Koh Panyee, a Javanese muslims floating village in Phang Nga Bay, Thailand
Koh Panyee is a special Muslim village floating on the sea in Phang Nga Bay. It is part of the Ao Phang Nga National Park. The floating island lies in the shadow of a high limestone rock formation in a sheltered bay at sea.
Koh Panyee is about half an hour by boat from the Phang Nga Pier in Phang Nga Bay. The village is also easy to reach from Phuket and Krabi if you book a tour.
The origins of Koh Panyee Muslim Village
The floating Muslim village was created about two hundred years ago by 3 seafaring fishing families from Java in Indonesia. They were looking for a good location with lots of fish. If they would find that place they would let them know by hoisting a flag on top of a mountain top so others could join them. They found the sheltered spot by the high rock and hoisted the flag. Slowly more people joined them, and in the meantime 400 families are living here! Nowadays only the older generation in the village still speaks Bahasa Indonesia, the younger generation mainly speaks Thai.
By living on the water they cleverly circumvented Thai law. The law states that foreigners are not allowed to own land in Thailand. When later on more and more tourists came to Thailand and therefore also to Koh Panyee, they got ownership. The first thing the inhabitants of Koh Panyee built at that time was a freshwater well and a mosque.
What is there to see on Koh Panyee?
Thanks to the three fishing families who found this place and decided to settle here, a complete village has been created with everything you can expect from a village.
There is a school, hospital, cemetery, market, stores, small museum, restaurants and of course a fish farm. Would you like to stay overnight in this special village? That is possible, because nowadays there is even a simple hotel! In the past, the inhabitants mainly lived from fishing, but nowadays tourism has also become a growing source of income.
Spending the night on Koh Panyee
If you want to experience Koh Panyee without other tourists you can take advantage of the unique opportunity to stay at the James Bond Hotel (Bungalow). It is a must for anyone interested in ordinary local life. When the tourists are gone, the restaurants and shops close and normal life goes on again.
You can rent a kayak at the hotel for 300 baht with which you can paddle around the village. The rooms of the James Bond Hotel are simple, have cold water and fans. The expensive room has a balcony overlooking the spectacular bay of Phang Nga. The owners are very warm-hearted and can help you organize a private tour to the surrounding attractions.
Muslims and their customs
Pork, drinking alcohol and smoking is prohibited on Koh Panyee. Although the inhabitants of the island have probably seen a lot of bikinis, they will hardly ever say anything about it. Despite that, it is respectful if your clothes are a little more covered on this floating island. This also makes it easier to make contact with the friendly residents of Koh Panyee.
Most of the restaurants and stores are aimed at the tourists who visit this special place. Walk further into the maze of narrow wooden and concrete elevated paths, especially away from the souvenir shops and you’ll see the really chaotic and even messy looking Koh Panyee. Of course the prices on Koh Panyee are higher than in the less touristy areas like mainland Phan Nga.
A large expansion of Koh Panyee is no longer possible, the floating island becomes too big. For future generations this probably means that they will have to look for a place to live on the mainland.
The floating soccer fields
The most special thing to see on Koh Panyee are, in our opinion, the three floating soccer fields. The first floating soccer field was built after the 1986 World Cup with wood from old houses and everything else that was loose on the island. Not really ideal of course because the surface was anything but even and smooth. In some places the nails even stuck out. The children also had to go into the water every time the ball was shot out.
By playing soccer under these conditions, the children’s soccer techniques were better than they thought. On the mainland they won a number of championships and put themselves and the soccer team Panyee FC and the island on the map.
How to get to Koh Panyee?
Koh Panyee is usually visited as part of the James Bond Island Tour from Phuket, Phang Nga Town or Krabi. If you only want to visit Koh Panyee and/or stay overnight there, you can discuss this with the longtail boat owner at the Tha Dan Pier or the tour agency in Phang Nga Town. From Phang Nga Bay the crossing should not cost more than 200 baht. From Phuket or Krabi it is probably cheaper and easier to join a tour. If you want to stay at Koh Panyee you can ask if you can join another tour the next day to make the journey back.