Island Hopping in Phuket: James Bond Island and Khai Island Day Tour
Made popular by the 1974 James Bond movie, 'The Man With The Golden Gun', James Bond Island, also called Khao Ping Kan by the Thais, is one of the must-visit places in Phang Nga Bay. Even though many have not watch the movie that was eons ago, they still make their way to the island to visit the marvellous limestone cliffs and how the rocks seem to lean onto one another.
The popularity of this island exploded after the movie and the remote and supposedly idyllic island now requires a speedboat or long tail boat to get to. With so many tourists wanting to head to view the island, there are a plethora of day tours that you can join to get there.
Like our trip to Raya Island, we also joined an island-hopping day trip to James Bond Island, including Khai Island for some snorkelling, Hong Island for canoeing, and visiting Koh Pan Yi floating village for lunch. There are many tour agencies that would do similar routes and many that are cheaper, but Sea Star Andaman was by far the best that we've been to. Service was great, the guide spoke relatively great English and the various snacks and drinks served were amazing!
Where to purchase Island Hopping Day Trips from Phuket?
Purchasing Day Trip tours are much cheaper if you purchase them online (at least a day before) before heading to Phuket. If, like us, you do not have sufficient time to purchase your day trips online, head to any of the tour agencies in the city and you MUST HAGGLE! You'll get more haggling rights if you purchase more than one tour with the agency. Even so, you're going to be paying about 30% more expensive than if you purchase online! So, planning is definitely necessary if you would like to save some money!
What to wear and what to bring on Island Hopping Day Trips?
Dress light and bring along an additional set of clothes if you do not want to be in wet clothes at the end of the day. A towel is optional because you'll naturally dry in the sun and on the speedboat.
More importantly, the sun is really hot and for those who are not used to the Thai sun, you'll get burnt if you do not put ample sunblock! Shades and caps are recommended too!
Finally, bring along some cash with you so that you can purchase souvenirs or some smaller change for tipping at the end of the trip.
One of the perks of joining day tours in Phuket is that you'll be very well-taken care of from the very beginning! At about 8am (depending on where you're staying) the minivans will be coming to pick you up from your hotel. It would go around to a couple more hotels in the surrounding area to pick up other guests until the van is full. Thereafter, the vans will drive all the way to The Royal Phuket Marina.
Unlike our tour previously, the harbour here is like a private club. The surrounding was modern and clean. When you are there, follow the staff and register your names for the insurance and grab your wristbands!
If you have yet to fill your bellies with food, not to worry, Sea Star provides a range of fruits, biscuits, cookies, and local sweet pastries. We were thoroughly impressed by the wide variety! Coffee, Tea, Juices, and Water are also available.
You'll get to enjoy these all the way till the last guest arrives where the staff will start the briefing before you board the boat. Every day, Sea Star sets out for various tours; the Phi Phi Island and James Bond Island Tour being the most popular.
Briefing is necessary prior to boarding the boat. The guide would introduce themselves and inform us of the itinerary should there be any changes. For instance, during our day trip, the itinerary was swapped such that we will visit Khai Island first (due to the tides) before heading to James Bond Island.
The day trip also ends at different timings each day due to the timing where the waters will recede. The guide would inform you and also to ensure that everyone is in the pink of health, plus gather information as to your dietary requirements.
Once all that's done, you'll have a few more minutes to change into your swimwear and to use the washroom. There is one toilet on the boat but it is a tiny one just in case you have urgent needs!
Photo-taking and Boarding
Before we board, Sea Star Andaman would also take photographs of all the guests for the administration of the insurance and also as a souvenir at the end of the trip. Then, off we go on board the boat!
Koh Khai Island is surrounded by little fishes. The waters are so clear that you don't even need to "snorkel" and go underwater to see them. When we were there, we didn't snorkel as the waves were quite huge and the water was murky with the sand when we went underwater. The fishes swam freely close to the shore and it was enough to stand amidst them to watch them.
Because the waters were so beautiful and inviting, after placing our items down at the pavilion and stripping down to our swimwear, we ran for the beach! We thought we would enjoy all that we could before going back up, snap a few photos for the gram! Sadly, that didn't happen... Perhaps because we arrive at the island in the early morning, the sun was shining but not too overly hot so it was extremely relaxing to swim in the clear waters or just float in it with our life jackets.
When you are here, be careful of dangerous aquatic life such as jellyfishes. Our guide warned us about them and told us to run over if we do get a sting. They do have some basic kit to help reduce the sting.
For those who don't like swimming in the sea, you can rent one of the colourful parasols and chairs on the beach to relax or simply just sit on the sand! There are also a few stores selling local handicraft and some snacks at the island. For us, Sea Star Andaman started to "set up" their buffet counter with a variety of snacks, fruits, and drinks once they arrive at their station and it was a perfect treat after swimming in the waters!
Canoeing at Hong Island
Thereafter, we set off to Hong Island for our canoeing portion of the tour! Those who do not know how to canoe, no worries! You'll be well taken care of by the canoeist! Each little canoe sits two to three (for smaller guests) and you do not have to canoe it yourselves. Just enjoy the view of the mangrove, the cooling breeze, James Bond Rock from the canoe, and view the Stalacites.
The entire slow canoe was extremely relaxing. If its far too hot for you, your canoeist may even persuade you to jump into the lagoon and swim instead! It was a lot of fun marvelling at nature's wonders and works.
We even canoe into little caves like these in the picture where you literally have to lie down to pass through! The canoeist would stop paddling for a while, lie down and let the current float you through. An interesting experience indeed!
At the end of the ride, you can choose to tip the canoeist if you had a great time. Otherwise, don't worry, the tour company have already paid for their services.
James Bond Island
After canoeing around the James Bond Rock, we were eager to see it, and also the island! The James Bond Island itself is essentially a commercialised island. There are several little stalls selling souvenirs and trinkets and a little store selling basic bottled drinks.
Most people who are here are just here to talk photographs with the James Bond Rock. So essentially, there wasn't that much to do.
Depending on where your speed boat stops, you may have to climb up and down to get from one side to another. We arrived at the island at the beach where James Bond filming was at. Then, we had to climb over to the other side to actually see the rock.
The most magnificent one was walking through the little "caves" and how the Thai island got its Thai name of Khao Ping Kan. The movement of tectonic plates causing the rocks to slide down and it looks like it is just leaning on each other.
Sad to say, there will be no luxurious houses and opulent doors at James Bond Island, like in the movie. Aside from that, it really looked exactly like the set from the movie!
Lunch at Koh PanYi (Koh Panyee)
Finally, it was time for a late lunch! The guide had to push everything before lunch due to the weather conditions. When the tide gets too high, we aren't able to head into the Mangrove.
With famished stomachs after a full day of activity, we headed over to Koh Pan Yi, a Muslim Floating Village. For Muslim Travellers, don't worry about your food as it will be prepared by Muslim cooks. The food wasn't the most fantastic but the spread of chicken, Tom Yum Soup, some fried seafood, and vegetables were sufficient.
It was served buffet style so you can take whatever and however much you wanted. The food here is a little to the sweeter side that we actually love, but those who prefer savoury food may not find it to their liking.
It doesn't matter as you can continue to feast on the snacks onboard the boat, or purchase some tidbits at the store behind the restaurant. Thereafter, you'll have some time to explore the island.
I actually visited Koh PanYi during my previous Phuket trip some 7 years ago, but didn't know that there was so much more to it than the floating restaurant.
Koh Panyi is a small island where its villagers live on stilts built up surrounding the shallow sea. All of the people living here are descendants (directly or indirectly) of Toh Baboo and his friends and family. Initially it was a fishing village, but now, about 50% of the locals worked in the tourism industry, catering food to the many day trippers who visit the surrounding islands. If you walk around the island, there are stores set up just outside the locals' houses to sell little trinkets and souvenirs. The remaining 40% of the locals are still fisherman and their catch are often served in the many restaurants on Koh Panyi, facing the sea.