Being an English teacher in Phuket has its perks. We’re in the know about all the scams, rip-offs, and general fuckery of the tourism companies here AND we usually get discounts on massages, beach entrances, and tours because we may be foreigners, but we’re foreigners who work and live here. This little credibility was essential in booking a Phangnga day trip for 1,000 baht (the original price was 1,800), but we met an English girl, on holiday, who was able to barter it to that price, so anything is possible if you know how to work the system.
Our trip included van pick-up and drop-off, a long tail boat to James Bond island, kayaking around the limestone caves, a buffet lunch at a Muslim floating village, and Monkey Temple. It was one hell of a deal! I don’t always love tours and usually only take them if there isn’t another option, but this one was chill and enjoyable. We were never forced into buying anything or “accidentally” dropped off in a trinket shop, which was lovely (*cough cough* Golden Triangle tour from Chiang Mai).
The long tail was large and brightly colored and we all had to wear life jackets, which was slightly absurd. Our guide yelled many things at us, but I was too busy getting sprayed in the face by overly salty sea water, so who knows what that was about.
James Bond Island is named after its part in The Man With The Golden Arm, the 1974 Roger Moore film. I’d never seen it and neither had most people on the trip. I think people kept expecting Daniel Craig to pop out of somewhere. Obviously, before this movie came out, the distinct rock feature jutting out of the sea like a beautiful abnormality, was unknown, but now, it’s all over Pinterest and a must-see for tourists in the Phuket area. The beach itself is not worth your time, but taking a silly photo in front of the rock, climbing up the stairs for a better viewpoint, and then back down to a more hidden and better beach, made our time worthwhile. I was happy to see that the place wasn’t covered in 007 posters, at the very least.
We realized that we wouldn’t be able to paddle our own kayaks, as everyone was being taken around by a guide. We were annoyed, especially since we are all more than capable, but it was actually quite pleasant! Our guide was friendly, funny, and enjoyed testing my Thai skills, while he slowly paddled us around and pointed out interesting rock formations. Even though the water was packed with tourists, it never felt cloying, as it was quiet and somewhat amusing to see us all bobbing in the sun and being paddled around like fat, touristic blobs.
Our long tail finally took us to lunch at a floating Muslim village that was mostly mud and nailed together wood, until you walked farther in and found clean, modern restaurants and small homes with metal gates. It was a stark contrast. You had to wonder how they got anything done, out there in the middle of nowhere, but the small community had a mosque that looked straight out of Aladdin, a school, post office, and even a guesthouse, where our guide threatened we would have to stay if we missed the boat back.
The buffet lunch was superb and more than we could eat. Fried chicken, shrimp, seafood soup, vegetable curry, cashew chicken, and loads of fresh pineapple! Three of our friends were vegetarian and they gave them fried and fresh veggie plates, as well. We missed most of the time to explore the village, as we got too involved with our delicious meal, sadly.
After getting back to the pier, our group went to Monkey Temple or Wat Suwan Kuha, if you want to be correct about it. Our tour group had been late, so all the other groups hit this temple first thing in the day and we were now hitting it before heading home. How lucky we were to be the only people there. The silence and descending dusk made the area feel mystical. A girl who went earlier in the day said she didn’t see one monkey, but we saw at least 30 or so. They swarmed the mouth of the cave/the entrance of the temple when we arrived. The bigger ones terrified me and I made sure to stay away from the mothers who had babies clutched to their chests. One monkey was sipping coffee out of trash someone had left in their area. Please, please, don’t litter or leave food for the monkeys. Don’t be an idiot; it’s not good for them!
They didn’t go in the temple and I’m not sure if it’s divine intervention or something else that keeps them out, but I only saw one in an open area, as we climbed further into the spectacular cave that held a golden, laying Buddha and many other Buddha statutes. I can imagine it would be claustrophobic when filled with people, but being the only person in there felt as though I’d gone back in time.
The Phangnga day tour wasn’t mind-blowing, but it was a generally good time and well-executed. It’s not an area I need to see again, but I very much enjoyed getting to explore it. If you want to try something besides a beach day in Phuket, this is a great alternative.