Our girl is a golden guide

//Our girl is a golden guide

nuni.jpgNuni was our enchanting and enthusiastic guide on an excursion from Aegean Odyssey to Thailand’s Phang Nga Bay and the much-vaunted James Bond island.
She can almost be forgiven for inadvertently disclosing a key part of the plot of Skyfall along the way. Almost.
Her lessons in Thai pronunciation were invaluable – knowing the correct way to say Phuket can be a face-saver in polite company. It’s not what you might think, and it’s not even “Puckette,” but “Pooo-ket” with a long and rising inflexion on the oo-sound.
Nuni was an invaluable help during the stop at a fruit orchard on the 90-minute drive from the ship, demonstrating how to open and eat mysterious mangosteens and rambutans, and encouraging us to taste a little of the infamous durian fruit.
Along the roadside, she showed us the pineapple farms and rubber plantations where she once worked long, hard hours tapping the trees to collect latex.
And she kept her Voyages to Antiquity charges together as we left out coach to board a traditional long-tailed boat for the trip around the bay.
The national park is a collection of limestone karst islands similar to – though subtly different from – Ha Long Bay which I visited just three weeks ago.
The rocky outcrops carry more profuse vegetation and are home to macaque monkeys (though we weren’t fortunate enough to see any) and stalactites seem to sprout from every overhang. Our boat driver killed the engine to allow us to drift quietly past one cave which passed right through a cliff, and jostled with dozens of kayaks as we floated through another even more impressive grotto.
Highlight of the morning was supposed to be Kho Tapu, the so-called James Bond island, and lair of the evil Scaramanga in The Man With The Golden Gun.
It draws 3,000 or more tourists every day – the Bond estate and the Broccoli family must wish they were able to charge royalties for making the place so famous.
But in reality it was something of a let-down. Overshadowed by much larger islands, it was a humble little rock. The shape was familiar but like so many heroes of the silver screen and television, it seemed so much smaller in real life. I can only hope Skyfall isn’t as much of a let-down after Nuni’s slip of the tongue.
Anyway, from there it was on to a sea gypsy village where a mainly Muslim community lives in houses built on stilts over the water. They must once have been fiercely independent; now they have become consumed by tourism
The village junior school is little more than a zoo for curious tourists to peer through open windows into the classrooms – and where two women carried gibbons (wearing disposable nappies) to pose with camera-happy visitors.
Thankfully, the stall holders looking after displays of cheap souvenirs were a languid lot, hardly bothering to tout for business. Which is more than can be said for the final stop of the day, at what has officially been recognised – and ISO 9001-certificated – as the largest jewelry store in the world.
An army of shop assistants waited to pounce and escort us through the store with its islands of glass cases surrounding aquariums full of tropical fish. Not surprisingly, the promise of a complimentary drink – in my case, a beer – was enough to drag me from the showroom.
The last word goes to Nuni again. With the broadest of smiles across a face that looked half her real age, she put her palms and fingers together in a gesture of greeting and farewell and said; “Thank you for visiting Thailand. If you didn’t come to my country, I would still be working in the rubber plantation.”

By | 2017-06-15T15:59:41+00:00 13 December 2012|Cruise Destinations|0 Comments

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

Leave A Comment