Koh Panyee Thailand: a travel guide
This post is about Koh Panyee. Koh Panyee is a small traditional fishing village in the Phang Nga Bay in Southern Thailand. It is an island that is surrounded by stunning natural scenery, including towering limestone cliffs and crystal-clear waters.
Koh Panyee was one of my favorite places in Thailand. While most people visit on a quick day trip on a tour through the Phang Nga Bay I decided to spend a night in the village. I am glad I did.
Once the tour groups leave, Koh Panyee becomes a quiet and peaceful place that offers a unique insight into the village life of this unique place.
Why visit Koh Panyee in Thailand
Koh Panyee is special for several reasons. First of all, it is a floating village with houses built on stilts. The village is attached to a limestone rock formation and is a cluster of homes and roads that float in the sea of the Phang Nga Bay.
Second of all, Koh Panyee is a Muslim village with its own unique traditions. Muslims are a minority in Thailand and the culture on the island is completely different from the mainland.
Koh Panyee village was built 200 years ago by a group of Malay fishermen from Java in Indonesia. According to local legend, the fishermen were searching for a new home after their boat got caught in a storm, and they came across the island of Koh Panyee.
Initially, the fishermen lived on their boats, but over time they began to construct their homes on stilts over the water. Foreigners could not own any land and therefore they built their village in the water. The village gradually grew, and the fishermen began to prosper through their fishing trade. The story reminded me a bit of the Vietnamese fishing villages in the Mekong in Cambodia.
Although Koh Panyee is now also a popular tourist destination, the main source of income is still fishing. Most tourists come for a short period of time as part of a tour through the Phang Nga Bay. For a couple of hours a day, the people open up their souvenir shops, but as soon as the tour groups are gone they return to their normal life.
There are only a few places to stay on the island, but I really recommend you do. Seeing the island without any tourists is a completely different experience. Furthermore, the sunset is amazing.
Things to do at Koh Panyee
There are not a lot of things to do in Koh Panyee. Part of the charm is its relaxed atmosphere. One day and one night will be enough to get a good sense of the town and the people. The village is not that big and it is easy to explore on foot. Alternatively, you can also rent a kayak to paddle around the village
Koh Panyee Market
Koh Panyee is a bit of a messy and chaotic village. The center is a maze of small alleys lined with souvenir shops and restaurants. Once the tour groups leave most of them close down. This is the time to explore Koh Panyee in peace and quiet.
Luckily, not everything closes down. The local grocery shops and a few restaurants are still open. I recommend you try the local chicken satay that you can buy in the market.
Floating football fields
One of the main things to do in Koh Panyee are the floating football fields. There are three of them and the Panyee soccer team won a couple of championships in Thailand. In the evening you can see the kids playing at the football fields.
Koh Panyee Mosque
For a long time, the Indonesian fishermen could not own land in Thailand. Meanwhile a new generation was born in the village and as soon as they could own some of the land they used it to build a mosque.
Watching the sunset
Watching the sunset over the picturesque Phang Nga Bay is a very good reason to stay in Koh Panyee. The village offers beautiful views over the sea with the limestone rock formations in the back.
Phang Nga Bay
Koh Panyee is in the midst of Phang Nga Bay. Although you have beautiful views on Phang Nga Bay from the village I can recommend a kayak or boat tour to explore everything it has to offer.
Phang Nga Bay is known for its stunning scenery, which includes limestone cliffs, emerald-green waters, and lush green islands. The bay is also home to several caves, lagoons, and mangrove forests.
Most people visit Koh Panyee as part of a tour through the beautiful Phang Nga Bay. There are many tour operators out there. You can book tours in Phuket or in the town of Pang Nga. In my experience Phang Nga offers more value for money.
James Bond Rock
All tours in the Phang Nga Bay visit the famous James Bond Island, which was featured in the 1974 James Bond movie “The Man with the Golden Gun.” This small island is dominated by a tall limestone rock sticking out of the water.
Phu Khao Khian cave
My favorite stop on my Phang Nga Bay tour was actually not the James Bond island, but the Phu Khao Khian cave. There are several caves in the Phang Nga Bay, but this cave has 3000 year old drawings from crocodiles, sharks and other sea creatures.You can enter the cave by boat or kayak.
Koh Panyee Travel tips
Where to Stay
I stayed at the James Bond Bungalow. A basic, but lovely place to stay with friendly people. They have a nice balcony terras that looks out over the sea and the Phang Nga Bay. From there you can witness the beautiful sunset and sunrise.
Where to eat
Once the tourists leave, there is not that much choice. I had a lovely chicken satay in the market. It is of course also a great place to eat sea food with delicious Thai fish curries.
How to get there
The best way to get to Koh Panyee is by a Phang Nga Bay tour. Even if you want to stay on the island, most tour operators are flexible enough that they can easily organize this. I arranged for the boat driver to drop me off in the evening and then another boat driver picked me up the next morning before he picked up a new group of tourists at Phang Nga. I do recommend you to explore the caves and lagoons at Phang Nga Bay as well. .
If you really want to travel just to Koh Panyee there are longtail boats from the Surakul pier at Phang Nga. This option is not necessarily cheaper, especially when you travel alone.
When to visit
The best time to visit Koh Panyee Island in Thailand is between November and April, which is the dry season. During this time, the weather is generally sunny and dry, and the sea is calm, making it ideal for water activities such as swimming and kayaking. The temperatures are also more pleasant, ranging from the mid-20s to low 30s Celsius (70s-80s Fahrenheit).
The rainy season runs from May to October, with the heaviest rainfall usually occurring in September and October. During this time, the sea can be rough, and some water activities may be restricted. However, the upside of visiting during the rainy season is that the island tends to be less crowded, and prices may be lower.
I already mentioned that during the day, Koh Panyee is no longer the quiet fishing village it once was. Tourism has both good and bad impacts on the community. It’s important for visitors to respect the local customs and traditions, and to support local businesses in a responsible and sustainable way.
First about the culture. Koh Panyee is a muslim island and therefore try to wear modest clothes and keep your bikini for Phuket. Most people only visit for a couple of hours with little knowledge about the unique culture of this village. It also means that most money goes to the tour operators. By staying and eating on the village you can make sure some profit goes to the villagers as well.
At last, take your trash back to the mainland. There is no proper waste management. Plastic pollution is a big problem in the Phang Nga Bay disrupting marine life and ecosystems.
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