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Published: April 9th 2011
Having left Khao Sok with a feeling of contentment that we had found something nearing the mythical stories of natural beauty you hear and read about, we felt optimistic about our next stop on our world tour; Khao Sok was a destination advised by a friend which paid huge dividends, so given that our good friend Oli had advised we head to Ao Phang Nga (having heard great things about it) we thought we would ride our luck whilst it was in. Riding just our luck, however, would not get us to Ao Phang Nga so we forked out 500baht each to catch a minibus from Khao Sok to our destination via Krabi.
Upon arrival into Ao Phang Nga bus station we immediately consulted the local travel and tour agent eager to explore the Archipelago which lay just off the coast of the small town. Having arrived at around half one in the afternoon we were abruptly informed that the next tour of the islands, including a stop at James Bond island which appeared in The man with the golden gun, would leave at 2pm. With no place to stay, no sun cream and a general lethargy about the group
this was not the news we had wanted to hear. Rather conveniently, and somewhat fortunately, the travel agent recommended a place to stay. Given that we did not really want to waste time in a town which had little to do other than visit the coastal national park, we decided to take the agents advice, stay at the guesthouse they recommended and book the tour. In a whirlwind half hour we managed to check into a place that didn't cost the earth, was pleasantly clean and offered wifi, buy some much needed sun cream and pay a discounted rate for the tour. It was surprising that we were not taken to the cleaners given the "rock and a hard place"-ness of our situation, but I guess the agent can't have been too switched on. Another lucky break it would seem!
We were taken down to the bay by a minibus, just about ten minutes out of the town centre were we were greeted by a man whose side profile mimicked the line of an exponential curve, his jaw jutting out like the bottom of a pez dispenser. This fellow would be our tour guide for the afternoon, although this
simply seemed to extend to driving the boat and asking if we were having a good time. Luckily, any amount of words offered by any tour guide could scarcely have made the experience more fulfilling; in this case a picture said more than words could ever probably say so rest assured that any attempt to justly describe the scenery will be futile!
The bay was scattered with mountainous islands that appeared to have no rhyme or reason as to their location, some clusters larger than others, each site more stunning than the last making it difficult to know where to point and shoot my camera first. I literally could not have taken enough photos of this place without finding another shot I wanted to take. The water was blissfully calm, even when visiting some of the islands furthest from the coast and the sun was beating down in such a way that made the islands glow with an orange tinge, particularly as the day grew older.
We stopped at “James Bond island”, a strange isolated natural pillar protruding from the water like the peak of a mountain which had broken away from it’s base and stuck sharp-end first into
the sea bed. We stopped for several photos and then promptly made our way back to our boat which we shared with a an American family who spoke impeccable Thai, a far cry from some Americans I had met who asked if England had electricity (this actually happened!). Our “tour guide” asked if the girl who was traveling with her family if she was ok as she had a face resembling a walnut and an expression like she had a fart permanently hovering under her nose. The girl, with an even more quizzical look on her face replied in Thai that she was fine. Judging by the tone of her response, horrid face and her general body language (which is extends beyond all verbal language barriers) it was clear she was either very unhappy about how her day was shaping up, or a completely twat. She sat at the front of the boat and continued to sulk, the only cloud in the sky being the dark one over her head.
We then set off for our short canoeing trip round some of the smaller islands which were hollowed out through the core like an organic coliseum. Luckily, our professional
canoeist (?) was far more adept at negotiating the caves and crags than we were; each of us had a go at propelling the canoe, each failing miserably (although we did get really good at steering the boat in a perfect circle…there must be a use for this talent somewhere.)
Upon our way back we stopped at a floating village, which was built on stilts. Honestly an entire village built on stilts! It was very cool and I was amazed at how these people appeared to live their lives. There was very little space to move around or do anything, only just enough room to swing a cat, which a child seemed to take great pleasure in doing! We headed back to the boat ready for our trip back to the bay. We arrived before the American family and I was determined to get some great photos from the front of the boat so I decided I would sit at the front as our lemon-sucking friend had hogged the best photo spot for the whole trip. To add insult to injury, she didn’t even bring a camera. When she got back she started bitching and moaning that someone had
taken “her seat”, which was incidentally a plank of wood so she was mistaken in any case. She continued to groan loudly to nobody in particular about how she needed to sit at the front of the boat as it made her feel sick to sit anywhere else. I however was feeling great and, much like the child swinging the cat, took great pleasure in winding her up. She really was the worst kind of person you could hope to meet and all of us lads felt sympathy for her family, who I didn’t see speak to her for the entire trip. I think her family were doing her a courtesy by simply ignoring her, as if I had been her father I would have continually prodded her in the forehead with my finger until the day was done. Our day was done, and we headed back to our guesthouse to shower, grab some food at a Chinese restaurant and rest until the morning.
Pleased with our Herculean efforts to get Ao Phang Nga “done in a day” we set off for Koh Phi Phi, our bus and boat totaling a combined 500baht.
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