Thursday 16 February: I'm staying in a light, spacious and airy, large-windowed room in the teak-floored Thawisuk Hotel (180Bt), far better value than the places listed in my guidebook which also describes Phang Nga as "a scruffy, luckless town . . . lacking quality accommodation . . . that doesn't have a tourist office". I like it here, I like my hotel, and the lady in the tourist office, in the south part of town, is very helpful, giving me good advise and a free map (there's not one in my book).
Walking further south and under a cavernous arch I reach a small park with a pretty lake set beneath the area's jaggy limestone pinnacles. Back towards town is the, only slightly tacky, Heaven and Hell cave temple which has a good fun entrance through the mouth of a brightly painted dragon - teeth as jagged as the mountains above. Winding back-and-forth over little arched bridges the path leads into the depths of the stream-floored cavern where eerie recorded sounds echo from the distant blackness . . . ooooh . . . ooooh. It makes me snicker out loud, only adding to the strange echoing noises.
Friday 17: My main reason for staying in town is to take a full-day boat trip around Phang Nga Bay and to this end Mr Kean Tours (probably not the best operator - I've done this trip before and it was far better) has already collared me at the bus station (550Bt for the tour). This morning I'm off: pick-up transfer to Tha Dan pier, mangrove forests, Lod Cave, Hong Island and Panak Island for lunch and a swim, then on our way back we tie up on the highlight of the tour, Ping Kan Island, before docking at Panyee Island Muslim fishing village, passing some rock paintings and returning to town. Ping Kan Island is better known worldwide as James Bond Island as featured as the villain's lair in the final scenes of the movie of Ian Fleming's twelfth and final spy novel, The Man with the Golden Gun, first published in 1965. You can just imagine Roger Moor as MI6's top "007" agent, on the sandy beach, Walther PPK in hand, facing up to duel with Christopher Lee's crazed arch-enemy character, Scaramanger, and who can forget bikini-clad Brit Ekland, as agent Midnight, sun-bathing below the limestone stake poking out of Koh Hong's crescent bay? Good day out.
Photos of Phang Nga.