After the success of the first day trip we took, Jeong Hie and I decided to give another one a shot before resuming our beach bum habits for our final day of vacation. The trip we opted for was of a bit bigger scale- taking in the many sights of Phang Nga Bay National Park.
Phang Nga Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and a familiar locale for anyone who’s seen a Thailand-set movie, from the James Bond flick The Man With the Golden Gun to The Hangover, Part II (and apparently even an inspiration for the floating islands in Avatar). The attraction for filmmakers is obvious- the bright green rock formations and small islands that dot the bay make for a stunning backdrop to just about anything.
Our first stop was one of those shooting locations: James Bond Island. This small isle served as the setting of the villain’s headquarters in The Man With the Golden Gun, and anyone who’s seen the movie would recognize the distinctive rock formation that got it the role.
The next item on the itinerary was the one that most piqued my interest- a kayak ride through a cave. This turned out to be a bit of a dud, as the whole trip under the limestone arch and out the other side only took a few minutes, but that was enough time to enjoy a beer and the company of our talkative guide, who put me to shame and amused Jeong Hie to no end with the amount of Korean he’d picked up from tourists. He also told us about the tsunami that hit in 2004. He had to abandon his boat and climb up the steep rocks above him as the wall of water hit in order to survive. Two Korean tourists were not so fortunate.
After that sobering story, we headed to a Muslim fishing village for lunch. We shoveled down some fried fish and curry, then used our remaining time to explore the unique community around us, which is built entirely on stakes raised above the bay. It was a fascinating and beautifully set place, and I can only imagine what everyday life would be like there.
The penultimate activity took us out of the bay and back to the mainland that separated us from Railay’s peninsula. Monkey Temple is located in a cave, and boasts a large golden reclining Buddha statue as well as a small, but eye-catching limestone cavern. The real attraction, though, were its namesake- the many, handout-crazy monkeys outside its entrance. We’d blown our budget for the day and didn’t have any food to give, but the monkeys gave us a once-over anyway.
The capper for the day was a visit to a cool freshwater waterfall and pool near the temple. Neither of us had planned on swimming, but on second thought I gave it a shot anyway while Jeong Hie hung out on the rocks and laughed at my reaction to the freezing water. The waterfall created a bit of a vortex that sucked you in and shot you down the stream a little way, and I didn’t regret the chance to cool off a bit after a busy day.
After another good meal and a long sleep (and a hand-breaking incident… a story I’ll skip) and a last morning at the beach, we hopped back on the ferry out of Railay and began our couple day journey back to Korea. Overall we’d had an excellent vacation, but unfortunately it was time to head home… and back to work.