By Pattarawadee Saengmanee
A PLEASANT place to relax whether the skies are clear or the rain is pouring down, Phang Nga’s Yao Noi island offers all the charms of a traditional fishing village.
Our trip coincides with a heavy rain storm so we are pleasantly surprised to find that the popular floating farm, which is owned by veteran fisherman Kasem Nilsamut and known as Bang Ni, is open and ready to welcome visitors interested in admiring its aquatic residents.
Veteran fisherman Kasem Nilsamut aka Bang Ni pioneered the first lobster farm on Koh Yao Noi.
Located just a few metres from the white sands of the beach, Kasem set up his farm more than two decades ago and built his reputation by raising lobsters in an experimental project. That experiment proved a success and he soon expanded the farm to include 18 floating coops, home to more than 500 large lobsters.
“I raised groupers for many years but then their market price fell significantly. More than a decade ago, I caught a lobster quite by accident and taught myself to raise it. I was the first to open a lobster farm on Koh Yao Noi,” says Kasem.
“I noticed that lobsters grew bigger after sloughing so I fed them with horse mussels to give them more calcium. These days, lobsters are priced at Bt2,800 per kilogram and my farm caters to many restaurants both on Koh Yao Noi and in Phuket.”
Visitors can take selfies while feeding other popular and rare fish with fresh sardines. They include the clown fish made famous in the film “Finding Nemo”, tame leopard sharks, large starfish, fierce moray eels, puffers, rainbow-coloured parrotfish, striped angelfish and lovely hermit crabs, most of them donated by Kasem’s fisherman pals.
A visitor feeds a tame leopard shark with fresh sardines.
“I came up with the idea to introduce my farm as a tourist destination when Baan Phu Anda Phuket Resort brought its guests here a few years ago. They enjoyed a picnic with my aquatic animals. Then the Tourism Authority of Thailand in Phang Nga helped promote my farm to other resorts and the public. Now, I provide spaces for picnics and a canoeing service. Admission is Bt50 for Thais and Bt150 for foreigners.” Kasem says.
At the Baan Tha Khao pier, a group of female villagers are busy running workshops on batik painting. They have turned some space in the Otop centre into an art studio, where visitors can design their own shawls, scarves, handkerchiefs, tablecloths, sarongs and photo frames.
“We formed the Otop centre 15 years ago as a way to generate extra income. The group has 25 members, each of whom invests Bt3,000 and is in charge of the workshop after finishing their routine work. Our group started by making local and Thai snacks such as curry puffs and crispy roti. Then we took a two-year batik course with the Department of Skill Development and created a collection of lifestyle products. Our designs and workshops are supported by local bungalows and the Six Senses resort,” says Sapeeya Yusoh.
Travellers take part in a batik painting class at the OTOP centre.
“Now, we offer batik classes, designed to suit the lifestyles of travellers. They can choose among |one-, three- and six-hour classes ranging in price from Bt200 to Bt1,200, based on textile sizes and techniques.”
No drawing skills are required and Sapeeya and her friends teach visitors all the basics as well as easy techniques to paint island landscapes, the sea, hornbills and flowers on fabric. Ready-made items can be found in the adjoining boutique.
IF YOU GO
>> The lobster farm by Bang Ni is open daily from 7am to 6pm. Call (081) 270 7393.
>> Book a batik class by calling (089) 295 6322.