Koh Panyee (เกาะปันหยี) Village on Stilts in Phang Nga Bay
Koh Panyee (or Koh Panyi if you like) is a village built on stilts in Phang Nga Bay. We visited Koh Panyee on the same day as James Bond Island, having hired a longtail boat from Samchong Seafood, a restaurant in Phang Nga. My original plan was to visit only James Bond Island, but we were ready to leave Scaramanga's lair by 4pm, and Koh Panyee is only about 7km further north. Sunset at this time of year is around 6:30pm, so we had time for a quick dash (our longtail had a new engine) to Panyee and time for a good wander around this fascinating village built over the water next to one of Phang Nga Bay's many huge limestone outcrops. We visited again during another trip later in the year - see Phang Nga Bay - Doing it OUR way! And we've done another trip more recently in 2015 - see Phang Nga Bay Revisited.
Koh Panyee is a small island, less than 400m long, and there is not really any flat land. Instead, over the last 200 years since the village was founded, a community has built up over the shallow waters to the south of the limestone cliff / rock that makes up Panyee island. Indeed, at low tide, the waters are shallow enough to stand in, or disappear completely which must aid in building these houses, all supported on a network of stilts. Some websites refer to Panyee as a floating village. It's not floating, the houses are all on stilts. Fishing was the main trade here, and is still important, but tourism is now well and truly established - all the way through the village, stalls are selling crafts, cloth, souvenirs, but there is still the old life here - other stalls sell vegetables, fish, and "Nam Prik Kung Siap" - a spicy shrimp paste, which my dear wife wanted to buy a few kilos of (it's very tasty!)
On the way to Koh Panyee from James Bond Island we passed an island used as a base for kayaking tours. You can pass through a cave full of stalactites, which our kids loved. The longtail fairly sped over to Panyee, it only took about 20 minutes from James Bond Island.
The trick with Panyee, if you want to see the village, rather like Phuket - you have to look beyond the tourism. OK, on Panyee it's low key. There are no hotels or bars, but half the island is taken up with restaurants that serve day trippers on tours. If you walk through the village, there are plenty of stalls selling things... some of these things are actually very nice, for sure, if I was a tourist on holiday I would buy a few souvenirs here. We did buy a few little gifts for the kids like key rings and a drum made out of a coconut. I was looking more for a real feel of Panyee. First thing - I felt that the people here are very friendly. A lot of the people must spend the day selling
The construction of the village - it's a maze of houses, paths, elevated walkways, everything built over the water on stilts! It's quite an impressive place when you think about it. A few photos to give an idea of how Panyee is built...
All these wooden planks and stilts need looking after. Wood does not last forever. There are places where I worried that the wood looked a bit old (and since I weigh well over 100kg, I do not want to step on a plank that's likely to break!) I found a couple of people in the process of repairing their houses or fixing up their boat dock...
I was walking around with our kids - my wife and her sister were searching for the best shrimp paste - a lady suggested we detour off the main path and check out the school. I think, or would like to think, that the Koh Panyee school made some impression on our kids. A simple wooden construction built around a playground.. with great views!
I liked that we arrived at Panyee village after most of the tours had already left - throw in a dozen boat loads of foreigners and the narrow walkways would be more crowded, and the hawkers more vocal. We found this guy working on his glass fish - the little pufferfish are indeed a work of art.
I love faces. Everyone has a different face. If people are happy to pose, I like to take their photo. Koh Panyee is a unique place with unique people.. OK, they were probably more unique 30 years ago. Now they have the internet and daily contact with tourists, but sometimes in a place like this, I wonder "who is watching who". You think the life in Koh Panyee is strange, is very different to yours? I am very sure the people here are watching the visitors, and I think Koh Panyee is still a special place.
(above) Fixing the fishing nets
(above) A man rides a bicycle.. that's heavy traffic in Koh Panyee.
By the time we left, I can imagine everyone settling in for the evening, tourists gone, only the Panyee people here. A very small village like this has a sense of community that you can grasp. Everyone knows everyone. I used to live on a small island some years ago. I get that feeling here in Panyee, there's no trouble, no worries, no crime. Hardy a bad word. Lots of smiles. And we'll be back again.
Koh Panyee (Phang Nga Bay) - Location Map
View Koh Panyee, Phang Nga Bay in a larger map
Finally - a video (actually an ad for a bank) which features Koh Panyee. The story of the kids on Koh Panyee starting their own football team, despite the lack of a pitch to play on! Nice story - great scenery!