Islands are metaphors of the heart, no matter what poet says otherwise.
Some places inspire in you all kinds of stories. When you find out about them, you feel like they’ve been there from the time when no man set foot on them yet. They were whispered by the wind that blows between the rocks, until some old man with a long tongue heard them and passed them on.
For example, have you ever heard of Khao Phing Kan? What about Ko Tapu? These are some places in Thailand, but you will surely have already forgotten their names by the time you read this line all through.
Let me tell you the story, and by the end of it you’ll want to go there. Or at least you’ll have a story to pass on for yourself.
On this page:
The bay from another world
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the name “Thailand”? Thai boxing? Thai massage? Thai women?
Beyond all these, Thailand is a beautiful country. It can’t just be one of the most popular tourist destinations for nothing. In 2014, Bangkok ranked as the 4th most visited city in the world 1)”Top 100 City Destinations Ranking” by Caroline Bremner, article published in Euromonitor on 28th January 2016.
In Southern Thailand, in the long Strait of Malacca (which separates the Andaman Sea from the South China Sea), you can find the Phang Nga Bay.
This region has a particular beauty and it represents a major touristic attraction. From below the waters emerge a great number of islets and it is a genuine delight to boat among them.
But no matter how numerous these islets may seem to you, they are nothing but a small part of those who are “spread” throughout Thailand.
The Phang Nga Bay seems cut out from another world. George Lucas found the area similar to Kashyyyk, the home planet of Chewbacca, as it appears in “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith”.
Where is Khao Phing Kan?
One of the islands of the Phang Nga Bay is Khao Phing Kan. Actually, you can consider them as being two siamese islands – united by some sort of a natural bridge: a small, stylish beach, which is at the right place.
In Thai language, “Khao Phing Kan” means “the hills who bend one toward the other”. You’ve already got the picture. Only that the “hills” are some limy rocks with caves and covered by vegetation.
Now, don’t imagine a large island. It’s no more than a few hundred meters, which are not that accessible whatsoever. But everything is neatly prepared for the modern tourist (almost too neatly). You’ve got space no more than placing a tax booth and a few souvenir shops. Which means it has everything it needs.
The legend of Ko Tapu
Khao Phing Kan is beautiful, but Ko Tapu is spectacular. You can see it from a small beach between the hills.
In Thai language, “Ko” means island. And you’ve never seen an island like Ko Tapu. It is the star of the area.
The bizarre island is 4 m in diameter at sea level, but it raises 8 m toward the top. It has the shape of a wooden stake. Actually, “Tapu” means “nail”.
According to the legend, in bygone days, there lived a very skilled fisherman. Every time he went fishing, he came back with his boat full of fish. Until, one day, he caught in his trawl nothing more than a… nail. He threw it back in the sea and he spread his trawl once again. But, surprise: he caught the same nail once more. He was much bewildered, but he threw the nail even further in the sea. But this episode repeated itself several times. The goddamned nail was ending in his trawl again and again. And no sign of fish. Mad with rage, the fisherman drew out his sword and hit the nail, in a desperate attempt to destroy it. He managed to cut it in two. Half flew away and got stucked on the bottom of the sea. As if by magic, there appeared the island of Ko Tapu.
The scientists came up with a different version:
Million years ago, in the Permian era, in that region there used to be a barrier reef. When the tectonic plates waged war on one another, the barrier reef fell an innocent victim to them. It was broken and scattered to the four winds. The parts that emerged from the water became islands of different shapes and sizes. After that, the winds and the waves carved them with the skill of an artist! This can be best observed in the bottom part of them, especially in the case of Ko Tapu.
The Golden Gun
What would a James Bond movie be without some spectacular places?!
In “The Man with the Golden Gun”, the well-known movie from 1974, James Bond (played by Roger Moore) is after his enemy, Francisco Scaramanga (played by the great actor Christopher Lee) 5)”The Man with the Golden Gun” in IMDb. Towards the end of the movie, James Bond arrives by hydroplane to Scaramanga’s island, where the latter kept his powerful solar electric system capable of solving the energetic problems of human kind. Here are some sequences from the movie:
Did you recognize where the footage was shot?!
Exactly: Khao Phing Kan.
That was all the inhabitants of the region needed! Maybe the legend of the fisherman is old and original, but nobady’s coming all the way to the island just for the sake of it!
Do I have to remind you that, in the movie, the island belonged to Scaramanga? But who cares about Scaramanga?! Forget about him, he was just a villain, anyway! And that’s how, by means of a subtle transfer of properties, it became James Bond Island.
Since then, the tourists have been coming there in great number, even greater than those who visit Dracula’s castle. The places are still the same, they were worth visiting before the movie as well, but it’s a different story now. And “James Bond” is a magical name: it opens wallets (not only the shirt buttons of beautiful women). It’s like an “Open, Sesame!” for tourists.
But… which one is James Bond Island?!
As you can see in the movie, the action takes place at Khao Phing Kan. This is the island which got the nickname of James Bond Island on behalf of the Thai people.
It’s time to put yourself in the shoes of an ordinary tourist: confounded by all the new places he has visited, sun-stroked by the scorching sun and suffocated by the tropical heat. He gets to that marvelous place, he comes down to the beach and what does he see?
Ko Tapu! Wow! Click-clack!
Back home, your friends ask you: “Have you seen James Bond Island?” – you immediately think about what you saw and it’s worth mentioning: Ko Tapu. You show them pictures, with Ko Tapu, of course: the one on the small beach of James Bond Island, where you were crammed between two hillsides. It’s not easy to take a memorable picture without Ko Tapu as being a part of it!
That’s why more and more tourists (and not only them) have come to – wrongly – assume that James Bond Island is actually Ko Tapu. Not that the Thai people would consider this an existential problem.
Fantasizing about Ko Tapu
Small as it is, Ko Tapu has a strong personality.
Beautiful and inaccessible – an irresistible mixture for every onlooker, be it only a virtual one.
The island stirred the imagination of many people. Among these, some with very good Photoshop skills. And there were plenty others who believed such photos to be real. When you want to believe it, you believe it.
As you can see, the local stories are not as steady as you might think. They are constantly changing according to the world we live in. And the world is changing faster and faster. (It’s easy to criticize, but wouldn’t you do the same?) It’s also about the other half of the “participants” in this game: the tourists. They go there to have fun and relax. For them, the story with James Bond works marvellously. They connect well with it, they can transpose themselves in it for a few moments. And those exotic places serve this purpose accordingly.
Anyway, James Bond Island is a place that is worth seeing. Just bear in mind that is better to avoid the season between May and October, when it rains abundantly.
Have a nice trip! But, until then, you can make a virtual tour first:
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References [ + ]
|1.||↑||”Top 100 City Destinations Ranking” by Caroline Bremner, article published in Euromonitor on 28th January 2016|
|2.||↑||”Historical Dictionary of Thailand” by Gerald W. Fry, Gayla S. Nieminen and Harold E. Smith, book published by Scarecrow Press in 2013|
|3.||↑||”Siam Officially Renamed Thailand” by Richard Cavendish, article published in History Today on 5th May 1999|
|4.||↑||”How the original Siamese twins had 21 children by two sisters… while sharing one (reinforced) bed” by Tom Leonard, article published in Daily Mail on 7th November 2014|
|5.||↑||”The Man with the Golden Gun” in IMDb|