Phang Nga Bay and the Hongs

…or steering 007 for James Bond Island (no joke – we did)!

Stunning scenery

Stunning scenery

From Yacht Haven we sailed a short distance north east into the area known as The Hongs.  A ‘hong’ in Thai means ‘cave’ or ‘room’, but this can be a tunnel through the limestone rock filled with sea water, a dry hong that you can walk or climb into, or a huge crater within the limestone open to the sky above.

Incidentally in Thai … ‘Koh’ = island; ‘Ao’ = bay; ‘Khlong’ = river or channel.

This area is dramatic, with countless islands, nearly all of them rising directly out of the sea, and many of them being like columns towering hundreds of feet, with stalactites hanging off them.  The sea is a pea green colour, and with blue skies, the greys, browns and reds of the limestone, with vegetation hanging on to the vertical face of the rock, the scenery is breathtaking.

Pipistrelle against colourful backdrop

Pipistrelle against colourful backdrop

Inevitably it brings holidaymakers from near and far, so the main sightseeing islands have a constant flow of longtails and speedboats bringing visitors in their hundreds (or was it thousands?) for a short period of time before moving on.  Generally by 1600 the tourists have all left to return to their hotels, and peace and tranquility return to the anchorages.  There are many popular spots, and one that most people will associate with is Koh Phing Kan or ‘James Bond Island’, so called because parts of ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ were filmed there in 1974.

We made a circular navigation of Phang Nga Bay, starting with Koh Phanak which has a hong running from one side of the island to the other, and filled with bats we understand.

Koh Hong was our next stop (confusingly, there are two of them), and this one has a hong accessible to  dinghies, and Elaine was then invited onto the canoe of a guide to see the deeper recesses that we could not have reached otherwise.  Our anchorage on the east was protected and stunning even though we didn’t have it quite to ourselves.

Paddling his canoe

Paddling his canoe

Scraping through …

… feet first …

Then on to Koh Yang, with its spectacular pillar of rock so close to where we anchored, completely on our own.  From here we took the dinghy to James Bond Island, but just looking from our vantage point at the hordes of holidaymakers crowding ashore was enough to encourage us to turn away!

Koh Yang

Koh Yang in foreground

The Hongs

Koh Phing Kan with ‘Bond’ cave lower right

...and from a different perspective!

…and from a different perspective!

We used the hours around high water to cross a large area of shallows to the mainland side of the bay to the Northeast.  We had been told by friends of a river with easy access and comfortable anchoring.  The Khlong Marui was beautiful and is guarded by the Two Sisters Islands, spectacular limestone stacks soaring out of the sea at the entrance to the river. We were completely on our own, and then used the dinghy to explore the river and its tributaries, including a dry hong where paintings on the roof of the cave have been dated back 3000 years.

Than Pee Hua Toe, Thanbole Koranee National Park

Dry hong – Than Pee Hua Toe, Thanbole Koranee National Park

Impressive stalagmites  and stalactites

Impressive stalagmites and stalactites in the hong

Quite by chance on one of our forays we came across a fishing village, and met a lady who ‘phoned a friend’ who could speak English.  He turned out to be the Director of Phuket Community College, part of the Prince of Songkla University, and facilitated our purchase of rockfish, blue crabs and oysters that were taken direct from their capture nets, all for the equivalent of £10!  Quite delicious, though with past experiences in mind, we were careful to cook the oysters.  A few photographs:

Fishing village

Fishing village

Fish cultivation

Fish cultivation

Rockfish

Rockfish

Blue crabs

Blue crabs …

(Atlantic) Horseshoe crab - lost its way!  Though locals do, we were advised against eating!

(Atlantic) Horseshoe crab – must have lost its way! Though locals do, we were advised against eating!

Our 'fishing' group!

Our ‘fishing’ group!

The two of us ...

The two of us …

We then headed south stopping at picturesque Koh Chong Lat for a night, then on to Koh Rai, the other Koh Hong (Krabi province), and finally Koh Dam before meeting Peter and Irene on Catspaw again.  The Koh Dam group is just 10 nm from the Krabi river entrance so a good stopping off place we thought.  It was Sunday and being just a longtail or speedboat journey away from mainland Krabi, tourists were out in force.  We have never seen so many people on a beach the size of a pinhead – standing room only!  James Bond Island was nothing in comparison!

Sunday lunchtime tourism ...

Sunday lunchtime tourism …

...1600 and empty!

…1600 and empty!

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