I didn’t think much of Phuket when we were making our way through Thailand, however I was really looking forward to exploring the nearby Phang Nga Bay, well known for it’s picturesque little limestone islands and beaches. We joined a full day tour from Phuket to take in the main sights which included visiting some of the islands and doing some sea kayaking.
It took a couple of hours to get to the Surakul pier, as the tour unexpectedly stopped at a touristy “Monkey Temple” along the way where tourists can buy bunches of bananas and then get freaked out when they get covered in monkeys.
Once we got to the pier we were given life jackets and stumbled our way onto one of the long tail boats. The noisy engine started up and we were soon off cruising through the channels of the mangrove dominated inlets near the pier.
Soon we were able to see the huge limestone karsts rising up out of the water and mangroves, and as the ocean opened up a bit more we got some great views out across the island dotted Phang Nga Bay.
Our first destination for the day would be the Muslim fishing village on the island of Koh Panyee, where we would stop for some lunch. As we approached the tall impenetrable cliffs of the island, I could start to make out the little shacks built out over the shallow sea next to it. The closer that we got the more I could see how large the village actually is.
The village of Koh Panyee actually dates back to over 200 years ago, when two Muslim families from Indonesia came and settled on the island after discovering it’s rich fishing grounds. There are now around 1500 people who live on the island who are all descendants of those original settlers. Although tourism is now a big part of the islands economy, they still rely quite heavily on fishing.
After having a delicious Thai lunch at one of the many restaurants that look out over the water, we headed off to explore the village. From the restaurant we ended up walking straight into the market, which mostly sold a whole heap of touristy souvenirs, however some of the pearl jewellery that was for sale looked quite nice and at excellent prices. I have absolutely no idea how to tell if the pearls are good quality or not, but they looked pretty nice to me.
From here we made our way to the village school, where I was surprised to see that they have their own soccer pitch! Like the rest of the village, the little school is built on stilts out over the water (as is the soccer pitch), and both young boys and girls attend for early education. Apparently the boys continue their education by heading all the way to the mainland or Phuket.
By this time we were due back at the boat to continue on our tour, however I could have spent a lot more time exploring the village. Apart from the school and market, the village also consists of enough shacks and houses to house it’s 1500 residents, and also has a Mosque, health centre and shops selling items that are brought over from the mainland.
Walking the little narrow alleyways of Koh Panyee was quite interesting, the people were all very friendly and I think they have a pretty cool place to live with an incredible view!
I have heard rumours that the island is opening up to overnight accommodation. I think it would be best to avoid this, and keep the village as it is. What do you think?