Koh Phangan Tourism
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Koh Phangan  Information & Guides

     

Koh Phangan has long been "the" favorite destination for backpackers and ravers from all over the world. They still gather on the island all year long to join the different parties that made it famous, like the Full Moon Party happening every month for 20 years on Haad Rin Beach.

But the magical spirit of Koh Phangan makes it also perfectly suitable for those travellers looking for tranquil and wilder surroundings in a preserved environment.
The island also has heaps of quieter and undeveloped spots that will remind you of Koh Samui as it was 15 years ago...
With a pinch of luxury, if you're in the mood, as many new resorts offer for just a few years now, new services like swimming pools, air conditioned rooms and even Spas and health centers, bringing them closer to the hotel standard of Koh Samui...

Just like Samui, Koh Phangan has numerous heavenly white sand beaches all along its coastline, some of them reachable only by boat. But it differs from its elder sister with its wide mountainous jungle in the center of the island, a large part of it being actually classified "national park" by Thailand.
This preservation of almost half of its surface allows the island to keep its natural and untamed character and, above all, to avoid spoiling its wonderful land-scapes by an excess of buildings.

So, whether you like beach or jungle, silence or heavy party sound, Koh Phangan will satisfy you and your soul, and you will easily find out for yourself why this island is perfect for making the vacations of your dreams.

General Information

Ko Pha Ngan (or Koh Phangan, Thai: ŗ°“–ĺ–ß—Ļ) is an island in the Gulf of Thailand in South East Thailand. It is famous for its full moon party at Haad Rin Beach and as a backpackers destination. Ko Pha Ngan has two sister islands: the larger Ko Samui to the south and the smaller Ko Tao to the north.

Koh Phangan is located in Jangwat (province) Suratthani in the Southern Gulf of Thailand and is part of the group of islands that make up the Samui Archipelago; a group of over 40 islands fashioned in granite from age old igneous formations.

The provincial capital is also called Suratthani and acts as the main overland transport hub for the islands. Koh Phangan is 70kms from the mainland and approximately 12kms away from Koh Samui which acts as the main air link to Koh Phangan.

Koh Phangan is most easily accessd via Koh Samui Airport though it is slightly cheaper to fly to the regional transport hub of Suratthani. From Koh Samui a fast boat takes only 25 minutes whereas the journey from the mainland takes around eight times longer. If you come overland, the overnight train is the best option with a frist class sleeper carriage ideal for families.

Buses are the most economic choice with a trip from Bangkok costing only about 650 Baht, all the way to Koh Phangan. Ferry services are more or less hourly throughout the day from Koh Samui and every couple of hours from the mainland; several boats also go regularly from Koh Tao.

   
History & Facts
Koh Phangan has always been a beautiful and spiritual place for the Thai people, it has been visited by no less than four Kings of Thailand; with the Great Rama V coming over 10 times, leaving his royal seal engraved on a rock at Thaan Sadet Waterfall; and the current King Bhumibol following in his footsteps. The island was uninhabited until about 600 years ago when passing monks realised its tranquillity and spiritual importance and settled in Wat Phu Khao Noi just outside Thongsala. It is Thailandís fifth biggest island and has an area of 167km2, thus over 90% of Koh Phangan is unspoilt tropical forest; and due to its granite structure, there are several small mountains where itís possible to trek and even camp. There is an abundance of wildlife from monkeys to birds of paradise and then there is the amazing underwater world that surrounds Koh Phangan; with over 10kms of vibrant coral and 20 local dive sites. And if you have any energy after that, there is the nightlife that the island became internationally famous for, with the globally renowned Full Moon Party and weekly outdoor events in jungle and beachfront venues; not forgetting the daily session that goes off in Haad Rin.
   
Climate
December to February
The cool season : temperatures can reach up to 30°C (86°F). Brief tropical rain showers occur mostly in December. This is the best season to visit Koh Phangan.

March to June

The hot season : it becomes very hot - up to 40°C (114°F), with little or no rain. You will appreciate your air-conditioned hotel room during this time!

July to September

The pre-monsoon : it's hot with occasional rains. More or less nice weather, depending on the years, september seems to be better

October and November
The rain season : it's the monsoon, and you'll see more rain than any other months, though it generally doesn't rain every day, neither all day, nice hot days can even happen. It's a good idea to take a raincoat, when going outside....

Get Around

By motorcycle
100-125cc motorbikes can be hired from around 200 baht/day; larger capacity models cost 300-700 baht/day. Foreigners are without exceptions required to leave their passport as a deposit.

Some rental shops overcharge for every scratch or dent. They don't fix, but rather replace the whole part - so note damages to the bike on the rental contract. Be aware that your passport may be held against you until you pay the exorbitant repair cost. This practice is, justified or not, very common all over the region. However, it's quite rare (though not unheard of) that you would actually have to pay for the damage you haven't done. In most cases, it's the combination of inexperienced and intoxicated driving when accidents happen. If you don't know what you're doing stay on the safe side and stick with Songthaew.

Avoid riding at sundown, when the bugs are out en masse, and result in brief periods of riding blind, while you desperately try to clear your corneas. Try not to go home with a 'KPN tattoo' - this can either result from your tender-skinned body sliding along a bitumen road at high speed with few clothes on, or from the inside of your leg touching too hot exhaust pipe of the moped.

Care is needed if attempting to go over the notorious Haad Rin hills, the roads at the eastern side of the island, and north of Haad Yao. Especially the "Hill of Tears" (first steep ascend from Thong Sala towards Haad Rin) needs caution - use low gear only and rather have your passenger walk, than bruised up.

Drunk driving in the West is illegal - in Ko Pha Ngan it's suicidal. Better to sit in the back of a taxi than hitting one head on at night, or end up in hospital.

Wear a helmet, avoid riding in flip-flops and stay within your limits. The slower you drive, the less it's gonna hurt.

It is also possible to rent small Suzuki jeeps, however you will find that you can circuit the island in a day.

By songthaew

Songthaew pick-up truck taxis criss-cross the island for around 100 baht a ride, or 150 baht for the less accessible destination of Thong Nai Pan, if you share taxi car with other people. As of 2009, taxi drivers have cartelized to fix prices to 200 baht a ride - no bargaining.

It is important to note that ALL taxi service on Koh Phangan is provided by songthaew. Should you choose to go with a freelancer on a motorbike or in a pickup, make arrangements quickly, quietly and pay surrepitiously.

By boat

Boats cruise the bays with your snorkeling gear until somewhere takes your fancy. The round-the-island, all day boat trip is a great way to see some of the best beaches in the island.

   

SEE

  • Salad Beach on Ko Pha NganThan Sadet-Ko Pha-Ngan National Park The park is named after the river Than Sadet (lit. Royal River). The river forms the largest waterfall on the island, which was visited by several Thai kings. Especially Rama V liked the placed and visited 14 times.
  • Visit the beautiful waterfalls and lookouts in the interior of the island.
  • The herbal sauna at Wat Pho is a great relief after long party nights. It's near the 7/11 branch in Baan Thai, on the south-western side of the island. Don't forget to leave a donation, always wear a sarong (over your bikini) - remember that you are on temple-territory and locals find nudity offensive. This is not a European sauna, sitting naked will get you into trouble.
  • If you're into fire, you'll find spinners and twirlers on many of the beaches, teachers abund and poi are easy to find.
  • Visit Ko Ma off the north-west coast of Ko Pha Ngan.It offeres one of the best snorkeling places on the island.
  • On the road between Thongsala and Chaloklum is beautiful Chinese Temple with overlooking on Chaloklum Bay.
  • There is a Elephant Camp on the way from Baan Tai to Thong Nai Pan, take a photo or try trekking through the jungle.

DO

  • Explore the beauty of Koh Phangan Island, through exciting day, evening and adventure tours. Experience, diving, snorkeling, kayaking, speed boat excursions to Ang Thong National Marine Park, Muay Thai, fishing trips, cultural tours, elephant riding, enjoy the beauty of nature that the Koh Maa area has to offer and have a relaxing boat trip. With so many things to see and do your time in Koh Phangan will be truly memorable.
  • Scuba Diving Koh Pha-Ngan has lovely sites around the island which are perfect for both beginners and trained divers. From easy dives off the beach to longer trips by boat you can experience the world of tropical diving. The waters around Koh Pha-Ngan are much nicer than most people know: fine hard corals with a good range of reefs and tropical/pelagic fish. Sailrock, undoubtedly the most famous dive site in the Gulf of Thailand. Located between Koh Pha-ngan and Koh Tao all the wonders of this exciting site can be explored by all levels of divers. This spectacular rock rises out of the water creating the best wall dive with a maximum depth of 40 metres. Providing a great range of marine life, spectacular underwater scenery, rock formations. There are several PADI dive-schools on the island, amongst others, Scuba Fun Thailand by Cyana Beach Resortlocated in Woktum bay, Haad Yao Divers a small PADI 5 Star Gold Palm Dive Center located on Haad Yao, Mae Haad and Haad Chao Phao, Reefers Dive Resort located in Haad Yao beach, Sail Rock Divers, Lotus Dive Resort, both located in Chalok Lam, and Koh Phangang Divers, located in Haad Rin. You will, however, find many more dive schools through out the island.
  • Full Moon Party - if you're after party heaven you can't do better than Haad Rin, an expanded village of beach bars, cheap chicken burgers, and low cut figure-hugging outfits. It is most popular one night a month - the night of the Full Moon Party. Every bar is hopping, the beaches packed with trance, dance, buckets, and various other suspicious substances. However, if the sight of thousands of bottles and other trash repulses you, make sure you leave the beach area before the sun comes up, or grab a garbage bag and help tidy up a little. If you're not on Ko Pha Ngan during the full moon, don't worry: there are other parties to be had, including Half Moon (2 times a month), Black Moon, Jungle Parties, as well as the Shiva Moon party. There is always something to do in Ko Pha Ngan.
  • Archery can be attempted at the "First Bow and Arrow Archery" close to Chaloklum on the road to Thongsala. Four archers can have a go at the same time, people are very friendly (German spoken during high season) and helpful.
  • Hiking can be done all around the island. There is a trail that leads between Haad Rin and Haad Tien, which many enjoy however the route can become difficult to discern, and bringing enough water is necessary.
  • Muay Thai gyms such as "Jungle Gym" in Haad Rin and Thong Sala Muay Thai offering training and work out facilities, as well as camps such as "Horizon" located in Haad Tien (east) which is an intensive training camp. There are also frequent matches in Thong Sala and Haad Rin for spectators who don't want to learn the sport.
  • Yoga is offered at multiple locations including Agama Yoga, which is located in the northwest of the island, and has month long intensive courses.
  • Trip Around The Island One day in Paradise Safari Boat, see everything interesting in one day trip. Daily Tour. Visit Chinese Temple, Elephant Camp, Bottle Beach, Thong Nai Pan, Thansadet Waterfalls, see monkey show, wonderful snorkeling.. have a fun with your friends.

BUY

Under Thai law, travel agents that offer ticket, tours, tourism services, hotel reservations in Thailand must be registered with the Tourism Authority Thailand to improve quality of service and help protect the customer from fraud. Please check to make sure you are booking through a TAT registered travel agent.

Both Thong Sala and Haad Rin sell pretty much anything you can think of, and probably some things you don't need at all. You can try to bargain, but realistically, the prices are set. You may get a deal every now and again, but it's the exception to the rule. Remember that you're in a tourist area and that prices usually are above the level of for say Bangkok.

Main purchases you will find on Ko Pha Ngan include hammocks (check out "Hammock Home" in Thong Sala) as well as some of the local artists works. Most of the clothing is of the variety that you will find in Bangkok, but generally it is a bit more expensive, as it has been imported to the island for sale.

Art Galleries are also considered to be rising business in Koh Phangan, most of the places will offer variety works and services including custom orders and art reproductions. These galleries have reputations in affordable prices and fine quality artist skills.

Tesco-Lotus delicious inexpensive bakery, open 10.00 - 22.00, in Thongsala

EAT

For an authentic experience (and cheaper than the well-decorated cafe/restaurants by Haad Rin beach), look at the more modest cafes where you might see some Thais eating.

The best area for authentic cheap eats is definitely Thong Sala, the main town on the island.

Umi ~ Vegetarian, 73/10 Moo 1, Thongsala, Tel 077377815, [1]. 10am - 6pm. Vege Good Food ! Simple and delicious curries, salads and soups from around the world. Daily specials menu including Indian, Korean, African, Mediterranean and other World Food.
Me'n'u The signature restaurant of the five star resort Rasananda at Tong Nai Pan Noi has become firmly established as the island's premier eatery, sourcing only the finest freshest ingredients to create their Modern European cuisine, this has to be the finest location of all the restaurants on Koh Phangan island, that includes a 500 bottle wine cellar and champagne lounge.
Mr K - Had rin, soi cactus. On the alley (soi) leading to cactus bar, past mama schnitzels is the best, cheapest food in all of Had Rin. Yellow painted walls and slightly grubby interior should not put you off. excellant service!

Fellini, Srithanu. A new, stylish Italian restaurant. Stone-cooked pizzas, a wide choice of pastas, steaks, seafood, salads. Good choices of wine. e
Ando Loco - Thongsala's Mexican restaurant of the year for two years running, authentic cuisine only using imported spices, best tequilla and Margarita's on the Island.
Little House, Central St Haadrin. Seems to be always busy, popular with the locals. Fairly large cafe-style diner with an open kitchen and resident puppy. Friendly staff but don't expect a chat unless you speak islander Thai! Four gorgeous and filling curries can be had for 200 baht - 5 euro. A coffee shake at D's across the street will cost the same just for one.

Stay Save

Emergency contacts

  • Fire: dial 199
  • Police: dial 191 (077 377 114)
  • Tourist Police: dial 1155 (this supersedes the old "1699" number)
  • Koh Phangan Rescue Centre: dial 077 377 118

Yes, the Full Moon Party (as well as others) is full of drugs, but these days it's also full of plain clothed policemen out to bust you. Be very careful if you intend to consume illicit drugs. Road blocks are common, particularly in the week before the FMP between Thong Sala and Haad Rin. Thai police have also been known to force urine tests. Remember that the Thais have harsh penalties for drug offences and the police are working to meet their "quota". Be aware that you may NOT be able to bail yourself out of trouble - especially if you get transferred to Surat Thani - and that bribing Thai police will at least cut a deep hole into your travel budget, if it is possible at all. Do not keep drugs on you, in your room, or in your vehicle.

If you plan to drink at a party, make sure you have reliable transportation set up beforehand. The roads here are nothing to mess with, and too many people try to drive home because they don't have a taxi waiting. If nothing else, find a safe corner and sleep it off before you head home.

It's not a good idea to accept drinks or food from strangers, there are reported incidents of spiked drinks (from both locals and "fellow" travellers). There have been reports of LSD buckets foisted upon unsuspecting partyers in Haad Rin. Drugged drinks are often and unfortunately followed up by robbery, sexual harassment, or even (gang) rapes. Best idea is to afford your own drinks and stay with your friends.

On closer inspection of the buckets sold, most liquor bottles are unsealed; thus there is uncerainty about the true contents of every bottle. This may be why so many people get sick.

However a local club owner states "we use the small bottles for the buckets and it is cheaper and easier for us to re-use the small bottles. The local stockists always run out of small bottles so we often replace the contents with that from a larger bottle of the same liquor (some clubs use cheaper liquor - ask POLITELY at the bar for original liquor and be prepared to pay more for original liquor). The hangovers come from dehydration - most kids drink buckets all night then party in the morning sun on alcohol - best advise is drink water regularly - even at night as its hot and sweaty!"

So before buying a bucket, check the seal of the bottle and politely ask what's in it if you are worried. Apart from that, remember the fact that buckets can be VERY strong and unpredictable. If you intend to get drunk, try to have solid food beforehand, or you might "lose it" very fast.

It's advisable to leave all valuables in a safety deposit box or at your guest house owner's hands instead of taking them to the party.

Wear shoes or sandals to avoid injury from broken bottles or burning cigarettes.

If you're averse to getting knocked on the head with flaming batons, then don't venture too close to the Fire Poi swingers on the beach, as skillful as they may be, the fire sometimes gets out of hand and hit nearby tourists. "Fire Skipping Rope / Jump through Fire Hoop" are dangerous games provided a few of the beach bars, take care of participating in these games, especially if you are drunk!

If you plan to leave the island the day after the Full Moon Party, be aware that the boats are usually packed with other tourists who have the same idea. Make sure you're not getting on an overloaded boat. Same applies to taxi-boats before and after the FMP. The Thai frequently overload their longtail boats and lost luggage is at your own expense. Rather get off, reclaim your money and wait for the next one.

There are many good places to stay in Ko Pha Ngan, if you want to stay close to the action, but not TOO close you may choose the resorts on the "sunset side" of Haad Rin. You can stay just about anywhere on the island and still get to the Full Moon Party, so don't be afraid to venture away from Haad Rin, which is the most developed and least Thai beach of them all. There are aver 30 coves and beaches on the island, each with it's own distinct qualities. Check out local information to find which beach suits you.

Try to WALK AWAY from every potential conflict with locals. You will stand no chance and it's a surefire way to get hospitalized. Also try not to get inappropriately rowdy or swear at the beach bar staff. In April 2007 an Israeli tourist got stabbed to death right on the dancefloor in one of the bars on Haad Rin beach - violence is frequent. The locals will not help you in a fight and will in fact gang up on you whether you are right or wrong, and "fellow" travellers will do their best to stay out of it, too. If you find yourself seriously aimed for, LEAVE THE PLACE IMMEDIATELY and don't come back the same night. Thais who lose their temper usually are back to normal the next day. Be friendly and smile - you're on a holiday! Everything is best done with a smile here as this is Thai culture.

INTERNET

Internet cafes are plentiful and typically also offer international calls, fax services and flight confirmation. The connection and speed is generally good. Expect to pay 60 baht/h (1 baht/m) for internet in the central locations. One baht per minute is typical for predominantly tourist-oriented shops, many of which also offer lower rates for pre-paid blocks of time. It's not difficult to find well-equipped, quiet, air-con Internet caf?s that charge 60 baht/hour if you shop around a little; likewise shops that can accommodate users who want to hook up their own laptops can easily be found. Printing (black/white) is usually 10 baht/page (30 baht/page for colour).

Overseas calls can be made from many agencies and Internet shops, as well as guesthouses/hotels and the like - most advertise a rate of 15 baht/minute (or 25 baht/minute to mobile 'phones).

The Pha-Ngan's post office is located south of Thong Sala. As well as the usual postal services, it handles Western Union transactions and hosts a large number of post/security boxes. On weekdays (except public holidays) it's open 08:30-16:30, and on Saturday and Sunday and public holidays it's open 09:00-12:00; tel. 077 377 118.

 

 
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