Unique community on Phang Nga Bay
Friday 7 October 2011, 06:30PM
TRAVEL: Being a member of the Phuket Neo Photo Group was a great way for me to explore the famous floating village of Koh Panyee, in Phang Nga.
The photo group is a mixture of amateur and professional photographers in Phuket and Phang Nga, who do regular trips in order to find great photography subjects.
This particular Saturday, we took cars from Phuket and drove almost 80 kilometres north until we reached the Tha Dan pier on Phang Nga bay.
The sea was calm and the sky was clear – making it the perfect day to visit Koh Panyee. We boarded the long-tail boat and 20 minutes later we arrived at Koh Panyee.
Koh Panyee (Flag Island) is a floating village in Andaman Sea. This village was established at the end of the 18th century by nomadic Malay fisherman.
Most areas of the island are very steep, with few flat parts. Those that are flat are home to mosques (the area is mainly Muslim), and graveyards. There are three rules on the island: no pork, no dogs, and no alcohol.
The island’s original inhabitants made a living by fishing, and by making shrimp paste, fish sauce, handmade pearl jewellery glass blowing and batik.
In recent years, tourism has become a mainstay thanks to the island’s close proximity to other popular tourist spots, such as Khao Ma Chu, Lod cave, Koh Panak, Koh Hong, James Bond Island and Khao Phing Kan. Tourists often opt to stay overnight on Koh Panyee then take day trips to these places.
Despite the crowds of tourists, Koh Panyee is generally quiet and peaceful. Local people are friendly and kind, and very willing to help each other, as shown by their communal efforts to rebuild the rickety old mosque. Men, women and children are all helping in the project.
There are no roads on the island, nor any motorbikes or cars. Small narrow paths and wooden walkways connect the houses, and the main form of transport is the long-tail boat used to carry people to and from the island. The air is fresh, free of pollution and dust.
Surprisingly the island also produces more than its fair share of brilliant football players. You might ask, “Where do they play football on such a small island with no flat land to speak of?”
The answer is that residents have created their own floating football field made of timber. When the ball ends up in the water, the local kids leap in and make a mad dash to retrieve it.
When we visit a match is taking place. The result is not important. What is important is the sense of community on Koh Panyee – the smiles, the laughs, the happiness. This trip has been a great opportunity to meet and share with the local people on this magical island.
For more information about group tours or boat rental, contact the tourism information office at Phang Nga Bay, phone 076 481 163.
– Sukunya Phoonpong