Tourism News

Tourism News Phuketwan Tourism News
facebook recommendations


Sign up now for our News Alert emails and the latest breaking news plus new features.

Click to subscribe

Existing subscribers can unsubscribe here


The water village of Panyee survives the perils of pollution

Stilt Villagers Tame The Beast of Panyee

Friday, July 25, 2008
TRENDS Special

ONE OF the most spectacular images of the Andaman region is a photograph of Panyee Island from the air.

Shacks and huts spread out from a small shelf of earth that juts from a limestone karst into the waters of Phang Nga Bay, about 20 minutes by boat from the mainland.

The ''island'' is actually a traditional fishing village, erected on stilts over water.

Once you see that photograph, you never forget it. It's such a glorious sight that it has most people catching their breath, and wishing they could go there.

They can. And indeed, that's what the people who live in the stilt village, where traditional life has flourished for centuries, would like.

But visitors need to know that the fairytale scene is not the whole truth. This is no classic fable with a surefire happy ending.

It's a modern saga of gritty reality, although you could say it certainly does still revolve around two main characters, the beauty and the beast.

The villagers who live in this enchanted spot want visitors to know that it was once a dirty, smelly place. And really, that was entirely to be expected.

Panyee was a fishing village over the water, with a traditional basic garbage disposal system. Human waste all went the same way, into the sea below.

Most boats would carry tourists around the sights of Phang Nga Bay and stop for lunch at restaurants on Panyee, where they would drop their garbage as well.

The restaurants also dumped their scraps into the water. As the village grew in popularity, so did the pollution problem.

Eventually, more than a thousand visitors were coming each day, adding their own waste.

The smell was just as memorable as the aerial photograph.

Each day the tides would wash the garbage away, then often return overnight with more. The beautiful village, a delight to the eye, turned into a stinking, water-bound cesspit, an insult to the nose.

Still spectacular in those photographs from the air, Panyee was no longer a pleasant destination to visit, or a fit place to live.

Now, things have changed. Visitors these days find the whole place is clean and wholesome. Fishing is still a daily preoccupation, so there are some natural smells.

But Panyee has come to terms with the modern curse of pollution.

It was not an easy task.

When 1300 people from 200 families live in homes above the water, what do you do to maintain public health?

Beneath the village, among the stilts, lives the beast. Over the years, generations of replacement piles have been used to prop up the huts and shacks.

Under the floorboards and boardwalks lie more than 100,000 wooden piles, a hidden maze that captures all the muck that the tides carry back and forth.

Every few days, villagers descend beneath the huts and shacks in a special canoe to clear away the garbage.

Up above, the community now separates its garbage into recycling and waste at purpose-built bins.

Bottles and cans are sold to benefit the local school, which also sits over the water, just like the village mosque.

Most of the six large restaurants that serve the tourists are now also acting responsibly.

Shifting the garbage to the mainland for proper disposal comes at a high cost. But the locals are now prepared to pay, because they realise it has to be done.

Living a traditional lifestyle on a stilt island in modern times is expensive. Electricity costs more than six times as much on Panyee as it does in Phuket City, not far to the south.

One policeman cares for the island and two others but he has to borrow a boat to reach them.

Water for drinking and cleaning comes by pipe from the mainland, but it costs three times as much.

Local authorities have paid for a central village toilet block with a large tank and individual homes are also having smaller tanks installed one by one.

The Muslim villagers are much more content now that Panyee is on the way to becoming pollution-free.

Some of the visitors who come these days are likely to return because the experience is a lot more pleasant, and the smell is no longer memorable.

Beauty still roams free. But the beast is leashed, if not quite muzzled.

Homestay visits and day trips to Panyee can be organised through most tour agencies.

from Phuketwan:

July 24
An important meeting will be held on August 1 in an effort to save Phuket's coral reefs, under threat from divers and fishermen; Drugs lure tourists to Cambodia and Laos; Noted Australian newsman on trafficking charge.

Racha Summit to Resolve Threats to Phuket Reefs

July 23
One of the Andaman region's most spectacular and star-crossed resort sites, the Sofitel Magic Lagoon, has a new and unusual brand; Airlines face a new world order; Wellness flies high for Bangkok Airways.

Khao Lak Delight as Turkish Brand Takes Over

July 22
Signs are not good for Phuket's tourism and property industries as airlines throttle back for a rough passage through darkening clouds. Embattled One Two Go CEO sees a silver lining; Flower show a bright spot.

Airline Setback Will Slow Phuket Too

July 21
The Department of Civil Aviation will today release the report on the crash of One-Two-Go Flight 269 on Phuket last year. The report has ramifications for continuing confidence in budget airlines; Golf caddy query; Tsunami movie hit.

Phuket Air Crash Report Due For Release

July 18
While Phuket resorts wait to see what August and September bring, some have contingency plans for staff layoffs. How deep will the oil price crisis bite? Surf carnival time; Your own tuk-tuk; Choosing a restaurant.

Jobs at Risk as Phuket Tourist Numbers Dive

July 17
A new festival on an island off Phuket is set to capture traditional life, and perhaps even the buffaloes that will be ridden and raced; The difference between Phuket Town and Phuket City, invisible people.

Buffalo Festival A First For Phuket

July 16
The piling went in but the Patong resort management discovered the classy new villas were above the 80 metre height limit. What to do? Three die in Patong landslip; Detox spa for Patong.

Patong Resort Cancels Villas For Height Breach

July 15
Phuket's hilltop Big Buddha is already attracting a steady stream of tourists and many Buddhist temples warrant visits, too; Patong tailors strike back with a honeymoon treat.

Temple Ceremonies Deserve An Audience

July 14
So it's Goodbye, Khun Suwalai. As Phuket tourism faces a new crisis, the TAT director who led the recovery after the tsunami heads for Europe and a new role. Her replacement is coming from New York

Phuket TAT Director Bound For Europe

July 11
Six months of waiting is over for the sailor at the centre of a strange night on board the Merlin that led to the death of a frogman; pawn shops record highlights economic downturn; minister quits after protests.

Kata Killing: Merlin Skipper Ready To Sail

July 10
Phuket's local authorities agree on a rubbish recycling plan; Treasury backs an island conference centre; Dubai resorts in tourism numbers crunch; New Phang Nga park planned; Burma cyclone latest.

Deal on Recycling Brings Hope For Phuket

July 9
First you see them, now you don't. One big brand is no longer going ahead with a large Phang Nga resort deal; twice daily tsunami warnings; Penang roadshow; Philippines gamble.

Big Brand Pulls Out of Khao Lak Deal

Look for
every day, Monday to Friday, at Phuketwan. It's essential reading.


Comments have been disabled for this article.

Monday September 27, 2021
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


Facebook Twitter