Phuket is Thailand’s only island province. Set within a lush tropical landscape, it is dubbed ‘Pearl of the South’ by the tourist industry. The ship is anchored offshore of Patong. Once a sleepy fishing community, Patong is a major resort area with plenty of shopping, restaurants and hotels. We tender ashore as we are on a shore excursion to Phang Nga Bay. From the tender, we cross a series of floating wooden docks to get to the mainland. The waterfront is a sandy beach with offerings of boat rentals, beach umbrellas, jet skis and hang-gliding. Thawiwong Road (also known as Beach Road) is packed with taxis and tuk-tuks for hire. Tuk-tuks are small 4-wheel vehicles that hold 2-4 people and make the sound “tuk, tuk, tuk, tuk” as they move along.
As we head north, we pass a kaleidoscope of villages, mosques, temples, and markets. The countryside is dotted with rubber tree and palm oil plantations. Finally, we cross the Sarasin Bridge into mainland Thailand and enter the Phang-Nga province. We stop at Wat Tham Suwan Kuha, a cave temple that dates back over 200 years. Numerous Buddha statues, standing, reclining or seated, are here for us to view. Outside the cave temple, monkeys scamper about eating bananas and climbing the trees and the side of the hill.
At Phang Nga Bay, we board a boat to cruise through this picturesque waterway. We stop at Khao Ping Gun Island. The island is locally called James Bond Island since it is where the movie, The Man with the Golden Gun, was filmed in 1974. We also stop at Koh Panyi water village where 400 houses are built on stilts and are connected by wooden walkways.