06 Dec An Unexpected Hit: Koh Phangan Thailand
For most people, the Thai island Koh Phangan conjures up images of full moon parties, buckets of alcoholic concoctions and beaches crammed with drunken backpackers occasionally attempting stupid feats such as jumping over ropes of fire while inebriated. However, when we visited this summer we found a quiet, clean and peaceful haven – in fact, Koh Phangan turned out to be my favourite Thai island to date, here’s why.
Arriving in Haad Salad
Andrew and I had actually first visited Koh Phangan on our first trip to Thailand in 2009. Eager to avoid the full moon scene in Haad Rin (we’re really not party people) we headed straight to a secluded beach on the eastern side of the island called Mai Pen Rai. The beach was set in a national park and was accessible only by an hour’s songtheaw drive through the forest; I remember those few days as very serene, the perfect end to our month-long Thailand adventure.
Back to the present day, when my friend Jo suggested visiting the less remote west side of the island I have to admit I was dubious, expecting that it would be touristy and full of late-night party goers. The trip didn’t get off to a good start either; after our songtheaw driver made us wait for an hour at the harbour, he drove us two minutes down the road and instructed us to switch to another songtheaw. Confused, we did so but before we left our original driver requested that we pay him for the journey in advance. Suspicious now, we refused and he immediately backed down – I’m sure that he was trying to con us into paying both him and the other driver.
After stopping at the wrong place, we walked the last ten minutes starving and disgruntled towards Haad Salad; thankfully our mood picked up when we spotted a restaurant, Peppercorn, at the top of a hill. Jo joined us and as I stuffed my face with baked potato smothered in proper cheddar cheese, we looked down over the emerald waters below framing the secluded cove of Haad Salad and my fears about visiting Koh Phangan melted away.
It was dark by the time we traipsed down the steep, windy path to our hut on the beachfront. Early the next morning we ventured into the shallow sea, no matter how far we waded out it never seemed to rise above our thighs; nevertheless, we had fun checking out all the colourful fish. We spent the next day on and off the beach, escaping into the restaurant when the sun’s heat grew too strong. After a beautiful sunset that night a huge storm rolled in and the wind and rain, combined with the siren-like call of a nearby creature spooked me so badly I was convinced a tsunami was heading straight towards us – eventually Andrew had to get out of bed and check all was well for me.
Chaloklum, Koh Phangan Thailand
Bidding a sad farewell to Haad Salad we moved up the coast to Chaloklum, a quiet fisherman’s village with a wide beach, for a couple of nights. We didn’t do much in Chaloklum apart from work, relax and check out the sunsets, which was exactly what we needed after a hectic few weeks zipping up and down the country with our travel companions.
Bottle Beach Thailand
The last place we visited on Koh Phangan turned out to be our favourite. From Chaloklum, we took a short boat trip around the corner of the island to Bottle Beach, which is so secluded it’s most easily accessed by boat. The story goes that some travellers ventured off the beaten path and began trekking through the forest, emerging at a beautiful deserted beach; to mark the route there they lined their path with glass bottles, hence the name. We found lovely cheap bungalows on Bottle Beach and spent a few days reading on the sand, wading out into the sea, drinking peanut butter shakes and eating snickers pancakes.
After just a few nights we left this peaceful paradise to move on to our next island: Koh Tao. Little did we know at the time that we were saying goodbye to our favourite Thai island.
What’s your favourite Thai island; does Koh Phangan make the list?