Doug's Interest In Koh
I will disclose up front that I've
NEVER been to a full moon, half moon, quarter moon, eighth
moon, sixteenth moon, black moon, green moon, mahogany moon,
or turquoise moon party on Koh Phangan. I had
opportunities. In December 2005, I was on the
island when a full moon party was supposed to happen.
It got canned because two Swedish girls drowned in heavy
currents, but I had made no plans to attend it when the
party was meant to happen. I spent another 6 weeks on
the island from late January to early March 2007 and missed
one or two Full Moon parties. That I can't tell you
whether it was one or two parties shows you much I
You see, I'm more into the smaller scene. I'd prefer a
concert in a small club vs a sports arena. A massive
par-tay scene is of no interest to me.
Doug's interests on Koh Phangan are all Old
Skool, sparsely occupied tropical beaches:
(left) Hat Tien sunrise; (middle) Hat Yuan;
(right) Thong Nai Pan
My interest in Koh Phangan is a very simple one. When I first
visited the island in 1994, it was little developed. You
could rent a simple, basic bungalow near a beach and enjoy serene time
away from it all. In 1994, I have no recollection which beach I
stayed at, but it was far from any of the major island towns, and there
weren't many good roads in the vicinity.
That impression stayed with me when I revisited the island in 2005. While
the island had certainly changed in the eleven years since I'd
previously visited, it had fortunately been spared the 7-11 stripmallization that had transformed its neighbors
Koh Samui and Koh Tao.
The unofficial and unattractive capital was larger, there were
more restaurants and guesthouses in full moon party-central Had Rin
which had grown like urban sprawl in any larger city, the
road network had expanded, but there were still beaches inaccessible by
Remote or well touristed beaches -- take your pick
This is changing, however. In 1994, there weren't many roads
period, and many of them were in just plain poor shape. From the 2004
map, you can see roads sprawling to most of the beaches. The
beaches along the east coast have been spared coastal road development
thus far. When I last visited Hat Tien/Hat Yuan beach in early
2007 (see Ao Haad Yuan on map), there was no road. You could take
a beautiful hiking trail to Hat Rin or you had to make the journey by
boat. As roads touch more and more beach pockets and transport
to/from all locales becomes easier, rapid development and luxury
accommodation springs up. If not done properly, the local
character is compromised.
Getting around by boat is the most common form of transportation by
visitors. Local boats that can stuff a half a dozen people make
the shorter journeys, such as the trip from Hat Rin to Hat Yuan.
The water can get choppy and your luggage can get wet, so it's
recommended you insulate your belongings with plastic garbage bags.
More proper boats circulate the island less frequently, stopping at any
beaches along the way. Some depart the boat to check in at a
new location while travelers departing said beach embark.
The perimeter of Koh Phangan is only 50 km. It doesn't take much
time to circle the island.
Koh Samui and Koh Tao are both short ferry rides away.
Koh Phangan's Charm
Today's traveler wants to make a split second decision whether it is worth their while to visit some place. Is Koh Phangan worth your time?
Let's resort to an old Hollywood practice of summarizing a proposed
project in as few words as possible. If Koh
Samui is "the Spa Island", Koh Tao is the
"Dive Island," then Koh Phangan is the "Hang Out Island."
Koh Phangan has seen the development of some
luxury hotels, but no one would mistake Koh Phangan for Koh Samui.
Rustic bungalows are still the name of the game for most of the
travelers coming here, who tend to stay a long time and return
seasonally. I visited Hat Tien in December 2005. When
I returned in February 2007, I ran into the same English girl I'd met
the first time, and she pointed out a number of people present whom
she'd met on previous visits. A Canadian girl, a friend of the
English one, was staying a year.
see people staying a year on Koh Samui. They're retirees living
nice townhouse. You'll see people staying a year on Koh Tao, too.
They're employed as divemasters. You'll see plenty staying on Koh Phangan,
too, doing absolutely nothing. They can do so because Koh Phangan offers them a rustic inexpensive
I came at the end of 2005 to visit a particular beach. My brother
had visited Thailand earlier that year and had raved about the Thai
cuisine there. I came for only four days. I had no more
time to spare; I was already booked on a flight to Australia. I
discovered this beach had a wellness center with a detoxification
program. It was
expensive by Thai standards. I could live cheaper per day drinking
and eating to my heart's content than I could fasting and performing
coffee colonics twice a day. Still, it was cheap by
Western standards, and I vowed to return to this beach after my trip to
Australia to conduct the detox.
I kept my word. More than a year later, I started my detox. I ate raw
foods for two days before the one-week regime, and raw for three days
afterwards. I had first considering leaving shortly after the detox was
finished. But an extra day's stay turned into a week, then two
weeks, then three weeks. I just hung around. I'd do yoga
classes four days a week, run on the beach, read books on my balcony.
There were a couple of utterly fantastic restaurants. Food was
expensive relative to Had Rin -- everything had to be boated in from
there -- but life was still cheap, relaxed, and tranquil. An
Italian man I met there, no more than a decade older than myself, had
claimed he'd retired to this island and beach permanently.
I stayed six weeks in the end. For four nights, I caught a boat to
Thong Nai Pan beach. My bungalow on Hat Yuan was so
reasonably priced and with it being high season, I just kept renting my
bungalow there as a base as I explored other parts of the island for
days at a time.
I had a full slate of plans during my six weeks there, nearly all of
which didn't materialize. For the completely unmotivated, count on
getting less than nothing done, and that's all part of the charm.