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Ko Panyi: Thailand’s Floating Village

In a sheltered bay in southern Thailand, under the shadow of an immense, almost vertical limestone cliff, hundreds of huts, shacks, restaurants and houses cluster together to form the village of Ko Panyi. The sea here is shallow and calm allowing fishermen to build houses raised safely above the water level on stilts. More than 300 families and nearly 1,500 people live permanently on Ko Panyi—all of them are the descendants of Toh Baboo and his family and friends, who sailed all the way from Indonesia and settled here some 200 years ago.

In those days, foreigners were not allowed to own land in Thailand, and so Toh Baboo and two other families built houses on stilts in the bay. Over the centuries the village grew in size and wealth. Now there is a school, a mosque, a health center, lots of small souvenir shops, a handful of large restaurants and even a floating football pitch.

Life in Ko Panyi revolves around fishing, but since the past few years tourism has been providing residents with an additional source of income. These days, half the locals service the tourism industry, but forty percent of the population are still fisherman.

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