Day 68, Year 4: Upper Phang Nga Bay-A James Bond Experience
Date: Monday, December 29, 2008
Weather: Unfortunately–Overcast
Latitude: 08 degrees 11.383 minutes N
Longitude: 098 degrees 29.165 minutes E
Location: Ko Phanak Northwest, Thailand

It was another one of those “interesting” days. Things started out smoothly. Claire and I had tried to snorkel ashore Ko Phak Bia late yesterday afternoon, but found ourselves in shallow water over coral. We searched and searched and found no way to get ashore. But this morning the tide was up and we were able to take the dinghy right up to the shore. Ko Phak Bia is a tiny little island, but it has lots of character. The beach is flanked on both ends with cliffs covered with jungle growth and a most interesting array of small rocks cover the shoreline. There were also lizard tracks, but we didn’t see any lizards. After our explore, we were on our way to the upper Phang Nga Bay. We had planned a lunch stop, but decided to head straight for James Bond Island. This is where “Man with a Golden Gun” was filmed and it has made the island a very popular place for tourists. We weren’t planning to visit the island, but just wanted to sail by to see the beautiful islands in the area. In this part of the bay, there is just one beautiful island after another, but traveling in the waters is tricky as it is very shallow. We kept a careful watch and never really saw anything under five meters, but we were traveling at high tide. After see James Bond Island, we headed back south to our anchorage for our last night out with Kevin and Claire. We chose Ko Phanak as it is right on our way to Phuket.

We arrived mid-afternoon and headed directly by dinghy to the cave entrance close to where we had anchored. We knew we should be able to take the dinghy through the cave to a hong (small bay enclosed on all sides with cliffs with only narrow entrance, in this case, entrance through a cave). Now comes the James Bond adventure. Once in the cave we were in total darkness and our flashlights just don’t do the job. But there were many tourists in kayaks that were being rowed through and each of the kayaks had a good light. So we made our way through the narrow passage with a little help from the tourist boats. As we got deeper into the cave, kayaks were passing us in both directions-quite bizarre to have a traffic jam in a cave. We went as far as we could go and then went into a holding position. The exit from the cave into the hong was too narrow and not high enough for us to get through in the dinghy. Some of the tour guides stopped to tell us to wait 30 minutes and then the water would be low enough to let us go through. The current was strong and it was hard to hold on, so Kevin and Claire jumped in and swam through the narrow opening into the hong. I stayed with Mark as I had no desire to jump into the murky, dark water, but Kevin and Claire returned unscathed and we rode the tide out of the cave. No sooner did we emerge than Mark discovered that his underwater camera was no longer in his pocket. This is the same underwater camera that was brand new when we left the US last May. After using it underwater only three or four times, it got water in it. Justin and Jo took it home with them after their visit and sent it in for repairs. Kevin and Claire just brought it back, so it is feeling like this camera is jinxed. But jinxed or not, Mark was devastated. We continued on exploring the fantastic rock overhangs and other cave and hong entrances around the west and north side of the island. But when we returned to Windbird, Mark decided that he wanted to go back in the cave to look for his camera. The chances of finding it were almost nil, but we gave it our best effort. We stopped by Windbird to get snorkels and fins and then went to the cave. The current was flowing much faster out of the cave than it had been for our first trip through, and Kevin, Claire, and Mark took turns struggling to row us against the current. I’m such a poor rower that I didn’t even try to help. I would have had us going backwards for sure. Twice we had to turn on the dinghy engine which is a “no no” for two reasons. One is that the engine noise is not good for the bat population in the cave, and the second is that the water was shallow and we had no idea what was under the surface. With great effort, we made our way back to the far end of the cave and Mark jumped in the water to see what he could find. Much of the bottom was very muddy so he just had to feel in the mud for anything the shape of a camera. It was a valiant effort, but he came up empty handed.

We all got back to Windbird, had showers, and started to relax, when Claire offered to take Mark back to the cave at lowest tide so he could walk in and look for the camera. Kevin offered to go along, so off they went. Claire stayed on the beach with the dinghy looking for shells and critters and Mark and Kevin walked into the abyss with headlights, flashlights, and even our million candle power light. It looked like a scene out of a James Bond movie. About half an hour later they emerged, soaking
wet, still with no camera. Kevin said he almost lost Mark to quick sand once during the trip. Quite a little adventure!

This is our last night out. Tomorrow we will head to Phuket to one of the marinas on the east side of the island. We hope to get there in time to do a little exploring on the island before Kevin and Claire fly out the next morning. Our travels through the islands of Thailand have been fantastic. I don’t think we could have asked for better weather or more perfect anchorages. If I could wish for one thing, it would be a blue sky, sunny day tomorrow. It was overcast today and we didn’t get to
see the fantastic colors of the upper Phang Nga Bay at their best. But other than that, we had had a perfect adventure.

081229 Day 68 Thailand–Ko Phak Bia to Ko Phanak