Koh Phangan – Overview
Party, relaxation, or both?
Some people think Koh Phangan is a destination only for backpackers and young people enjoying the Full Moon Party on Had Rin every month. But it is a large island, and parties are just a small part of what it has to offer.
If relaxing in a hammock or reading a good book is your preferred type of holiday activity, this island is almost perfect. Moreover, if you want to meet friends from all over the world and have a really good time, Phangan is also the place to go.
Koh Phangan has repeatedly been named one of the best destinations in Thailand in newspapers and internet voting. Give it a try and find out for yourself!
Koh Phangan (also spelled Ko PhaNgan ) is truly the island of freedom. It is a relaxed oasis in the Gulf of Thailand with some of the best beaches in the south-eastern Thailand.
Koh Phangan is located in SuratThani (also spelled Suratthani) Province, which borders the much larger South China Sea. It is located about 15 kilometers north of the island Koh Samui.
Koh Phangan is an island on the east coast of Thailand, not far from Suratthani city on the mainland. The area of this island is 168 square kilometers. The main town on Koh Phangan is Thong Sala, located on the southwest coast.
An exception to the relaxed atmosphere can be the Full Moon Party when Rin Nok transforms into a dance floor made of sand. If you do not wish to participate in this very crowded event, or even listen to music, don’t worry! Koh Phangan is a relatively large island, so you can easily find a quiet and beautiful place to stay, even when the moon is full.
Koh Phangan – Getting there
Koh Phangan is located about 2 1/2 hours from Suratthani Province and 45 minutes from Koh Samui Island by boat. There are ferries between Suratthani, Samui, and Phangan. You can also take a speed boat from Bophut Pier on Koh Samui. Buy your ticket from a travel agent, and try booking a bungalow or room in advance for your trip as there are a lot of people staying overnight, and so it may be difficult to get a bungalow in the early morning hours.
Boat Service to Koh Phangan
(Schedules and fares listed here are subject to change without notice. Contact boat companies or TAT offices in SuratThani and Koh Samui for current information.)
Don Sak – Koh Phangan
Racha Ferry operates ferry services from Don Sak Pier (40 km from SuratThani) to Ko Phangan daily at 7 AM, 10 AM, 2 PM, and 5:30 PM. The boat trip takes 2 ½ hours. Bus services from SuratThani city or SuratThani Station to Don Sak is available.
SuratThani – Koh Phangan
SongsermRungrueang Co. Ltd. has express boat services. The boats depart from Lamphun pier (10 kilometers from SuratThani) to Koh Phangan daily at 8 AM. The trip takes 3 hours. Services to the pier are available.
Koh Samui – Koh Phangan
SongsermRungrueang Co. Ltd. has boats from Koh Samui Na Thon pier, 2 times daily, at 9 AM and 11 AM. The boat trip takes 45 minutes. A catamaran leaves Koh Samui, Mae Nam pier at 8 AM and 12 PM. The boat trip takes 30 minutes. Standard boats leave Koh Samui, PhraYai pier at 9:30 AM, 11:40 AM, 2:30 PM, and 5:30 PM and sail to Koh Phangan, Rin Nai beach. This boat service takes 50 minutes.
Koh Phangan – Weather
The weather on the island is pretty warm all year round. The average daytime temperature is around 29-33 degrees Celsius.
In September-November rain is more common because of the wet monsoon season. But the rainfalls are often quite short and refresh the air, and they are also important for water supply systems and to preserve the island’s unique nature.
The best time to visit the island is during the high season from December to March, when the water is high, clean, and good for swimming. There is no rain, and the temperatures are pleasant. Another peak season is during July/August after the dry season when the water is rising. The worst time when you should avoid visiting the island is during the dry season from April to June, as all the best beaches on the northwest coast (Mae Haad, Haadyao, Chaloklum, HaadKhom) are useless for swimming due to shallow water. Swimming in this season is only possible on the northeast coast, on the beautiful Bottle Beach and the less accessible east coast (ThongNai Pan, HaadSadet, Haad Rin), where the only beach with good accessibility/road and swimming opportunities are Haad Rin, which is not crowded in the off-season. The South Coast should be avoided during the whole year due to poor water and sand.
Koh Phangan – Beaches
You will find several stunning beaches on the island of Koh Phangan: Had Rin Nok, Had Rin Nai, Had Yao, and Had Kuat are a few of the most popular.
In the southern
Had Rin Nok and Had Rin Nai
The most famous beach on Koh Phangan is Had Rin, and it actually consists of two beaches. Had Rin Nok is located in the southeastern part of the island and is considered one of the best beaches on Koh Phangan, since it is both wide and has white, fine sand. The beach has become very popular over the years and today it has a variety of restaurants, bars, and resorts along the beach. The famous Full Moon Party is held here once a month and about 10,000 people attend (and up to 30,000 during the New Year celebration).
Had Rin Nai is located on the southwestern part of the island and is also called “The Sunset Beach”. It is, however, far less popular than its neighbor to the east. Small ferries from Koh Samui arrive at the pier.
Ao Ban Tai and Ao Ban Khai
Ao Ban Tai and Ao Ban Khai are two long beaches located on the southwest coast of Phangan. The view is often extraordinary, especially at sunset. These two beaches are ideal for beach strolling, overlooking Koh Samui.
These two beaches are good alternatives if you attend the Full Moon Party and want to stay at a more relaxed, quiet and peaceful place than Had Rin. You can easily reach the beaches by motorcycle, scooter, or songtaew (pickup taxi), and if you like some exercise during your trip, you can walk to Had Rin in an hour or two. If you are not familiar with the island, we suggest getting a map to keep you orientated. Free maps (funded by advertising) are available at some resorts and tour agencies.
Had Yao (West Coast)
Had Yao (or Hat Yao) is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island and it is even considered one of the best in Thailand by some people. It is about a kilometer long, fairly wide, and is located in northwestern Koh Phangan.
This beach is ideal for beach activities such as water sports, and small beach parties. Several good resorts and cozy restaurants are located here. Prices on accommodation and food are often very reasonable.
Mae Had and Had Salad
Mae Had and Had Salad Beach are both really nice beaches, both located in northwestern Koh Phangan. Relaxed atmosphere, plenty of fish in the sea, and pretty white sand, is what you can expect visiting these beaches. You will also find small shops and restaurants in the neighborhood.
Chaloklum (or ChalokLum) is located in the center of the northern part of the island, and was originally a small fishing village. It is still a focal point for the fishermen and their fishing boats, and they still catch plenty of small squids (called plamuk in Thai), which they dry on racks next to the beach, pier and jetty. The east side of the beach is very beautiful and has a few small resorts.
A short hike from Chaloklum will lead you to the paradise-like Had Khuat (or Bottle Beach in English). If you want to avoid the walk, small passenger boats also operate between these beaches. The beach itself is amazing, however it is not the best choice for those who really want to enjoy the sunrise or sunset during their holiday due to its location in the north.
Thong Nai Pan Noi – Thong Nai Pan Yai
These are two very beautiful beaches located on the northeastern part of the island. The road there is quite the roller coaster of gravel roads, but it is definitely worth the “hassle”. Even though tourism has increased in this area of the island, you will find that there aren’t many beach chairs or sellers on Thong Nai Pan Noi and Thong Nai Pan Yai.
A rather slow but safe alternative way to get here is by boat from Had Rin.
A relaxed and fairly quiet beach in the southeastern part of the island, only accessible by foot or by boat taxi, or long-tail boat.
We would also like to recommend Had Yuan (or Hat Yuan), located in the southeastern part of Phangan, three kilometers north of Had Rin. This beach offers a more tranquil experience for those who have already spent a week or more in Had Rin, and are looking for a quiet atmosphere with much less people, bars, and restaurants. A good place to read, swim, and do practically nothing.
Koh PhaNgan – Attractions
The Chinese Temple
This Chinese style temple is found in the northwest of Phangan island, and it has a short but interesting history. A woman named Khun Malawan visited the island in the early nineties, and in a dream she experienced a revelation. The dream was the influence of a fund which in 1992 resulted in the temple.
Wat Phu KhaoNoi
Wat Phu KhaoNoi is the oldest temple on Koh Phangan, and the name means “little mountain temple”. You will find this small mountain (hill) on the southwestern part of Koh Phangan, not far from Thong Sala. If you want to meet a temple monk, we recommend you to visit the temple before noon.
One of the biggest waterfalls on Phangan is called Phaeng, and you can get there by walking on a steep mountain trail. The waterfall is obviously more visually attractive after the rain.
Thaan Sadet Waterfall
Thaan Sadat (or Than Sadat) waterfall is on the east side of Koh Phangan, and it can be a little difficult to get there because of the terrain. Several Thai kings have visited the waterfall and engraved their signatures on the nearby cliff.
With its cool waters Thaan Sadet is suitable for a swim in the warm months during your trip. Please note that the gravel road that leads to it is pretty rough, and it may be wise to hire an experienced driver, rather than driving there on a motorcycle by yourself.
The Laem Son Lake
This beautiful lake is found in the northwestern part of Koh Phangan. The water is cool enough to attract many tourists looking for a refreshing bath during their trip. A pair of wooden swings and ropes are hanging from some trees, but we suggest you be careful if you are playing here. If you were to get hurt, it may take a long time before you can get some professional help.
KhaoRa is the highest mountain on the island, and it reaches 627 meters above sea level. Several small paths make it possible to reach the summit on foot. We recommend that you also visit Phaeng Waterfall on your way up. Be aware that parts of the trail is pretty rough because of the terrain.
Wakeboarding and Kiteboarding
Wakeboarding is available in Chaloklum Bay in northern Koh Phangan. One of the companies that offer this activity is called “Wake Up”, and they have experienced and skilled instructors. Kiteboarding (or kitesurfing) is available in Ban Tai (southwest Phangan).
Koh Phangans virtually pristine Middle Land is ideal for daily trekking tours. Small mountain road takes you to the island’s highlands. To reach the highest peak, we recommend hiking that starts at Baan Madeuawaan. The final destination is called KhaoRaa, 627 meters above sea level. Hiking with a local guide can be arranged.
Paintball is an adrenaline-pumping activity available at Koh Phangan. Paintball Warfare offers a 3200 square meter runway and is located close to Thong Sala town on the west coast.
Beach volleyball and beach football
These two activities are popular during the afternoon when the sun’s rays begin to decline slightly. Both of these activities will give you a tan (when the weather is good), great exercise, and hopefully some fun at the same time.
Full Moon Party
The Full Moon Party began from a few backpackers who just wanted to throw a small party with a tape recorder on Had Rin Nok in the 80s. They danced in the moonlight, and had a great time. More and more people showed up every month during their trip to Thailand.
Today, the event attracts around 6,000-14,000 participants per party, depending on the season. These people are dancing, partying and having fun all night long. The music is varied and most of the time you will be able to dance to techno, trance, drum’n ‘bass, psychedelic , jungle, and disco.
Experienced DJ’s provide music from the restaurants and bars on Haad Rin Nok. There are often different shows on the beach, including fire juggling, dancing on stilts, acrobatics etc.
When is the party?
During each full moon, you can get the exact date confirmed by a travel agency, when you are on Koh Phangan.
Where’s the party?
On the beach of Haad Rin Nok, located in the southernmost part of Koh Phangan. The island is located in the province of SuratThani in Thailand.
Safety during Full Moon Party
It is not dangerous to join the Full Moon Party, but it’s dark, and you’ll probably meet a lot of people (some of which are really drunk), so you should be careful as always on a beach.
Use a pair of decent shoes or sandals, so you do not ruin your vacation by stepping on a broken bottle or other glass. This unfortunately happens from time to time with varying degrees of damage. Such damage to the tendons and muscles can be a really unpleasant experience.
Do not swim if the water is high or if you’re drunk. It is (of course) “inappropriate” to smash your head against a rock or coral reefs.
Do not accept drinks or food from people you do not know. Although it is rare, some people have gotten in trouble this way.
Keep your valuables in a safe place. Theft can occur at any tourist destination. The thieves have obvious advantages in this huge crowd.
Fortunately, the majority of party people are generally happy and very friendly during this great event, and problems or fights are rare. If someone, contrary to expectations, should be rude, just walk away, or in severe cases, call staff, security guards, or police.
About Illegal Drugs
Unfortunately, this celebration is associated with drug and substance abuse. Both uniformed and plainclothed police officers patrol to intervene if they suspect any drug trafficking etc.
Even very young people can be sentenced to long prison terms if they get involved with drugs in Thailand. Spending time in a Thai prison is definitely not a fun experience. Inmates sleep directly on the hard floor among many other prisoners in the same prison cell.
Koh Phangan – Shopping
One thing is certain: Koh Phangan is much cheaper than Samui when it comes to shopping. And again, Thong Sala is cheaper than Haad Rin. But in both beach towns you will find crafts, jewelry, and accessory stores, hammock shops, and especially for those who come from more limited cultures, fireworks!
Haad Rin’s shops and stalls have lots of overpriced fluorescent Full Moon Party beachwear, while smaller beaches such as Thong Nai Pan Noi has typical beach shops selling beach balls, flippers, and swim masks, sunscreen, booze, and of course the orange Rizla packets. Crafts stores are located on most of the main streets and is worth exploring as their one-of-a-kind products deserve attention. Had Rin even has a sexy lingerie shop.
In general, despite most websites’ overenthusiastic nonsense, Koh Phangan not a shopping destination: Bangkok and Phuket handle this role much better, but you can find the basics for your holiday in Thailand trip here, if you look around.
Haad Rin Shopping
Haad Rin is small enough to walk around in the course of an hour on foot. Shopping here is noticeably cheaper than in Samui but with all the same elements. Nevertheless, it’s still a good idea to haggle.
Had Yao and Had Salad Shopping
Since this end of the island is so quiet you will not find much in the way of shops here. The whole area has only two supermarkets, one of them with “resort prices”.
Thong Sala Shopping
Thong Sala is really THE shopping spot on the island. With a Tesco Lotus supermarket, a busy afternoon and evening food market, a bustling central market, and numerous souvenir shops and craft stores, you will be able to find almost anything on a shopping trip to Thong Sala.
Remember to haggle when shopping in the markets and most stores during your holiday in Thailand. Of course, supermarkets have fixed prices.
Koh Phangan – Restaurants
Maew hot pan BBQ
The island’s best do-it -yourself dinner, Maew is an all-you-can-eat restaurant where guests can cook their meat, vegetables, and quail eggs (a local favorite) over a steaming hot pan. Maew can be easy to miss, as it is located on the ocean side of Ban Tai highway near the 7-Eleven.
A heady mix of steam and local snacks in Thong Sala night market is a must for those looking for a dose of culture. The best place to grab some cheap snacks is from the stand in the right corner with a large white banner.
Authentic Japanese import is a specialty here – slurp a Asahi while enjoying your tangy seaweed salad and tonkatsu (pork cutlet). The top floor has cozy seating, while the main living area is flanked with Manga and pocket-size Japanese novels.
In the past, this place was the owner’s apartment – everyone liked his cooking so much that he decided to turn the place into a restaurant and hang-out place. Today, the Lazy House at Had Rin is one of the best places to unwind in front of a movie with a delicious shepherd’s pie.
Lucky Crab is the best bet for seafood in Had Rin, where rows of freshly caught creatures are presented every night on top of miniature long-tail boats filled with ice. Once you have selected your prey, get hold of a table in the middle between dangling plants and charming stone furniture.
The name sounds almost like a Swedish vodka ad, but it is only by chance that the menu has some Scandinavian classics. In fact, all travelers can find a dish from his or her home country – Absolute’s menu is so large that it really needs an index.
This outdoor Mexican hang-out place looks like an animation cell from a vintage Hanna-Barbera cartoon with various kitschy accoutrements such as papier mache cactuses. Enjoy a super sized margarita and show off your skills in the beach volleyball court. Ando Loco closes in low season (around September to December).
The quintessential checkered tablecloths confirm it (if you did not guess from the name): Pizza Chiara and is all about tasty Italian dishes. Try for instance Pizza Cecco with prosciutto, salami, mushrooms and Cotto cheese.
Our preferred spot to meet is the ‘Chicken Corner’. Mr. K offers local dishes all night long, and cheesy Thai soap operas are blaring from the TV, plus you can buy cheap beer to wash down your meal or to enjoy afterwards.
John’s Bar & Bistro
John, a professional chef and English expert, serves delicious roast dinners and refined European cuisine. Tuesday is quiz night.
Forget what you know about healthy food: Sanctuary restaurant proves that healthy food can be delicious. Enjoy a delicious parade of dishes, from Indian pakoras to crispy Vietnamese spring rolls, while an endless playlist of music (no doubt the island’s best) wafts overhead. Do not forget to wash it all down with a shot of neon green wheatgrass. Yum!
The best place to buy pizza in Haad Rin. Monnalisa is a relatively new reastaurant operated by a team of friendly Italians. Try the mushroom and ham pizza, and let its deliciousness knock you off your feet.
Cucina Italiana is very popular on Koh Phangan. The friendly Italian chef is passionate about his food, and creates all his dishes from scratch. On Thursdays and Sundays you can order unlimited toppings on your oven-baked pizza for only 180 THB.
Koh Phangan – Nearby
The largest island in the region is Koh Samui, and it is located just south of Koh Phangan. There are several ferry services between the islands. Ferry operators such as Raja Ferry, Lomprayah, Seatran, and Songserm operate between the islands and/or the mainland. The main ferry piers are located in Thong Sala and Had Rin.
Twenty years ago there were only a few intrepid backpackers who visited the island. Today Koh Samui is a cosmopolitan melting pot that attracts budget travelers staying for a month or two in simple beach bungalows. Koh Samui is unique among Thailand’s islands, maintaining a broad appeal to everyone. This helps give the characteristic relaxed atmosphere that sets it apart from other destinations. Everyone is welcome.
Once the home of sea turtles, this small island north of Koh Phanang with its quiet undisturbed beaches has become a magnet for those who really want to get away from it all and for divers who come to see the colorful coral. As the main attraction is diving the beaches remain quiet and not crowded, while the facilities, food, and accommodation is greatly improved.
Since its “discovery” in the early 80s, word has spread about the island’s natural beauty, beaches, and marine life, and with faster and more efficient ferries which provide better access, this is a great place to relax.
The basic bungalows of the past have now been supplemented by new resorts with 24 hour air-conditioning and better facilities. The island is still a beautiful and unspoilt paradise.
Koh Phangan – Articles
Thailand Islands – The Five Reasons That Make Koh Phangan The Perfect Choice
The islands of southern Thailand are widely known as “Island Paradise”. Their picturesque beaches, moderate tropical climate and unique, relaxing lifestyle are account for their reputation. Travelers from all over the world come to these southern Thailand islands to experience the famous ‘transition to another dimension’, as they gradually absorb the overwhelming serenity and ephemeral separation from the dynamic and straining modern life style.
In the eyes of the inexperienced traveler, stranded at the very first stages of planning his or her trip to Thailand, all “paradise islands” may look exactly the same: all the islands are tropical (in the classic sense and climate wise), picturesque and serene. But in fact, a more thorough perspective would gradually reveal the fact that each island, just like every individual traveler, has its own set of unique qualities. The cost of stay in some islands can turn out to be a surprisingly expensive experience, whereas visiting other islands can become quite a bargain; some islands are dramatically peaceful while others are loaded with exciting nightlife activities; some islands provide the perfect conditions for divers while others are ideal for backpackers.
After years of intensive research, and after exploring every dark corner on every island in southern Thailand, I can safely say that Koh Phangan is no doubt and by far the perfect choice for the perfect vacation. Koh Phangan is the perfect choice because unlike its counterparts, Koh Phangan has an unexplainable unique ability to adopt itself to the likes and needs of every individual traveler in the limits of being an island (except from providing the ultimate urban environment. But nobody visits the Thai islands to relive his urban daily lifestyle).
Here are the five elements that make Koh Phangan the ultimate vacation choice:
- Best value for your money. Until recently, Koh Phangan had a strong reputation of a backpackers’ island. Consequently, the island’s costs of living had been adjusted to its target audience. Food and accommodation on the island are surprisingly cheap, so that even the average backpacker with a budget of 30$ per day can provide himself or herself with a reasonable, almost western life standard on the island, which includes air conditioned rooms and delicious cuisine. During the last several years, as more spoiled tourists discovered this island, local entrepreneurs began to invest in luxury accommodation. Nevertheless, the best quality accommodation in Koh Phangan is still cheaper, on average, compared to the same standard accommodation offered on it counterparts.
- A rare opportunity to experience the “old school” island paradise. Even the sworn lovers of Thailand will agree, that the days when the “paradise islands” were the place in which one can sit on a deserted beach and share his or her thoughts with a single coconut tree, are a thing of the past. Still, in Koh Phangan one can find some “reservations” of remote picturesque beaches with a limited choice of accommodation, such as Haad Thong Reng, Haad Yao and Haad Sadet. Some of these forgotten venues feature about three dozens bungalows hidden in the midst of the jungle. These “old school” beaches make you feel like merging with a “real” paradise, created by true nature and not by wise and experienced tourist industry entrepreneurs.
- Overwhelming diving sites. The Gulf of Thailand is considered to be an excellent diving area, due to its clear lucid water and the huge variety of underwater life. Until recently, the consensual opinion was that the only place for “real” scuba divers in the Gulf of Thailand is Koh Tao Island, next to Koh Phangan. Nowadays, more divers are choosing Koh Phangan as the launching ground for their preferable diving sites: a small island Koh Ma, connected to Koh Phangan by a sand bar; the neighboring beaches Haad Salad, Haad Yao and Haad Chaophao, offering a huge variety of tropical fish and coral reefs; and Ang Thong National Marine Park – a group of 42 islands, protected as a National Park.
- The Full Moon Party. The full moon party, held in Koh Phangan since 1989, attracts thousands of travelers every month coming from all corners of the globe. Even if you are not the classic partygoer – the full moon party could be a unique and unforgettable opportunity to join thousands of joyful, exhilarated people dancing together in the most beautiful place in the world to the sounds of the best music.
- To experience radically unique travel activities. Koh Phangan is quite a small sized island (about 170 km2), but it offers a myriad of activities. You can come on a Sunday, as a backpacker to Sunrise Beach, become a professional diver on Monday in Koh Ma and turn into a seasoned partygoer on Tuesday as you take part in the exhilarating full moon party. If you’re able to wake up on Wednesday morning, you can meet local people in the fishermen’s village Chaloklum to learn and experience their traditional way of life. Additionally, you can join forces with your sportsperson alter ego and go trekking on Thursday; and on Friday you’ll have the unique opportunity to pretend being a Mowgli riding an elephant’s back in Phangan Safari. On Saturday, you can try living as a sheikh in a luxury resort with a spa and maybe get the chance to write a novel on the seven most unforgettable days of your life.
Koh Phangan Comes of Age
Lying in the shimmering turquoise waters of the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Phangan is a party-goer’s paradise of legendary proportions. With its infamous Full Moon party every month for the last two decades, Koh Phangan has truly established itself as the destination of choice for party-animals, hippies and backpackers alike. Recently however, it has evolved into 5-star boutique resort destination, an astonishing transformation on all accounts.
Having escaped the brutal development of its sister island Koh Samui, Koh Phangan remained until recently the quiet, little-known sister of the two; failing to show up on all but the most backpack savvy trails, and flying entirely under the radar of commercial hotels and package-holiday tourism. But change is a-coming to this jungle paradise isle, as the big hotels and developers turn their beady eyes from the already ravaged Koh Samui and realize that today’s luxury guests want something a little different for their dollars.
The little-known hippy paradise of Koh Phangan may be able to provide exactly that. With its broad, white sandy beaches, set against unspoiled jungle backdrops and glittering ocean, Koh Phangan exudes a special magical privacy to invigorate even the most jaded international jet-setter.
Added to that, its relatively slow development will hopefully mean it has learned its lesson from neighboring Koh Samui’s mistakes. At the moment it certainly seems that way; as the small number of developers and big hotels moving in are not only developing with an eye to natural aesthetics, but with a common commitment to green ethos and protecting the island’s gorgeous flora and fauna.
Attracting the most attention in the five-star resort stakes is the stunning Thong Nai Pan, on the northeast corner of the lush island. Thong Nai Pan has been called ‘the jewel of Koh Phangan’ and for years was the best kept secret in the region, as inaccessible as it was by bumpy pickup over an unpaved jungle track.
Now Thong Nai Pan has been recognized as the truly five-star destination on Koh Phangan and this year new luxury resort, Rasananda, opened its doors for business, right next to the traditional $5-a-night backpacker huts of old Koh Phangan.
That these two polar opposites – backpackers and jet-setters – co-exist so seamlessly on one beach is perhaps testament to the special magic of Thong Nai Pan. And credit must be given where it’s due to Rasananda management; who have managed to create an elegant, beautiful resort that still gives a nod to the rustic Thai charm which entrances visitors to Thailand every year.
At the moment, luxury 300-thread-count towels lie on sun-loungers next to hippies on their way to the next low-key destination of choice for backpackers. At night the jungle reverberates to the sounds of the traditional Thong Nai Pan parties and bongo drums; but quietly, so as not to disturb the guests in their $300 dollar-a-night rooms. Who knows how long that arrangement is set to last? But currently, and unusually it seems to be entirely harmonious.
And in addition to these high-end tourists, the beach has naturally attracted an interesting community of expats. Thong Nai Pan’s off-the-beaten track location has proved a huge draw to these intrepid folk: the result is an eclectic mix of interests and nationalities represented on the beach; from Alaskan kayak-builders to Israeli cheese-makers. And with more residences being built privately and by small local developers, the community is set to increase in both size and diversity.
So the wild hippy paradise of yesteryear is changing. But uncommonly for Thailand it is being altered with sensitivity, taste and discretion. The result is very different from days-gone-by – more refined definitely, but no less beautiful.
Now when the full moon shines on Koh Phangan it finds not just the drunken revelers of yore, but beautiful residences, resorts and restaurants; complementing the exquisite natural surroundings, and created in harmony with the environment. And as it comes of age the jewel in its crown, Thong Nai Pan, sets a leading example not just for Koh Phangan but for development in Thailand as a whole.
Yoga retreats on Koh Phangan, Thailand
The beautiful Thai island of Koh Phangan is one of the best places in the world to immerse yourself in yoga practice.
Asian cultures prize the quiet mind, controlled emotions, and the peaceful way of what Buddha called “the middle path.” But the path many travelers are taking on Koh Phangan, Thailand, is yoga, which can produce similar results of inner transformation.
The island of Koh Phangan was uninhabited until about 600 years ago when passing monks realized its tranquility and spiritual importance and settled there. It currently hosts five yoga and healing centers.
Agama Yoga is by far the biggest and most well-attended yoga school on Koh Phangan, with three big halls and hundreds of students.
They teach the ancient kundalini- and tantric-based form of hatha yoga, which emphasizes the awareness of the chakras during the asanas (poses), as well as the full teachings of the eight limbs of yoga, including pranayama breathing and meditation.
This deeply spiritual and subtle style of yoga is said to be the original form of yogic science, which unfortunately is a lost art compared to today’s more gymnastic popular versions.
It’s once again becoming well known to the world, popular to many “heart-core” yogis, some claiming it to be an accelerated path to reach samadhi (aka, enlightenment) — the highest goal of yoga.
For their one-month intensives (8 hrs/day, 6 days/wk), they offer lectures and yoga in the morning and evening — a full day of tuning into this ancient art of slowing down.
This school is really like a yoga college that offers an impressive program of up to 24 months of yoga studies.
Besides yoga, they host many workshops on other esoteric topics, such as Kashmir Shaivism, Taoism, Tibetan Buddhism, Sufism, Gnostic Christianity, complete femininity, tantric sexuality, and a monthly 10-day silent meditation retreat.
Agama Yoga has schools worldwide, but the main one is on Koh Phangan. For more information, check out AgamaYoga.com.
The Sanctuary, another popular yoga center on the island, is located in Haad Thian on the remote eastern side. To get here, take a boat taxi or 4WD vehicle over the very rugged roads.
In addition to yoga courses, The Sanctuary offers an array of workshops on massage and healing training, a wonderful restaurant serving vegetarian and seafood dishes, and full spa treatments — including fasting and colonic irrigation.
Blooming Lotus Yoga
Blooming Lotus Yoga, located in quiet Haad Yuan, is one of the newest yoga centers on the island. Just minutes behind the popular Bamboo Hut restaurant, Blooming Lotus is a small cozy studio.
The building is distinctly Thai traditional style with dark teak wood and open-air netting for the “walls” — hence it’s consistently cool and airy, with a nice view of the lush jungle all around.
This center offers hatha yoga, yoga nidra (art of relaxation & psychic sleep), and instructor training. Check out www.bloominglotus.ca.
Monte Vista Retreat Center
Monte Vista Retreat Center runs cleansing, detox, and fasting programs with colonic treatments. Stress reduction and self-healing programs are available, along with reiki, energy, and chakra work, plus massage, counseling, life-coaching, and daily yoga.
I taught yoga here after my course and can confirm this place is a “gem” — the quiet hilltop setting with amazing ocean views makes it really special.
The Yoga Retreat
The Yoga Retreat is located on the northwest side of Koh Phangan, up in the mountains about 5 minutes from Haad Salad beach.
It’s a family business run by highly qualified instructors with courses available at every level — from the Basic Elements, chakra healing, Pilates, or Alexander technique — all taught in peaceful jungle surrounds.
There’s also a restaurant with a wide range of healthy drinks, veggie foods, and three bungalows. They offer 5-14 day retreats, as well as an herbal steam room and plunge pool.
Going deeper into the inner-self
You’re lucky if you get to spend many months here on this tropical island ‘tuning-in’ and stepping out of the mainstream.
Maybe this type of inner-work should be mandatory for all citizens of the Earth, to really produce a global village of peaceful people.
The beautiful thing about going deeper into the inner-self with arts such as yoga and meditation is that we realize the immensity of our true nature.
What we have all been seeking is truly inside, like buried treasure.
It just takes the persistence of a daily practice to create that stillness of mind where peace and equanimity remain. It helps to have a paradise like Koh Phangan for the journey!