Phang Nga Bay

After a few days of feeling stranded because of my insistence on snubbing the Phuket taxi mafia, I finally walked down the street to a place that said “car rental.” I had avoided this because I assumed driving in Thailand was too chaotic and that renting a car would be too complicated. Wrong! Easiest car rental I’ve every made. Show them you have a pulse, give them a little cash, and for $45 you have a “fully insured” car rental that can seat seven. Why didn’t I do this earlier? The night we first got the rental we drove out (on the opposite side of the road and car) and went to store to buy some glasses frames for Kathryn and the kids. Kathryn assured me that the frames we got her would cost 2.5 times the price we paid in Thailand.

In the 70s James Bond had a movie called The Man with the Golden Gun. Now I’ve never seen this, but apparently it made Phang Nga Bay internationally known. To see some awesome pictures of it just look up “Phang Nga Bay” in Google Images. I had seen the pictures and read the reviews of people’s trips to Phang Nga Bay, but didn’t really want to pay the prices asked by the speedboats pushed by all the resorts.

So with the car rental we decided to try to make it happen on our own. We drove North from Phuket, leaving the island for the Thailand mainland. About 45 minutes from our hotel and some 15 minutes from Phang Nga town itself, we saw a little homemade sign that said “Phang Nga Bay” with an arrow. We followed the arrow down a little residential road and through rubber plantations. The road turned off to the right (another small sign) and turned to a rutted dirt road. Finally we saw water and a “pier” with a couple of small long-tail boats. We were the only people or cars around until our future captain, Bao, turned up on his motorcycle. He offered to take us out to the island for the day. We negotiated a price that was about one-third what one of us would have cost on the luxury speed boats and were on our way. See the “pier” and boat we left from below.

Our boat and pier to take us to the islands

View of the boat

We realized once we were out there that we had no life jackets and our boat was by far the smallest and oldest of any of the boats carrying tourists out there. We were sure, however, that we were having the best experience. We cruised around Phang Nga Bay for about five hours, visiting James Bond Island, some caves, and having lunch and at Koh Panyee, a sea-gypsy village built on stilts.

Our boat was a little slow and small, but Bao was a great captain and the vertical limestone cliffs and islands were other-worldly. It was like the movie Avatar was brought to life right before us.

Making our way out to the islands

Just enjoying the ride

Island

James Bond's Island

Islands

Islands

The village

It was another reminder for us that usually the best parts of trips are the adventures when you don’t have a plan and know how it is all going to work out so you just step out go for it. Our day in Phang Nga Bay is one we won’t ever forget. To celebrate our authentic Thai adventure we stopped at McDonalds on the way home.

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