Koh Panyee, locally known as the Muslim village, is a small fishing village located in the Phang Nga Bay (pronounced as Pang Na Bay) near the famous James Bond Island, in Phuket, Thailand. What’s so different about a fishing village by the sea? This one floats! The natural island of Koh Panyee is a lofty vertical mass of limestone cliffs. Consequently, nearly the whole village perches on top of a network of wooden stilts over the edge of the island’s coastline and then stretches out over the sea in a maze of raised walkways and platforms. A mosque and a freshwater well were built later on the actual land of the island.
The name of the village has an interesting history behind it. As the story goes, towards the end of the 18th century, Toh Baboo and two other Javanese families left their homeland on small boats in search of new fishing grounds. They agreed to split up and promised that if any of them found an ideal place, they would hoist a flag from the highest point, thus letting the others know that a suitable new home had been found. Toh Baboo discovered the island with its abundance of fish and, sticking to his vow, raised a flag atop its towering limestone cliff. The families settled there and the island became known as Koh Panyee, which in Thai means ‘raised flag’.
The main occupations of the 1500 village residents include tourism and fishing. The village has its own mosque, school, a health center, souvenir shops, and some large sea-facing restaurants, where tourists can enjoy a fresh seafood lunch.
Apart from enjoying the divine natural beauty of the limestone cliffs and the sea, and buying souvenirs (like t-shirts, batiks, shells, and so on), you can visit the village school where the children not only study but also undertake projects to raise funds for the school and to spread environmental awareness. The villagers are very friendly and are used to being photographed very often.
You can also visit the famous floating football pitch in the village. Football is very popular in this little island and it dates back to the 1980s. Enthralled by the 1986 Mexico Football World Cup, one of the village boys wanted to build their own soccer team. But with very little space in a village on stilts, they had nowhere to play or practice. However, with determination, they constructed a floating pitch for football made from old wood they found. Today, the Panyee Football Club is one of southern Thailand’s best youth teams.
How to reach Koh Panyee? You can rent a long-tail boat from Surakul pier for around 1,700 baht for three hours. Each boat can carry up to ten people. Alternatively, there are many good tours to Panyee which include pick-up from your hotel. You can also stay overnight with a local family or at one of the new tourist bungalows that offer overnight accommodation for as little as 300 baht. Dressing modestly is recommended since it is a Muslim village. The island is known for its fishing; hence, trying out its seafood is a must. The dry season (November to February) is the ideal time to visit. To avoid crowding, try to reach the island as early in the day as possible.
The surprising little floating village of Koh Panyee awaits you. So, don’t forget to add this to your Thailand trip. Happy journey, traveler!