Sunday, 28 February 2016

Two Days in Phuket : James Bond Island Tour by Speedboat and Phi Phi and Maya Bay VIP Tour

It was a long drive going to the airport. My flight was scheduled to depart at 8:30 pm and I was lucky I managed to arrive just in time for boarding. The traffic condition was really bad and it was raining at the same time. However, I’ve already checked in online and I guess that was a good thing. As soon as I arrived at the airport, I went straight to the security, then the immigration and then to the boarding gate. It was hassle-free!
The flight was an hour delayed, the airport was crowded, and the queue at the immigration grew longer. I was starving but all I could think about was how to get to my hotel from there. I walked past the agent sitting by the custom area but there was no inspection. I then saw a booth selling mini van tickets going to Patong. I was relieved and immediately bought one for 180 Baht. The woman at the counter was not really helpful though. I asked her where the mini vans were but I didn’t get an accurate response so I walked away and asked the other tourists instead. I exited the main building, crossed the street, and then waited together with the other oblivious tourists. It would have been better if someone guided us because none of us were aware of which van we should take. After waiting for about 30 minutes, the driver yelled, “Patong, Patong!” I quickly carried my luggage as everyone barge into the van. The van had limited capacity so we didn’t have to wait and it left as soon as the seats were filled. We stopped somewhere in Phuket Town and there we were asked about the name of our hotel. Perhaps that was for them to sort and know which passenger they should drop off first and to plan the route at the same time. They also offered some package tours but I was really exhausted and all I could remember was politely saying no. We left the office and after an hour (and endless stops and going around in circles), I finally arrived to my hotel. I was completely worn out.
Day 1. James Bond Island/Phang Nga Bay Tour By Speedboat (http://www.phukettravelcompany.com/james_bond_islandphang_nga_bay_tour_by_speedboat-7.php)
Ronald and I woke up early to have breakfast before we start the James Bond tour. At around 8:30, the driver picked us up from our hotel and we started the journey. I was sitting in front of the van and perhaps due to lack of sleep the night before, I fell asleep while on the way to the pier. All I could hear was blabbering about uncontrollable enthusiasm when I woke up. We arrived at the pier and I could see excitement on the faces of the tourists. We were served coffee and tea upon arrival and after approximately ten minutes, the tour guide offered us seasick tablets and then our group left full of thrill and delight.
The speedboat loaded with 25 passengers left the pier at 9:30 am. The tour guide gave information about the tour itinerary, introduced the other guides he was with while the passengers began to take photos. I pretty much became accustomed to being “documented” because one of the guides was documenting the entire trip. We went sightseeing Panak Island and then continued the boat ride going to our first stop, the Hong Island. We canoed around the island and it was an amazing experience! The man tirelessly paddled the canoe for about 45 minutes while we bent to avoid hitting our head on the limestone formations. The adventure was surreal and the view was stunning!
The next stop was James Bond Island, and that was also the highlight of that day’s tour. It is an island located in Phang Nga Bay, northeast of Phuket. The island was rarely visited before. However in 1974, it was chosen as one of the locations for the James Bond movie “The Man with the Golden Gun”. Since then, the island became a popular destination for tourists. We spent 35 minutes walking around the island to take some photos and admire its beauty and then we headed to Koh Panyee for lunch. Koh Panyee is a fishing village built on water in Phang Nga Province. We had a delicious Thai Lunch Buffet in one of the restaurants there. Right after having lunch, we left the village and explored the Ice Cream cave. We saw a lot of stalactite formations, one of which resembles an ice cream and that’s where the cave got its name. We didn’t spend too much time and left after a few minutes because there was nothing much to do there. On the way to Naka Island, we watched the tour guide as he fed sea eagles some chicken skin. They plunged like bullets from the sky and snapped the chicken from the air. It was a wonderful experience too!
The last stop for that day was in beautiful tropical Naka Island. The crystal clear water was so inviting! We rented a pair of beach chairs for 150 Baht upon arrival and bought two bottles of beer. The view was unreal and the blue-green water was tempting. I played on a swing, finished my beer, dipped my feet in the water, and let the waves bury my feet deeper into the sand, while watching the other tourists doing some water sports like parasailing and jet skiing. That exact moment was really relaxing, and I got myself thinking. How does it feel like being an island girl?
We left the island and arrived at the pier at 4:30 pm. There was a mini van waiting for us which drove us back to our hotel. Before the tour ends, the guide approached each passenger and offered us to buy 2 CDs of photos and a video of the entire activity. We bought one set for 1,200 Baht. The quality of the video was not the best but it captured all those best moments we had. We just loved it!
We spent the night walking from our hotel to Jungceylon and then along Bangla Road. Bangla Road was a 400 metre road similar to PatPong in Bangkok. There was like a festival of street performances, cheap beers, loud music, and sexy girls in bikini dancing on the poles. Numerous times we were offered a menu like cardboard with list of pingpong shows available, and someone even tried to sell us some weed. I was a bit surprised and thought that was quite disturbing. The street was crowded. There were hundreds of people, mostly foreigners and tourists, who were obviously enjoying the ecstatic atmosphere. Most of the bars were outdoor so if you are a night owl and you want to have some fun, don't miss out Bangla Road when you visit Patong! Remember not to take your kids with you though! I was even more surprised seeing a Chinese mother taking photos of her daughter (I think she was only 6 years old), in front of a bar which was obviously not appropriate for young kids. A big no no please! We walked a few rounds then decided to have a relaxing traditional thai massage (300 Baht per hour + 100 Baht tip) before heading back to our hotel to get some rest.
We were picked up from our hotel at around 7:45 am and began the journey going to Royal Phuket Marina. Upon arrival, we listed our names on the form provided to us. I supposed that was for the insurance, and then we sat on the chairs available for the tourists while waiting for some announcements. The guide introduced himself, gave us seasick tablets, and gave brief information about that day’s itinerary. After a few minutes, the speedboat loaded with more or less 30 passengers left the pier. The one-hour boat ride was rough and extremely bumpy because it was full moon, and some minor changes to the itinerary were also made because of that. The first stop was at Bamboo Island. The water was clear and inviting but Ronald and I decided not to swim. We just took some photos instead and walked together along the shore. After an hour of dipping under the sun and trying to capture the perfect jump shot photo, we left the island, passed by the Monkey beach and continued the journey to enjoy a sumptuous lunch at a beachside restaurant in Phi Phi Island. We had a quick lunch and spent a few enjoyable quiet minutes at the beach.
After lunch, we left the island, went sightseeing in the Viking Cave and then to Pileh Lagoon. The lagoon was really lovely; it was surrounded by impressive cliffs. The highlight of the trip was the visit to Maya Bay - a stunningly beautiful bay with soft white sand, which became popular since the movie “The Beach” was filmed there in 1999. We spent 45 minutes enjoying the view. Mac, our very energetic and helpful tour guide, joined our company. He was a nice, young, and a very talented man. He speaks English very well and he can converse in Korean and Japanese too! How impressive was that! We left Maya Bay and travelled ten minutes to enjoy snorkeling. After that, we left the bay and returned to Royal Phuket Marina. The driver was already waiting for us when we arrived at the pier. Ronald took the van going back to the hotel while I waited for the taxi which took me to the airport. I had to catch my 10:00 pm flight going back to Singapore.


We stayed at Forty Winks Hotel located a few minutes walk away from Patong Beach, Bangla Road, and Jungceylon. The location of the hotel was perfect and the staff were nice too, although some of them didn’t know how to speak English so it was a bit of a struggle. It was a nice place to stay at, it was clean and the decoration was the best (rustic feels everywhere!). However, I didn’t like the buffet breakfast because the options were limited and I guess it wasn’t worth my 129 Baht.


The group tours were well organised and ran on time perfectly. Refreshments, sliced tropical fruits, and cookies were available every after stop too. The guides definitely made sure we are happy and comfortable on the boat. Phuket was one the best! Everything that we saw and experience was unreal! The view, the crystal clear water, the people, and the food were awesome. However if you are planning to visit Phuket, avoid the days near the full moon (2 days before and 2 days after) as the boat ride would be rough and bumpy, and it also brings extreme low tides.

Here are some photos taken during our trip to Phuket :
http://www.annegianella.com/2016/02/photoblog-island-hopping-in-phuket.html


Happy travels!

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