Koh Phangan has been a popular destination throughout the years for many kings of Thailand. Between 1888 and 1909, the king of Siam visited the island over a dozen times and carved his name in the rocks at Than Sadet, also known as “The Royal Stream”. Today, Koh Phangan is one of the top places to visit in Southeast Asia.
Koh Phangan Travel Tips
We did not even consider visiting this Thai island until the receptionist at Rico’s Bungalows in Kata Beach, informed us there was much more to it than a full moon party destination. My idea of a good time these days is not getting smashed with a bunch of strangers while hoping I don’t get rufied. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with people who go for the full moon parties, it’s just not our cup of tea anymore. It’s weird, as I get older, I seem to enjoy crowds less and less.
How to Get to Koh Phangan
On our way out of Kata, in Phuket, we decided to ask the best way to reach Koh Phangan. Unfortunately, the receptionist who had been so helpful in the past was gone, so we asked the girl that was in her place. Following her direction, we showed up at Chalong Harbor ready to take a ferry all the way to the island. As soon as we arrived, we spoke with a man who had worked there 14 years and he explained there has never been a ferry to Koh Phangan from this harbor.
We took the $1 bus to Old Town to catch the 6 hour bus ride to Surat Thani for $6 each, which was less than our useless taxi ride to Chalong Harbor.
We made our way north to Surat on a local bus with no AC, a clock about 8 hours fast and a broken English sign that read “Please not food eat on bus.” That of course didn’t stop the locals from coming on and selling us fruit and other treats. Right after we passed the gorgeous limestone mountains of Khao Sok National Park, our bus started skidding in the rain soaked street. After about 20 seconds, we came to a stop and thought for sure we had a flat judging by the smell of burning rubber. Five minutes later, the driver started the bus and continued on with no explanation. That’s Southeast Asia for you!
Ferry to Koh Phangan
We arrived into the ferry station in Surat at 7:30pm and our ferry didn’t leave until 11pm. To pass the time, we enjoyed some Pad Thai from a street vendor and chugged a couple of beers to calm our nerves for what awaited next. The ferry that would take us the 6 hours to the island of Koh Phangan, was a small, old, wooden boat.
Have you ever wondered what it feels like to live inside the props of a miniature golf course? These are precisely the thoughts that entered my mind as we crouched through cramped quarters of the two story boat, like giants in a miniature house. The air was thick with pungent smells of sweat and freshly captured fish.
The second level of the small ferry had nearly fifty mats laid across the floor on each side, and about 2 life jackets for every 8 people. We claimed two mats, which would be our sleeping arrangements for the night. It wasn’t long before I had drifted into a sleep filled with dreams of sun-kissed islands and translucent blue-green seawater.
The next thing we knew it was 5 am and we were docking at Thong Sala Harbor where there were many taxis eagerly awaiting our arrival. Unfortunately, the hotel we had booked ahead of time and paid in full, The Central Cottage, turned out to be quite a trek. About an hour down a bumpy road and a 1000 baht taxi fare is what we were told, so we reluctantly decided to take the closer alternative for only a 150 baht taxi ride.
Haad Yao Hotel
After just 15 minutes on a paved road, we were at the Haad Yao Bayview Resort & Spa and checking into our 500 Baht bungalow, only steps from the beach. Haad Yao Hotel was a very nice place to stay with a super friendly and helpful staff.
We instantly got on our suits and took the path to the secluded beach in front of our hotel. We were literally the only people around besides the hotel staff since it was still 6 am. This was indeed paradise. The water was as calm as a lake and crystal clear. It was high tide, so you could walk out to about waist deep, until you hit the coral and could no longer pass. This side of the island is not known for it’s swimming beaches because of the coral at low tide.
If you are looking for swimming beaches, you can try the southern beaches near Haad Rin or the north east beaches, where we had originally booked our hotel, The Central Cottage. There is also a legendary waterfall on the sunrise side of the island (north east side).
The island itself has some windy roads, but with a motorbike, (200 baht) you are able to see much of the island. We rented a bike for the day and we were able to see the entire west coast of the island and used only a quarter of a liter of gas. The two liters we filled up with would have probably lasted a week.
We considered staying another day on the island, but decided it was better to get an early start on our journey to Laos. Back on the ferry, we stopped on the island of Ko Tao to pick up some passengers, and arrived 4 hours later in Chumphon to await the arrival of our bus to Bangkok.