Nestled between Phuket’s eastern coast and the mainland and with echoes of the vast limestone karst seascape of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, the substantial and unusual natural structures that blissfully inhabit the calm sea of Phang Nha Marine National Park cover an area of 400 sq. Kilometres (155 sq. miles).


Visually impressive, the most famous of these myriad islands is Ko Ping Kan, whose extraordinary beauty found its way into the Bond movie as Scaramanga's scenic hideout in ‘The man with the golden gun.’

A later Bond film, ‘Tomorrow never dies’, also scenically featured Phang Nha Bay, although it is described in the film's plot as Ha Long bay, Phang Nha’s sister seascape in Vietnam, for which it was substituted due to difficulties in filming in Vietnam at the time of production.

The bay's amazing photogenic mystery also appeared to great effect, along with China's Guilin, as the backdrop to the Wookiee world of Kashyyyk, in Star wars: episode III, Revenge of the Sith, though the CGI overlay makes recognition less obvious.

Popular sights worthy of a visit are Khao Khien, for the ancient art painted on its cave walls, Tham Lod for its low level stalactite sea cave, and the stilt village at Ko Panyi, jutting out to sea beneath the cliffs.

Worth visiting even just for the voyage around its unusual forms, which can easily be done in a day from Phuket or Krabi, there is also the possibility of a more relaxed tour with an overnight stay at Ko Panyi, though the accommodation is basic. If the moon is in a suitable phase and the sky clear, the experience can be utterly enthralling. Another alternative is to enjoy a four or seven day cruise, visiting the features of the bay in prolonged relaxation.

For longer stays in Phang Nha Bay, at the southern end of the National Park are the two larger islands of Ko Yao Yai and Ko Yao Noi, the latter of which, aside from more budget options is home to one of Thailand’s most expensive resorts.

As the sea in Phang Nha Bay is almost always calm, another possibility is to hire a sea kayak, giving not only a more private view of the bays wonders, but also leisurely access to its caves, overhangs and hidden lagoons.