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KOH PHANGAN

Coconut Tree Paradise

Serene Ko Pha-Ngan

In the late 1970s, Ko Pha-Ngan was a pristine paradise that beckoned the intrepid. Its innocent days may be long gone, but don’t let that deter you: this gulf isle offers much more than the Full Moon parties that made it famous.

THE AREA

Choose quieter days in the lunar calendar, or the smaller but still-raucous half-moon party periods, and the island’s charms are brought to the fore. It’s easier to get a room, prices are more reasonable and far fewer people are on the island, meaning more solitude and tranquillity. Even Hat Rin – party central when the moon is round – is quiet and relaxing during other periods, and the beaches are kept clean. The quietest months are April to June, when the island is in low gear – an ideal time to visit for low accommodation prices, fewer elbows per square kilometre and safer roads. The island of Koh Phangan has more than 20 beautiful white sandy beaches which are perfect for those looking to unwind and relax. Aside from the mayhem of the Full Moon Party – for the other 28 days of the year, it is a peaceful spot, full of yoga classes, more low key parties, nature, waterfalls, snorkeling and mountain trails.

NIGHTCLUBS AND BARS

The north west coast is also home to the longest beach on Koh Phangan, Haad Yao. Stretching almost 1km, Haad Yao beach is big enough to attract the crowds in high season while still leaving more than enough room for everyone. There are plenty of bars, restaurants and resorts here to accommodate your needs whether you’re party goers, or an older person looking for peace and chill. The areas surrounding Srithanu beach, are popular with the spiritual community. This part of the island has many open spaces, both at the beach and in the jungle, that it creates the ideal place to practise yoga and meditation. There’s lots of well established and well priced yoga retreats, detox centres and holistic practitioners in the north west of the island especially.

Best of Ko Pha-Ngan

FULL MOON PARTY

Often cited as one of the main reasons people choose to visit Thailand in the first place, no visit to this island is complete without taking in the delights of the Full Moon Party. Originally a small gathering, it’s since grown into one of the most famous parties in the world, welcoming thousands each month to dance and drink on the shores of Haad Rin beach. It shouldn’t be missed.

THE WEATHER

Bangkok might be a little too hot, and Chiang Mai can get a little chilly at night, but on Koh Phangan it’s paradise all year round. Whilst there might be the occasional spattering of rain in the wet season, it only serves to bring on the rainbows, and the rest of your time will be spent in the glorious sunshine. With a cooling sea breeze and palm trees for shade, the island has you covered if you’re feeling a little too hot — not to mention the invitingly-clear seas that are perfect for a swim.

CAFE CULTURE

An island off the coast of Thailand might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of third wave coffee culture, but that will all change once you sample the delights of Koh Phangan’s cafes and coffee shops. Spots like Bubba’s and Dots offer some of the best coffee outside of Bangkok, whilst there are plenty of places serving serving Western brunch favourites like avocado on toast. Come for the beaches, and stay for the beans and brunches.

THE WATERS

If you thought Koh Phangan was great on the surface, wait until you get below the waves. Koh Phangan and its nearby surroundings offer some great diving experiences, from wreck diving to night dives, and the costs are more than reasonable. Colourful fish, coral and exotic marine life such as whale sharks and stingrays can all be spotted on dives, and there are dive schools on the island that can get you certified and in the water in no time. Not a fan of diving? Not to worry — there’s plenty to see whilst snorkeling, too.

THONG SALA NIGHT MARKET

Night markets are a great place to get a feel and a taste of local culture; whilst the Thong Sala night market might be popular with tourists, it’s also a great place to get to know locals and their culture. The seafood dishes are extremely fresh and mouth-wateringly delicious on the island, whilst there’s also the chance to tuck into some regional delicacies you might not have tried in Bangkok or the north. Located by the pier, ditch your bags on arrival and dig in.

VIA MOTORBIKES

Unlike the smaller Koh Phi Phi island, Koh Phangan is bigger and therefore, has motorbikes and scooters on its roads that are available to rent. Costing as little as 150 baht per day, riding one is easy and the best way to explore every inch of the island. The island will be your oyster, and you can access incredible views of the island, while having a sense of independence on your travels and visiting places that would leave you a sweaty mess should you attempt to walk from your hotel.

TREKKING ROUTES

A hilly island with a tonne of natural features such as mountains, jungles and waterfalls, Koh Phangan is the perfect place for a spot of a trekking, and possibly making up for the excesses of the nightly parties. The eastern coast of the island has a number of well-established trekking routes, whilst the Phaeng and Than Sadet waterfalls showcase the natural splendour of the island perfectly.

MUAY THAI

Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand, and there are plenty of opportunities to practice your moves on the island. Whilst the idea of starting a martial art might seem a little daunting, it needn’t be. Gyms such as Diamond Muay Thai are extremely welcoming to newbies and more experienced fighters. They do their best to keep you at ease and enjoying yourself. If in the end it’s not for you, at least you ticked it off the list — and you’ll have an interesting dinner party story.

Travel to Ko Pha-Ngan

AIRPORTS

The closest airport is Ko Samui (USM) which has frequent flights from Bangkok, Phuket and Singapore, Hong Kong and several direct flights each week from Chiang Mai and Kuala Lumpur. Transportation to the ferry dock is easy to find at the airport. Ferries depart several times a day with the last one around dusk. Flights to Ko Samui are much more expensive than to Chumphon or Surat Thani.

BOAT

From Ko Samui: There are at least 3 ferries a day from Ko Samui's "Big Buddha" pier directly to Haad Rin. Ferries also leave from Nathon and Mae Nam piers to Thong Sala several times a day. Fast Lomprayah catamaran costs 300 baht (3 times a day), while Songserm Express 200 baht (twice a day).

BUS AND BOAT

The best way in by bus is by 999 Government Bus - 1020 bath for VIP class/750 bath 2' class ( comprehensive of the boat ticket) 999 Bus start/arrive directly in Na Dan ferry piers: these are the most direct, quickest, reliable, safest, and hassle-free services. Tickets for these services can be bought at Sai Tai Taling Chan (southern) government bus terminal in Bangkok (which is actually located in west of Bangkok) or in Na Dan piers(Koh Phangan).

TRAIN

An overnight train from Bangkok is an interesting option. Trains arrive in Surat Thani or Chumphon, and from there you can transfer by bus and then boat. Chumphon is the option if you're planning to stop at Ko Tao, but if you're heading straight to Ko Pha Ngan, consider Surat Thani. Both stations are on the southbound Hay Yai line, but arrival times in Chumphon (when using night trains) are annoyingly early in the morning. For example, the (recommended) express train number #85 arrives around 04:00 after which you'll have to wait about 3 hours for the ferry.

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