Phangnga Bay – Krabi, Thailand

An Obstacle Course of Limestone Monoliths

James Bond fans might recall Phangnga Bay as the spectacular island setting for The Man with the Golden Gun, much of which was filmed on Koh Phing Kan, and which Westerners have ever since referred to as James Bond Island. Cinematic fame aside, this spectacular profu­sion of sheer limestone mountain peaks rising from the Andaman Sea’s pistachio-green waters is one of the world’s most beautiful nat­ural phenomena.

Located just off the southern Thai coast, near Krabi, the bay’s sharp out­croppings reach up 1,000 feet, many covered by dense mounds of jungle and some shaped like animals (Koh Ma Chu, or Little Dog Island) or other familiar objects (Koh Khai, or Egg Island). On a gray day, these islands, with their tiny lagoons and mangrove swamps, have the mystical aura of Chinese watercolors. Many of the humped and jagged islets are riddled with caves and caverns embellished with stalactites and stalagmites. Idyllic beaches and fishing villages built on stilts can be explored by sea canoe or long-tailed boats.

Accessible only by boat through the bay’s towering karst outcroppings, the Rayavadee Premier Resort is nestled within a tropical rain forest on Cape Phra Nang, populated by wild monkeys and exotic bird life. It’s one of the world’s most unusual hotel locations. The resort was built on a shady coconut plantation, which was left virtually undisturbed during the eco-sensitive construction of 100 hexag­onal two-story pavilions.

No less than three beaches, lapped by the Andaman Sea, sur­round the property, and are its uncontestable highlight. One of them, the powder-white Phra Nang beach, has been declared by cogno­scenti to be one of the most beautiful in the world, and certainly one of the nicest in Asia.

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