Haad Yao

Haad Yao Sunset

Koh Phangan Past and Present

One of the up-and-coming holiday destinations in the world is Koh Phangan. It was once an obscure Thai island in the Gulf of Thailand that was primarily known as place for hippies and backpackers to chill out in a beach bungalow. It was an underdeveloped island whose lack of infrastructure and hippy reputation kept the mainstream tourists away.

That was in the 1980s. In the 1990s Thailand started to control the type of tourists visiting the country. Up and down the Kingdom accommodation was upgraded and at the same time visa regulations were tightened to stop foreigners hanging out indefinitely in the paradise country.

In Koh Phangan the Full Moon Party grew and grew in numbers. Suddenly the mainly budget conscious foreigners visiting the island were replaced by young people with cash to spend on having a good time. Koh Phangan became the party island of Thailand. It has remained so up to the present.

Haad Yao Beach

The Perfect Beach

People are apt to forget that the parties only occur in two areas of the island – Haad Rin and Ban Tai. The rest of the island, while it benefits from the influx of party goers, is only minimally affected by the notorious moon party.

One beach in particular has been overlooked because of the mania for all-night parties. That beach is Haad Yao. Not to be confused with the small beach called Haad Yao on the east coast, Haad Yao West is a long and stunning beach. Indeed it is locally known as a ‘perfect beach’. This is because it is a 1km long stretch of fine white sand next to an azure sea fringed with coconut palms. Moreover the beach is wide and suitable for all kinds of beach sports such as volleyball and soccer.

If that was not enough, just 400 meters off shore is a healthy coral reef system that stretches across the entire bay. You can swim out to the coral or take a kayak and snorkel around the reef and spot many of the fish that are indigenous to the region.

The wealth of marine life can also be observed by diving. Haad Yao reef is great for learner divers as it is a shallow dive with little risk of overloading the blood stream with nitrogen (also known as getting the ‘bends’).

Marine Life

Something for Everyone

Although Haad Yao used to be a very peaceful place for budget travellers, it hasn’t entirely lost its ‘old skool’ vibe. While places like See Through Boutique Resort and Seaboard Bungalows have sought to build expensive air-con accommodation on the beach, there are still plenty of budget rooms available on and near the beach. Gone are the days of rocking up to the beach and finding a basic wooden bungalow for 100 Thai Baht ($3) a night, but there are still plenty of slightly fancier bungalows that could be rented for 400 Thai Baht ($13) a night.

There are ‘cool’ and ‘boutique’ restaurants, bars and shops in Haad Yao, but there are still some delightful small and ramshackle places to enjoy. One of the best is Reggae Bar. It is near the main road leading to Haad Yao from the north. It is manned by a group of dreadlocked Thais very much stuck in the 1980s.

Haad Yao is located in the north west of Koh Phangan. It is easy to get to from the main port town of Thongsala. It is also near some of the more interesting places to visit on the island such as Laem Som Lake, Koh Ma Marine Park, the Chinese Temple and Chaloklum. The latter is a delightful small fishing village where some of the original Chinese wooden fisherman’s houses still remain.

And finally, the thing that makes Haad Yao special is that nearly every evening there is a spectacular sunset over the ocean. It is a multihued occasion that is worth contemplating from the beach either with a cocktail or a cheap bottle of Chang Beer.

To find out more about Haad Yao the best place to start is http://www.haadyao.info

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