Have you ever heard of Koh Klang? It is right on Krabi’s doorstep, a mere 15 minutes boat ride from old and picturesque Chaofa Pier. Amongst the ways to reach Koh Klang is by longtail boat or by swimming (this has apparently never been tried before; let us know if you wish to attempt it so we can call the Guinness book of records…). My recommendation is to join one of the several longtail boats waiting to give you a ride in the Chaofa Pier, not far from the night food stalls.
I have an Italian friend who lives in Koh Klang. I believe he is the only foreign resident of Koh Klang, still to these days. Massimo has lived in Koh Klang for over 15 years. Thanks to his respectful attitude, friendly character and love for the sea, he has gained the respect of the local open-minded community that has accepted him. Koh Klang is an island that mixes a majority of Muslim inhabitants with a minority of Buddhists, living together in a harmonious way. Buddhists of Koh Klang are concentrated in the village of Klong Prasong, one of our destinations of the day.
After catching one of these traditional longtail boat that took us through the maze of mangrove-ridden canals, we arrived to Koh Klang where another world awaited us. A world made of traditional wooden houses on stilts that prevent flooding from high tides, a world with no cars and no roads, a reality where people roam freely in their day-to-day errands. Bamboo shacks and small dirt roads characterize the village of Klong Prasong, where we looked attentively at the life of the locals: toddlers swinging in hammocks, verandahs where locals works or chat, artisans working wood and make miniature boats, longatil boat builders, or more. This small, close nit, peaceful community has simple yet intriguing everyday routines. Village life is tied together through cooperation and socializing, and people often come together to celebrate special occasions such as the arrival of a newborn, a local wedding or the very important Muslim month of fasting, Ramadan.
The visit to the Klong Prasong School was hilarious. A group of energetic and mischievous uniformed kids of all ages went literally crazy at our sight, singing and dancing and receiving all the toys we distributed for their joy. Here on Koh Klang, charity group GVI have established long-term volunteer English teaching placements, and this helps to give a proper upbringing to kids that will probably end up employed on the tourism industry, given the Krabi status as a tourists hub.
Koh Klang villagers earn a living in the traditional ways: men leave home early morning to go fishing for crabs and prawns in their longtail boats; upon their return, the wives engage in cleaning the fish and selling it in the local market, keeping a small allowance for the daily sustenance. Meanwhile, the elders look after kids that are not in school-age yet. Men still wear traditional pateh sarongs and women t-shirts and pahsin.
On weekends, men engage on one of their favourite past times, breeding and grooming birds of a special breed called Hua Juk (a red-whiskered bulbul) that have a peculiarity: a distinctive voice that is put to test in the various bird singing contests so typical of the Krabi province, and so colourful. Given the islands proximity to Krabi Town, Koh Klang retains a natural beauty and charm which could cause you to dispute this proximity.
We continued our walk and saw buffaloes and goats happily grazing, dogs and cats roaming, birds chirping, local spices growing by the side of the path, plants bearing enormous fruits, locals walking or riding mopeds, ladies making flour with traditional stone mills. The surrounding environment is dominated by mangrove forests, with a smattering of rice paddies, rubber plantations, banana farms and an impressively engineered array of wetlands supporting an abundance of aquatic and bird life. This is all thanks to Koh Klang fertile soil. During the harvest season, visitors are encouraged to join in the activities so they can create a genuine bond with the locals. It is clear that the local people, with the support of the local government, have taken a keen interest in eco-tourism.
Last but not least, we had our fair share of shopping. First we visited a batik outlet; batik making is a painstaking process that involves waxing, painting and dyeing; the result is sheer art. Visitors have the chance to test their ability at batik making with the guide of a local, using stencils and hand-painting techniques. We then entered an OTOP (One Tambon One Product – a national cooperative group) outlet that sells handicraft and food items unique to Koh Klang: dried prawns, fish pickles, cashew nuts as well as souvenirs and great miniature replicas of the traditional ubiquitous longtail boat – or rua hang yai in Thai language.
There exists a strong sense of community amongst the local people, who are among one the most genuine and outgoing people in Thailand. Massimo often tells of feeling like he has been adopted into the entire community there. Visitors experience countless random acts of hospitality on the island, much of it involving the consumption of a variety of incredibly delicious food. Fortunately, Koh Klang is only accessible via boat and as a result the only vehicles on Koh Klang are motorcycles. This fact, along with the well-developed local road network, the predominately flat topography of the island makes bicycle riding incredibly easy and enjoyable.
We spent a generous and truly amazing 6 hours on the island and had to leave before the tide started to rise or we could be stranded in the village, our boatman warned us. Massimo and his wife Aom were ever so nice and the trip so enjoyable. A visit to Koh Klang is a must for anyone visiting Krabi and wanting to see nature and the traditional Thai way of life.
I heard the local government has a plan to turn Koh Klang into the next tourist destination, and to build a bridge to connect it to Krabi Town. Visit Koh Klang before times changes it and another corner or rural and traditional Thailand is lost forever.
Only ten minutes away from Krabi town is another world, that of Koh Klang, an island of 22 square km, green and predominantly flat with cotton trees, gum trees, palm trees and mangroves dominating the local flora. The history of Klong Prasong, a Buddhist enclave on Koh Klang island, which is inhabited mainly by Muslims, is a recent one, as the island is set in an area exposed to storms and turbulent seas.
Koh Klang was not settled until around sixty years ago, when 100 Muslim fishing families moved there and later founded the island’s villages. Fishing and farming are still the main occupations of Klong Prasong villagers, and every house on the shore has a small Buddhist shrine and a jetty where longtail boats loaded with nets and fishing rods dock.
Klong Prasong has 100 houses and about 300 inhabitants, a very small minority on this island of 6,000. Electricity arrived on the island only 15 years ago. There is little crime on Koh
Klang, so there is no police department. The mail service is provided by a single man on his bike who receives it from town daily and then delivers it to villagers. The main form of transport here is still the bicycle; only in recent years the number of mopeds has been increasing dramatically.
There are no proper restaurants on the island and only one resorts, the Islanda. There are several home-stays on Koh Klang, some relatively basic yet naturally nestled in amongst trees, where outside visitors can stay; yet, little is done to adapt the villagers’ lives and behaviors for visitors. At the moment Koh Klang remains as one of the last traditional bastions in Krabi, one where ancient values and customs are still part of the daily existence for the members of this closely-knit community.