James Bond island, also know as Khao Phing Kan, is undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand due to its appearance in “The Man with the Golden Gun”. Though it is somewhat overrated, I wanted to go for the sake of photography and also to learn more about its unique geology. I learned during my tour with Phuket Sail Tours that its Thai name means “hills leaning against one another” because that is how it is thought to be formed.
The rock floating in the middle is called “Ko Ta Pu” and was originally thought to be a barrier reef that eroded by natural causes including wind, waves, and tides. All of these formations around the island and their limestone caves are actually a part of Ao Phang Nga National Park, which is a picturesque place to sail through and go swimming.
According to Geology Page, the legend surrounding the island is:
Once upon a time, there lived a fisherman who used to bring home many fish every time he went to the sea. However, one day he could not catch any fish despite many attempts and only picked up a nail with his net. He kept throwing the nail back into the sea and catching it again. Furious, he took his sword and cut the nail in half with all his strength. Upon impact, one half of the nail jumped up and speared into the sea, forming Ko Tapu.
Curious to learn more, I set sail from Phuket on a group tour just before the sunset. The advantage to going later is you avoid most of the crowds, and on clear days you can get golden lighting while photographing these landscapes.
The tour began with a trip to Phanak Island where we got off the boat, and explored the hidden caves and lagoons via kayak. It was quite a pleasant trip, as the caves were like nothing I had ever seen before! I met some interesting wildlife there, including a tiny blue crab.
On the way through the lagoon, a wild monkey jumped from a rock formation and onto my canoe!! Fortunately I had left most of my belongings on the main boat so he didn’t have anything to ransack. He seemed to be merely curious; maybe he thought my blonde hair was a banana. I tried to keep on rowing slowly while taking a video, and eventually he got bored and hopped off. Though our encounter was brief, it was an experience that I’ll never forget! It is wild moments like these that make me really love going on these adventures in Thailand.
After saying goodbye to my monkey friend, I headed back to the main boat and onwards our main destination: James Bond Island. I was happy to find that there weren’t many tourists there when we arrived–just monks, vendors, and a few other people. I was able to get a few good pictures right before the rain started to fall! I took cover in a nearby cave, and despite the weather I felt like I was on a legitimate mission. It was actually kind of fun being there on a cloudy day because it fits the atmosphere of a secret hideout.
The captain then called us back to the ship for dinner. We had some very delicious grilled fish, curry, vegetables, and beer with the same name as my cat, Leo!
Even though it was raining, the tour still continued. On our way back to shore, we stopped at Hong Island and the bat caves. Within the caves you can also see rare blue plankton. It is a chemical reaction that scientists hypothesize is possible due to the plankton wanting to confuse their predators with a a bioluminesce glow.
Though many people slam James Bond Island for being too touristy, I would recommend it because the destinations around it are beautiful, and it’s actually very fun to see! This trip is perfect for those looking to see the limestone caves up close and learn more about the unique geology this country has. Just be sure to watch out for the monkeys!