August 8, 2012
We were very excited that our good friend Hamid was visiting us in Phuket so we decided to take a boat tour of the Hongs in Phang Nga Bay. At first we were looking at different tours that were specifically for kayaking that would allow us to paddle, not have someone paddle us around since we all have experience kayaking. However, after investigating several different companies we decided to go with a company that paddled for us and we were the passengers. Our decision was based on cost, amount of time to kayak and suggestions from the various tour agencies. The prices of self kayaking tours were significantly higher yet you were only allowed about 3 hours or less time of actually kayaking. The remaining time was spent getting there and transferring from one hong to the next. The hongs are hollowed out rooms inside the limestone karsts.
We chose the Sunset Sea Canoe tour and the cost was 1800 baht/person after a lot of haggling. Yet, we still think this was too much for what we actually got. The tour picked us up from our hotel at 10:00 AM and transferred us to the Ao Por Pier (which took about 1 hour) where we boarded the boat to Phang Nga Bay. We waited at the pier for about 30 minutes before the remaining tourists arrived, a large group of Chinese tourists. The journey was about one hour and they served us water, soda and rambutan fruit.
When we finally reached the first hong, Hamid asked if we could jump of the boat and f course, since this is Thailand, they didn’t care. So off Hamid went. I couldn’t let him have all the fun so I jumped in as well. Many of the other tourists on board looked at us as if we were crazy. We tried to convince one of them to jump in as well, but no luck.
For each rubber kayak there were one or two passengers and the paddler. We have to give those paddlers some credit as they maneuvered us through narrow passageways (cave-like tunnels) with very low ceilings without bumping into any of the walls. The walls of the caves were intricately carved by mother nature into wave like patterns and all appeared to be in pristine condition.
Once inside the hong it was like being in a deserted world where the water was perfectly calm and shallow with mangrove trees growing in the center. We were told that monkeys live in the cliffs but did not see any but there were several sea hawks circling above Since it was low tide we were able to walk around inside the hong which only had about .5 meters of water high. We spent about 30 minutes in the first hong and did the touristy thing by taking plenty of photos.
After a short boat ride we were at the second hong but this time we were not able to walk around since the water was much deeper. However, that didn’t stop Hamid from taking a dip. This hong was much larger than the first and had two entrances, so we entered from one end and exited from the other. Similar to the first hong, It also had a lot of natural beauty with razor sharp rock formations and towering karsts. All of us agreed that this one was much more scenic due to the towering cliffs and separate small island karats. Since we didn’t get to walk around we were just paddled and I think we spent less time in this hong than the first.
After the second hong, we had a buffet lunch that consisted of a variety of seafood including fried shrimp, steamed crab and a fried fish dish. Also an assortment of noodles, rice and tom yum soup was served. Overall the food was good but not great, but there was enough to go around for everyone. There was still plenty of soda and bottled water for everyone as well. As lunch was wrapping up the crew made an announcement that tips were appreciated for the cooks but it wasn’t necessary. However, the cooks came around with a tip jar and practically stood in front of every person until they deposited a tip!
Soon after eating we headed back to port but we thought we were going to a location for sunset, since the cruise was called a “sunset tour”. However, that was not the case and were told it was out of season. We felt a little cheated since we were not told of this ahead of time. Also, for the price we were certain now that we overpaid. All we got was a visit to two hongs for a total of about one hour of kayak time and a buffet lunch. The rest of the time was spent transporting us to Phang Nga Bay, which is a beautiful journey, but any tour you take out here would be just as nice.
As we pulled into the dock the crew started going around suggesting tips as well but they didn’t get any from us! Overall, this tour goes into the not recommended list. Do your homework and check with many different kiosks. If you are looking for a more all-around-tour, we recommend to take a James Bond Island tour which will take you to hongs as well and include a buffet lunch and of course James Bond Island. You should be able to get this tour for a lower price.