A great day out from Phuket through some of Thailand’s beautiful natural surroundings is a trip to James Bond Island, making stops on the way at the Monkey Cave Temple and the Muslim fishing village on stilts Koh Panyi.
Monkey Caves (Wat Suwan Kuha Temple)
First stop on the way to James Bond island is the Wat Suwan Kuha, also known as the Wat Tam, meaning cave temple, located in Phang Nga province, North of Phuket.
The Buddhist temple is located inside a cave called Tam Yai in a limestone mountain. A large number of connecting caves can be found in the mountain, Tam Yai being the largest of them, measuring some 40 meters long and 20 meters wide.
The main attraction of the temple is a very impressive 15 meters long golden colored reclining Buddha image. The reclining Buddha symbolizes the passing into Nirvana, a state of mind of peace free from anger and suffering.
You will also find a number of smaller enshrined Buddha images as well as a large white chedi. Because of the large number of monkeys hanging around in front of the temple, this place is also called monkey caves, although the monkeys do not go inside. The monkeys are pretty cheeky and always on the lookout for food, if they think you have any, they might go after it, so take care of your stuff. Outside the temple are some stalls where you can buy drinks and food. If you like to feed the monkeys, food for them can be bought here.
Koh Panyi fishermen village
A short drive from the monkey caves will bring you to the pier where a boat is waiting to take you to Koh Panyi island.
After a 20 minute boat ride the island comes into sight. In the bay sheltered from storms lies a fishing village built over the sea on stilts, with the magnificent and practically vertical mountains in the background.
The history of the village goes back more than 200 years when Muslim fishermen from Indonesia were looking for a new place to settle. They found Koh Panyi, which is also called Koh Panyee, which seemed to be the perfect place.
The seas around the island were rich with fish, and the sheltered bay provided a safe place to build a village on stilts with wooden huts over the shallow waters. Although there are still fishermen here, tourism has become an important source of income for local people.
There are several seafood restaurants and souvenir shops on the island. After having lunch on Koh Panyee, you will depart for James Bond Island.
James Bond Island (Koh Tapu)
James Bond Island characterized by its very unusual shape lies in Phang Nga Bay North East of Phuket. The island lies a few kilometers from mainland Phang Nga Province and is part of the Ao Phang Nga Marine National Park.
The top of the 20 meters high rock is about twice as wide as the bottom, making it stand out in the beautiful surroundings with many other islands and green waters. The island’s real name is Koh Tapu which means nail island.
It became famous through the 1974 James Bond movie “The man with the golden gun”, starring Roger Moore as MI6 agent James Bond and Christopher Lee as the villain Scaramanga.
In the movie Bond is sent after Scaramanga, the assassin who uses a golden gun with golden bullets. Following a trail that leads James Bond to Beirut, Macau and Hong Kong, the secret agent ends up in Thailand.
After several scenes in Bangkok, James flies to Scaramanga’s island in a small seaplane, during which the beauty of Phang Nga Bay becomes evident. The island, that Scaramanga uses as a hideout, is called Koh Khao Phing Kan. During a scene towards the end of the movie James Bond and Scaramanga hold a pistol dual on the beach with Koh Tapu in the background some forty meters away. After having counted to twenty, Bond turns around and Scaramanga has vanished. From the same beach, you will have the opportunity to take some great photos of this beautiful natural environment.