Phang Nga Bay, caves, time travel village, 007, playing with Iranians.

All good by’s said and new crew aboard we headed north to the head waters of the Malaca Straights. As we go north the water shoals and calms to a ripple. Our first stop is the long narrow Koh Phanak which is told to have three “hongs” or rooms. This usually indicates a magical lagoon entered through a dark cave. Koh Phanak would live up to that expectation.

We anchored on the east side away from the rare westerly’s we were experiencing in 15 feet of water and watched the commercial boats as they picked up their passengers, packed their kayaks and left. The trick to this area is to arrive when the commercial guys are leaving so you can see where the caves are but not play when the playground is full. Any time before ten or after 4 you will have most places to yourself. We talk to a camping kayak guide and get some more information then head out in the dinghy to explore. We find a huge cave on the western side but I did not bring a torch so the squeals of the crew made for a fast about face. Next we followed a group of kayakers in a small cave which was shallow enough to walk in, again no torch so short trip.

After a very pleasant evening with my fine crew pampering me and a luxurious night at anchor, no swells and flat seas, we planned the next day’s expeditions.

Sally, the new crew, is a bit under the weather so she elects to stay on Furthur as Anna and I go forth. We return to the large cave on the other side of the island to find several long tailed boats, and a fleet of kayaks with only the Thai paddlers in them. We quickly surmise that a mother ship is arriving loaded with tourists. The Thai guys motion us over and offer us a guided ride in a kayak into the cave. Who could ask for more! Anna and I and the torch pile into the inflatable kayak as our paddler enters the cave.

As the cave darkens completely he shines his torch on the top to illuminate a bat colony. They squeak and move around a bit but do not seem really bothered, not near as much as Anna, hahaha.

The darkness gives way to a green glow and then bright light as we enter the hong. It is a tropical bonanza, long fines falling from the massive cliffs that surround the lagoon. We get paddles around the lagoon and then back into the cave. We pop back in the anchored dinghy, bow and Kapu Kup profoundly. The Thais then lead us to the end of the bay and point out the large group of monkeys in the trees above the cliff. They seem genuinely pleased to show us their treasures even though they do this for hundred of tourists every day.

We then return the shallow cave and walk in torch in hand just as a four foot lizard swims out. Anna jolts at the thought of us meeting him last night with no torch. Again we enter a tropical paradise this time drained by the low tide so we can walk around the hong. Long rooted sea tress jet from the floor with exposed roots four feet high. Huge fines descend from the top begging the mind to see Tarzan swinging about.

Back on Furthur we move the two miles north to Koh Hong, a famous tourist stop filled with caves and lagoons. Again we hit it right just as the cattle boats are leaving. Anna and I kayak into a cave which opens into a massive lagoon, which leads to a cave which opens to a smaller lagoon and so on. We paddle about and take a few pictures. We meet an Aussie couple from a sailing cat and agree to boat hop for the poo poo platter. Yahoo I got two platters in one afternoon. The couple was interested in a trawler and had been to the JTM yard so they were keen to learn about my voyage.

Anna and I washed the decks with the salt water wash down, a temporary substitute for a good hosing. Mother Nature finished the job that night with a huge down poor and magnificent lightning show. Furthur is spick and span now.

We took advantage of the early morning vacancy and again Anna and I paddled ashore. Soon the hordes came and a huge group of Russians were escorted about the lagoon by Thai paddlers. We saw one kayak with three large white guys being paddled by one very old and frail Thai guy, “what is wrong with this picture?”

Back aboard we made our usual afternoon move, again a short hop to Koh Daeng Yai to make our visit to James Bond Island the next morning. This is the island were “the Man with the Golden Gun” was filmed and a common stop for the tourist boats. We hopped in the dinghy early to beat the crowds and went to the island only to find an awaiting ranger and nothing really to see. We passed on the 600 baht entry and explored the area instead. Clouds formed mystical rings around the peaks begging images of dragons and sorcerers in the morning mist.

The one boat anchored near us look familiar so we went for a visit. We met a wonderful Kiwi couple in a cousin the Westsail 32 who had been cruising for six years. It was great for the crew to hear about their adventures.

The next place to explore is a floating village of Muslim fisherman Koh Pan Yi, home to about 1000 residents and visited by about that amount of tourists every day. Again we arrive post crowd time to find the village very quiet and calm. We walk about the many souvenir shops now unmanned. We find shy and pleasant people and of course exuberant kids, I wish I had brought my balloon kit.

On the way back we notice the ranger had left James Bond Island as well as most of the crowds so we sneak a look avoiding the 200 baht entry fee. We find a group of guys taking photos and join them. The usual, “where are you from?” got a surprising answer, Iran. When we said we were Americans the guys smiled and said we are friends we love Americans! We had a blast taking many photos and said our warm farewells. Playing with Iranians on James Bond Island is fun!