Pern is a lady boy. His beautifully pencilled eyebrows, full lips, gorgeous long hair clasped into a ponytail and distinctive Chanel pumps shout the fact before he ever opens his mouth; and he is also our tour guide. Plus, Pern is certainly more attractive than any woman on our tour!
It has been many years since I visited Phuket, Thailand and it was much as I remembered it. Most tourists will arrive and stay on Phuket Island and this is where the majority of commercial activity in the country takes place. Tuk Tuks, chicken buses, cars as well as children being ferried to school all hit the road at the same time of day as when the long tours begin- chaos ensues. It may be crowded and over developed but this is still a culturally rich place to visit.
A group of us are headed to Phang Na to try out the longtail boats so famous in this region. We will visit the Muslim Sea Village which is built on stilts around a limestone foundation twenty minutes from the mangrove forests of the coast. There is also a planned photo ‘stop’ to see the limestone formation called ‘James Bond Island’ as it was part of the scenery for the 1974 movie ‘Man with the Golden Gun’.
Since it was one hour and forty five minutes from the cruise port to the pier, we got a good talking to from Pern. He even spoke to us about the Royal Family (apparently frowned upon if the listener is foreign) which was interesting indeed. The king is the longest reigning modern monarch having been on the throne for 67 years. Recent and frequent trips to hospital indicate that he may soon be giving up his crown. There is great dissent among the Thai people about the heir apparent as he is a self-professed play boy and party animal. Rather frowned upon when one is sixty one years old! The eldest girl is well educated and sophisticated and very popular. So here is yet another culture looking at changing the ancient law of primogeniture. It will be fascinating to see how things develop.
The longboats now have enormous truck engines on the back to take us zooming through the mangrove forests to the sea. These thick forests are impenetrable both physically and visually and rich in flora and fauna. The cool sea air was a treat after being on hot, muggy Phuket Island. The limestone rock formations were fantastic, as were the caves dripping with stalagmites. One cave has carved through the bottom of an enormous cliff and comes out on the other side. What fun to travel through it!
Pern was the perfect host. He looked after everyone in the group and his manner was respectful yet he made sure we had fun. Giggling all the time but also being informative, I will always remember his charm and grace.
Phuket and Burma are part of a 14 night South East Asia tour with Voyages to Antiquity. www.voyagestoantiquity.com