I don't know where I'm going, but I'm on my way.
-Carl Sagan (1934-1996)
Phuket is a popular spot for people, myself included, seeking island paradise made popular by movies like The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) and The Beach (2000). Meaning that it'd be silly for me not to take a few day trips around Phuket Island while in the area. To be honest, I wasn't exactly thrilled at the idea of packing myself into a polluting speedboat with a billion other tourists, but how else was I to see the gorgeous sights?? Overall, the tours were enjoyable: I got to see the fascinating James Bond Island, hop around Phi Phi Islands, canoe in sea caves, snorkel in turquoise waters, and visit a Muslim fishing village on stilts (Ko Panyi). While the islands have maintained their natural beauty over time, it is clear that so much tourism has a negative impact on them; seeing small monkeys diapered and used for photo props especially made me sad. But negativity aside, the breathtaking tropical beauty I saw while island hopping in Phuket was well worth the trip. Enjoy!
James Bond Island (Khao Phing Kan)
Before The Man with the Golden Gun filmed here in 1974, Khao Phing Kan was a quiet place with the occasional visitor from local indigenous tribes. Now, the island's famous limestone tower karsts (geological formations) are part of Ao Phang Nga National Park and a popular tourist destination. As for Ko Ta Pu, the 66-foot tall limestone rock that made for an intriguing background in the James Bond film, local legend gives the following explanation for its unique nail shape:
Once upon a time, there lived a fisherman who used to bring home many fish every time he went to the sea. However, one day he could not catch any fish despite many attempts and only picked up a nail with his net. He kept throwing the nail back into the sea and catching it again. Furious, he took his sword and cut the nail in half with all his strength. Upon impact, one half of the nail jumped up and speared into the sea, forming Ko Ta Pu.
(The nail-shaped island is really a result of erosion from shifting tectonic plates, wind, and water.)
Phi Phi Islands are known for their white sand beaches and clear blue water, making it a shame that they are teeming with speedboat tourists and steep prices.
Canoeing in Viking Cave
Ko Panyi (Koh Panyee)
At the end of the 18th century, nomadic Indonesian fishermen settled this small community on stilts in Phang Nga Bay. Two Muslim families built this village and today, less than 1700 residents live there and subsist on fishing and tourism. I was actually looking forward to this part of the tour and seeing Ko Panyi's golden-domed mosque up close, but when I arrived I found the village to be depressing: wooden shacks leaning precariously above stagnant, silty water; dark, narrow alleys with stale air reeking of rotting fish; vendor tables groaning under the weight of dusty souvenirs. Kind of a let down, but an interesting stop nonetheless.