how to visit james bond island

How to Visit James Bond Island – Thailand’s Ko Phing Kan

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 to James Bond Island. You can visit James Bond Island from Phuket, Krabi, and from Koh Yao Noi too. So here’s how to visit James Bond Island, and what else to see in Ao Phang Nga National Park.



James Bond Island

Easiest Way to Visit James Bond Island

Take a full-day speedboat tour, with lunch included. Enjoy kayaking into hidden lagoons and caves of Panak Island and Hong Island

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 being picked up we’re sat in the forecourt of a petrol station. Another 30 minutes after that we found 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.

On a Longtail Boat to James Bond Island

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 – it’s one of Thailand’s top National Parks for spotting wildlife.

Among the Karst of 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.

Canoeing around Ao Phang Nga National Park

Ours was 24 years old with two children (another Thai horrified that we don’t have children), who supports Manchester United (like almost every other Thai person we meet).

Karst at Ao Phang Nga National Park from a canoe

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), and there are also mangroves.

Ao Phang Nga National Park Caves

And then there’s a photo opp and two “floating supermarkets” where we can get a bargain coconut for 100 THB each.

Photo Opp at James Bond Island

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 unknown until James Bond discovered Scaramanga’s hideout in the 1974 “Man with the Golden Gun”

James Bond Island

This is James Bond Island.  And the Islet that was Scaramanga’s lair is Ko Tapu.

Ko Tapu - aka Scaramangas Lair

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.

James Bond Island and Ko Tapu

And about 30 vendors their stalls of shells, hats, and 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.

Ko Tapu from Above

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 at James Bond Island

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.

Floating Village at Panyee Island

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 boatloads that come and go as we eat our family-style dishes of omelet, 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.

Family Style Meal at Panyee 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, a post office and lots more shops. Rudy is anxiously hanging out at the “right” shop waiting to herd us back to the right boat.

Football pitch at Panyee Island

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.

Golden Buddha Thailand Panyee Island

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”.

Waterfall in Ao Phang National Park

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, and what look and sound like mosquitos.

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 to go and eat at the Night Walking Marke.  So we do as we’re told, snacking on Japanese Takoyaki, sausages, 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.

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