When it comes to eye-popping landscapes and city streets that evoke exotic, deadly intrigue, Hollywood’s go-to country for Asian locations may very well be Thailand. The kingdom boasts a variety of terrain—everything from thick jungles and vaulting limestone mountains to broad, bone-white beaches and chaotic, neon-drenched urban cores—as well as competent, relatively inexpensive movie crews.
That camera-friendly mix has been on display for nearly 40 years, ever since The Man With the Golden Gun (1974), the ninth installment of the James Bond franchise, filmed extensively in Thailand. There was the boat chase through the klongs (canals) of Bangkok, the karate school in nearby Samut Prakan province, but the real show-stopper was Scaramanga’s lair in the otherworldy archipelago of Phang-nga Bay on Thailand’s Andaman Sea coastline. The dramatic limestone island of Ko Khao Phing Kan lies about 20 miles northeast of Phuket and is notable for a massive section of rock that has cleanly sheared off—the result of thousands of years of undercutting erosion—and now leans against the remaining mountain. Punctuating the island’s small cove is the pillar of Koh Tapu (“Nail Island”), now commonly known as “James Bond Island” by every tour operator in Phuket.