A visit to Koh Panyee ‘s floating village in Phuket was a very humbling experience. Built on nothing but stilts the village is home to seafaring Muslim families from Java. The settlement of the Koh Panyee people go as far back to the 18th century and the village is only accessible by boat. In all my years of living so far I’ve never seen anything like it.
The first thing I couldn’t help but notice was the floating football pitch. I mean it was hard not to when its the first thing you see as you step off the speedboat. The locals inspired by the 1986 world cup decided to build it. The floating football pitch has become a source of joy for locals as well as a major tourist attraction. The creativity of the Koh Panyee captured my attention immediately and I was eager to see more.
A deeper look inside Koh Panyee
As I roamed through the village it was clear that the creativity of the Koh Panyee people has no bounds. Every hut and shack had their own story to tell. The floating village looked quite abandoned but that was far from the case. Now I don’t mean any disrespect, but I want you to picture it exactly how I saw it.
The village is maze like with something to see on every corner. I saw many little shelters filed with people going about their daily lives. Mostly muslim women selling goods from windows all while infants rested on their hips. Many of the market vendors were eager to grab my attention in hopes to make a quick sale. One eventually did and I found myself handing her 500TB for a beautiful scarf. Usually I would haggle down but I felt compelled to pay her the asking price. Once the transaction was over the impact of her repetitive thank you’s weight heavy on my heart. Who knows I may have been the only customer she had that day.
How the other side live
I’ve done a lot of sight seeing on my travels over the years but nothing has compared to this. The standards of living at the floating village is no 5 star hotel. If I’m keeping it real it didn’t smell too great. But who am I to be complaining? After all I was nothing but an unexpected visitor. It was clear to me that the villagers have put their best efforts forward in order for their community to function. I loved the way they made a little out of something it truly was admirable. The Koh Panyee village might not be instagrammable to some, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to visit.
It really touched me to see how they lived in fact it led me to tears. I’m convinced the locals thought I was tapped. To see a black woman walking through your community crying isn’t an everyday occurrence. My emotions definitely caught me by surprise. As I didn’t expect myself to become so emotional. I guess after I saw a young girl and her little brother playing together it really hit me. Seeing them so happy and carefree reminded me of myself and my little brother. I started to think about how different life would have been if we were born in that village. It probably sounds absolutely crazy but thats what was going through my mind at the time.
Seeing what little the people in the Koh Panyee community had did many things for me. At first I felt sad for them but I quickly repented when I realized they didn’t need my pity. Instead I chose to commend them for making it work. Not many people could do what they have done. It’s easy for me as an outsider looking into the community to throw words around like poverty or lack there of.
But thats far from the case when it comes to them. What I witnessed was their way of life. A lifestyle that had been working for many generations. Seeing how they lived humbled me. It’s not about what you have but how you live that matters. It reminded me that material things and money might make life a bit easier but it’s not the be all end all. Life still goes on with or without it. How we maneuver in life determines if we survive.
There are many sides to a country and I’ll always encourage you to branch out and explore. Connect with the locals, be polite and always ask questions. Before taking any pictures I asked the locals if they were comfortable. I felt like this was important to ask as I didn’t want them to feel invaded by me and my camera. But they let me in and showed me just how welcoming, calm and friendly they are.
What I loved the most
The best bits of the tour for me was visiting the village school. In the community there is also a mosque, a health centre, lots of small souvenir shops, and plenty of restaurants. Now I didn’t eat any food but I did buy something and I was glad that I did. As I now have something to always remind me of the Koh Panyee floating village. My favorite picture from this tour was a candid of me and a precious baby snapped my bro Kieron.
Lots of love