Jamie's Phuket Blog

Phang Nga Bay Tour - Doing it our way!

At the end of September when I had family visiting (mum, dad and a traveling cousin) we had some time to explore. Cousin Simon was only here for a few days in between Singapore and Cambodia and one place on his wish list was Phang Nga Bay. We've been before of course, quite a few times actually, but earlier this year in March we found a new way of doing it, starting from a restaurant called Samchong Seafood which is only about 20km drive from the Sarasin bridge that connects Phuket to the mainland. Takes about 1 hour from our house. On that trip in March we had lunch and then went to James Bond Island, then on to Koh Panyee, the stilted Muslim village. We took the boat for about 4 hours. I had an idea that if we maybe went to Panyee first, and then on to James Bond Island, we might be able to avoid the crowds - since there are lots of afternoon "James Bond Island" tours. The plan was to hit Scaramanga's hideout at about 5pm and hope all other tourists had gone home. Also hoped for a nice afternoon light for photos. Plan half worked...

Samchong Seafood, worth looking for, very local, good food, super quiet location on a wide mangrove creek. The view below is looking from the restaurant to the small Muslim village on the other side of the water ...

View from Samchong Seafood

And a similar view interrupted by a "Formula 1" longtail boat. I don't see these little sports models in Phuket! They can move!

F1 Longtail Boat

And here's my dad at Samchong Seafood. Possibly my favourite recent photo of my dad, photoshopped with loving care. And he's not making a silly face, which is unusual :)

Dad

Right, let's get on the boat and out into Phang Nga Bay... from the restaurant to Koh Panyee is about 7 miles/11km, takes around 30 minutes on the longtail boat. Water was calm, but weather started to look a bit gloomy. My hoped for magical evening light was not appearing, but never mind, Koh Panyee was the first stop. Although we have been several times, it's a great place for photos, so I never get bored. We wandered around all the side streets including the path down to the school which was just ending for the day ...

Koh Panyee Schoolgirl

Koh Panyee (also written Koh Panyi) is a real odd place. It's what I would call a micro-society. Don't ask what that means, I just made it up. A place where everyone knows everyone, where there is no trouble, where people can always find a friend. It also has the tourist side, every day while the tours arrive there are stalls selling souvenirs, necklaces, shirts, shells, sarongs and much more. There are also local shops selling normal local things, though most things have to be brought from the mainland, since there's no place here to grow vegetables and (amazing!) there's no 7-11 here :)

I am amazed sometimes why a town would exist here. Everything is built raised on wooden stilts, there's no livelihood here except fishing, and you can do that without living in such an odd place. I like it here. The view below is looking along the east side of the town. Boats everywhere. You can't get anywhere without a boat. Many things about Panyee remind me of a place I used to live called Utila, a small island off the coast of Honduras. Fishing mixed with tourism, lots of boats, a unique people.

Koh Panyee

Here's one of the local McLaren F1 longtail boats arriving at Koh Panyee...

Formula 1 Longtail at Koh Panyee

I enjoy revisiting a place. You can never see it all first time, there is always something new to discover. I walked around with our daughter, while my wife went with our son. We met up after a while when both kids were asking for a drink and we found the same shop to buy one. Our kids like these kind of trips. They're 9 and 5 now, but we have been taking them out on boat rides since they were babies. When people ask me "what can we do with kids in Phuket?" - I say "anything" - kids will love it, love seeing something new. Please don't come all this way to Phuket and leave the kids in the hotel "kids club". Take them with you. They will learn and you will enjoy watching them learn. Thus endeth the Phuket parenting lesson for today.

Meanwhile, at the main jetty on Panyee island, I found a list of rules. Please do not bring alcohol onto the island unless you have 5000 Baht to spare. And a goat.

Koh Panyee - The Rules

After about one hour we left Panyee village and headed for James Bond Island, about 4 miles south. Weather was now looking distinctly unwelcome. Rain to the east, rain to the west, but somehow we stayed dry. On the way, we took the usual route through a stalactite infested cave on the west side of which is a sheltered area used by all the seacanoe companies as a base.

Longtail boat and cave

I realised that taking wonderful photos in tropical afternoon light would have to wait until next time. But not many people can say they have been to James Bond Island with NO other tourists there. We owned that island! We arrived a little before 5pm. The national park desk was closed already and when we walked over the rough-cut stone steps to the main beach, we found all the souvenir stalls had closed too - well, one was open and he managed to convince my mum to buy a bracelet. The man selling drinks was still there so cousin Simon and I had a Chang :)

Beer Chang at James Bond Island

It's very odd to find yourself at a major tourist attraction and be all alone. Frankenstein wrong. Alone .. good! Tours run at set times. If you visit on your own, it's not so hard to avoid the crowds. As mentioned above, some friends of mine have a travel company called Easy Day Thailand, and they can do a tour rather like the one described here, based on this blog - want to get to James Bond Island with no crowds? They can do it for you. Tell them you want to do Jamie's Phang Nga Bay Tour!

Here's my mum and dad at a deserted James Bond Island:

James Bond Island is OURS!

The island is not really called "James Bond" of course - that's because scenes from the 1974 film 'The Man with the Golden Gun' were shot here. The island is called Khao Ping Gan, named after a leaning rock on the island, and the one that's in all the photos, the tower, is called Koh Tapu, which means "Nail Island". The lack of light on this day means we'll have to do this trip again sometime... High season is here now, so sunny evenings should be more common than September, but who can trust the weather? It was rather gloomy at 5 in the afternoon on that day but the scenery was still great. And being on the island with no crowds was a breath of fresh air.

View from James Bond Island

at James Bond Island

By the time we left, it was well after 5pm, and as we chugged back in the longtail boat, it was close to sunset. I think we got back to the restaurant about 5:45pm, and the kids were crashed out by the time we got home, poor wee lambs. We'll do this again sometime and hope for a perfect orange sunset. Best I could manage was this view from the boat on the way back ...

Sunset from the longtail boat

More Information :

Book a trip like this with Easy Day Thailand
More photos of this trip on Flickr
More about James Bond Island
More about Koh Panyee

Phang Nga Bay Map


View Phang Nga Bay in a larger map


 Phang Nga Bay Tour - Doing it our way!  |  Jamie's Phuket Blog


Jamie suggests agoda.com for Phuket hotel booking

  Comments

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Anonymous martyn :

Jamie you sure do know how to take a damn good photograph. The pictures are amazing and your commentary perfect too.

A one goat fine for bringing alcohol onto the island rattles like something out of Britain many years ago.

Excellent post and the picture of the school kid leant shyly against the wall is my pick out of a fantastic set of images.

December 05, 2010  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

Thank you Martyn. Well, my photos are OK I guess.... have learnt some Photoshop tricks in the last year which help, and now always use the RAW image format. I like that photo of the schoolgirl too, Panyee is great for photos.. We'll do another trip sometime and hope for a nice sunset.

December 05, 2010  

Anonymous Michael Bourne :

Hi Jamie. my family and i recently traveleed to Phuket and on your advice used Easy Day Thailand for the very trip you have blogged here. Ingo from EDT was awesome, couldnt do enough for us, in fact we ended up booking 3 other tours through him to make 4 in total out of an 11 day stay. the guide on the day, Jot, i hope this is how his name was spelt, was fantastic. always ready to help and answer questions, nothing was any trouble for him including being very hands on in helping with our very active 3yo son so my wife and i could sightsee or take pics etc and know we could take our eyes of him for a moment and that he was safe. the trip was excellent. James Bond island before the crowds, through the sea cave you mentioned, Koh Panyee (which i could have spent all day at taking pics) back to Samchong Seafood for lunch, a stop at a temple/monkey cave which the kids loved. and on the way back to our hotel a stop ff at a cashew nut factory which my wife and i loved and found fascinating. all in all a wonderful day out for our family. thanks for the recommendation. and just to add to the thanks... i also booked a scuba DSD trip through you at PhiPhi through Offspray Leisure. the trip was awesome. Sean and Eric from Offspray were great. so a big thanks for all your help. and even though we might not be making it back to Phuket for the next few years i will be continuing to read your blog with interest. cheers. Michael and family

December 07, 2010  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

Hi Michael,

Thank you very much for your comment, I am happy to hear you had a great holiday. Got to James Bond Island before the crowds eh... hmmm, that means getting up too early for me :) We will try the afternoon trip again (after lunch at Samchong), and hope to get a sunny afternoon next time.

Cheers!
Jamie

December 08, 2010  

Anonymous Anonymous :

Hi Jamie,
Quick question about Sunrise Divers - I'm thinking of staying at Karon beach in Jan and thought Sunrise would be a good place to do a PADI cert. Is there any way that Sunrise would take you on your last dive to the Similan Islands? I've noticed many of the dive shops offer the last day there but Sunrise doesn't?
Thanks!
Laura :-)

December 09, 2010  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

Hi Laura

At Sunrise Divers we believe that the Similan islands is not a suitable place for beginner divers. Several reasons - dive sites are often too deep, or we have to compromise on dive site selection on a trip where more experienced divers may want to dive more advanced sites, also, this is a national park and beginner divers have often not mastered buoyancy control which can result in coral damage. Also, the cost - from Phuket a day trip to Similan Islans is 5600 Baht plus park fees, so this will add a large amount to the course price.

We normally dive at Racha Yai island where there is plenty of marine life and shallow coral and lots of shallow sandy areas ideal for students to practice dive skills. Details of course here: Sunrise Divers - PADI Open Water Diver course.

Please do come to see me :) - for sure after the course you are free to dive at the Similan Islands :)

December 09, 2010  

Anonymous milove :

Hi Jamie,

I'm very interest on this tour especially the seafood restaurant. Would the Easy Day tour bring us there?

March 28, 2011  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

Hi milove,

Yes the Easy Day Thailand trip includes lunch at the Samchong Seafood restaurant. Enjoy!

March 28, 2011  

Anonymous Ian :

Hi Jamie--

I did this tour with EDT about two weeks ago. We literally told them 'we want to do the tour from Jamie's blog' and they did not disappoint. We worked with Ingo to set it up, and were shown around by a guy named Oak. This was the highlight of an amazing trip. Thanks for the referral.

August 19, 2011  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

Hi Ian,

Thanks for your comment - glad you enjoyed the trip! Very often better to do things a bit differently - Easy Day are good at that.. and Phang Nga bay is always worth a visit. Hope you come again :)

August 20, 2011  

Blogger Blue and Sky :

Dear Jamie,

We missed this when being in Phuket in September. think still have a lot of things to do in Phuket for our next trip (but dunno when :))

Thank you for ur blog and all the updates ;))

October 17, 2011  

Anonymous tesya :

Thanks for the post. I would like to hire a car and try to get to the resto than take the longtail boat. Is it easy to find the resto? How many hours to get there from Karon? Thanks

March 22, 2012  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

Samchong Seafood is about 20km after the bridge on the way to Phang Nga, will take 90 minutes or a bit more from Karon, the sign to the restaurant only in Thai, turn right at the "Ka Lai" junction. There is a photo of the sign on my blog on the page about Samchong Seafood and there is a Google map on this very page.

March 22, 2012  

Blogger Dreamer :

Jamie - your blog is a total blessing! I find myself glued to your adventures in Phuket. I love your photos and stories and have been perusing your archived weather blogs. We are arriving in Kamala at the end of July, for only 4 days. I understand it is rainy season. From your blogposts, I can also see one might get lucky with the weather. Question for you is:
1. Is it safe to go do the sea-kayaking around Phang Nga at the end of July?
2. Am still confused, is James Bond Island in Phang Nga bay? Hubbby wants to see the Bond island :)
3. Is Phi Phi in Phang Nga bay as well?
4. If Phi Phi and James Bond island is nowhere near kayaking in Phang Nga....and we could only choose one tour...could you rate which of the three you'd suggest, in order of best to not? THANKS!! And keep blogging! :)

April 23, 2012  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

Hi Dreamer. A map would be a good start for you! Phang Nga Bay is the area to the east/north of Phuket with Phang Nga province to the north, Krabi to the east. Phi Phi is not really in Phang Nga Bay, just on the south edge, east of Phuket 45km. James Bond Island and Koh Panyee are in Phang Nga Bay. Hang on, have a look at the Google Map ON THIS PAGE for an idea of where things are. I would certainly skip Phi Phi in favour of Phang Nga Bay personally. Enjoy!

April 27, 2012  

Anonymous Anonymous :

Hi Michael, Awesome blog and pics, but I suspect you might have already heard that before ;-) We are staying in Mai Khao, and I have a few questions:
1) how long will it take from Mai Khao to Samchong's restaurant by car?
2) any place around there for vegetarians to eat at (no seafood). Or should we enjoy the lunch at Panyee Village?
3) we are paying 1800 baht for car and driver, 1200 for longtail as suggested in your blog, and maybe 500 baht for light vegie lunch for 2 adults and 1 kid. That's 3500 bath. Tour companies are charging an average of 5000 baht for the three of us in total. Is the extra 1500 baht just a convenience charge or profit, or are there other things that we are not aware of (the 200 baht national park fee is to be paid separately in both scenarios anyway, so that can be clearly ignored in the comparison)
4) Is it safe to longtail in mid-June timeframe... or choppy monsoon waters?
5) Besides James Bond and Panyee Village, what are the other destinations given that we have all day to galavant?
6) any snorkelling on James Bond, or is it just caves, shutterbugging, and chilling (yes we are snorkelling extensively for 4 days prior to this, so not out of desperation, but only if it is really noteworthy around this island).
7) Since we have a car for the whole day, how far is it from Samchong's to the National Park entrance and the other longtail pier? How much of a drive to Khao Sok and the elephant trekking ride?
Thanks in advance for your patience and your answers, and apologies if some of these questions seem a bit dumb to a lucky well traveled soul such as you!
JJ-first-timer

May 15, 2012  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

Hi JJ - my name is not Michael! Jamie. J-A-M-I-E. And luckily I have a spare hour to reply to your questions ...

1. Mai Khao Beach is in the north of Phuket and I reckon you can drive to Samchong Seafood in less than 45 minutes.

2. In small communities and local restaurants, vegetarian food is not so common and is not likely to be great, and will probably have fish sauce or something in it. I am not vegetarian, so don't really pay much attention to where such food is available. There is certainly no vegetarian restaurant in the area :)

3. Longtail price is more than 1200 Baht, more like 1800 I think (you must have seen the 1200 mentioned in this post from over 5 years ago. Prices do go up!). And yes, amazingly, tour operators do indeed want to make a profit! And pay their staff too!

4. June. Safe. Yes. I mean, do have some common sense and play it by ear. If the weather is wet and windy you can do it another day. Keep your plans flexible in low season.

5. Phang Nga area has a lot to see. On this blog you can find Wat Suwan Kuha, Sa Nang Manora Forest Park, the 360 Degree Cafe and more.

6. No snorkeling. The water is shallow and green. Mangrove water.

7. Samchong to the main Phang Nga pier, 20 minutes. To Khao Lak 1 hour. If planning to do all that, start early.

8. Drive safely and enjoy!

May 16, 2012  

Anonymous Anonymous :

Hey Jamie,
Thanks for the answers. I had my pre-departure round of island cocktails, and therefore typed your name 'incorrectly' :-) See what the pre-departure high can do!! cheers!
All your answers were really helpful.. super-duper!! just thought I had not asked question 3 clearly enough, so here's another attempt. The differential comes to about 1500baht even after factoring the cost increases of individual longtail rental vs. tour operator (I see their rates are higher too now). So, my question is more along the lines of what does that provide me in addition to what I might get by getting my own leisurely longtail rental? It seems like drinking water, insurance, and tour guide are the only differences? For an extra 1500baht. Don't really care about namesake insurance, or water which I can buy for 15baht a bottle, and my driver is going to join us on the longtail and speaks great English to translate anything that the longtail operator may say (this is not really history of Rome where we are expecting a running commentary.. in fact its more about seeing and taking it in, and less said the better since we've read enough great stuff by authors much wiser than their "tour guide"). Thus, while I am all for giving profit to tour operator businesses when well earned, I am not sure what value they bring in this case. I am not one to give charity to a tour operator business and hand over an extra 1500 baht if I don't see value for it. I would far enjoy giving that extra money to Panyee's football fund or the school when we go see it.
Hope you can shed some light on this.. is my supposition correct or flawed? Perhaps there are other great benefits they offer to earn their keep which I am missing?? Open to edification as I am just trying to plan the best possible day for my family of four.
Cheers,
JJ-firstimer

May 16, 2012  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

JJ - the whole point of this blog post is indeed about doing it yourself without joining a tour, although most tourists would feel more comfortable being looked after by a professional tour company. As mentioned, a tour company does not sell tours without making a profit. Fortune favours the brave, or something like that.

May 16, 2012  

Anonymous Anonymous :

Jamie,
Nice write-ups and pix. We are a family of five, and we are booked to do this trip with Mimtravel.net from Phuket. Any word on how they are? We have paid our deposit via CC but its contractually refundable till Sunday in case they are not the greatest and we want to pull out. Do you recommend having lunch at Koh Paniyi or at Samchong? Lunch at a fishingfolks village such as Koh Paniyi seems like a unique experience but where is the food better and more hygienic?
Danke schon,
Erika

May 17, 2012  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

Hi Erika,

I don't know who Mimtravel is, sorry. As mentioned on this blog, I recommend people book with Easy Day Thailand, who run a trip similar to the way we have done it ourselves and how it's described here. The restaurants on Panyi are more touristy than Samchong - built just for the tour companies. Samchong is better.

May 17, 2012  

Anonymous Anonymous :

Hi Jamie, great blog. Thank you.
We are a family of 4, going to be staying at the Marriott in Mai Khao at the end of the month.

We are keen to visit Koh Panyee & James Bond island.
Would be nice to eat at Samchong restaurant also.

As we won't have a car with us, what would you recommend we do to accomplish this in a day?

Thanks again,

John & family

June 10, 2012  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

Hi John - easy! Just contact Easy Day Thailand for a tour that is based on this blog post :)

June 11, 2012  

Anonymous phil :

hi Jamie
im staying at the marriott only 1/2 mile from bridge and can get up early (have a car). Would the boat be available early from the seafood restaurant or better at the main pier. Also like to see the buddah in a cave. Im going to do this trip tommorow so if you dont get time to reply thats fine but have to say your blog has been invaluable

Phil (UK)

August 08, 2012  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

Well, yes I am sure there are boats around early. Its actually the small pier next to the restaurant where you need to ask, or yes you could drive further to the main pier before Phang Nga Town. You'll need to drive nearly that far anyway to visit Wat Suwan Kuha. Have a good day!

August 08, 2012  

Anonymous Anonymous :

Jamie, thanks so much for your blog.
Our family just returned from Phuket and the trip to Pha Nga was the highlight of the trip!

We self-drove and followed your directions to Sam Chong, and then hired a longtail boat.

My kids also enjoyed the canoeing, only thing that spoilt it was the guides asking for tips.

Along road no.4, before Sam Chong, there were other signs pointing to PhaNga tours. Are these also jetties to hire the longtail boats?

December 06, 2012  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

There seem to be signs every couple of hundred meters saying 'James Bond Island', which would I guess lead you down a dirt road to a mangrove canal and a man with a longtail. We have also done the trip starting at the Phang Nga municipal pier which is further than Samchong, turn off to the right a bit before Phang Nga Town, following the official sign to Phang Nga National Park.

December 06, 2012  

Anonymous Tom :

I've never been to Phuket before, but I found this blog post two days ago after some googling and today we copied what you did to a tee and had a wonderful trip. Thank you so much for describing the Samchong way to see Phang Nga Bay.

After a late lunch at Samchong Seafood (where we felt a bit sorry for their pet civet) we negotiated 1800 baht for a longtail to take the 6 of us around until sunset. Leaving James Bond island until last worked perfectly. We were the only tourists there and the evening sun made for wonderful photos.

April 08, 2013  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

Hi Tom.

Jealous! "the evening sun made for wonderful photos." - we plan to do this trip again later this month and I am hoping (this time) for some evening sun! Do you have some photos online somewhere?

Thanks!
Jamie

April 08, 2013  

Anonymous Tom :

Here's a link to a photo I took at about 5.30 yesterday and a panorama shot to show how empty it was there.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gf6FBXQ8mzLTwTw1Lrr9qj1QIJM5LK3HE0ecbqNkEwU/pub

April 09, 2013  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

Thanks Tom - now that's the kind of photo I want to get! We'll do this trip again soon and I am hoping for some nice late afternoon sun!

April 09, 2013  

Anonymous Anonymous :

Hi Jamie, we are coming to Phuket for our second visit, but this time instead of Patong we have booked into Andaman seaview on Karon beach, hope its a good hotel! I am coming with my two daughters 12 and 15 and my married daughter and her husband who are she is surprising with their one year anniversary with this trip, they will stay at the old Phuket hotel though. what i wanted to know is this, we are coming in July, what would you recommend in the way of tours for all of us? we are real water babies but it seems many tours to islands are closed at this time of the year, so what would your suggestions be as the best of the snorkelling all day on island tours be?

thanks for your blog its very helpful
Ingrid

May 15, 2013  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

Hi Ingrid,

Most tours are running year round, just watch the weather and maybe don't book too far ahead. You can't get to the Similan Islands, but for sure you can do a Phang Nga Bay like on this page , and if you want some snorkeling then Racha Yai island is available or Phi Phi, or think about a speedboat trip around Phuket island, with several stop offs - a trip like this one. You can contact Easy Day Thailand for all these tours and others. Hope you get plenty of sun and a good trip!

May 15, 2013  

Blogger Sara :

Hello -

We are traveling to Phuket from August 26th to August 30th. We wold really like to hire a long tail boat to visit, Phang Nga Bay, can yo please advise n the best way to do that? We won't have a car. Thank you

August 09, 2013  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

Best way to do it - ask Easy Day Thailand for a tour! Otherwise, with no car, you would need to get a taxi or bus to Phang Nga, find a place to hire a longtail ... at the main Phang Nga pier or at the Sam Chong Seafood restaurant mentioned on this page. best contact Easy Day first though!

August 09, 2013  

Anonymous cm :

Hi Jamie,

So inspired after reading your Phang Nga Bay doing it your way trip!

We will be getting a car, planning to drive up to Phang Nga Bay and explore the Hongs, I was looking around for canoes rental, possibly with a paddler to help but couldn't find any online.

Do you know of any companies that purely rents canoes at Phang Nga Bay to explore the Hongs? Thanks heaps for the info.

November 18, 2013  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

I really don't know about that, we have only done trips by longtail boat. And please note .. Phang Nga Bay covers an area of over 500 square miles, so that's rather a lot to cover in a kayak :) From any entry point by the sea you'd have to paddle for miles to get to any islands or caves ....

November 18, 2013