When we think about travelling to Thailand the first image that comes to mind is being there relaxing on a white sand beach, turquoise sea with no waves, hot all year round, breathtaking landscapes and the wonderful Thai cuisine to finish. Of course Thailand is much more than that, but as beach lovers, we could not go there without enjoying all this.
As time was short we had to choose one of the countless paradise islands that Thailand has to visit. We chose Koh Phangan and the reason was the Full Moon Party, besides being a beautiful island, of course, but all of them are.
By our plans we should arrive at the island on the day of the party, but as we got to Surat Thani it was already night time, boats to Koh Phangan only tomorrow, we missed the Full Moon Party.
Then we left for a walk at the city, had dinner in a street food market that happens every night. There we had our first contact with the street food of Thailand: skewers of everything imaginable, little bags with indecipherable things inside, seafood, grasshoppers, snails, the market had it all, and, of course, no one spoke English, we were dizzy until we met a Thai woman, who actually lives in Australia, she gave us some valuable tips and indicated the food of a lady, she said, the best Pad Thai in Surat Thani. She herself ordered it to us, in Thai, “it has to be with egg!” she said, as a warning for us not to let anyone deceive us.
Dinner price: 25 baht for the Pad Thai and 20 for the juice (US$1.40 in total).
On the way back to the hotel one more walk around and we started to realize that Thailand is very different from Indonesia. Starting with the production of the girls on the streets, makeup and dressed up, men were not far behind either, and the number of dogs on the leash, those little furry ones (!!) they just didn’t go with the place. We also realized that there are things that no matter what language you speak, you’ll recognize anywhere:
We didn’t want to lose more time, so we organized our trip to Koh Phangan at the hotel reception, we bought a “joint ticket“, which included transportation by boat to the island over a bus that would take us to the place from where the boat leaves and even a taxi would pick us up early in the morning at the hotel. It was the most expensive thing we’ve done so far: 470 baht per person (US$14.50), and it’s not worth it, you can go by ferry, we only did this because we wanted to go sooner.
Arriving in Koh Phangan + day 1
As our boat, crowded with tourists, arrived in Koh Phangan dozens of people huddled with pamphlets in their hands trying to grab someone to “their” resort. It was almost impossible to pass through, but we took a little way and stopped a little further to decide which way we were going. To stand looking at a tourist map means asking to be addressed, and after explaining what kind of place we were looking for and a long negotiation (on the price of the taxi and of the resort), we allowed the taxi driver take us to the place he indicated. Price of the taxi to the resort: 150 baht per person (US$4.65).
We headed to Haad Yao, opposite side of the island from where the Full Moon Party occurs, that was exactly what we wanted, to stay in a quieter area and go to the crowded ones whenever we wanted. We spent the first day/night at Bounty Resort, that the taxi driver probably got a commission. For the price (300 baht per day per couple – US$9.25), the place surprised us, it was a very nice one, with a beautiful garden, individual bungalows, a nice restaurant and swimming pool. Despite being just if front of the beach, the access was not the easiest, we had to walk down a steep hill to get to the sand and we ended up just not going there. Lunch on the resort was more expensive than the room: 320 baht (US$9.88), it was the first and last.
On that same day Felipe and Pasqual arranged the rent of two motorbikes so we could move around the island. The small market in front of the resort rent them out and yes, everyone speaks English here. With the bike it was easy to realize that Koh Phangan is virtually a resort-island, it’s rare to see houses and facilities for local residents, it’s almost all for the tourists.
While Pasqual and Ale got to know the beach of Haad Yao, Felipe and I got the bike and headed to Haad Rin, where the Full Moon Party would have happened the night before. Amazingly, at dusk people were still hanging around on party mood. The sand was covered with rubbish, there were people sleeping, sun burnt, this scene was kind of depressing. We took a walk on the beach, which has numerous bars, one after another, and there was not much more to do there. As we were leaving, we met one of those European guys who took that same train in Malaysia with us… he was out of his mind. And do you remember the Chilean guy who looked like a hippie at the immigration line? So… he had gone to the party along with this guy and was now in big trouble, he had lost his passport. Wow! We were just imagining how crazy this party had been!
On our way back we passed by Thong Sala, the largest “town” of the island and we found that there is a night food market here too, it was where we had dinner tonight and every other night we spent in Koh Phangan. With a huge variety of options, there was no way to get sick of it: one day we had fish (hand-picked, fresh), on the other Pad Thai, Tom Yum Soup on the other, the famous extremely hot and spicy Thai seafood soup… Here we spent an average of 50 baht per person, including beverage. (US$1.55)
We spent the night at Bounty Resort and the next day we woke up covered with ants! Imagine my despair, I have laid on an ants nest once, I have a trauma! But when I realized that these ones were very tiny and did not bite, my attention turned to computer, they were everywhere! Ok, let’s look for another hotel.
Chaloklum Bay Resort – days 2, 3, 4 and 5
We got the bike and went out early in search of another resort. We were somewhat better informed now and knew the northern beaches would be beautiful, we headed north, stopped at some very nice resorts but we found most prices too high, despite being low season. So we found Chaloklum, where we were able to negotiate and get to a price we were willing to pay – 500 baht per day for a bungalow for two (US$15.50), with no air conditioning but with a ceiling fan.
Fe and I wanted our experience in Thailand to be the one of those paradise images I wrote about early on this post, so we thought it was worthwhile, the resort had a private little beach and a huge swimming pool which ended where the sand began. From our bungalow we could see that bluey sea, framed by coconut trees. Yes, it was more expensive than the other, but we still found it was a very cheap price for all this! We were already decided, now we just had to convince Pasqual and Ale to come too, because it would be much nicer with them together.
Just as the other resort, the restaurant at Chaloklum was way too expensive, so we bought some things at the market and prepared a few tidbits ourselves, we had breakfast on the balcony of the bungalow, which was very nice.
Tip: 7-eleven has little breads that are delicious! (Yes, 7-eleven is everywhere in Thailand)
The days that followed were like this, beach, swimming, bike rides, intense heat and heavy rain. Just perfect! Going off-season has the advantage that we got better prices and the island was not so full of tourists, though we got rain most of the time. But we some had sunny days too and even with all the rain it was good, because the heat is constant. Pictures are better than words to understand it all:
One night Felipe and I went to the Moon Set Party at Pirates Bar, located in Haad Chao Phao. Pasqual and Ale are elderly people and stayed at the resort sleeping. The Moon Set Party usually happens three days before and three days after the Full Moon Party. Pirates Bar is a very small place, leaning against a stone with a tiny little beach in front of it, is kind of hidden, hard to find at night, but a super cool place! I loved it. Pity that the music was not as good as the environment, actually we found the dj pretty bad, but we still had fun watching the different ways people were dancing, since there were people from all corners of the world there.
Decadence is over, from here we would head to Bangkok. We bought a bus ticket – this time we chose the public bus, not the tourists one. We took the bus in the island, next to the harbor, crossed with the bus by ferry, which was great because the bags were already inside the bus and we didn’t need to worry about them. It was much cheaper than the combo tour that everyone tries to push you and super easy to buy. A taxi also came to pick us up at the resort, all inclusive.
Koh Phangan Tips:
- To the budget traveller, the ferry is a better option than the joint ticket scheme for tourists
- If you do not want to party 24/7 and want beautiful beaches, staying in the northern part of the island is a great option. There are diving schools there too – See the map again
- There are countless resorts on the island, take your time to have a look around and negotiate
- The night food market in Thong Sala is extraordinary, delicious food and very cheap
- In Thong Sala there’s also a number of places that you can watch Thai boxing matches, sort of improvised ones, we have not been to any
- Renting a bike is not expensive and is worth it, unless you intend to stay only within the resort (taxis are always expensive)
- Negotiate everything, there is no fixed price
- From Koh Phangan is easy to catch a boat to Koh Tao and to the famous Koh Samui, it is worth booking a few more days to do that, we had no time
- Going on the low season (October to December) is worth because it has far fewer people and everything is cheaper, but expect to get a lot of rain.