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The Road Less Traveled

29 October: Monkeying Around in Phang Nga

THAILAND | Sunday, 29 October 2017 | Views [237] | Comments [1]

All I can say is, “Wow!” What an incredible day from start to finish.  (There was a bump or two along the way, but nothing show stopping). And well, actually the start had me a little bummed as I woke up at 415 am and couldn’t go back to sleep again. But that was okay, I used the extra time to finish yesterday’s journal entry.  We hit the breakfast buffet and loaded up on some much-needed energy for the day. Along with our friends, we were ready way ahead of our 730-745 am scheduled pick-up time for today’s excursion.

Today we were taking a tour that would take us into the Andaman Sea up and visit Panak Island, Hong Island, and “James Bond” Island in Phang Nga.  We awaited pickup and as the tour vans rolled into our hotel for other excursions, we kept checking with each one. Finally, ours showed up – still within the window of time though. We were the first pickup with numerous others after us.  NOTE: If you do these types of excursions, realize there are other people waiting. So be ready and be visible during the pickup window. We had some people today that took our driver 20 minutes to find. After screwing around for a few more minutes, they asked the driver if he could wait and additional 30 minutes. A nearly full van of people sat there waiting. Don’t be that person. The driver left them – justifiably. They caught up by a costly taxi ride later.

This tour company was one my wife and I have used before. Worked out well last year; worked out great this year. The boat departed on time, the crew was great. My Thai wife struck up on conversation with one of them who offered himself and another great crewman to be our kayak guides for us and our friends today. This would prove to be a game changer in the whole day’s experience. At Panak Island, we boarded kayaks with our guides Kai and Bert. Bert spoke great English, so we paired him with our friends so they got that first-class narrative experience throughout. After about 150 meters kayaking, we entered the bat caves of Panak. Yes, bats.  This is certainly, “Wear a hat and keep your mouth shut when looking up” territory.  The cave structures are amazing, the views are fantastic, and the bats are harmless.  With the tides a bit lower at this time, we were able to slide under another opening into a secluded lagoon that is only accessible by that cave opening. We almost got in there last year but the tide was about 8 inches too high. Not so today. What a spectacle of nature! Inside a limestone mountain -- in a lagoon.  Simply incredible.

Our next stop was Hong Island. Well, this would prove to be the day’s highlight. Again, along with our friends we set launch of the kayaks with our guides Kai and Bert. As we wove through the lagoon, again the limestone scenery was breathtaking.  We headed for a cave tunnel that would take us to another lagoon. Upon exiting the tunnel, we noticed monkeys – I believe they were crab-eating macaques – on some of the outcroppings in the lagoon. Well, one of them recognized our guide, Kai. The monkey jumped in the water, swam to the boat, and just like that -- we had a third passenger. Turns out, this monkey knows Kai rather well, and he was rewarded with a couple of small bananas. (Kai says his name is Bert.) The monkey explored the kayak, checking us out. He then launched himself through the air over to visit our friends’ kayak as well. Then back over to ours. After about 8-10 minutes with us, he ejected himself off the kayak, back to the island. What an experience! Up close and personal. No, we didn’t touch, pet, or otherwise interfere with the monkey. That’s key. Let them do what they do, be protective of your stuff, show no fear – but respect that you are among a wild animal that is checking you out.

Another lagoon….. another monkey.  This one recognized Kai as well. There was just one problem… “Yes, we have no bananas!” Out of bananas.  But that didn’t stop our little friend from making sure that Kai wasn’t hiding any under his butt – or anywhere else for that matter. The monkey groped and probed Kai – we all had a great laugh as this went on for some time.  Back into the tunnel, the monkey became a hood ornament on the front of the kayak.  When he got to the front of the tunnel, he launched himself to the limestone ledge.

These episodes were captured on still cameras as well as video. We had such a great time. The experience exceeded what the tour intended. So incredible.

Our next stop was “James Bond Island.” Turns out, this is where part of film, “Man with the Golden Gun,” was filmed. It is part of the national park and there is a famous limestone karst jutting up from the lagoon. It really is beautiful. We took many photos – and Kai helped us compose some of them too. While we were only there for 30 minutes, it was a beautiful day as far as the weather was concerned that afforded great photographs.

On the way back to the home marina, we passed by where native Thai sea hawks hunt.  The crew knows how to beckon them and entice them with fish. First there were two, then five, then eleven, then over twenty of these birds, soaring, swooping, and picking up the fish left behind. I had just completed a lens change on my still camera – the pictures turned out great. Like most birds of prey, they were quite majestic in flight.

As we pulled into port, the thunder started booming. Light rain fell as we disembarked and walked to the van. Then once we were inside, the skies opened up. Minor flooding in the roadways as we headed back to Karon Beach. It can happen quickly here, so be ready. Our driver was, thankfully.

Tonight we went to the same restaurant as last night. The food was excellent before. And since it was raining, why not? Why go looking for something different in the rain. The menu is lengthy at this place, so we went for dishes we haven’t had this week. First came the squid with a peppercorn sauce. The peppercorns were in the sauce – I ate so many of them. I love black pepper and as they had just been stir fried in soya, they were even more delicious.  Local green mussels – steamed with basil – was another new addition and so tasty when set alongside fresh grilled corn on the cob. The trophy dish was a deep-fried white snapper covered in a semi-sweet hot chili sauce (not the dipping sauce). Plenty of chilies adorned the fish.  All of the dishes did not fail to impress – all very delicious.

What an incredible day. These are the experiences you hope to have on vacation.  Times to remember with people who mean so much to you.

It has been a very long day, but I hope you enjoy the story. If you did, please leave a comment – even if just your name so I know who is stopping by. Thanks.

Gotta hit the rack now….Cheers.

Tags: james bond island, phang nga, thailand



Keep up the Great work !! I love reading about your guys adventures :-)

  John Lintz Oct 31, 2017 1:12 AM

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