There are no words to describe how much love I have for Koh Phangan.
From the vast, white beaches to the bustle and madness of the Full Moon Party, there’s something for everyone on the island.
I stayed at Mac’s Bay Backpackers on Baan Tai beach, and highly recommend it! Whilst it’s a little more expensive than hostelling, at around £20 pppn (absolutely extortionate for Thailand) the rooms are clean and comfortable and you’ve got access to a stunning private beach, as well as the pool and Jacuzzi. If you’ve been sleeping with bed bugs in bunk beds so far, pushing the boat out here is well worth it.
At Mac’s Bay you can get your laundry done at reception, have an hour-long oil massage on the beach for 300Baht and wade through the hot sea onto a handily located sandbank for sunbathing.
Staying anywhere on Baan Tai beach will put you only a short taxi ride away from Haad Rin- the full moon beach- near enough to be convenient, but also far enough away to get a decent night’s sleep and clean sand to lay on!
There are shops, restaurants and a medical centre on the main road nearby, and whilst guesthouses almost always have their own restaurant or cafe you’ll save money by taking the short trip to a local restaurant instead- where you can fill up on red curry and rice with a side of chang beer for less than 100baht (<£2).
If you’re really splashing out and you’re feeling homesick, ask a taxi driver to take you to the Mason’s Arms pub. It’s a proper English pub (no, really) complete with draught lagers and scotch eggs. It’s a bit pricier than doing the right thing and keeping it authentic- but it’s still cheaper than England, and it’s pretty bloody good.
I couldn’t write a post about Koh Phangan without mentioning the Full Moon Party. It’s one of those things that you kind of have to go to if it happens while you’re there, even if it makes you feel like a granny at a warehouse rave.
All the full moon party dates can be found online at http://www.fullmoonparty-thailand.com/
and no matter where you’re staying, there’ll be a member of staff around who is ready and waiting to sell you a ticket and a ride there.
If, like me, the buckets of knock-off booze and endless waves of neon paint get a bit much for you, face the sea, look left, and walk to the very end of the beach. Here you’ll find Mellow Mountain, a chilled out bar where you can relax on hippy floor cushions and look down on the ravey madness happening below you. If alcohol isn’t your poison, then you’ll be glad to hear the rumours are true- Mellow Mountain has a second bar tucked away in a far corner where you can order, uh, *special* milkshakes and *jazz style* cigarettes.
Don’t tell your mum about that one.
Other night-time activities on Koh Phangan include trawling through unidentifiable foodstuffs and handmade jewellery at the night markets, and such antics as the flaming limbo back on Haad Rin beach- see below for my ‘come at me, fire’ stance.
By day, book onto a boat tour of the island (we opted for a booze cruise on the world’s most rickety, vodka-laden fishing boat) and make the most of Thailand’s lack of health and safety regulations by jumping into the sea for a bit of drunken snorkelling, or to swim ashore at an idyllic spot like Bottle Beach. There are a number of stunning waterfalls on the island, including Phaeng Waterfall, Paradise waterfall and Than Sadet (pictured at the top of this article looking quite rock-pooly), and they’re all pretty easy to reach.
Pictured below is the view from our questionable party boat as the sun started to set on a day of tropical fish-harassing, jellyfish-avoiding and waterfall-climbing.
Get to Koh Phangan, and go explore.