The flight from Hong Kong arrived in Phuket near midnight last night, so our drive to Serenity Resort in Rawai was very dark. The island looked pretty bleak at night – we weren’t really sure what we’d gotten in to. But I’d seen many beautiful pictures and our resort’s website was fantastic, so I knew everything would better in the morning.
While researching sightseeing options in Phuket, I knew I wanted to explore Phang Nga Bay. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of the massive limestone islands that have been carved by the ocean. The James Bond movie Man with the Golden Gun and The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio were filmed in the bay. The area can get crowded with tour boats and snorkelers, so I wanted to find something more authentic and off the beaten path. I chose John Gray’s Sea Canoe, their Hong by Starlight trip. Hongs (the Thai word for rooms) are formed when the roof of a sea cave collapses. The hong may be dry at low tide and a lagoon at high tide. You may enter and exit the lagoon by canoeing through tunnels when the tide is just right – too high and there’s no clearance, too low and there’s not enough water.
Our driver picked us up around noon and drove us to the pier in Ao Po. As we cruised to the first hong, we had a light Thai lunch and the staff gave us a safety briefing. The trip was catered with fantastic food prepared on the boat – fresh fish, fruit, noodles, and cashew chicken – and drinks were included. Everything was well organized and the guides were extremely friendly. We arrived at the first hong just as the rest of the other boats were leaving. We explored three hongs and then had time to swim and canoe as the sun set. We floated through tunnels whose ceilings were covered in bats and even saw a family of monkeys playing on the beach! While the crew fixed dinner, our guides helped us build a khratong – a small raft built of elaborately folded banana leaves, flowers, candles, and incense sticks. Thais believe the khratong honors and pays respect to the goddess of water. After a fantastic dinner we climbed into our canoes again. I couldn’t even see the opening to the hong, it was so dark! The tunnel ceiling was so low we had to lay down in the canoe and we almost scraped our noses! The stars and moon opened over the hong – it was breathtaking. Making our offering in the bioluminescent bay was so peaceful. This was a highlight of my trip.