Day 16 (December 10, 2010)   Krabi: Phang Nga


 Phang Nga Bay

   We should hire a tour to Phang Nga Bay the previous days. We want to swim in the beach in front of James Bond’s island and get some kayaking through the caves in the rock formations of this place.

   The spots marked at map are:

 1- Quay
 2- Koh Panyee (Floating village)
 3- Koh Tapu (James Bond Island)


   This travel is close to its end, but we still have one great day in front: today. Since tomorrow we’ll be in the return process.

   We take our buffet breakfast and wait with a Dutch couple to be picked up. At 8 AM o’clock the van arrives, the guide introduces to the four of us. We’re the last ones and the seats at the bottom are the ones free for us. It is a 2 hours’ drive and our guide makes her best on entertaining us by telling things about Thailand and then, specifically of the area we’re in. When she is talking about the nationalities of the people of the group, which is composed by around 15 persons, Spain is recalled as the recent football world champion.

Phang Nga's quayBoats in Phang Nga

   Some minutes after 10 AM we’re in Phang Nga National Park, in a quay with a lot of a new kind of boats which seems to be the bus of the longtails. The broad river in front of us is the main part of the landscape and the tropical vegetation around seem to come to the riverside and over the water. At far, we can see the rock formations emerging from the water, which is what is typical of this park.

Sailing by Phang Nga

   Our boat is going to that part and the engine noise makes difficult hearing clearly guide’s explanations. The landscape is so beautiful, we can see the mangrove close at out left and check how the vegetation is coming out from the water while at our right rocks are making impossible shapes, as the one called “Elephant rock” below. I’d chosen a different animal, though.

Mangrove at riverside in Phang NgaRocks shapes in Phang Nga

   The river is opening for which could already be the bay itself and a huge rock is appearing in the middle. Our guide is talking about it and the floating village built by Muslim Malaysian immigrants under its protection, its name is Koh Panyee. We’re fascinated by this village as we’re passing by, although we know we’re going to come back to it as we actually are going to lunch in there today.

Koh Panyee and its floating village

   We’re going through the water with rocks emerging vertically here and there from it. As we’re approaching to one of these islands we can figure out it is a big attraction due to the amount of boats in its quay. Our first stop is also the highlight of this tour: what is called as James Bond’s island but is actually Koh Tapu.

Islands in Phang Nga with Koh Tapu

   We know the most famous picture of the whole Thailand coast is here, but we still cannot see it. We’ve got land in a tiny quay in a side of a small beach and we can see in front of us the tall rock walls which feet are covered by the souvenir market. No way of getting lost here: there is only one path in the middle which is constantly crowded. We pass by a spectacular and perfect cut of rock, as if it was not natural, and at the end of this short walk there is a beach full of tourists getting their photo of the image we’ve come to see. We join to them with our cameras but, when I can see some of them swimming close to that rock, which seems to stand magically, I take my clothes off and go to the water.
Koh Tapu aka James Bond Island

   This beach boundary is also full with the souvenir market but we spend the rest of our time for this visit by following a small path, starting with some stairs at the left of the beach, and rounds this island until the beach with the quay. We can get new great views from it.

Koh Tapu aka James Bond Island   Once back in our boat, we’re leaving this place to an area looking wilder, until we can see a floating platform from which colorful canoes are leaving and coming. For the ones haven’t chosen the canoeing option it is offered one last time. Which are still not interested can spend the time in the bar, inside this platform. We are taken to the side where the canoes are delivering and picking tourists and are recommended to put all our valuable things inside a plastic bag which pretends to be water proof. We leave our shoes there and get into one of these kayaks. The boy driving our canoe – and by driving I’m meaning paddling - help us to allocating my wife and me. This way, just a few minutes after arriving to this place we’re in our canoe, long enough as per the three of us could be laid, something we didn’t know we should do here to reach the treasures inside these mountains over the water. This is the best of the tour and the best way to understand it is showing it, specifically in this video:

Canoeing in Phang Nga

   When we’re leaving the biggest cave we can see a boat selling cocoas. The boy in our canoe is constantly asking us if we’re happy and we always agree on it. Close to the end he asks us if we want to swim and I answer yes. It seems he has some off tour minutes ready: we’re taken to a hidden area of the mangrove and he let me smoke asking for a cigarette in exchange. We can swim for a bit in so magnificent environment (the one in the second picture below) and in a spectacular water.
Caves while canoeing in Phang Nga

   When it’s time to finish and the cigarettes are close to their end I offer the boy the bottle I use as ashtray but he prefers throw it to the river. This is the only sad point in this trip. When we’re reaching the platform this boy asks us for his tip and for not being seen giving him the money. I give 20 Baht to him and he says he wants more. I explain we don’t have more as we haven’t brought more as everything was paid for this tour. I really think the behavior with the cigarette shouldn’t be encouraged.

Swimming in the mangrove

   Once all together again in the big long tail we’re in our way back to the main quay, where the van is waiting for us, but still there is one last stop: the floating village of Koh Panyee.

   We reach this place by boat as it cannot be reached with anything else and walk over this floor we know is not as solid as it seems. This is the quay area with fishing stuff everywhere. The long tables are ready right here, in a kind of huge terrace with roof, and there are some groups of tourists already lunching here. We take our place in a round table. As I’m eating my soup IFloating village in Phang Nga can feel how some tears are coming down through my cheeks. They’re coming from the spicy hot the soup is, I love it! The main course is just enough to feed us, with its usual side of rice. As people is finishing they’re leaving the table for exploring the curious village. We just stop at the first shops and with all the bargaining we only have time of taking a quick look to the narrow streets forgetting they’re over such a fragile base.

  It’s time to come back to the van in our return trip to the hotel, but we still have two more visits in front, both outside the National park. The first of these is the monkey temple, where our guide assures us the monkeys here are not as wild as the ones we could meet around as they’re pacific and used to the food from tourists. They can still steal things, though.

   Out of the van we can find big open area, as if it was a sort of park, with some trees at right and a banana market at left. In front, a simple blue gate is the entrance to the temple, inside the mountain rock and, above it, this cliff is full of rainforest. But we cannot see any monkey.

   We go inside what it looks like a cavern with some religious icons here and there and a big golden reclined Buddha. Some noises make me look at ceiling. But it is so dark I cannot see a thing. I then take a picture using the flash to get a confirmation of my thoughts: the ceiling is full of bats.

Inside the monkey templeBats in the monkey temple

   The temple can be easily visited in five minutes and we come back out when we’re told from one in our group there is a monkey. And it is in one of the trees near the entrance and, as it is the only one and is in a low branch, everybody wants a picture with it. It’s the celebrity here! We started to think that was going to be all for the monkey temple, but we were wrong.

   A couple go to buy some bananas to offer to the friendly monkey and this fact has just started some movements in the jungle above the temple. We can see how some monkeys are slowly coming down from it using the lianas, just in the spot of the picture at left. Mother with child in the monkey temple 

Above monkey temple

   Our sight is getting sharper for animals and is then when we’re seeing more and more monkeys coming down and, obviously, they reach our level. People buy more bananas and monkeys come to take them from tourists’ hands. We join to them by 100 Baht for a bag of small bananas, which is an expensive price for a market, but here it is the main attraction.

   Monkeys are getting their meal and we are after a picture of us giving a banana to one of the monkeys, but it is harder to do than explain as the animals approach carefully but, when they are at distance they’re so quick taking the fruit and running away with it. They’re almost as fast as our eyes and definitively faster than our cameras. One of them steals the bag to Eva and another takes the most part of my last banana leaving just a small piece of it in my hand.

   My solution then: holding hard that piece and don’t let it go until having my picture. The result: the photo at left, with a small monkey fighting for its reward.
monkey temple's entrance
Feeding monkeys

 Happy with this experience we’re back to our van ready for our last stop: some falls where we can get a swim in nature.

   When we arrive we can check we’re alone here. This place is basically jungle with a couple of wooden huts for the typical services to visits: restroom, bar, gift shop, etc… Before seeing the water we can see in display the falls with its picture, just as shown in Erawan, although these are quite less spectacular. And as in Erawan, we see the two first falls here and, as the people in our group keep going up we go back to the first for a lonely swim. The water is the colder I’ve been in Thailand. I’m saying good bye in the picture at right because since tomorrow we start our return trip to home, with a stop in Bangkok to finishing with our shopping.

Swimming in the first fallsSecond falls

   So we’re thinking about it in the short ride to the hotel. As we’re the first to be delivered we can say good bye to all our tour partners and rest at room for a while. We’re going to dinner somewhere in the beach. We remember now about the Muay Thai we refused yesterday, knowing we had got time to be in.

   Hotel’s tuk tuk drive us to restaurant Pakarang, in front of Nopparat Thara Beach and recommended by our driver, who we already know from yesterday. When we’re done, the restaurant staff will call him to be taken back to the hotel. It seems expensive for Thailand standards and, as we still have all the shopping for the next days, we order some seafood brochettes appearing as the highlight offer in the menu and a main course for each of us, but managing the bill for being under 800 Baht.

   We only have to rest for today, a long and wonderful day. The Phang Nga tour is with no doubt a must-do.