Was in the hotel lobby waiting for the van at 7 am, he was on the late end of the 7:10-7:30 scale, there was one passenger already, and we made three more stops (one of which we waited 10 minutes for a group of Indians who could not get their butts in gear) then a horrible too-rushed drive to the bay. The van had air conditioning, the driver did not know how to turn it on. No openable windows, no places to hold onto (these vans usually have hand grabs above the doors). When the Indians are using hand towels to wipe the sweat off, you know it's too warm.
The first passenger was a very tall woman, Russian probably, nice figure, but as soon as we got off the van she lit up a cigarette. Boo hiss. We were deposited at a place with a nice little reception area indoors, but it was not air conditioned and you had to take your shoes off. I was happy enough outside on the benches with a nice breeze and under a roof (in case it rained). We waited for 45 minutes before being called to the boats. It was a 1/4-mile walk - a very long pier - which they had a free transport to, but didn't tell us. It only passed us by once.
Good sturdy double deck boat, upper deck for passengers, lower deck for staff and about 30 inflatable canoes, all inflated, which we had to circumnavigate to get on board. One look at the canoes told me I would not be going on one.
Once aboard, our guide introduced herself as Nuch, (noosh) and she launched into The Rules with very clear articulation, actually recognizable as English. Mostly. Whoever wrote the script needed to be hit upside th head a few times, because some critical idioms were messed up. For instance, she wanted to say "don't wear shoes or sandals on the canoe" but the script said "put your shoes on board". As in "on board the big boat." And for the buffet, the script said "go by yourself" instead of "help yourself". Not her fault. She had a mike and a good PA system and knew how to use it. No feedback, no blowing into the mike - to see if the mike was on she would make a "tock" sound with her tongue. If I needed an MC I'd hire her in a heartbeat.
Pangnga Bay is awesome, and the Thais have had the smarts to make the whole place a national park. It is several times the size of Monterey Bay, I could look it up but so can you. :-)
The hundreds of island are mostly limestone, with as much jungle growth on them as can hold on. Very green with lots of sheer cliffs, stalag[mites/tites] caves and occasional wildlife. I suppose it's because of the humidity, but the air is always hazy, which means beautiful layered effects like blue mountains, the farther a set of islands is. But when you're right there, and the sun is out, the green is GREEN and the contrasts are stunning.
The itinerary was:
-- Cruise to Pangnga Island, which has a bat cave, get on canoes and be paddled by a crew member through the cave and back. Two or three people plus one crew to a canoe, crew wear head lamps. 23 canoes this trip. It looked like fun, but I took pictures from the upper deck instead. As the canoes were being loaded with passengers, I was at the back of the boat watching below, and Nuch started teasing one of the crew, and it got really personal and really funny, and I laughed. She turned to me (so did two other Thais on board) and I said, in Thai, "yes, I speak Thai. That was very funny." Nuch is very dark skinned, but it was clear she had turned red. And now we were friends. :-) The rest of the trip I chatted with her and a very pretty and single friend who was along for the ride. Nuch is married and her son was with her (he's about 10).
-- Cruise to Ko Hong (Room Island) and canoe. Lots of overhangs, very pretty place. I stayed on board again
-- Cruise to ??? a lagoon which we got to by squeezing between a large and small island. Swimming. Which I did. I dove from the boat, expecting that cold impact, but it was like diving into a bath. Water was above skin temp, and saltwater so easy to float. I stayed out as long as I could, the sun came out from behind the clouds and that got too hot too fast. I was about to go back in when they blew the whistle.
-- Cruise to James Bond Island. Everyone but me took the long-tail boats to the tourist trap. From what I could see through the telephoto, it's best seen at a distance. Before the movie was made, it was one of the most eye-catching sets of islands in the bay, now even more so, but not for the right reasons. Nuch warned the tourists before they went that things would be expensive, and there were no returns, better to shop in town.
-- Cruise an hour and a half back to the dock
No whales, no dolphins, no flying fish, but as we were returning we passed one particular pair of islands which were more overgrown than most, and the crew started blowing whistles by the dozens. Very annoying. Until Nuch pointed to the stern of the boat - we were being chased by a flock of eagles. I have never seen so many eagles in one place, except for on Alaska news stories. The crew did a little chumming, but it was mostly the whistles which attracted the birds.
Back at the dock, this time they encouraged us to take the free ride back to the office and our vans.
Same van and driver, same sweltering heat, even after we told him to turn on the air conditioning, all he did was tell us there was a switch in the back - but that was just a weak fan, not air conditioning. Nobody tipped him.
Back at the hotel, they had not made up my room and all the housekeepers were gone for the day.
Walked down the block to Mama Restaurant where one of the staff had helped me get a taxi the other night even though I was not eating there. Very good food - small local crab with lots of black pepper, fried morning glory, fried banana and ice cream dessert. Expensive but excellent. Very good service too. At one point a large, loud Chinese group came in an took the tables next to mine, and the music changed to something loud and heavy bass beat and kind of rap, and I was about to complain, but as soon as the group left (after eating very quickly) they went back to quiet Thai easy listening music.
Processed photos, put some on FB, then to bed. Restless night, my left hand was bothering me. It had been all day.
The tour company name is Amazing Canoe
Apple (L) and Nuch. Nuch's son is behind to the right
View from the dock
Lots of caves
Close-up of Ko Hong
Launching the canoes
Canoing around Ko Hong
Entry to the swimming hole
Secluded beachfront property
James Bond Island at 200mm
James Bond Island