The Man with the Golden Camera

27 Feb

(lest anyone is tempted to make any comparisons with bald Bond movie villains, this one had Christopher Lee in it. The villain you’re thinking of is Blofeld. Stop that train of thought immediately. Now, where did I put that fluffy cat?)

So, another day of touring – this time, off towards Phuket for the James Bond Island tour. The island is actually called Khao Ping Gan but since ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ featured it in 1974, a whole tourist infrastructure has grown up around it.

So, onto a bus for quite a bit of a hike towards Phuket… finally ending up at a small harbour. There are actually two lovely girls from Leicester on the bus, and it’s wonderful to hear an English accent again. We decant into a long tail boat, and set off for the island. The noise from the engine is really quite incredible – basically like having a truck’s diesel engine in your ears – but the trip is magical. The limestone karst formations that litter the Thailand landscape now rise like a giant’s fingertips from the sea, or like the sunken spine of some long dead sea creature.

On the way to James Bond Island (19)On the way to James Bond Island (24)On the way to James Bond Island (2)On the way to James Bond Island (5)

It feels, almost, as if each one of these islands looks like another – but there’s no mistaking James Bond island when we turn up there. There’s a lot of tourists, mostly doing James Bond poses (although it does now feel a little more ‘Charlie’s Angels’), or pretending to be manacled to the rocks (now that wasn’t in the film). But it’s a stunning sight – we can walk up the beach where Nick Nack greeted our hero with a bottle of champagne, see the rock face that Scaramanga hid behind to shoot the cork from the bottle, and marvel at the karst pinnacle that housed the solar array. (yes, I did a bit more movie watching homework for this trip too)

Khao Ping Gan (1)Khao Ping Gan (31)Khao Ping Gan (28)Khao Ping Gan (17)

James Bond connections aside, it really is a beautiful location – a white sand beach in a sheltered bay, with the needle rising dramatically in the background.

Khao Ping Gan (16)Khao Ping Gan (6)

Leaving the island, once the longtail driver had managed to get his boat to shore, fighting the others all trying to do the same, we stop off at the sea canoeing platform. Somewhat disappointed that this is a chauffeur canoeing experience, we hop into the inflatable canoes and set out for our tour of the caves of Tunnel Island. Most of the entrances are covered under high tide, and we do have to watch our heads when we enter each of the little inlets, created by the effect of rainwater on the limestone (there’s a long and complicated explanation on line, which I won’t bore you with!)

Tunnel Island Canoeing (35)Tunnel Island Canoeing (26)Tunnel Island Canoeing (24)Tunnel Island Canoeing (9)

We canoe in and out of caves… through sea arches… past huge rafts of mangroves… past a man selling coconuts from a boat (hold up – now THAT’S entrepreneurial.

Tunnel Island Canoeing (21)Tunnel Island Canoeing (10)Photo091Photo118

And then on to lunch at the Koh Panjee floating village – although this is actually a Muslim fishing community, most of it is now a platform of floating restaurants catering to the James Bond Island tours. It’s actually very sophisticated (for a floating restaurant) – the food is good and I wish I had brought a tuxedo. Sadly, we can’t find a casino, and leave back for land.

Koh Panyee (6)Koh Panyee (2)

Back on dry land, and with the sound of the longtail boat engine a distant echo in my ears, we set off for the Suwankuha temple. This has two main claims to fame – firstly, it’s built inside a cave. Secondly, it’s surrounded by monkeys.

Suwankuha Temple (16)Suwankuha Temple (13)Suwankuha Temple (8)Suwankuha Temple (3)

Yes, yes, the monkey is the one on the left.

The tour guide confuses me for a baboon (easy mistake to make) and attempts to feed me a banana. How we laughed. (Actually, Bell is a pretty cool tour guide, although the entire party is struggling to deal with the ‘off duty ladyboy’ look)

And then, finally, we finish the tour with a dip in a waterfall pool (‘Refreshing’ says Bell. Which is of course Thai for ‘bloody cold’)

And back to Ao Nang – just time for one last meal at the ace little street diner next door to the hotel (we’ve been testing the menu all week, and it has the BEST Pad Thai, Penang Curry, Massaman Curry, pancake rolls and shakes I’ve had so far – and for around £2 – no matter what we order, it’s impossible to get it above 190 baht per person). Ordering is by pointing, but that’s half the fun.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: