James Bond Island
03 May 2013 | Boat position: 08°16.49’N; 098°30.08’E
Picture: James Bond Island with the iconic “pinnacle” shaped rock in the middle of the picture. The Island is featured in the movie, “The Man with the Golden Finger”.
The morning after leaving Boat Lagoon we sailed north to an enchanted place called Ao Phang Nga. According to Lonely Planet, its beauty is equal to Vietnam’s world famous Ha Long Bay and China’s scenic region around Guilin. As we sailed through the area, we felt like we were in a dreamland, especially before sunrise and sunset when the atmosphere was hazy. Odd shaped limestone rock/mountains loomed straight out of the water. According to the guidebooks, the bay was formed twelve thousand years ago when a sudden rise in sea level flooded a range of mountains leaving only the summits sticking out of the water. They had already been carved in the most enthralling shapes by millions of years of erosion. We anchored close to an island in the early morning and saw many kayaks congregating in a cove. It was dinghy adventure time for us, we were curious. Two kayaks were at the entrance to a cave, away from the group. They spoke some English and informed us that our dinghy would not fit through the narrow cave. It would cost $10 to take us through the cave by kayak. We secured our dinghy by tying it to a rope that was hanging from an overhanging cliff and climbed into one of the kayaks. We went through a short dark tunnel and then came out into a magnificent lagoon surrounded by almost vertical limestone cliffs at least 300 feet (about 100 metres) high. The water was crystal clear and reflected the surroundings so that it looked like the cliffs were on the bottom of the lagoon. Lush green vegetation grew on top of the cliffs, which themselves, had trees and bushes growing out of crevices in the cliff face. The place was peaceful, cool and serene - for a short time at least. Just as we were going back out, we saw lights illuminating the dark cave. A long line of kayaks emerged out of the cave into the lagoon. We felt lucky to steal a small piece of tranquility before the stampede.
On reaching James Bond Island, also known as Khao Phing Kan, numerous tourist boats were racing back and forth. “Shuang Yu” was anchored several hundred feet from the island because we did not want to compete with the horrendous amount of traffic coming in and out. The island is not any more special than other islands around the area except that part of the James Bond motion picture; “The Man With the Golden Finger” was filmed there. We took our dinghy to the small beach but there were already many boats and a considerable number of tourists there. Immediately rangers approached us and informed us that we would have to pay $400 Baht (about $US13) to set foot on the island. There were billboards pasted on the overhang of a cave that provided some geographical and geological information about the place. We climbed, along with hundreds of other tourists, up a narrow ledge on a hill to the other side of the island. People had to stand in line to wait for their turn to take pictures, especially of the famous and iconic pinnacle-shaped rock. We have never seen so many people in one spot! The island was quite small but it was not only jammed with tourists, it was also crowded with venders and their stalls, selling anything from trinkets to t-shirts, and cheap pearls to seashells. For a while we sat and watched “longtail” tour boats coming in and out of the dock. They carried 40 to 60 people each. At any one time there were at least four of them at the dock and three or four waiting to get in. They stayed at the dock only a minute or two while the passengers jumped on or off. As they were coming out, other boats quickly took their place. “Longtail” boats are interesting and a bit frightening. The driver stands up to maneuver the boat by moving a long handle that is directly attached to the engine and the propeller shaft. The engine is totally exposed, just a large diesel truck engine on the end of the long propeller shaft. Changing from forward to reverse is done either by hand or foot using a manual clutch. Each time the driver changes the boat’s direction; he has to lift the propeller out of the water by lowering and swinging the large engine using the long handle. It looks tricky and very hard work especially in tight spaces. We found it entertaining to watch the boats coming and going, especially Ted of course. Also, I found it a bit contradictory to observe the “human and boat jam” on a small island surrounded by the exceptional beauty of Phang Nga Bay.