Noel Dong

— A visual diary

Koh Panyee

What makes a community?

Is it the result of common goals?

A mutual yearning for a better life?

These are the questions I was left to ponder after we left a tiny fishing village called Koh Panyee in Thailand.

Images in this post were shot on the Fujifilm XT20 and the Mavic 2 Pro with the assistance of Freewell Pro filters.

To carry all my gear on these trips I use the versatile Chrome Niko F-Stop Camera Bag.

Aerial view of Koh Panyee

Fishing structures that surround the colourful island

I first became aware of Koh Panyee through a documentary on VICE sports on YouTube. I was amazed to find that not only a tiny floating village existed in Thailand but it also had it's own football club and floating football pitch.

The village history recounts that the children on the island at the time were inspired by watching the 1986 FIFA World Cup they built the floating soccer pitch out of old scraps of wood and fishing rafts. In doing so they built a football field that could withstand the rising and falling of the tides.

The original floating football pitch

The new football pitch

The village itself was formed by traveling sea-faring Muslim families from Java who wanted to find a place where they could make a new home.

The most prominent structure on the island is a centrally located mosque as the majority of the population is descended from the Muslim nomads that arrived here 200 years ago. As the village continued to grow over time, space became a precious commodity, so the inhabitants built their homes on stilts outwards, seemingly radiating from the mosque itself out into the Andaman Sea.

Word is that the name of the island, “Panyee” (meaning flag), came to be as the original settler of the land wanted to alert his fellow travelers when he found an ideal location to settle where fishing was more plentiful. He mounted a flag up on top of a limestone island to let them know that this was where they could settle thus calling it Koh Panyee - Flag Island.

Views of the mosque on Koh Panyee

Today the village has blossomed to a staggering 1,700 people and counting. Quite the population for a village built on stilts by nomadic fishermen in the middle of the sea.

My multi-shot birds eye view panorama of Koh Panyee