I think our private long boat tour around Phang Nga Bay was one of my favourite experiences in Thailand. Although, there are just so many! Phang Nga Bay is just something you can not find anywhere else, and even though it’s a touch touristy still, venturing through this beautiful wonder on a private tour is surely the way to go! Experiencing what you want, at your own pace, with a lovely guide like Ms. Jeetah from Gembira Tours explaining all of the interesting historical facts as you go!
What I didn’t know, was that Phang Nga Bay, unlike Phi Phi Islands, is not a short 1 hour trip from a Phuket pier! It is infact a 2-hour drive outside of Phuket followed by many longboat trips to different Bay hotspots and must-experiences, but, this travel time outside Phuket allows for an amazing visit to my favourite temple yet, “Suwankuha” temple – also known as Monkey Temple!
I loved it purely for the fact that it resides within a cave!! A massive cave! With a giant giant golden Buddha statue stretching across the floor definitely provoking a “wow” whispered under your breath. The statue is massive, the cave is massive, the sheer magnitude of the temple just takes your breath away, but wait, there’s more! Once you’re done exploring all of the exhibits and various statues and monuments from the “light cave” you then take the large ascending steps up to….dn dn dnnnnnn….the DARK cave!!! There are bats. But they’re sleeping…I saw one fly, but it was in their area so generally no girly freaking out was necessary i.e. No bat to hair contact was made. I did see two monkeys hanging out at the top of the cave making sweet sweet love though, something you don’t see every day!
The dark cave was just insane, you start thinking all these questions, “Did someone actually build this?” “Why does this area look washed away, what happened?” “I wonder how long it’s existed?” “How was this even created by the earth?” “Hmm, that space kind’ve looks like a love heart?” “Can you climb all the way to the top?” “What are those two snakes doing there?”…..arghhhhhhh SNAKES!!!! Don’t move. They’ve got bad eyesight right, or a good sense of movement, or…wait….are they even alive? I’m daring, but not crazy…so instead of investigating myself at the highest point of the cave I had just climbed to, I let my camera do the daring for me and did a little zoom action to check the situation. They were dead! (I think) well they weren’t moving, were intertwined together and seemed stuck to the wall. Being Australian from the good Ol Goldie, Iv seen my fair share of snakes to know, they have ultimate right of way, so, dead or just impressively still I was outta there!
We passed the souvenir stands/markets on the way back to the van, picked up some bracelets and coconut waters and back on the road towards “Samchong” pier – our first embarkation point into Phang Nga Bay.
It was around lunch time so we get a taste of our first longboat ride venturing from one quick 15minute ride away from one side to the other, then enjoy a filling thai seafood lunch on their floating village. It was presented so beautifully, the restaurant was so peaceful and serene, with amazing views of the bay we were just about to discover!
Once we were utterly stuffed, off we long-boated towards our first stop – cave kayaking!!! All the pleasures of kayaking, with zero muscle work! That’s right, you just sit back and take your photos while your own kayaker rows you along so you have nothing on your mind but enjoying the views! I think I got a little overexcited and took a photo of each individual rock we passed, juuuust incase it didn’t quite look like the rock id seen moments before, but it was just a stunning amount of scenery to behold! And! I don’t know how we sometimes get so lucky with always happening to have the “different” experience from the other tour groups, but our kayaker took us around the caves to this little private beach that we parked on and got to explore! I didn’t see any other kayakers do this so it was pretty cool to be experiencing something different, we saw our guide free rock-climb, which then encouraged RJ to rock-climb, I jumped off a rock, walked under a rock and basically just had a rockin’ good time (pun fully and dorkily intended)
We then kayaked back to the boat the same route we came so I decided to put the camera down this time and just relax by laying down, soaking up the sun and letting my fingers and hair drift over the kayak through the water as we glided along – sooooo blissful!!
After getting back to our long boat we then sped along the beautiful rock-islands of the bay and off to our second floating village of the day “Panyi” village. This was quite larger compared to the first village our restaurant had been on and even had a school for the kids – “just walking the planks to my floating school, mum!” Sooo COOL!! They had a beautiful mosk built, markets, an incredibly long pier and even a basketball court – a FLOATING basketball court…now that’s impressive!!
After wandering through the village it was back to ze boat for our last, but probably most iconic feature of the trip – James Bond Island! I knew I would see the advertised tall solitary rock (as pictured) but I hadn’t anticipated all the other wonders to come! Like the supporting rocks. One is said to symbolize the man leaning on the woman for support after being altered from their connecting standing position from earth plate movements – so now, they’re always still touching, holding each other up and defying the earthquake by staying united! Ms. Jeetah told us any couple who stands underneath for a photo will be lucky in love…I did a little eye-roll but ultimately got suckered in…actually there’s two holes the man (RJ) can put his hands in to hold himself with while he leans against the rock and the woman (me) pushes up against his chest to support him, I kinda just laughed at first until RJ was like “no, actually push against me, this is kinda hard” so then I REALLY laughed and it made for a great super smiley photo! We’ll see how lucky it is 😉
There wasn’t many people there and the markets were all packing up – it was about 3:30-4:00pm which I would completely recommend, if it usually is as popular as phi phi then we surely did Phang Nga Bay in the right order as the crowds were completely enjoyable and not chaotic at all, in fact hardly even existent, I’m not sure if it was due to it being a private tour or maybe the distance makes it a little less populated, but whatever I did – do that! I insist!
Once we take our snaps from the standard viewing area we then climb around James Bond island and a top another higher angled viewing point to get more snaps, it’s nice to really explore and see the same thing but from different angles, really changes the experience and in my opinion makes it more satisfying. We walk right around the other side and come to a beach area where I decide I’m done with the humidity and run full force towards the water – I stop skipping after a few steps as it is coral city and find a little area I can lay fully down in, to at least wet myself before frolicking along the beach in the last lights of the day, admiring the hanging rocks and dancing through their suspension.
Finally, saying bye to the beach, back to the bay, and long boating our way to our original starting point, where the van was waiting, the local ice cream was $1 and the day was done on an absolutely amazing note leaving nothing but smiles and happy memories of an incredible, jam-packed experience and I hope not our last – with Gembira Tours, Ms. Jeetah and the outstanding Phang Nga Bay!!
Totally worth the drive and from what I could notice of the other tour groups, totally worth opting for the private tour with Gembira, it’s an amazing experience and it should be done on your time, at your pace, and however it is you like it – I knew it on our first day and I’ll say it again our last, Gembira is a tour group designed for YOU, not designed for them, you’re never on a set timed itinerary, it’s up to you what you want to see and they are all about leaving you happy, satisfied and totally dreaming of coming back to Phuket for more – worked on me! Thanks Gembira for making our Phuket time sooo unbelievably incredible and well-rounded!!!
For more info and bookings visit www.gembiratourkrabi.com