“Ah Mr. Bond, we have been expecting you” says Francisco Scaramanga as James Bond makes an appearance at his secret island lair of Khao Phing Kan off the coast of Thailand.
Personally, I was much more taken by the geology than the plot of The Man With The Golden Gun. I was so disappointed with it in fact, that it ended up being the last Bond movie I saw in the Cinema, until Daniel Craig put in an appearance a few years ago. Then in 2000 came the novel The Island by Alex Garland [which I have read] followed by the iconic movie of the same name [that I still haven’t seen], about youthful hedonism gone terribly wrong. That movie was filmed on the nearby island of Ko Phi Phi Leh.
Back in the 1970’s Thailand was an area rarely visited by tourists but now, economic recession notwithstanding, many long-haul tourists and long-stay backpackers have colonised it along with the rest of South East Asia with the exception of Burma…
It is easy to understand why. The shore to the Andaman Sea and is an area of outstanding natural beauty. Most notable are the dramatic, solitary limestone hills formed by erosion that are found both inland and jutting out of the sea as lush, green islands. Rock climbers from all over the world travel to the region and can be seen every day scaling the cliffs that rise sheer from Railay Beach. There are 154 islands along the Krabi peninsula of which Ko Phi Phi Leh is perhaps the most famous.
My week in the Krabi region was idyllic. It is easy to find a boat travelling out to the islands to sunbathe on the white sand beaches or to snorkel and dive in the azure, blue sea that is like stepping into a warm bath.
I was lucky enough to spend a day with Dive Fanatics, a british owned company that organises fully inclusive dive-days. What is more, it is very reasonably priced and the food they serve is excellent. Diving off the clear waters of Kao Phi Phi island, we saw black tipped reef sharks and giant sea turtles in addition to all the usual colourful reef fish.
Once you have had you fill of islands, there are the forest trails and conservation parks that are easy to find once you get out-of-town where you can go trekking in the hills or as we did, elephant trekking with Nosey Parkers, reputed to be the best in the Krabi area.
Krabi town where we stayed is not the most beautiful of places nor does it have the best beach but it makes a convenient centre for your stay, has a plentiful supply of cheap, reasonable accommodation and any number of restaurants serving tasty Thai food and if you really miss it, the full English breakfast.
Although it takes eighteen-hours on a so-called “luxury bus” door-to-door from Bangkok, it is worth the effort and once you are there you will have an experience you will never forget and what is more, you can always impress your friends by telling them you lay on the same sand beach as Leonardo or went out to a bar and sipped a Martini [shaken, not stirred] with the shadow of James…