In the Andaman Sea, in southern Thailand, this heavenly bay stretches over 400 square kilometres. The best way to discover it is to sail along its caves, cliffs, islands, islets and the strange rock formations sculpted by the sea.
One of the most popular islands is Ko Khao Phing Kan, in whose emerald-green waters stands the vertical islet Ko Tapu, the literal translation of which is “nail island”. This is a limestone rock formation that is around 20 metres high. The group of islands make a picture postcard landscape, or perhaps we should say film landscape, because it was the setting chosen for the filming of James Bond’s adventures in ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ (1974). It seems that this earthly paradise did not leave 007 unmoved, because in 1997 ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ was also filmed there.
Before its cinematographic debut, few people knew of its existence, but after its film premiere, tourism to the area boomed, so much so that the island is now known as “James Bond Island”. It has become one of the busiest places in the bay, not only because of the hordes of tourists that visit to take photos with Ko Tapu in the background, but also because of the local vendors that sell their postcards, seashells and shark’s tooth necklaces, wishing good luck to the ‘farangs’ (as Thai people call foreigners).
Another very popular activity is to visit the caves in the bay by kayak. As well as the visibily beautiful landscape, Phang Nga lives up to the saying that true beauty is found on the inside and has hidden treasures in the form of caves, tunnels, cliffs and interior lagoons. When the tide allows, and always accompanied by a guide, you can enter these limestone caves, which are known locally as “hongs”.
In the waters of Phang Nga we can also find Ko Panyi, a picturesque fishing village that rests on piles of cement and wood…in the sea. This settlement was built by two Muslim families in the 18th century. We can find the origin of this unique village in the laws that used to limit the ownership of land exclusively to Thai citizens. As a solution, they built this floating village, which is totally surrounded by water except for one end that is close to a rock. It grew over the years and they built a mosque with a golden dome and sunk a freshwater well. Nowadays, Ko Panyi has a population of approximately 2,000 people, who mainly make a living from fishing and tourism. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a spicy meal full of fish and shellfish and admire its small coloured houses.
Finally, let yourself be enchanted by the Similan Islands. They will amaze you both in and out of the water, as they’re considered to be one of the best places for scuba diving in the world.