We started the day with an early breakfast – Jeff ordered the same fried rice and prawns as before, and I just had some fried eggs and things from the buffet.
At 8:30am, a driver arrived to pick us up for our day trip to Phang Nga bay. This is the beautiful area you often see pictures of in Phuket advertisements. It has huge limestone islands jutting up out of the sea – some are hundreds of feet tall. It’s also the area where the bad guy in the James Bond movie, “The Man with the Golden Gun,” has his evil lair.
We weren’t exactly sure what to expect from the trip. I had found a brochure for another tour of Phang Nga bay, but that company didn’t offer tours on Wednesdays, so the person at our hotel said she would book us with another company that did something similar. Lucky for us, the tour turned out to be amazing – Jeff said it was his favorite excursion of the honeymoon.
We rode in a big van with a middle-aged Japanese couple that was picked up from the hotel next door (the Marriott). After a 30 minute drive through the island, the van dropped us off at a port full of tourists – quick a change from our secluded beach and seemingly empty resort. We got on a big boat, and Jeff and I staked out a nice spot on a bench along the side near the front – and happened to end up next to the same Japanese couple. After a bit of a wait at the harbor, the boat headed out. It was a fairly long trip to get to Phang Nga bay – the limestone rocks were really hazy in the distance and then became more and more clear.
Our first stop was at James Bond Island – the particular island where the villain had built his evil lair and where a fair chunk of the movie takes place. The island was really crowded with tourists, and the middle is lined with little booths selling random souveniers (but oddly, no postcards of the island, which is the one thing I might have purchased). But the island is still really cool to see, especially if you’ve seen the movie. The shape of the rocks is interesting, and there are places around the main island to climb around. The Japanese couple told us later that they had visited the island 25 years ago (about 10 years after the movie was filmed) – it was much less crowded then, they said.
We got back on the boat and had lunch, which included a very scary looking fish (but also chicken drumsticks). After a little more sailing, made our second stop. This time, we climbed into little sea kayaks, which were inflatable. Each one had a professional driver/ paddler, so you could just enjoy the view. They told us to bring cameras, but it was a bit of a gamble – you’re right near the water, and the bigger waves get in the boat and get you wet. I kept my camera covered in a plastic bag as much as I could, but overall I was glad I’d brought it along – there were some pretty incredible sights. On the sea canoes, we went right up to the limestone islands.
We kayaked through a short cave – it was so low that you had to lay down in the kayak to get through – during high tide, the cave is completely gone. Once you get through, you see that you’re in a “hong” – a hole in the island where the top is open to the sky, but you’re surrounded on all sides by tall limestone walls. It’s a pretty cool experience. Jeff thought it seemed like a Disney World ride, except it was all natural, and you were really going through caves and ending up in magical hidden areas.
On the way out, we kayaked past a big jellyfish. Our guide picked it up with the paddle to show us. Apparently they’re not poisonous, because he asked if we wanted to touch it, and Jeff did. I did not. (I figure this should help me in the future – since I declined to touch the jelly fish, I think jellyfish should avoid touching me in the future. Ever.)
After lunch, we were happy to find that there was another kayak outing in the plan. This time, we went through a much longer cave – it was almost all really low – even when you laid down, you only cleared the space by a couple inches at times. In the middle of the cave it was pitch black if you turned off your flashlights. When we got through to the other side, we were in another hong. The water was really shallow and sandy, so we could get out of the kayak and walk around.
There were mangrove trees growing in the middle – it was all really jungle-y.
We also saw these fish that have fins kind of like feet – they climb up the mangrove trees so they’re half in the water and half out. When they move, they skip across the water like someone just skipped a stone.
We’ve had nothing but sun in Phuket so far, but heading back to the harbor, you could see that one direction was blue skies (behind us), and the other way was dark and stormy (straight ahead). Luckily, when the rain did come, it poured hard, but passed really quickly, so we could get back to our sunny tour.
Our last stop, coinciding with the end of the rain, was at a sandy island where we could kayak around on our own or just swim. They encouraged us to jump off the top deck of the boat if we wanted to. I convinced Jeff to do it, and then realized how scary it was when I tried to follow. I did do it eventually, though!
Jeff and I kayaked to shore (he did the paddling, I did the sunbathing). One of the incredible things was that the temperature of the water was perfect. There wasn’t a single moment of shock or a chill before you adjusted – you just jumped in and were comfortable. Even Jeff loved being in the water!
After about 45 minutes of swimming around, everyone got back on the boat, and we headed back to the port. From there the same driver picked us up and brought us to our hotel (which was the perfect opportunity for a nap).
When we got back to the hotel, we decided that since we were already in our swimming suits, we might as well try the swim-up bar for the sunset happy hour. Jeff and I enjoyed a refreshing Singha beer together in the pool, and then swam around a bit.
Once we were dry, we went to the tailor to try on the finished suit. It looked really good on Jeff – it fit him nice, and I really like the color. However, I also know that I really don’t know anything about suits, so I’m excited for him to get back and be able to show it to someone who will be able to tell us if it really is good quality. It’s also really convenient that he got a nice, new suit just in time for Janet and Dan’s wedding (which is in two days)!
Since we’d tried both of the restaurants in the hotel, we decided to save a couple dollars and have dinner at one of the places in the Turtle Village shops. Our two options were Bill Bentley’s (which was an English pub) and The Coffee Club (which was a trendy-looking coffee place). Despite their appearance, though, both sold a number of different Thai dishes at a good price (about $4 per entrée). We decided to go with The Coffee Club, because it’s a chain we’ve seen all over Thailand (or at least in Bangkok, where we’d done most of our wandering). We started with nachos, because I saw them on the menu and had a sudden craving for them. They were pretty awful – the chips were a little stale, the guacamole probably came from a can, and the salsa just tasted… weird. Luckily, the Thai dishes that we ordered were much, much better. I actually liked the dish I got (minced chicken and pork with hot chiles and basil) better than either of the dishes at the fancy restaurant the day before.
Back at our villa, Jeff and I decided to get fancy with our A/V set-up. We figured out a way to play the movie so that we could see and hear it while we were in the pool. We turned on another James Bond – “From Russia with Love” – which had been filmed in Istanbul. We swam and watched, and when we started to get a little chilly, we filled up the hot tub and moved there. We had even managed to find a bottle of champagne at the “Turtle Mart” in the Turtle Village Shoppes, so we enjoyed a romantic glass of champagne with our midnight pool-movie.