Thailand: Day Two.

Thailand Day 2:

The taxi that was taking us to the port where we were to board a speedboat into Phang Nga Bay was going to pick us up at seven.  We rolled out of bed at six a.m. (too early for a vacation!) and made our way downstairs where Anunya served us a light breakfast of toast with pineapple jam and coffee.  Jill had tea.  Today we’re definitely doing the tourist thing because when our taxi (which was a mini-van) pulled up punctually, it already had a few other tourists inside.  They were speaking Russian, so we did the head-nod (which is a kind of universal “hello”) and took our seats.

Phuket is a fairly large island of about thirty miles long and thirteen miles wide. Our port of departure was on the northeast end of the island (the complete opposite from where we were picked up), so it took close to an hour to get to the dock where our speedboat was waiting.

The company that Terje helped us book through was Leo Canoe, and they were really well organized.  When we arrived at the pier, we didn’t have to wait long until we were grouped with other tourists doing the same trip as us, and led to our boat.  The speedboat was large enough to hold fifteen or twenty people, and they packed about that many of us in there.  Most of the tourists with us were a friendly group of Russians.  There was also one Chinese family of three, a couple Thais, and a Middle-Eastern couple.  The Middle-Eastern woman was dressed traditionally in head to toe clothing, and it was funny to watch her expressions when the Russian men in Speedos decided to uncross their legs or stand up to get a better view of the scenery! Haha!  I’m pretty sure Jill and I were the only native English speakers on board, but that didn’t matter because like most countries outside the US, most people speak more than one language (one usually being English).  Our guide was a really friendly Thai by the name of Bomb, and his English was great.  His sense of humor and hospitality made for a great trip.

Our tour guide Bomb giving us the route details.

As we sped into Phang Nga Bay, Jill and I began to take in sites that we’d never seen before in our lives.  Heck, before we moved to Asia, Thailand was barely on our mental radar, and maybe that’s good, because beauty should be cherished, and sometimes as humans we have a hard time appreciating beauty that we see everyday.  The bay is protected as Ao Phang Nga National Park and it’s full of many of islands.  But these aren’t the kind of islands that one typically thinks of when they hear the word island.  No, these are massive sheer rock faces jutting up out of aqua blue water, and there are very few beaches with sand among them.  Most of them are uninhabited and uninhabitable, except for wild animal and plant life.  Riding by the hundreds of them made me feel like we were seeing the peaks of great rainforest mountains whose valleys had been flooded with water.

Jill enjoying the ride in Phang Nga Bay

Our first stop was Khao Ping Kan, which is now referred to by most people as “James Bond Island” because of the 1974 Bond movie called “The Man with the Golden Gun” that was filmed in part here.  The downside of any tour company you site see with is that they have to keep a tight schedule.  Therefore, we only had under an hour to explore this tiny island, but I still managed to get some really fun and what I think are good photos.  Looking out about twenty meters from the shores of James Bond Island we saw Ko Tapu, which is the famous cylindrical rock that many people see in pictures when they google-search “James Bond Island.”  Ko Tapu looks like a dagger stabbed into the sea by the power of God himself.  This knife of limestone is about 66 feet high and measures only thirteen feet at its base while it’s twice that width on top!

Jame's Bond Island's view of Ko Tapu!

Ko Tapu with a long exposure, thanks to my ND filter!

Longtail in Khao Ping Kan Bay.

Departing Khao Ping Kan

But Jill is the real beauty and visionary on this island because she put up with me as I hauled around all my camera gear, set up my tripod, checked the lighting and composition, properly calibrated my camera for the exposure and finally shot…only to do it again a few feet to the left or right.  She was so patient and helpful, and she was the reason we got fun shots like these:

Holding Ko Tapu!

Reenacting "Man with the Golden Gun"

Khao Ping Kan is also famous for the “Leaning Rock” which is a massive flat rock that just seems to be resting on the side of the mountain.  In the crevice between Leaning Rock and the mountain it rests on is where Bond’s enemy’s layer was located!  It was really difficult to fit the whole rock in, even with my wide-angle lens:

Leaning Rock in Black & White

Leaning Rock Mirrored!

One of the Russian men wearing a red Speedo that had taken a liking to us came and found us and told us we needed to get back to the boat because we were getting ready to depart for our next stop in Phang Nga Bay.

Leaving Khao Ping Kan behind & one of the Thais assisting with the trip.

Panyee Island is actually inhabited…kind of.  No one lives on the island itself, but a small group of people actually built houses on stilts over the water next to the island. It’s a stunning location with spectacular natural landscapes.  The people who inhabit the houses on the water added their own colorful Thai flavor, creating an awesome seascape when it’s all taken in.

Panyee Island. Jill snapped this one with her camera!

Panyee Island Longtail Bow

Hello from Panyee!

One of their sources of income is the large seafood restaurant that we stopped at for lunch.  I’m not a huge seafood fan, but I have to say I really enjoyed our meal of fish, shrimp, salads, and other sides.  Maybe my seafood experience has been tainted by the fact that I grew up in the Midwest where any seafood you eat (unless you fished it out of a lake yourself) has traveled several hundred miles before it meets your taste buds.

Seafood lunch on Panyee

After lunch we boarded our boat for Hong Island where we got to do some canoeing.  This island is beautiful with its sheer rock faces, and caves that we had to lie down in our canoe to enter.  Upon passing through some of the caves we’d come out into a small cove that was surrounded by 360 degrees of rock faces, the tops of which were hundred and hundreds of feet above our small boat, with the only exit the way we came in…back through the cave.  It had the feel of a nature-built inner courtyard.

P.S. Jill took most of these photos on Hong Island (except of course this first one)!

Jill the captain, leading us in the front of the canoe!

Getting ready to pass through a cave!

Through the cave into an enclave!

Each canoe had a guide, and ours was a fun Thai named Alec.  About halfway through our exploring, he made me paddle so he could do something.  But I being in the middle of our canoe had a difficult time steering.  Still, I made it work as we went in and out of another cave and took in the sites of Hong Island.

Our canoe guide Alec posing as James Bond...

Alec made me paddle so he could make something for Jill! I don't know how I feel about that!

Andy is navigating the cave with the paddle while I (Jill) take awesome pics!

By the time we were about done, and I was sweating from paddling our three-person canoe (it’s okay, you can feel sorry for me, haha), Alec reached in front of me and handed Jill a flower he had hand-made from a dead palm-tree leaf I saw him pull from the side of one of the rock faces.

The flower-out-of-a-palm-leaf gift Alec made for Jill. Cool!

We thanked Alec for everything, and then boarded our speedboat again for our last stop.

On our way to Naka Island!

Speeding along to Naka Island, our last stop in Phang Nga Bay.

Naka Island isn’t like the majority of the islands we saw in Phang Nga Bay.  It’s the kind of island most typically associated with the phrase “tropical beach island.”  Bomb told us Naka means “dragon” or “serpent” because  the island is shaped like one.  We couldn’t see the dragon shape when our boat backed into its shores, but we could see its warm blindingly white sands and crystal clear waters inviting us to stay a while.  And so we did…I think we could have stayed for years.

The warm inviting waters of Naka Island.

Relaxing on Naka Island.

After swimming in the warm waters and relaxing on the beach, we finally said goodbye to Naka and Phang Nga Bay and made our way back to Phuket.

Longtails anchored at Naka Beach

Dinner was on a hill near Kata Beach at a locally owned Italian restaurant, but unfortunately shortly after we ordered our pasta and fire-baked pizza, Jill started to feel sick.  So she headed back to our guesthouse (which wasn’t far moms), I paid the bill and asked for our meals “to-go.”

Friends who went to Thailand before us warned us to be careful what we eat because many of our friends had gotten sick themselves while they were here.  So it happened to Jill—and then to myself.

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