THAILAND – James Bond Island aka Khao Phing Kan // The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) & Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
James Bond Island is the main attraction at Phang Nga Bay. We found an individual way to experience the hideout from “The Man With The Golden Gun”.
“Go to James Bond Island!”, shouted the young Thai at Phuket airport, offering tickets for a trip to a needle shaped island. “Wanna visit James Bond Island?”, asked the travel agent along notorious Bangla Road in Patong. “Let’s go to James Bond Island!”, offered even the tourist guides at Phukets beautiful old colonial town. The whole island of Phuket all fancies this one place: James. Bond. Island! And that is due to a visit by some adventurous filmmakers some 40 years ago.
Why Bond was here
In 1974 the Bond production crew flew to Thailand to shoot scenes for “The Man With The Golden Gun” in both Bangkok and the Andaman Sea. Producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli saw an oddly shaped island in a magazine and just wanted to be there – its name is Khao Phing Kan. Now known as James Bond Island.
Bond (Roger Moore) is on the trails of Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), a superb marksman, who operates from the remote island. So Bond flies down, crash-lands his plane and gets ready for the duel. In the movie, the island is not supposed to be in Thailand though, a still from a map suggests Halong Bay in the northeast of Vietnam.
Twenty years later, another Bond (Pierce Brosnan) comes back – and again James Bond Island doubles for Halong Bay: In “Tomorrow Never Dies”, Bond and his Chinese partner Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) try to bring down the media mogul Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce). He drowns Chinese and British war ships with his stealth boat off the coast of China – triggering a Third World War. So Bond and Wai Lin travel to halong Bay to infiltrate Carvers boat and thwart the plan.
Both, the real Halong Bay off Vietnam and Phang Nga Bay, are cramped with beautiful limestone karsts. The islands soar majestically out of the blue waters, hiding small sand beaches beneath. The unique scenery makes them famous tourist spots – and James Bond Island aka Khao Phing Kan stands out as one of the highlights.
How you gonna get to James Bond Island
The island is one of – or even the one – tourist attraction of southern Thailand. You will find numerous operating tours – both from Phuket and Krabi. They all include a drive to Phang Nga National Park, a boat trip, canoeing, lunch at a Muslim fisher village and the visit of several islands, including Khao Phing Kan.
The problem is: If you book one, it will be neither cheap nor special. A tour costs between 2800 and 3500 Baht per person. A driver will pick you up around 9 am at your hotel and together with hundreds of other tourists you’ll be on James Bond Island around noon. But there are two other options for a more private visit.
How to get to James Bond Island on a budget – or with an exclusive private tour:
- Try to make your way up to the island individually. A local bus from Phuket costs around 100 Baht and takes two hours up to Phang Nga, a trip from Krabi is similar. At Phang Nga, you need to enter the national park and hire a longtail boat. Depending on your bargaining skills, it will cost between 1500 to 2000 Baht. Then there is a small entry fee on James Bond Island, 300 Baht per person. In total, two person can make the trip for less then 3000 Baht.
- Book a private tour to James Bond Island – but head out early morning. Those tours offer the same as the tourist tours, but you have the longtail boat for your own. Thus you can start of as early as 6 am – and be on Khao Phing Kan around 8 am already. The sun is up, but the other tourists haven’t even started. Prices for a private tour range from 8000 to 10.000 Baht.
As we were traveling with our six months old daughter, we opted for the private tour, but excluded trips to other islands and the fisher village. We spend two hours on Khao Phing Kan, and found an almost empty beach. When we left, the number of selfie taking influencers had increased by the tenfold. We paid 8000 Baht, including the island fee – our operator was the well-organized Raina Tours.
See some more impressions from our trip to James Bond Island:
Good to know
James Bond Island actually consists of two islands: The main one is Khao Phing Kan. It is the one, where Bond crash-lands and Scaramanga built his hideout into the mountains. More famous is the smaller one off the coast – the characteristic needle. It is named Khao Ta Pu, which means “needle island” in Thai.
Khao Phing Kan is pretty small, and gets smaller, the more people come for their selfies. There is no hidden lair, but only some tourist stalls. And there is no broad beach just a small strip. But feel not discouraged. The real adventure is not to be on the island, but rather to reach it.
The scenic drive through Phang Nga Bay in the morning mist is just wonderful. The limestone islands rise up like ancient dinosaurs. When the driver steers the boat along, you will most likely feel peace and awe.
Phuket – a must or a miss?
We opted for a stay on Phuket itself and not for one of the remote islands in the Phang Nga Bay like Koh Yao Noi. The islands sure are beautiful, but a trip to Scaramanga and Nick Nack from there is far more expensive as they are much more exclusive.
Nonetheless we had a relaxing stay at “The Marina” – a fairly stylish hotel with a nice rooftop pool and a convenient beach shuttle. The closest beach is Patong – quite touristy – but still beautiful.
In the evening the area around Patong Beach gets even more bustling and almost annoyingly loud. You find plenty of restaurants for every taste. But as the adventurers that we (still) are, we went the other way into the “residential area” north of the center. Especially around Nurul Islam Mosque are plenty of local food stalls, which serve the most delicious Thai food – noodle soups, duck with steamed rice and some quite tasty chicken feet. With 50 Baht for a dish you get a real bang for your buck.
If you stay on the island Phuket, don’t miss the city Phuket. Local blue busses (30 Baht a trip) roam every beach and bring you to the center of Phuket’s old town – a small area with narrow lanes and old colonial houses. The most beautiful houses are along Thalang Road, Krabi Road and Dibuk Road. Some need renovation, others are already painted with pastel-colored facades and now house hip cafés, clothing stores and coffee joints. Try out Eleven Two & Co. for a nice rest and some iced latte.
We really enjoyed our trip to Khao Phing Kan and the Phang Nga Bay – especially as it was the first Bond location for our daughter. Sure, she probably won’t remember much – but we do. And isn’t taking your baby for her first splish-splash experience in the open sea not quite special in front of the unique sight of Scaramanga’s beautiful island hideout?
© 2019 Huntingbond (1,4,5), © 1974 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. and Danjaq, LLC. (2) © Danjaq LLC. & United Artists Pictures, an MGM Company (3)