Sunday, August 17, 2014


I wonder if they knew to look for the pot of gold.

Not to be put off by the monsoonal weather we set out once more into the magnificent Phang Nga Bay which lies tucked in between the holiday island of Phuket and mainland Thailand. Our first day on anchor had all the right signs with this majestic rainbow embracing the sky.

Wrapped in rainbow!

We have a saying on board our boat when things are going well. "We're going to pay for this!" There's a ledger you see, finely balanced with negatives and positives, red and black. Too much into the black and the bills start coming in. Too much into the red and there's got to be a rainbow coming our way.
Anyway we got the rainbow, now we had to pay. On this trip into the bay unprecedented winds blew with great ferocity from the north west sending mighty bullets into the most protected of anchorages. The anchor dragged, the wind howled and the rain came down, not in sheets but blankets.

Pan Yi or the Sea Gypsy Village as it is known, promised us a reasonable anchorage. It was with great curiosity that we motored cautiously up through a fairly deep channel which threaded its way through the shallow waters of the north of the bay. We were keen to see this unusual village that we had heard so much about.

Approaching Pan Yi ,commonly called The Sea Gypsy Village

As we dropped the anchor we were amazed at the size of this town built almost entirely over the water. There are 360 families or 1,600 people living in this floating fishing village. It is a Muslim village with a beautiful mosque that glows like a second sun in the morning light. On this trip of rainbows we were lucky enough to see the domes lit by the sun and a rainbow that appeared to point to the largest of the minarets.

Blessed by a rainbow

The origin of the village makes an interesting story. In the 18th century three nomadic Malay fishing families made their way north  from Java in search of good fishing grounds . Legend has it that it was agreed that if one of them found a good place to settle they would place a flag high on the hill. The name of the village is "flag" in their original language. The inhabitants are originated from those first three families.

Fishing is still important in Pan Yi

Today fishing is still an important part of village life, but tourism also contributes a huge income. In high season, November to March there can be 3000 tourists daily! There are numerous restaurants facing the water and further into the village there are narrow lane ways crowded with stalls selling tourist nick knacks.

An island with a fur bonnet!

Stall holders selling clothes, jewelry and food stuffs clamor for your attention

As we wandered through the back streets of the village we discovered the amazing mosque, still under construction or renovation, we couldn't tell, and people going about their lives as we all do, all over the world. Some houses looked quite suburban with pot plants and picket fences. It was easy to forget that it was all suspended over water.

The mosque is a place for prayer and a meeting place. Its grandeur reflects  the devotion of the people.

Quite suburban, apart form the huge limestone back drop and the water lapping under neath. 

Some of the footings were wood like this, but some were concrete.

After our exploration of the village we felt like a bit of adventure and ventured forth in our little dinghy with its 3.3hp motor in search of a famous cave that was supposed to be nearby. Our directions were a bit sketchy, but we thought we would just go in the same direction as the tourist boats. The cave was to be found at the end of mangrove tunnel. How hard could it be? Remember the old ledger? Well....

This could be the mangrove tunnel we're looking for.....

 We bravely turned into a tunnel that looked promising. It twisted and turned this way and that. It got narrower and darker as the mangroves leaned in to block the sky.
 "It's got to be just around the next corner surely?"
 "Maybe just around here?"
We could see where we needed to go, or thought we did , but each corner took us in the wrong direction.

Maybe around this corner?

It was getting late in the afternoon and we were getting further away and deeper into the dark mangroves. Mangroves that stretched out for miles and miles. We started to say half joking
 "Lost in the mangroves. Never to be seen again!"
(nervous laugh)

Putting on a brave smile while thinking OMG we're running out of fuel!
 The little motor was running hot and running out of fuel. We had a small jerry of fuel, but no radio, GPS, water, food or mosquito repellent. Finally we gave up, and although we had come miles we decided to retrace our steps and hope the fuel would last the distance. It would be a long hard row all the way back to the boat if we ran out.

At last we saw open water through a gap in the mangroves. We were back into familiar territory.!

Light at the end of the tunnel!

Before long we were in the wide open river with the tourist boats zooming past. We never did find the cave, but it didn't matter. We'd seen enough mangroves to last us a long time!

Tourist boats constantly ferrying people to see the sights.

On the way back we could see the other side of the village with its legendary floating football field, school and hospital. The football field started with some kids desperate for some flat ground to play football. Originally they started putting together floating bits of wood, but now it is much more sophisticated with floating plastic buoyancy. The Panyee Football Club now is one of Thailand's strong youth teams.

The other side of Pan Yi snugged against the huge limestone island,

The football field

This house is for tourists to stay, we think.

The hospital. Accessible only by boat, of course.

Rob was quite taken with this house with its picket fence and two car (boat) garage.
We had never been happier to get back to the boat. the little motor did a great job ad the fuel lasted. You would think after all these years of cruising and boating that we would be a little more prepared! But then it wouldn't have been half the adventure.

From Pan Yi we explored more of the northern end of Phang Gna Bay, but found the anchorages difficult because of swirling winds and waters. We happened to have hit spring tides so the boat was in a constant battle between wind and tide. Koh Yai Noi was the best as it wasn't as steep sided as the other anchorages, so wasn't subject to wind bullets. There is still plenty to explore in this area and we still think the wet season is the best time to do it. I can't imagine what 3000 tourists at Sea Gypsy Village would look or feel like!


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