Koh Panyi (Koh Panyee) is a touristic village in Phang Nga Bay near James Bond Island. This is still a very unusual and interesting place to explore.
There are 1,485 people from 315 families who live permanently on Koh Panyee, the youngest being a baby boy born just a month before our visit. All of them are the descendants, directly or indirectly, of Toh Baboo and his family and friends, who were the first people to settle on Koh Panyee some 200 years ago. Toh Baboo and two other families left their homeland in Indonesia by boat, looking for a new place to live. The three families made a vow to each other that if one of them found a place where there were lots of fish and where everyone could live, that they would signal the others by raising a flag on a mountain as high as possible, so that the others could see it and join them. Toh Baboo discovered the island with its abundance of fish and, true to his promise, raised a flag atop its soaring cliff, That is how the island got its name, Koh Panyee – the Island of the Flag.
What to see in Koh Panyee?
Koh Panyee is a small island. Most of it is huge, almost vertical, limestone cliffs. The hundreds of huts, shacks, restaurants and houses where the villagers live are built on stilts over the surrounding shallow sea. No one seems quite sure how many wooden and concrete piles hold up this extraordinary community, but it is certainly a fascinating and unique feat of informal engineering. At first, fishing was the sole industry for this Muslim community but nowadays it is No 2. These days, half the locals service the tourism industry and 40% are still fisherman. The village has its own school, a mosque, a health center, lots of small souvenir shops and a handful of large restaurants, all facing the sea, where tourists can enjoy a fresh seafood lunch. The latest development on Koh Panyee is the construction of bungalows that offer overnight accommodation for as little as 300 baht.
A Colorful Life
On landing one is immediately struck by how very friendly these village folk are. I find myself with three young guides almost as soon as I step ashore. They show me proudly around their home during my three-hour visit. I also learn a bit about their colorful life on Panyee. “We are very lucky that we born not long ago,” 11-year-old Farrain tells me. “The old people say that life was tough without electricity, fresh water from the mainland and new technology.” School is out for summer, so the kids have plenty of time to wander around, play computer games (yes, the island has Internet access), help their parents mind the shop or play soccer. I asked them what they do in the rainy season. Doesn’t it get boring not being able to play outside? “Who says that?” retorts eight-year-old Anwar. “We always play football in the rain. It is normal to get wet around here.” Of course it is. Silly me.
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