Well, it is nearing close to home departure for some Christmas Celebrations (only 6 days to go!) so I made up my mind that I couldn’t really be leaving without seeing more of Thailand (I’ve only ever seen Pattaya and Bangkok and I’ve been here 4times!).
I therefore got the tickets, contacted a recommended accommodation and packed my backpack to set off to Phuket to see the James Bond Island (real name: Phang Nga Bay). For anyone thinking of doing the same trip, below is my travel itinerary and summary of the trip:
I took the bus at 6pm Fri with Sawasdee, a bus company with its office in North Pattaya. You can buy the tickets there either before or on the day. The bus was not packed when I went. It’s 900B something for the regular seats and 1200B something for the VIP seats. The VIP seats is in a closed compartment with only six seats which all can be leaned back with foot support so you got space to stretch out. The bus in general had a pretty decent standard, just bring an extra jumper as it gets freezing cold (even with the extra blanket given) because of the air-con.
We arrived in Phuket at Sat 8am (there was one stop at a food station during the evening). From there I took a taxi to Bang Rong Pier. Remember to bring a lot of cash on a trip like this, as you will be short of ATMs and some prices might come as a surprise – this taxi was 500B. It was a semi-long drive mind; made even longer by the driver having hiccups but no humour at all.
At Bang Rong Pier I had to ask my way to the correct boat for Koh Yao Noi Island and Manoh Pier (mostly because my taxi driver took his money and spun off before I could give him my regular I’m-lost-and-new-and-little-please-help-me-puppy-dog-eyes). Few knew the pier, but they knew the island. I thus got on a speed boat where we paid 200B for the ticket once we were in.
The boat ride took half an hour along beautiful scenery. You can’t believe how nice it is to finally see greens and ocean after all the time in the tin can that is Pattaya. This is Thailand. Pattaya is not. Pattaya has let tourism business swallow itself. Once arrived on the Manhoe Pier, the taxi drivers flocked around me to ask where I was going. One knew of the Hill House at Thakao Bay Beach so I went with him. The taxi cost 150B, but he let me pay 140B as he didn’t have change.
Arriving at Hill House I was met with the welcoming, wonderful and most helpful staff and management that is the Hill House Team. The owner’s wife showed me to my own Bungalow (1000B) which was stunning with kingsize bed and a beautiful view from the hammock outside on the veranda. Not going to lie, places like this makes you really wish you were traveling with someone special 😅 I’d definitely recommend this trip for couples! 😉
As soon as I was ready, Don, the owner, took me along on a longtail boat-trip to see the James Bond Island. The tour cost 3500B and for the JBI I would believe most people who have been there will say that it’s not worth it. On its own it isn’t. It’s a really tiny island with the one famous rock and a bunch load of tourists. The add-on entrance fee to see the rock was an extra 200B. However, the rest of the trip was completely worth the money!!
I had the entire longtail boat front for myself and was served fruits, seated on a mattress and propped up by pillows so I could watch (read: take a nap) the islands as we went by. I felt like a darling Queen of Narnia and as if perceived as a royal by all the tourists looking up and pointing as we pulled in to the shores (Yeah. I’m a pretty big deal.. “Smile and wave, smile and wave”, your highness).
We stopped at three stops before JBI to see the most amazing caves and the mango tree areas they lead to. It was like rediscovering old urban myths and forgotten places that looked completely untouched. A monkey family came to say hello as well once all the other tourists had gone. It made me laugh thinking if we’d been Scholars Girls on tour we would have been forced to just leave my dear friend Catrin there with em.
After JBI we stopped to see another three places, one with a big tree and two lagoons to have a delicious packed lunch (included in the tour price) and a swim (I also think we were close to discovering the Batcave, but considering Ebola I was quicker to run out of there like Ace Ventura in Nature Calls than to see if they’d give me some Batman mojo).
Not gonna lie, I was totally pretending I was a stranded Elizabeth Swan or Pocahontas as I swam below the astonishing rock formations of the islands (I wish I could tell you the names but no matter how many times I tried to take them down I just couldn’t get it right). Like mentioned, the trip was completely worth the 3500B and Don was such a wonderful, helpful, english understanding and patient guide that I will 100% recommend staying at Hill House and book the longtail boat-trip with him if you want to do the same journey. I think you’ll get a lot more included than from other places around, although I can’t confirm this for certain. I really didn’t care that the rum was gone.
I believe my heart cried a little when leaving Koh Yao Noi; it’s caribbean looking beaches, urban bungalow community and peaceful way of living is something I very much prefer to Pattaya or any tin can city for that matter.
Although I love what I do and completely respect and am humble to my responsibilities as a volunteer, it was still really good to step into the shoes of a traveller again and just go my own way onto the roads of solitude and beyond. It probably was the most dangerous adventure I’ve had in Thailand; a dozen scenarios of what could have gone wrong have gone through my head before, during and after. However, the worst that actually happened to me was a bad case of sunburn. I didn’t even get sexually approached/harassed or anything like that like in Pattaya and Cardiff. I do love that about solo travelling. It teaches you that you got to risk some to win some, and, more often than not, you’ll learn that there are always something dangerous and always something good wherever you are.
Today’s interesting note: To help myself feel a bit safer taking a bus through an unknown area and for the sake of precaution, I take a photo of the bus’ number plate and send to people who can take immediate action if I don’t send the confirmation message that I’ve arrived safely and something might have happened.