Thailand Island Hopping: Phuket, James Bond Island, Koh Phi Phi, Maya Bay, Ao Nang & Railay (Part I)

Renown for beautiful beaches, Big Buddha, markets and crazy nightlife on Bangla Road, Phuket in the Andaman Sea was our next point of call.

Our task was to see as much as possible of the biggest island in Thailand in one day because we only had 24 hours spare to explore the mainland.

Phuket Sightseeing, Ladyboy Cabaret & Bangla Road

We caught the first flight out of Chiang Mai at 06:00 AM, landed in Phuket by 08:15 AM and had checked into our hotel near Karon Beach by 10:30 AM. We’d been awake now for six hours, but didn’t have anytime to waste.

To begin what was an exhausting day, we got some breakfast and then booked a Grab to the Big Buddha overlooking the province. We could see the 45-metre statue on the drive, but it was huge close up.

Admittedly, we didn’t spend too long here before heading to the Old Town about an hour away. Em had read that this area of Phuket was worth visiting, but we found that there wasn’t a great deal to do or see.

By now it was 14:30 PM and we were both knackered from what little sleep we’d had and from the weather sapping our energy further. I much prefer the heat and humidity in the north of Thailand. At times it’s almost unbearable in the middle of the day.

In the evening, we thought it would be a good idea to pay 2000 THB / £50 to go and see the 21:00 PM ladyboy Cabaret show at Simon’s Cabaret in Patong.

I won’t beat around the bush, it was bloody awful. The dancers were out of sync, the singing was all lip synched and the performance was generally half-hearted (I think because it was the last performance of the night, but that shouldn’t have mattered).

To be fair, we’ve seen our fair share of spectacular shows like Chicago, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory and the Lion King to name just a few over the years, so perhaps it was just our high standards.

It would have been rude to have not walked down Bangla Road whilst we were here. I thought Khao San Road and Soi Cowboy in Bangkok were extreme, but this strip was on another level! I understand now why it gets the reputation it does as being the most notorious street in Phuket.

There were a plethora of bars including go-go, live music, rooftop and nightclubs all lined along the 400m stretch of road. When we started mingling amongst the crowds, we were bombarded with people trying to get us to see their ‘ping pong show’.

You can Google that if you want to find out the true meaning of what this really was. I’ll give you a clue, it was 18+ and had nothing to do with table tennis!

Conveniently, it just so happened that Arsenal were playing United at 23:00 PM, so we had a few drinks watching the match and then called it a night.

By the end of the day, we’d spent over £50 in taxi and Tuc-Tuc fares. It’s a myth when people say Thailand is cheap.

Yo could possibly live off $30 p/day but only if you were to stay in a dorm hostel room eating local street food and to not travel or do anything fun. We found that both Bali and Thailand were very overrated in price.

Day Trip to James Bond Island & Floating Muslim Village

Ever seen Roger Moore star as James Bond in The Man with the Golden Gun? If so, you’ll recognise what is one of Thailand’s most famous beaches.

Situated northeast off the coast of Phuket is Khao Phing Kan in Ao Phang-Nga National Park, better known as James Bond Island. The iconic islet towering 20 metres above the seabed is called Ko Ta Pu, which is what you’ll recognise the film by.

We paid 2000 THB to go on a day trip to James Bond Island, a floating Muslim village, and a load of other islands in the vicinity including, Hong, Naka and Panak Island with Thai Adventure Club on GetYourGuide.

The day started when we were picked up promptly at 08:00 AM from outside our hotel. By 11:00 AM, we’d arrived at James Bond Island and had 45 minutes to get the best instagram shots.

It was ridiculously busy and there was a queuing system in place to get your photos, but I didn’t expect anything else. I played aloud one of the world’s most recognisable theme tunes by John Barry whilst we did our best Bond impersonations.

Next, we visited a floating Muslim village on Ko Panyi which is famous for its floating football pitch where Panyee FC, one of the most successful youth teams play. There’s even a fully functional school.

We’ve been to several floating villages in South East Asia, but none were as big as this. The locals live here permanently and rely heavily on tourists spending money on their handicrafts to make a living.

Later, a local guide kayaked Em and I into the tiniest of crevices in ancient caves on Hong Island. The towering limestone cliffs provided a spectacular backdrop. When I picture Thailand, this is what I imagine.

Before heading back to the pier, we were given 75 minutes on Naka Island. I made the most of this time to take a nap after a full on day.

The only negative was how long it took to get back to our hotel. Unfortunately, we had drawn the short straw and got put with the stragglers staying on the other side of the island. Instead of taking an hour to get back, it took closer to three.

Partying on Koh Phi Phi / Phi Phi Islands

This morning we headed over on a speedboat to Ko Phi Phi with a bunch of other ravellers looking to party. There were some families but I’d say the vast majority were going (like us) to experience the nightlife. Like Vegas, this island came alive at night.

We scouted out the beach bars lined along Loh Dalum Beach in the afternoon and then started day drinking at the Ibiza Beach Club. You wouldn’t have got any sleep if you were staying at this hostel (or any others in the area for that matter)!

In the evening, we had a lovely meal at ACQUA – the highest rated restaurant on TripAdvisor and then went back to the strip.

I remember sinking four buckets full to the brim of cheap cocktails between us in Slinky, Stones and Blancos (which came highly recommended by Josh and Tim – the two trainee tour guides on our Bali tour who had worked here for three months), but the rest of the night is a blur to be honest.

You haven’t had a great time if you didn’t end up throwing everything back up in the hotel toilet, right? That was me. Emily had to look after me and put me to bed.

The day after was a write off, not only from nursing the worst possible hangover but also from the torrential rain falling throughout the day.

Day trip to Maya Bay & Pi Leh Lagoon

One of the most popular day trips from either the Phi Phi Islands or Phuket is a visit to another of Thailand’s most famous beaches, Maya Bay. If you’ve ever watched Leonardo DiCaprio star in The Beach before, then you’ll definitely recognise this location.

We paid 1400 THB / £35 p/p to go on a snorkelling and sunset day trip departing from Koh Phi Phi at 11:00 AM. The first stops were at Monkey Beach (there were literally only three monkeys) and Rantee Bay – our first snorkelling location of the day.

Over lunch we relaxed on Bamboo Island’s golden sandy beach where I spent the next hour watching the world go by. Later, we snorkelled again at Loh Samah Bay. Here, we came across a school of fish all chasing each other. God knows what they were doing.

We then jumped off the boat to swim around the stunning inlet of Pi Leh Lagoon. The water here was a mesmerising emerald colour.

The highlight of the day came when we went around to Maya Bay. The beach was incredibly busy when we arrived, but by 17:00 PM it was much more bearable. We took dozens of photos and in the end were happy with at least a few! Leonardo DiCaprio eat your heart out.

To finish what was a thoroughly enjoyable day, the captain moored the boat at the top of Maya Bay for us to watch what was another incredible sunset.

By now it was dark and getting cold, but Em took up the opportunity of going back into the water to snorkel with plankton. She described how she felt like she was “swimming with fairies”.

Ko Phi Phi > Ao Nang

Today, we got a speed boat from Ko Phi Phi to Ao Nang, a resort town in Krabi Province where we spent the next couple of nights. This was a welcome change from partying on the Phi Phi Islands.

In the afternoon, I sunbathed in 30+ºC heat on Ao Nang Beach whilst Em got a full body massage. I’ve never been fussed on getting one at home or in South East Asia, but most people (including Emily) rave about them.

Railay Beach

On our last day before leaving for the islands on the east coast of Thailand, we got a long-tail boat over to Railay Beach, a small peninsula between Krabi and Ao Nang. This is one of the most beautiful beaches we’ve set foot on.

I’m really glad we hired a kayak for an hour in order to paddle around some of the limestone cliffs because the backdrop everywhere we looked was insane.

In Part II of our Thailand Island Hopping experience, we’ll spend three nights on Koh Samui, Koh Tao and finally on Ko Pha Ngan – in time for the monthly full moon party!

As always, if you’d like to keep up-to-date with our adventure, you can either enter your email at the bottom of this article to receive instant notifications every time I post a new blog; click the Follow ‘Al’ Around The World link, or drop me a follow on Twitter at @AlecW95 or on Instagram at @AlecW95 or @alatw95.

Alternatively, you can follow Emily on her travelling TikTok account at @emstraveladventure.

Thanks for reading, until the next time…


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