Phang Nga Bay
Just a short distance northeast of Phuket is Phang Nga Bay in Phang Nga province. This beautiful area is a National Park famed for its spectacular scenery. The large bay contains more than 40 islands. These limestone rock islands jut dramatically from the sea and tower into the sky, forming some truly incredible scenery.
The same limestone features jut out of much of the mainland coastline around the bay. There are many river estuaries around the north of the bay. Mangrove forests line the bay's coastline and the banks of the many rivers. The bay is sheltered from the rainy season waves so it is generally calm all year round.
The area came to world attention in the 1974 James Bond movie 'The Man with the Golden Gun', which features the bay in its climax. In the movie, Bond flies a light aircraft over the spectacular scenery, providing dramatic panoramic views of the bay. He lands at Scaramanga's island where they do battle across the beach and in a hall of mirrors. The island's Thai name is Koh Pingkan but the Thais are not ones to miss a marketing opportunity, so it is generally known as James Bond Island. The distinctive rock, that in the movie houses a laser gun, is Koh Tapoo, generally known as James Bond Rock.
James Bond Island has become the signature image of Phang Nga Bay. It is
the bay's most popular attraction. All the tour boats include this island
on the itinerary so it tends to get busy during the day. One other striking
feature of the island is a huge slab of rock that many thousands of years
ago, sheered away from the cliff and slid down onto the beach forming a
wedge shaped passage (it housed the entrance to Scaramanga's lair in the
movie). There is a cluster of trinket stalls by the beach.
Phang Nga Bay is a national park so you should pay a park entrance fee. Since almost all vistors come to James Bond Island, this is where they collect the fee. If you arrive privately at the island they will collect a park entrance fee of 200-baht. If you are on a tour the park fee is included in your tour price.
Most visitors to Phang Nga Bay expect to see James Bond Island but there is so much more to enjoy.
The other regular stopping off point for the many tour boats is the Muslim Sea Gypsy village on Koh Panyi. This 200-year old community was amongst the first to settle in the bay. They built their village on stilts above the water. During the day, the tour boats bring hordes of tourists to eat the fresh seafood and buy trinkets. Once all the tour boats leave, the villagers close the trinket shops and revert to sleepy fishing village life. There are a few bungalows available for rent in the village for those who prefer to stay over and see the authentic village life. (Remember it is a Muslim community so you should dress modestly and refrain from drinking alcohol.)
These are the two main tourist stop off points for the tour boats. There are many other points of interest in the bay and the tour boats usually include one or two other stop-offs on their itineraries.
Many of the limestone islands contain caves. Water seeping through the limestone rocks over tens of thousands of years, has formed some fascinating caves and rock formations within the islands. Some of these cave systems have collapsed to form a feature the Thais call 'horngs', the Thai word for room. These are collapsed cave systems that are now open-air rooms within the island, often containing small lagoons. Koh Hong and Koh Panak are two excellent examples of such features.
There is a cave in Koh Panak that can only be accessed at low tide that leads you into the hong in the center of the island. You need a torch to get through and keep your head low for the 80-meter paddle along the cave stream. When you enter back into the light in the center of the island it is a Jurassic Park type step into another world.
You can hire sea canoes to paddle around some of the islands. Sometimes, this is the only way to get a good view of the 'horngs'. It is a great way to really appreciate some of the stunning scenery.
Want to Kayak around Phang Nga Bay?
Book your Phang Nga Sea Canoe tour through our tour partners at Easy Day Thailand for the best price.Kayak Tours in Phang Nga Bay
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There are many small beaches hidden around the islands in Phang Nga Bay. They are not always the best for bathing as the many rivers that flow into the bay deliver a lot of sediment that means the sea floor tends to feel a bit muddy and squishy. The beaches are very picturesque and are lovely spots for a bit of relaxation. They are often surrounded by lush vegetation and sheer cliffs.
The bay is not ideal for diving or snorkeling as the silt from the rivers reduces visibility. Still, there are some nice spots and there are plenty of fish around.
Around the coastline of the bay are many mangrove channels. They are home to a wide range of specialized animals and birds. You could spend hours, if not days, exploring the meandering waterways around the bay.
The spectacular geography of Phang Nga Bay is due to the limestone shelf it sits on. Limestone forms under the sea. Over millions of years, the skeletons of millions-upon-millions of marine organisms fall to the seabed. Eventually the great pressure of their own weight squeezes the calcium and carbon down into layers of thick rock, sometimes hundreds of meters deep.
Over millions more years, the sea rises and falls, occasionally exposing the limestone rock to the surface. Eventually, a range of geological forces fractures the limestone beds and push up the spectacular rocky outcrops that characterize Phang Nga Bay.
The limestone shelf that forms Phang Nga Bay actually runs south all the way down through Krabi and Trang provinces. This forms similarly spectacular scenery all the way down this stretch of coast, including the stunning Phi Phi Islands.
The easiest way to visit Phang Nga Bay is on a tour. They are competitively priced, convenient and include hotel pick up. The disadvantage with joining the tours is you are very much going with the crowds and you are on a timetable.
For the more adventurous, it is a more satisfying experience to hire your own boat and do your own thing. You can rent boats at one of the piers at the northeast end of Phuket such as Ao Por. Alternatively, drive across Sarasin Bridge into Phang Nga province and follow the many signs towards Phang Nga Bay and James Bond Island. You can do a u-turn just a couple of kilometers over the bridge, comeback towards Phuket and then take the left hand turn down a long country road signposted towards James Bond Island.
You can rent a longtail boat and driver for 1500 to 3500 baht for a personalized tour of the area, depending on how long and how far you want to explore. A longtail boat can comfortably take a group of 8 people. You can choose where you want to go, avoid the crowds and generally do your own thing.
Alternatively, you can get the best of both worlds by arranging a customised tour of Phang Nga Bay with our tour partners at Easy Day Thailand. They can arrange hotel pick up, a private boat for your group and an itinerary that suits you.
Book your standard or customised tour to Phang Nga Bay through our tour partners at Easy Day Thailand.Phang Nga Bay Tours
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Most of the islands in Phang Nga Bay are uninhabited and there is no accommodation. The area is a national park so development is restricted. Most people only day trip here and stay in Phuket. If you actually want to stay within the park, your only option is the budget bungalows at the Muslim Sea Gypsy village.
There are a few hotels close to the bay if you want to be within easy travelling distance but they are mostly quiet up-market options.
There are two hotels on the northeast side of Phuket.
There are a few lower budget bungalow operations on the island Koh Yao Noi, which is just south of Phang Nga Bay. As well as the lower budget bungalows on this island, there is also the very luxurious Paradise Koh Yao Noi (4.5 star).
A little further south is the larger island Koh Yao Yai and the Elixir Resort, Koh Yao Yai (4 star).
See our Accommodation section for more
general advice about finding rooms.