Phang Nga Bay
Phang Nga Bay is one of those tropical idylls that make visiting the beaches and islands in Thailand so popular. Located close to Phuket, itself another destination beloved among beachgoers, Phang Nga Bay is rightly considered one of Thailand’s must-visit places—not only does it offer stunning scenery, gorgeous beaches, and beautiful weather, it’s also got legendary status in popular culture.
Phang Nga Bay was the setting for the famous final scene of the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun, in which the villainous Scaramanga first shows Bond the power plant he has built in a nearby, oddly-shaped rock, before then luring him in to the iconic Hall of Mirrors Lair. That oddly shaped rock is Koh Tapu, also known as James Bond Island, and tourists consequently flock to get a glance at this piece of living movie history. James Bond Island has become a mainstay on the tourist scene in Thailand, and plenty of operators thus run tours to this part of the Phang Nga Bay, allowing visitors to get that all-important photo of themselves pretending to be the man with the golden gun while James Bond Island looms on in the background
James Bond Island may be a draw for tourists here, but it should be stressed that it’s not the bay’s only highlight. Far from it, in fact: The various islands that constitute Phang Nga Bay are veritably brimming with awesome things to do for the approaching traveler. For example, designated James Bond Island tours also tend to take you on a trip around the nearby Panyi Village, which is a village built on stilts where you can get lunch or drinks, or even a room for the night if you so desire.
Of course, a large part of the bay’s attraction comes from the beaches found here, which are sandy and lapped at by warm water. However, it should be noted that there aren't miles upon miles of beaches at Phang Nga Bay as many of the limestone rock islands here rise vertically. As a result, the few stretches of sand are almost always populated with quite a few tourists and the inevitable trinket-hawkers that follow them around. A visit to the beach at Phang Nga Bay is a fun experience, but it’s probably not something you want to do all day long.
Consequently, well-prepared travelers often hire out a motorboat or long-tail boat and spend a few hours on the beach before getting back in their river craft in order to really explore the bay. Much of the area is protected as Ao Phang Nga National Park, and it’s easy to see why, thanks to the incredible flora and fauna on display here. Ao Phang Nga National Park is home to an incredible array of species, thanks to its tropical climate and the fact that it heralds both mangrove and evergreen forests. This is an area ripe for exploration then (those with a divers certificate will find few better places to explore the depths than here), and sea canoeing inevitably proves one of the best ways of getting the most out of a trip to Phang Nga Bay.
Getting to Phang Nga Bay, the James Bond Island and Ao Phang Nga National Park is fairly easy thanks to the number of tourists who come here. However, there’s no local airport, which means many arrive on a plane that lands in Phuket having departed from Bangkok. As ever in Thailand, there are also always bus companies plying routes between major destinations should you wish to find a cheaper (or more environmentally friendly) way of traveling.
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