11:26 a.m. Panyee Village, here we come! Panyee is quite unique; not only by the fact that all houses lay on stilts although the village is built next to an islet (the cliffs are way too stiff to build anything up there), but also because the 1,500 or so villagers all descend from Toh Baboo, who came from Java to Phang Nga Bay 200 years ago and settled there. Panyee means “flag”. The name comes from the fact that Toh Baboo raised a flag on the top of the islet when he arrived there, as the area was much suitable for a settlement, and there was plenty of fish in the waters. By doing so, he signaled the two other families that were traveling with him that he found a good place to settle. Houses were built in stilts because building on land was a privilege reserve to Thai nationals only.
The whole community is Muslim Although they were all originally fishermen, now the main source of income is tourism. The village is self sustainable, and has a school, a health center, a floating football pitch, a mosque, and plenty of shop. You can even stay there overnight should you wish so!
Our long-tail docks on one of the pontoon connected to a sea view restaurant, and we climb up to the village. At the back of the restaurants are quite a few shops, but what I am looking for now is the market. Not really easy to find as there aren’t that many doors to reach the back street. And once you find a door, better remember where it is located so that to know where to go back! Crossing that door is like stepping a completely different world: you leave the wide roomy restaurant-side to step into narrow streets loaded with merchandise of all kind on both sides.
Panyee village is known for its market, which reminds me of the old souqs of Dubai somehow. Most of the goods are handcrafted and are quite a bargain there. The market is quite big, offers a wide choice of handicrafts, and the sales ladies greet me with a “very cheap, very cheap!”. It is covered, which makes it kind of hot in there. I walk along the streets, and sometimes an opening between the shops here and there reminds me that I am actually walking on the Andaman Sea… sort of! It is low tide now and I can see the muddy ground in which the stilts are planted.
Time to go back on the other side, where the restaurants are!
There is a series of restaurants side by side, all similar, in the open, and nicely decorated. Well, as you can expect from a fishermen’s place, there is a lot of fish and seafood on the menu. Service is fast and efficient, and even if you can’t expect great cuisine, the service remains fast, friendly and efficient -and the food is good. The place is obviously a very usual stop for all tourists visiting Phang Nga bay.
Here is a glimpse of the dishes I had:
Time to leave this unique place and continue our discovery of Phang Nga Bay!