Slightly unexpectedly, I find myself sitting on a boat in Thailand as the deck erupts with a motley crew of young Australian girls, giving it their all to the pumping beats of Gangnam Style. This is followed by a step perfect rendition of The Macarena. A tremendous amount of fun is being had by all, and I’m peering at the goings-on whilst trying to work out if I've slipped into a martini induced hallucination of my university days.
Of course, this isn’t the case, as I’ve not had any martini. Although if I had had a martini, that would have been entirely appropriate, given the activities of the day. Let me rewind a little bit.
It is the 5th of February, 2013, and like every fifth of February for the last thirty years or so (collective gasp), this signifies that I’ve successfully managed to pilot the earth around a giant nuclear ball of fire with no serious mishap (collective applause). In other words, it’s the day of my birthday, although really I think it should be my mum who celebrates this achievement rather than me. Still, she gets her own birthday, so the unfairness is at least evenly distributed.
The last few birthdays have been fairly geographically diverse, as I travel the earth checking that our orbit around the sun is still going well. Ok, so that last bit isn’t entirely true. But you get the gist. I had a birthday on the roof of a tailor’s shop in Tasmania, for example. Then one under the shadow of an active volcano in New Zealand, followed by one in the frozen depths of a winter coated Europe. I share these experiences so you can see that I quite like doing things a little bit differently with each birthday, and saw no reason for 2013 to be any different. My 33rd, since you asked.
As it was, we were given the opportunity by the nice folks at GetYourGuide to undertake a tour with them, and since the zip lining experience had gone so well, we thought why not go on a trip for my birthday. And what better trip than a Canoe tour to James Bond island in Thailand’s Phang Nga bay, home to some of Thailand’s most impressive rock formations. This seemed like a decent way to ring in another year of managing not to set the world on fire.
Tour booked, we sat back and quietly looked forward to spending some time getting up close and personal with Christopher Lee’s island lair hideout ((the film in question being 1974’s Man with the Golden Gun) with a bit of canoeing thrown in for good measure.
The day of my birthday dawned gloriously bright and sunny, with wall to wall blue skies. Vera even presented me with a candle filled chocolate brownie in bed to wake me up. The day had started well.
Sometime later, we found ourselves sitting outside our hotel awaiting our pick up. This took some time to arrive, and about forty five minutes after it was supposed to turn up, I sensed something was amiss, and rang the number we had been given in case of problem.
A very nice man on the other end took a look at my booking, and explained that there had been an error at his end, and somehow my booking for the 5th had been transcribed as the 25th. So there was no van coming. And it was also likely that the boat had already left.
What was to be done? Well, luckily for us, we had a spare day, so were able to reschedule to the 6th. It wasn’t the end of the world – we just had to re-plan my birthday celebrations, which turned out to be us spending a day exploring the rather pretty old streets of Phuket Old Town, which, if you’re ever in the area, are well worth the time to do.
Anyway, this post is about that boat trip and James Bond, which happened the day after my birthday. Luckily, many people also celebrate their birthdays on the 6th, so I felt they wouldn’t mind if I temporarily labelled that my birthday as well (plus, I’m sure it was the 5th still somewhere in the world). And so the birthday celebration was on!
Amazingly, we’ve got to 750 words, and we’ve not even set off on the boat yet. This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise by now. Let’s have a photo of Vera in a canoe to save you from worrying about further misadventure.
The following morning dawned a little murkier than the morning before, but this time our van was waiting for us outside the hotel. All was well. We hopped on board, and after picking up a few more people and a total of around an hours drive, found ourselves at the pier.
Here it became apparent that we weren’t the only ones who liked the idea of visiting James Bond island and doing a bit of sea canoeing – this is a very popular activity amongst visitors to Thailand. Interestingly, it didn’t seem to appeal to just one demographic – everyone from kids to retirees were present, and waiting to board their boat.
There were plenty of boats to accommodate all the people, all loaded up with inflatable canoes, and after some sorting and wrist band attachment, we were herded to our particular vessel. The atmosphere was of a fairly large party, all off on a jolly adventure. Naturally, the boats fully stocked bar and pumping tunes helped contribute towards this vibe.
If this all sounds a bit too much, then fear not. The boat was made up of three levels, and was easily big enough to accommodate everyone on board. Solace could be sought on the top deck, from where the views were unimpeded, and what views they were.
Phang Nga bay is way up there on the must-visit list for any trip to Thailand (hence all the people and boats!), and this is for good reason. Eerily green water surrounds rock formations and islands that defy the imagination as to how they stay upright without toppling over. Caves beckon, promising hidden island interiors accessible only by sea. Stalactites drip off the rocks, demonstrating the passage of ages. All in all, it’s pretty epic.
Our first stop on the adventure was to Khao Phing Kan, better known as James Bond island. The most famous feature of this island is the islet around forty metres off shore known as Ko Tapu – a thin wedge of rock which is narrower at its base than its top, and is perhaps the most recognisable of all the rock formations in Thailand.
James Bond island itself wasn’t a particularly large affair, (barely room for a villain, let alone a secret lair and henchman) so didn’t take much time to explore. In addition, this is a seriously crowded location, (everyone wants a bit of Scaramanga action it seems!) so after snapping a few shots and gaping at the improbably shaped cliffs and rock formations, we weren’t too sad to be bundled back into our long tail boat for transfer back to our bigger boat.
Here was where it got exciting – time to be paddled around some of the more interesting rock formations in the bay. We were loaded up into our inflatable canoe, furnished with paddler / guide (none of this paddle yourself malarkey), and set off on the calm, green tinged waters, to explore the various caves and inlets of some of the islands of the Ao Phang Nga National Park. Some of these played host to hidden interior lagoons, occasionally filled with monkeys, accessible only by canoe. The scenery was staggeringly gorgeous.
In between canoe rides we had a full all you can eat buffet lunch, which was delicious. Iced water and oddly coloured soft drinks were also provided all day to stave off dehydration, and the weather improved to gorgeous blue skies as the day progressed, making this into a very memorable day after birthday celebration.
But, you’re probably wondering by now, where do these dancing girls come into the mix? Allow me to enlighten you.
After our canoe expeditions were over, lunch had been eaten, and some time had been spent relaxing on a lovely beach, it was time to head back to the pier, around an hour’s boat ride away.
If the view wasn’t enough to keep us entertained, and also perhaps handily for the families on board, the crew laid on some actually pretty decent entertainment, from a magic show to break dancing. And then, towards the end, naturally the pumping beats started, with pretty much the whole boat joining in when Gangnam Style came on. Vera nearly died of hysterics.
So would I recommend this trip? Well, if you are after a well organised day, with stunning scenery and a bit of James Bond thrown in, then you won’t go far wrong with this. Plus the fully stocked bar means you can even live out those James Bond fantasies to the max. Tux optional.
As with everything in life though, everyone has different needs, and this type of tour might not suit your particular travel style. If you aren't a fan of larger group tours, then this one might not be for you. The good news is that GetYourGuide offers a variety of excursions allowing you to visit James Bond island, so there is likely going to be one to suit.
Our GetYourGuide canoe trip to James Bond Island was provided to us in exchange for penning our thoughts. Gangnam Style dance moves and those thoughts remain entirely our own.