Saturday, July 14th, 2017 (spent 2 days/nights)
Compared to Koh Samui, the island of Koh Phangan is a somewhat less busy place. That is if you visit in between fullmoon or halfmoon parties. It is hard to believe that this serene island is buzzing with people seeking noisy nighttime thrills and boozy adventures at least twice a month, with waterfall and lighthouse parties in between. I was quite skeptical before coming here, expecting to find a place defined by noise, drunks, and drugs. Yet when we arrived, Koh Phangan was all quiet. The ferry from Koh Samui dropped us of at 8:30am, and as with many tropical places, where daytime is marked by scorching heat and life takes place during the nighttime hours, only a few people get out of bed before 10am. However, we did see a few groups of orange clothed monks walking the streets, the locals already expecting them with offerings of food on silver plates.
First thing, we rented a scooter at one of the many shops near the ferry pier, were quickly on our way in search of a place to stay.
Lucky coincidence led us to check out the Haad Son resort, a hotel that from the outside seems quite unremarkable. The friendly manager was quick to show us the rooms he had available, and we didn’t hesitate to book a night in one of his clean air conditioned bungalows (we even extended for another night because the resort was so nice). The real surprise was the skillfully arranged bar/restaurant, that was set among tropical plants, palm trees, flotsam and other large pieces of driftwood. A platform made from polished concrete and natural stone led into the Golf of Thailand and wide hammocks functioned as boundary to the ocean.
We took a quick shower and were back on the road half an hour later, driving along the ocean road, past small houses, little shops and through long stretches of uninhabited land. In between you could often get a glimps at the sea and serene stretches of sand, oftentimes accessible only via private roads. This took me some time getting used to, because it always felt like trespassing when we entered a small street or mud path to get to the ocean. Soon I learned though that those roads led to small bars and cafes and that the best sea views were kept hidden behind jungle vegetation. The bar owners always seem torn whether to prefer seclusion (maintaining the secret jungle flair) or commerce (attracting customers to earn a few Baht).
The main road goes along the west coast of Koh Phangan, with the east strangely undeveloped. Some places you can only reach with a major detour first to the south and then up again to the north east. The beach of Haad Rin in the southern most part of the island was our next major stop, widely known for its infamous Fullmoon Parties. Interestingly, you wouldn’t pick this beach for the “ultimate” party destination when visiting on a regular day, with the bars almost empty.
It did get a little busy as some local fisherman roped in their nets which they had cast close to shore earlier that morning. But except for some small fish and a few crabs they didn’t catch much and the crowd quickly dispersed.
And so we spend our time basically hopping from one viewpoint cafe to the next, enjoying the water of the delicious young coconuts, or sipping a coffee, or savoring one of the many mouthwatering Thai dishes, all the while watching the sea and hearing the waves below.