Ko Phing Kan in Ao Phang Nha National Park – the type of place where movies are made. This was the hideout of James Bond villain, Scaramanga, no helicopters and speedboats for us though – we’re strictly on a day trip out of Krabi. We’re off to James Bond Island!
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Visiting James Bond Island from Krabi
We were the first to be picked up this morning, thus we got the choice of seats. Three more folks were added and we were on our way on our trip to Ko Phing Kan island. Well it’s a day trip to a variety of places, but we’re spending 1300 THB each (1000 if we didn’t want to canoe) to take a trip to James Bond island and a variety of other places with the Rung Siam Andaman Group. We found the trip at a travel agent’s storefront on the way to the pier last night when we were looking for dinner.
At 08:40 am, 30 minutes after our pick up we’re sat in the forecourt of a petrol station. 30 minutes after that we find that we were waiting for another van to arrive (our Thai driver had said “toilet?” then fueled up and then parked the van and left us. Thankfully with the air con on. We’re joined by three more folks and Rudy, our guide, who proceeds to tell us what we’ll be doing for the rest of the day.
After 90 minutes in the van, we arrive at Phang Nga pier and decamp to a long-tail boat. It’s huge and each of us could have one row of seats each if we so chose.
We had been trying to arrange this tour independently, but in the interests of time gave up. Want to visit James Bond Island from the other side? Explore Koh Yao Noi here.
From Krabi you’d need to get a local bus to Phang Nga (and that means getting out to the Krabi bus station first), then from Phang Nga to the pier, then negotiate a long-tail boat for yourself, and yada yada yada. It seemed like a lot of hard work, so we made like the rest of the folks on the Banana Pancake Trail and paid for a tour.
The Banana Pancake Trail is the name given to the growing and well-trodden routes in South East Asia, India, and China that are frequented by backpackers. There’s no specific trail as such, but the phrase is used as a metaphor for the places that are popular with us Western Tourists. We definitely know when we’re on it, as there are a whole host of other westerners all pretty studiously ignoring each other, wearing flip-flops, vest tops, and short shorts. Back in the ’60s and 70’s it would have been the Hippie Trail.
This area really is very beautiful. It’s like Halong Bay, Vietnam without the trash and the endless stream of boats and in the 30 minutes we spend in the long-tail boat, we see perhaps two other boats are we’re zipping down the river which widens into the Ao Phang Nga National Park.
We’re taking the canoe trip first, as the tide is on its way out and there won’t be enough water later to canoe. And while I’d seen the photo it didn’t really hit me until we got here, but we were getting a canoed trip. No physical exertion on this pancake trail.
The canoes are surprisingly stable inflatable ones, designed for two people plus your oarsman.
Ours was 24 years old with two children (another Thai horrified that we don’t have children), who supports Manchester United (I think the whole country does, apart from Leicester City owner, Vichal Rakriaksorn).
We have 40 minutes during which time we’re transported around the base of the karst formations, under arches, into a cave (where we have to lie flat in the canoe in order to get in and out), there are mangroves, there’s a photo opp and two “floating supermarkets” where we can get a bargain coconut for 100 THB each.
Then it’s off the canoe and back into the long-tail boat, for our 10-minute zip to Ko Phing Kan, which was most likely obscure until James Bond discovered Scaramanga’s hideout in the 1974 “Man with the Golden Gun”
This is James Bond Island. And the Islet that was Scaramanga’s lair is Ko Tapu.
20 meters tall, and 40 meters from where we’re standing.
We expected there to be thousands of people crammed onto this tiny little islet, but that’s traveling in the off season’s benefit, maybe 100 tops.
And about 30 vendors their stalls of shells, hats, ice cream lining the route to the famous photo opportunity. We decline to take the swimming opportunity, although plenty do strip off and wade in.
There’s a short hike up and over the islet to the other side, another great photo opp, another beach more vendors and several caves to explore. We find the Chinese and Japanese tourists lined up to take their obligatory “hanging on for dear life” photo at the rock face that gives this island it’s name.
Ko Phing Kan means quite literally “Leaning on itself” and came about because it appears that one edge of the cliff simply slid off and then leaned against another rock in the center of the island
After 30 minutes on the island (Rudy keeps reminding us that if we’re not back at the return points at each prescribed time then he can’t promise what time we’ll return to Krabi) we head off to the “floating” Panyee Island, which of course isn’t really floating at all.
Neither is it traditional or anything other than now, a location that exists to support the tourist trade.
Attached to a small karst island, the enterprising locals have built out their “island” on stilts. It was previously a fishing community and now exists to support these trips. Each landing pier has a huge restaurant attached to it (but they all look as though they’re serving the same food, each with a seafood option).
Each caters to boat loads that come and go as we eat our family style dishes of omelette, fried chicken, stir fried veg, rice and soup. Then we have the rest of our 60 minutes in total on the island to wander, but, Rudy warns us, we have to walk through a shop to get to the rest of the island.
And so, we walk through the shop to get to… more shops. We keep walking and find the school (shoes off inside), there’s the sports field, the “stadium”, a mosque, post office and lots more shops. Rudy is anxiously hanging out at the “right” shop waiting to herd us back to the right boat.
Into the van again for another 30 minutes and then this is Wat Suwana Kuha or the “monkey” temple, where the highlight appears to be buying nuts to feed the monkeys, who will not go inside the temple, where we find the golden reclining Buddha.
Beyond the temple is a large dank smelly cave, with slippery half-hand holds and few footholds. They allow you to climb up to the top at the back for a particularly uninspiring view back down. (Save your time and effort, go to the caves of Phong Nha in Vietnam instead).
The good thing about this tour is that you don’t spend very long in the van. It’s split up so after we’ve avoided getting bitten or scratched at the monkey temple we have another 20 minutes until we reach the “waterfall”.
It’s the end of the dry season Rudy has been telling us, so there’s not much water. But you can swim if you want. It looks about knee deep.
So we keep our distance, chewing on the provided biscuits and chugging soft drinks waiting to get back into the van.
It’s an hour back to Krabi. Objective achieved. Scaramanga’s Lair duly spotted, photographed and checked off the list. Now we’re steered by our guest house, the Sweet Home to go and eat at the Night Walking Marke. So we do as we’re told, snacking on Japanese Takoyaki, on sausages (not great), kebabs and little egg tartlets
Then we find a cold beer or two to wash them down with before retiring.
Hunting down arch villain’s lairs is hard work.
Where to Stay in Krabi
There are a host of places to stay in Krabi – here’s our pick of the luxury places to stay in Krabi, mid-range places to stay in Krabi, and budget accommodation in Krabi.
Panan Krabi Resort (SHA Extra Plus), Krabi, Thailand: The Panan Krabi Resort (SHA Extra Plus) is a top resort conveniently situated in the Ao Nang part of Krabi. Enjoy a luxurious stay in this luxury Panan Krabi Resort in Krabi that has air conditioning and internet access in all of its rooms. This super place to stay in Krabi also includes complimentary coffee and tea, drinking water, and a welcome drink. Take breakfast on your balcony and make good use of the fluffy bathrobes, slippers, towels, and free toiletries offered in this luxury Krabi resort. Room amenities include private bathrooms and refrigerators. Check availability of this top place to stay i Krabi here.
Aonang Hill @11/1 (SHA Extra Plus), Krabi, Thailand: The Aonang Hill @11/1 (SHA Extra Plus) is a mid-range hotel in the heart of Ao Nang, Krabi. All the rooms here at the Aonang Hill @11/1 in Krabi offer air conditioning and internet access, as well as complimentary coffee and drinking water. You’ll get a great night’s sleep as the rooms here have blackout curtains too, as well as a refrigerator, and cable TV. There’s a garden here and a hot tub to aid any relaxation that you might need! This is a wonderful place to stay in the heart of Krabi. See room rates here.
Pop-in Aonang, Krabi, Thailand: The Pop-in Aonang is a budget hotel conveniently located in the Ao Nang, part of Krabi. All of the rooms in this great Krabi budget hotel have free WiFi and air-conditioning. There is also a coffee shop, barbecue facilities, and a bar at this fabulous Krabi hotel. Pop-in Aonang is a great budget option to stay in Krabi. The Pop-in Aonang books out quickly, so you’ll need to reserve early.
We also headed out to Railay from Krabi and you can read about that here.
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