Greeted with smiling faces, sparkling white sand, warm turquoise waters and a wonderfully relaxed massage beneath a timber thatched landing – Karon Beach welcomed us with open arms! And as we are soon to find out, the peaceful little gem that is Karon Beach located along the western coastline of Phuket Island could just very well be one of Thailand’s best-kept secrets.
Discovering Karon Beach, Thailand’s Hidden Treasure
We have checked into the Centara Grand Beach Resort, and as the name suggests, this place is certainly nothing short of grand. Unlike other resorts in Karon, this beautiful Portuguese-style resort is one of few located directly adjacent to the white sands and warm turquoise waters of Karon Beach. All of the 262 spacious rooms, suites and villas make the most of the breathtaking views outward to the Andaman Sea. This would be the perfect place for almost anyone to unwind.
By boat we set out in search of dramatic limestone cliffs, hidden treasures and one particularly unique fishing village – Koh Panyee, ‘the floating village’ – located within the province of Phang Nga and famous for its fascinating design, built entirely on stilts and home to approximately 200 families of Muslim belief.
Arriving around midday, the place is alive! Hundreds of people are sweeping the docks to enjoy lunch amid the beautiful surroundings of Phang Nga Bay and, like many, we take a seat and indulge in a spread of fresh seafood such as prawns, scallops, sea bass and squid before setting out to learn of the villages’ colourful history and to meet the people who call this remarkable place home.
Wandering the vibrant markets, talking with locals and sipping on traditional iced drinks, it is not long before we are beckoned to the schoolyard for an impromptu kick of the ball on one of the world’s only floating basketball courts! The children here are absolutely gorgeous and seeing them run around, laughing, playing certainly brings a smile to our faces. They were all eager to take Jen by the hand, leading her into their floating classroom, all fighting for her attention and wanting to show off an array of paintings and crafts they had made in art class. They were just so thrilled to have her here! And before too long, Jen found herself seated, watching on as the children gathered to welcome her with a traditional Thai song.
With big smiles, big voices and big hearts – this was a very special moment that we felt very privileged to be a part of.
It’s not until you see an aerial shot of Koh Panyee that you can actually comprehend the sheer size and remarkable nature of this self-sustaining community. When you’re in the heart of the village, amongst the many market stalls, it is easy to forget that you’re floating out in the middle of the ocean. And it’s not until you reach the fringe of the village that you’re reminded of where you are and just how amazing this place really is. Standing on the dock and looking out, long boats can be seen for miles! Scattered throughout surrounding water, making work for local fishermen who continue centuries of tradition.
And despite all the visitors surrounding us, it certainly is ‘business-as-usual‘ for the residents of Koh Panyee!
Back on land, the sunset is breathtaking. Strolling along the beach, it’s difficult not to reflect upon the tragic events of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. To witness the resilience places like Karon Beach have shown in the face of such devastation is truly remarkable. It is such a privilege to be standing here, absorbing all that surrounds us.
Karon Beach, you’re truly a special place.