Well, it was my final day in Phuket and so far I had experienced nightlife that I have never experienced anywhere else in the world (including flat screen TVs playing Youtube Videos in the bars – though they wouldn’t set it to full screen, despite it being much more professional, but then again they weren’t exactly professional establishments), ridden an elephant, shaken an elephant’s trunk, experienced a rainstorm on the high seas, cuddled a monkey, and discovered that I don’t get sea sick (as well as visiting a Hooters, but that doesn’t count – there’s one in Parramatta). So, there was one thing left to do – jump onto another speed boat and attempt to find Salamanga’s lair (that is, go to James Bond Island).
Once again I had breakfast, grabbed some coffee at the coffee shop next door that was not Starbucks, and then waited patiently in the lobby for the bus to take me to the marina. Okay, I had a pretty good book, and surprisingly I was still attempting to get my way through it (and I wouldn’t finish it until the plane was just about to land at Melbourne airport). Fortunately I hadn’t lost it (though I had had a nightmare a couple of nights before that I had – which would have been really annoying because I was two thirds of the way through it, which meant I would have not only had to search for another copy, but start back at the beginning – which is what I am going to have to do with Farewell to Arms – I lost it when I was in Bangkok).
One Crazy Crew
So, my bus collected me and sure enough I found myself back at the Royal Phuket Marina (it seems that there are a number of tour companies that operate from here) however this was a different company (which was booked through my travel agent as opposed to the girl across the road from the hotel). Once again we collected our arm bands, were offered sea-sick tablets, and then went out to have our photo taken (which I also managed to avoid). Then we made our way down to the speed boat where we donned our (or should I say mine because most people seem to treat these things as optional fashion accessories) lifejackets.
One thing I must say is that some of these tour guides in Thailand are a really eccentric lot. Okay the bus drivers tend to be fairly quiet, but then again they are driving buses so I sort of understand why that is the case. However, once you get onto the speedboats you suddenly meet the real characters, and this was definitely the case with Pha Nang Eco-Tours. Anyway, we were first introduced to the speedboat driver, who went by the name Captain Jack Sparrow:
Then we were introduced to the guy who would be filming our adventure, Mr Hollywood:
Actually Mr Hollywood was pretty cool, especially since I found myself in a canoe with him as we were exploring Hong Island. He even did me the favour of taking a photo of me at James Bond Island.
However, I simply cannot forget our guide, who introduced himself a Sexy Moomoo.
Before you ask, yes he is gay, or at least he claimed to be (he could have been play acting). He also claimed that he used to be a Thai boxer, that is before he suffered a career ending injury to his leg (and it was quite pronounced).
Fortunately for us we were heading north into Phang Na Bay, which meant that it was going to be nowhere near as rough as it was when we went out to Phi Phi Island. In fact the cruise was quite pleasant, though it did rain occasionally (as it always does in Thailand), however unlike the other speedboat we were on we got nowhere near as wet on this one. Our first destination though was a place that I had visited previously – Khai Island. I still don’t know what the big deal with Khai Island is, but then again I suspect it is because it is a pretty decent beach (if it isn’t crowded with tourists and boats – which can be a problem, especially if you don’t watch out for the mooring ropes – they can cause some nasty grazes, as I unfortunately discovered).
Mind you the tide was out this time, so it did look a bit different (though the panorama shot doesn’t really do it justice).
This time we had a different spot to sit (the tour companies seem to all own a collection of deckchairs on the island) so since we were spending a little time here I decided to get myself a juice (it was too early for beer) and sit in one of the deck chairs and continue reading my book (as well as playing with my phone – yep, I had internet access out here).
However before I knew it, and after another spot of Thai rain, we were off again, this time to Hong Island.
Canoeing in Caves
The one thing I love about Phang Na Bay are the awesome islands that you see scattered about the place – in fact it was one of those places that I have always wanted to visit in person, particularly since I was always being amazed when I would see the place on some blockbuster Hollywood Movie (such as The Man with the Golden Gun). I remember watching one of these movies and then jumping onto the internet to try and find out where it was filmed (particularly since Hollywood has a really bad habit of suggesting that something is taking place in one area while actually filming it somewhere completely different – I was really disappointed to learn that Star Wars wasn’t filmed on Tattoine).
Our visit to Hong Island was going to take place in canoes, though I started wandering how a bulk of the people on the boat were going do that due to canoeing not being one of those things that you can simply do without any training whatsoever (though I may be talking up my skills a little too much since I have been canoeing with people that were nowhere near as experienced as I was, even though I have been in very few canoes since my scouting days). As it turned out we didn’t have to paddle our own canoes – we had guides for that – all we needed to do was sit in the boat and take photographs.
So, we docked at this platform that was floating just off of Hong Island, disembarked from the boat, and then climbed into the canoes. The person paddling the canoe would sit at the back while up to three of us would then climb into the canoe. Since I was by myself I had the privilege of sharing a canoe with Mr Hollywood.
I had seen a lot of these islands from a distance, but now we got to go pretty close to them and I actually got to see these cliffs up close. My Hollywood did say that we couldn’t get too close because some of these rocks were pretty sharp, which meant that they could do quite a bit of damage to the canoe (namely sink it). Okay, I was wearing a life jacket, and I also know how to swim, but I wouldn’t be too happy losing my camera and my phone (despite it being waterproof, I don’t think it floats, and the water looked pretty deep where we were).
Our canoe paddling person (for want of a better description) took us around a bluff and into a lagoon where I then saw that there were quite a few other boats here, as well as other people going for a canoe around the island. Unfortunately it suddenly started to pelt down with rain, so I put my camera into the bag that the canoe guy kindly gave me and just used my phone to take photos (despite worrying that my butter fingers would result in me accidentally dropping it overboard – fortunately that didn’t happen – its sounds as if I have mobophobia). As we were travelling along he would then tap me on the shoulder and point out some rock formation, telling me that it looked like a monkey, a Buddha, an elephant, or something else that I would rather not share.
Unfortunately while I did take photos of these formations, I can’t remember what was what, so here are another couple of photos of the cliffs.
Fortunately there were quite a few overhangs in the lagoon, so when it did start to rain we managed to shelter ourselves under one of the rocks (that is if all the other canoeists hadn’t had the same idea). Anyway, here are some photos of the lagoon.
We then came to another one of these hollows, however this particular hollow happened to be a cave that went under the rock and out into a grotto on the otherside. The problem with the grotto though was that it was quite small, and once again all the canoes had followed us through the cave. Anyway, here is a photo of the cave:
Some photos of the grotto:
And the panorama shot that I managed to take without some sod in a canoe travelling past the camera and completely ruining it.
After our experience in this grotto that was crowded full of tourists (like myself, though I have to say that I hate being called a tourist, but unfortunately I probably am one) we returned to the lagoon, where we continued our circuit and then (after being drenched a couple more times by the persistant Thai rain) we returned to the flotilla, climbed back onto the speedboat, and then went to get some lunch.
The Floating Village
Actually, one of the reason that I booked this particular tour at the travel agent was because I remember reading it a couple of years ago and being pretty intrigued about having lunch at a floating sea gypsy village (as well as wanting to see the mangrove swamps at the top of Pha Nang Bay). Sure, you might be asking why are they called gypsies when we all know that you only find Romani in Europe, but I suspect that it is a term that is applied to them because they are not originally from Thailand. The inhabitants of the village migrated north from Indonesia a few centuries ago looking for better fishing spots and ended up settling here. In fact, as I was coming into land in Singapore on my way home I looked out of the window (which is why I like the window seat) and could see a lot of similar villages on the nearby islands.
Sexy Moomoo suggested, quite strongly mind you, not to wander away from the restaurant because it is really easy to get lost in the maze beyond the restaurant (and also it smells quite bad). I was a little disappointed though because I really wanted to look behind the tourist veil and see what the village actually looked like, though as I have since discovered the village isn’t even mapped on Google Maps, though the satellite view gives you a pretty good impression of what it looks like.
Sexy Moomoo was good enough to take us for a spin around the village so that we could see the outside (though I really did want to delve into its depths – I’m sure I wouldn’t get that lost, though as I have already pointed out my Google Maps would have been pretty useless inside). I did try to get a bit of a sneak peak after lunch though I couldn’t work out where the owners of the restaurant and the store went into the village.
I did manage to find some pictures of the interior of Panyee (which is the name of the village) on the internet the other night, but I don’t seem to be able to locate them now. However here is a really cool aerial shot that I did manage to find.
As for the interior photos, most of them seemed to be of the new soccer field and the mosque (like the inhabitants of Phi Phi, the residents of Panyee are all Muslim, so there is no alcohol at the restaurant).
I remember trying to haggle with a Muslim for a discount to sit on one of the beach chairs at the last island we visited and she point blank refused claiming that she was Muslim and Muslims don’t haggle. To be honest that is rubbish because when I visited the gift shop after lunch I had a really good bater session with the owner of the shop (and I suspect that she was Muslim).
Oh, before I forget Sexy Moomoo (I love his name) also told us that the village was so structurally sound, and also in such a sheltered position, that is suffered absolutely no damage from the boxing day Tsumani.
Oh, here is a picture of me with a couple of eagles that was taken at Panyee.
Mr Bond I Presume
Well, now I am coming to the end of my holiday and the end of my posts on Phuket (and Singapore), and what better way that to finish off at the location of Salamanga’s island (or at least the location where parts of the film were shot). Okay, the island in the film was supposed to be off the coast of China (I believe) however we all know what filmmakers are like – they prefer to chose places that suit the scene rather than places that are actually located where the story is supposed to be set (which was why I was really disappointed to discover that Star Wars was not shot on Tattoine). Anyway, like Khai Island, there was nothing at James Bond Island prior to The Man with a Golden Gun, however when we climb over the cliffs and look upon the beach we see something completely different to what James Bond saw when he made the same journey:
James Bond Island is only the name that it was given after the film was made and the tourists flocked to the island to stand in front of it with a James Bond pose (such as I did with the kind help of Mr Hollywood).
It does have another name but it seems like most people have forgotten it, or don’t even particularly care about it (it’s actually called Tapoo Island, but as I have suggested, nobody really cares). The thing is that James Bond Island isn’t the only thing to check out here (or all of the gift stalls that are crowding the beach) because if you walk past the gift stalls you with come to this awesome cave where it looks as if two walls have fallen onto each other. I ended up spending more time clambering over the rocks in this cave that I did marvelling at James Bond Island. In fact I had a sneaking suspicion that maybe there was an entrance to Salamanga’s secret lair down here, but despite scouring the place for ten minutes I was unable to locate the entrance (but then again I suspect that James Bond ended up blowing the hideout up after he left).
We were delayed a little bit because once again it decided to rain, and of course everybody screamed and piled into the cave all at once, at which point a couple of hawkers suddenly appeared out of nowhere and started trying to sell people wet weather gear, especially those whom they could see weren’t wearing any (got to love the entrepreneurial nature of the Thai).
Anyway here are a couple of photos of James Bond Island:
And some photos of the island where Salamanga is supposed to have his lair:
And the area where our boat had docked:
Anyway, after that it was time to head off, but before that we stopped off at another island where we could relax and swim (and where I unsuccessfully haggled with the person selling chairs to sit on). When we arrived we were immediately swamped with hawkers trying to sell us drinks, and a couple of guys, one holding a Lemur and another carrying an Iguana, attempted to entice us to have some photos taken with these animals – however after the drink and the chair I pretty much had no money left, so ended up sitting on my chair, drinking my beer and reading my book.