The only way to visit Koh Panyi is by boat as it is a small floating fishing village off the coast of Phuket. The village was built almost exclusively on stilts by Indonesian fisherman who arrived in the region at the end of the 18th century. The nomadic fisherman built the village on stilts because at the time there were property laws that limited land ownership to those of Thai origin. Even to this day only the cemetery and the mosque are built on the actual island due to Muslim custom and cultural burial laws while the rest of the community is on stilts. The island is unique for the way it is built and being entirely Muslim is a predominantly Buddhist country.
It is such an interesting place. Only about 1,600 people or 360 families are said to live in this small village and all the locals are said to have descended from 2 prominent sea faring families that were originally from Java. The community is still very insular and resists those not from their culture from living on the island. They are very welcoming of visitors though as I found out by exploring. There is a small school where boys and girls attend primary and secondary school and the even has a floating field for the children to play (it was even featured in The Amazing Race Season 19). Wandering around this school was my favorite part of my time at Koh Panyi. I was invited into a few classrooms by teachers and made images of the children playing at recess and buying local snacks as they ran past me hoping to make the most of every minute they were not in class. It was also pouring rain during much of my time there so water flooded through many of the streets making for an interesting and adventurous time.
I loved exploring the narrow streets of the community and just taking everything in around me. I was clearly NOT taking note of where I was walking; which on a village built on stilts can be problematic. Luckily, some of the beautiful and kind female shop keepers wearing colorful hijabs were gracious enough to grab my hand and guide me back when I was clearly lost. It reminded me on the narrow streets of Stonetown, Zanzibar in many ways (where I spent many hours lost :). I am always grateful for a glimpse into these unique and interesting corners of the world.