Have you ever been to a place that is so stunningly beautiful you just can’t put it into words? One of these places for us was Phang Nga Bay in Thailand and the best way to experience it is on a canoe or kayaking tour.
We’re traveling on a budget and it’s rare that we decide to spend a significant part of our travel budget on guided tours, but one of the best decisions we have made on this trip so far was our decision to book a trip for $110 a person with John Gray Sea Canoe.
$110 is definitely on the more expensive side for a tour in Thailand; however, John Gray Sea Canoe ensured that the trip was worth every penny. Included in this price was the tour and transportation itself, a light lunch of stir fried noodles, fruit and beverages, wet bags to ensure cameras stayed safe and dry, tour guides and the best authentic Thai dinner we’ve ever eaten.
Our day consisted of sailing to three to different locations where our local tour guides expertly guided us around the bay and through the caves into the center of the limestone karsts, also known as hongs or lagoons. At first, we were a little disappointed that we were unable to paddle by ourselves, but we very quickly realized we would have been exhausted 10 minutes in and we were very thankful we had an experienced guide paddling for us.
Our guide, Bow, and our friends’ guides really made the trip worthwhile. They were all very friendly and were able to put up with our group of eight as well as our rather rambunctious personalities. Despite being on a tour with 30 other tourists, our guides made an effort to keep us with our friends and made us feel like we were on our own private tour where we could enjoy the beautiful scenery in peace.
The landscape in this area was breathtaking and by far the most beautiful place that we have been in our six months of travel around the world. We were able to see the area from afternoon to nightfall and once the sun started setting, our surroundings took on a warm golden color that reflected off the already beautiful limestone karsts and the surrounding ocean. During our dinner, we watched the sun set through the evening clouds.
The best part of this trip for me was the opportunity to experience traditions from one of Thailand’s most important yearly festivals, Loy Krathong. Loy Krathong is a festival held in November where the Thais build small floats made out of banana tree trunks decorated with flowers, folded banana leaves, incense and candles. Once nightfall hits, the candles are lit, wishes are made and the floats are released into the water.
Although, the official date of the ceremony had already passed when we went on our tour, each guide helped his group create their own unique Krathong. Ours consisted of the usual flowers, banana leaves and some handcrafted birds made out of budding orchids. Once nightfall hit, we hopped onto our canoes one last time and we entered one of the smallest caves we had been in. We were all forced to lie flat in the canoe as our faces almost touched the top of the jagged cave. After a few moments, we were relieved to enter the open hong. The lagoon was pitch black except for a few headlamps and the thousands of stars in the night sky above. We circled around in our group and our guides helped us light the candles on our Krathongs. After making a wish, we released them into the water where they floated until the candles fizzled out.
On our way back, our guide turned off his headlamp and told us to stick our hands in the water. Reluctantly we complied and to our amazement, our hands were covered in tiny blue sparkling particles. He informed us that this was the bioluminescent plankton, that when disturbed by motion, glow neon blue. We rode back in silence as we dragged our hands in the water and watched our fingers leave behind a stream of blue glitter in the pitch-black water.
Our evening ended with an hour-long boat ride back where we enjoyed lounging on the bow of the boat and gazing at the millions of stars visible above the dark ocean. It was the perfect ending to an amazing day. Thank you John Gray Sea Canoe for such an amazing day!
I am not associated with this company, but it was such a great experience, that we just have to recommend it to other tourists and travelers. Interested in booking a trip of your own? Check out John Gray Sea Canoe’s website here. We booked the Hong by Starlight tour, but they also have a number of other packages to take into consideration and I can only imagine that these are just as spectacular.
Thanks for reading.