A Tranquil Muslim Enclave en route to
James Bond Island in Southern Thailand
Panyi Fishing Village is a stunningly beautiful floating hamlet nestled adjacent to a gigantic limestone mountain also known as Koh Panyee in the Phang Nga Bay area of southern Thailand.
The village on this tiny hamlet is home to about three hundred Muslim families who settled there around two hundred years ago. They built their wooden homes on stilts above the shallow waters surrounding the southern end of the rock.
Koh Panyee is actually a very small island with no real land to speak of. Most notable is the single towering cliff around which the homes are ever so delicately arranged. They appear to be fairly fragile too, so you may need to take a little extra care when wandering around here.
When the tide is at its lowest around the rock you can see muddy parts of land emerging. This is the time when homeowners can do any repairs or alterations that need attention. The labyrinth of wooden walkways and the network of stilts have to be constantly maintained not only for the people who live here but also for the huge influx of tourists who have become daily day trippers.
Islanders living on this small man-made island live a very simple life with fishing being their chief trade. However, ever since tourism has gathered such immense momentum, a lot of restaurants have now been established here.
They cater for the daily lunches needed to feed all the hungry visitors who stop over on their way to and from the islands in the vicinity. If you travel from Phuket on a tour as I did, your lunch is included in the price.
Try to finish your meal with enough time to take a stroll through the village, where you’ll find all sorts of stalls full of handicrafts and souvenirs, amongst other things. The vendors here also sell vegetables and fish. Dried shrimp, fish sauce and the spicy shrimp paste called Nam Prik Kung Siap are freely available, although not exactly free if you get my meaning. This little piece of paradise is a special place you should definitely not miss.
If you have the time, you can enjoy a more tranquil experience by joining one of the overnight boat tours from Phang Nga Town. Tours include accommodation at a modest guest house, an evening meal and a light breakfast the following day. Around the island, you’ll be able to watch the sun rise and set over the bay.
During the day you can rent a long-tail boat at one of the local piers for around 1,700 Baht for a three-hour trip taking you to the James Bond Island and back again. The boat can carry ten people so if you are part of a group, so much the better. A sea canoe can also be hired at the jetty for about 300 Baht an hour. This will allow you to go and explore the island at leisure yourself.
As an alternative, why not try a spectacular helicopter flight to view the island and village. This way you can incorporate your trip as part of a bigger package.