in Ubud weren’t shy. I walked into the cave (past a dour looking local, taking 20 baht entrance fees) and was greeted by the most Buddha statues I’d ever seen in one place, including an enormous reclining Buddha. The cave wasn’t that deep, and I saw it all in about ten minutes. The rest of my time I spent admiring the temple outside and watching the others get overrun by monkeys as they tried to feed them with the small banana bunches for sale. Often times, the monkeys would gang up and/or drop from trees to take the whole bunch at once.
Back on the bus, it was only ten minutes or so before we were at the docks and on the long tail boat heading to Khao Ping Kan Island. The overcast sky finally let loose on us and what started as a drizzle turned into a torrential downpour by the time we made it to the island. We were handed ponchos en route, thankfully. Though it was foggy and hard to see out of my rain covered glasses, the dozens of limestone islands were truly a sight to behold, a true icon of the country and of foreign travel in general.
I was giddy as all get-out when the boat pulled in. There was a row of shops that were all closed due to the rain, so I didn’t get hassled to buy anything as I rounded the corner and saw the first familiar sight: the tall leaning limestone ‘doorway’ that served as Christopher Lee’s fortress entrance in the Bond film. Fighting raindrops on the lens, I got a few pictures before retreating underneath an overhang and cursing the weather. I walked on a few feet and saw the main attraction on the island, known to the locals now as James Bond Rock. It was magnificent, even without the solar panel coming out of the top. The rain started to let up, much to my excitement, and I was finally able to get a few pictures without interference. Next to the rock is a small carved staircase, also seen in the film. It’s a rather small island, but totally worthwhile.
We set out afterwards to our final destination: Panyee Island, also known as the Muslim Floating Village. The village was founded nearly 200 years ago and has been used primarily for fish farming (“Red snapper, very tasty.”). It is an entirely Islam island as well, which is rare for Thailand as a majority of Thai are Buddhist. We approached the stilted village and pulled up to a nice-looking pier and were told we had an hour to explore and eat. The village is actually quite poor, with tourism being a fairly new (i.e. last ten to fifteen years) development. There’s a school, a mosque, and a doctor as well as rows of housing and shops. The water underneath the village is a terribly muddly murk that is actually a little frightening and I went back to the main dock after about twenty minutes of exploring.
I had some rice to tide me over and conversed with a wonderfully sweet woman from Australia named Kathy. She is about to celebrate her fiftieth birthday and is spending the week celebrating. We talked about traveling and our respective homes before it was time to head back to the main docks and the bus.
The ride home was sufficiently quiet and I returned to the hotel and a happily lazy wife. It was a good day.