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The Srithanu Scene
Srithanu in Koh Phangan has always attracted a few ex-pats and longer stay visitors with its pleasant village atmosphere, open spaces and better accommodation options. The beaches on this side of the island are not ideal for swimming and for years this held back the development of tourism on this part of the island.
Perhaps it is a reaction to the development in the south focussed around the Full Moon Party, that the west coast has developed into a leading area in Thailand for yoga, healing and detox. It seems as if the west coast of Koh Phangan is determined to not let Koh Phangan become a one dimensional holiday attraction.
Yoga in Srithanu
For years Agama Yoga and Ananda Wellness Resort have been quietly doing good business offering yoga courses and detox programs. These two businesses became beacons for the area; sending out a message that Koh Phangan is a place not just for hedonistic twenty somethings but also for those concerned about their mental, physical and, dare I say it, spiritual health. Yoga and buckets don't seem obvious bedfellows on a small island.
However, it seems that the right hand has been so busy that it has paid no attention to the actions of the left. While the party scene has been exploding with half a dozen new monthly raves added to the calendar so has the Srithanu yoga scene. You might be surprised to discover just how many places are now open that do yoga, Thai yoga massage, reiki, meditation, lessons in Hinduism, detox programs and chiropractic massage.
As well as Agama and Ananda there is now also Sunny Yoga, Gaia Yogashala, Orion Healing, Samma Karuna, Mannu Yoga, Kamala Healing Centre and Chakra Natural Therapies. There is a Japanese wanderer who has settled in the Srithanu area and who claims to perform minor miracles on people with scoliosis (curvature of the spine). He claims to be a master chiropractor. There are also massage places stretching from Thongsala in the south all up the west coast to Haad Chao Phao. Some offer standard spa style massages while others offer 'yoga massage' and 'medical massage'. There are also several people that can help 'transform' lives; right what was wrong and set you on a better path.
With all of this the punter can become the teacher. Just as with diving. You discover that diving is really cool, and then you are drawn by the possibility of making a living teaching diving. The same for yoga, reiki and massage - you like it and then realize you can learn it and live in paradise doing what you have just learnt.
The people currently doing most of the teaching in Koh Phangan have earned their stripes in India and claim to have a guru straight from the source, India. However, their ranks are being reinforced by recent Srithanu graduates.
And just as the big money in diving comes from those doing a PADI course, so the big money in yoga comes from those doing yoga teacher training. Agama has really capitalised on this. They have various courses you have to complete to become a 'qualified' yoga instructor. From levels 1 to 24 takes at least 2 years!
At the risk of sounding cynical, the Agama founder didn't pay for his yoga training in convenient credit card incremental payments. Buddha didn't resist teaching despite a lack of certification. Does the guru need money when he or she is highly realised? They are in control of their desires, lead a life of abstinence and charity; they live to serve; and yet against their better judgements these masters are forced to run cash cows.
Or perhaps the overheads swallow all the money. Just as with those poor taxi drivers being forced reluctantly to raise their prices because of petrol price increases.
Identity of the Scene
Sorry, enough of the cynicism. It is what it is. You decide. What is noticeable is that the area around Srithanu (from Thongsala up to Haad Chao Phao) there is a clear zone in Koh Phangan. It is often conveniently called 'Srithanu' but also includes Nai Wok, Plaay Laem, Wok Tum, Hin Kong and Haad Chao Phao.
The roads in this area are flat and are some of the first concreted ways on the island. As many of the beaches at high tide are just thin margins by the coastal road it is easy to miss the border of one area and the start of the next. Moreover, Hin Kong and Wok Tum share the same bay. As does Nai Wok and Thongsala. Unlike, for example the east coast which has disparate beaches divided by mountainous terrain, the beaches and villages of the west coast tend to merge into each other as you drive through. A great example of this is Seetanu Bungalows which is not in Srithanu but actually in Haad Chao Phao. Nobody is bothered by this inaccuracy. However, Than Sadet Bungalows in Thong Nai Pan Yai would be a head scratcher.
The flat roads, the extensive road network, the open spaces and the seamless nature of driving up and down the west coast of Koh Phangan encourages people to regard the area as one. Motorbike hire is popular for people staying in Srithanu as they can easily get to their favourite restaurant, beach, massage shop and bar. If Thongsala is the shopping centre of this grouping then Srithanu with its plethora of yoga and New Age places is the heart of this area.
And who is drawn to this part of Koh Phangan? Well many are really coming for the Full Moon Party but don't want to stay in Haad Rin. Many are in Srithanu for the whole nine yards - getting a certificate and attempting to eke out an existence on the island. There are also those who were in Srithanu long before Lord Shiva became a big thing. They sometimes emerge at The Jam at Hin Kong for the weekly band night.
Young couples wanting to study yoga together and perhaps explore tantric possibilities come. French is often heard. Indeed the Srithanu area boasts some of the best European food on the island. Stand out places are L'Alcove (Hin Kong) and Belgian Beer Bar (Haad Chao Phao). Women are drawn by spas and yoga and an emphasis on good food. There is more of a genuine scene in Srithanu accessible to all those who share New Age ideas.
Srithanu vs. Haad Rin
In Haad Rin and Baan Tai the scene consists of a small group of DJs who jealously covet their monthly gigs and try to get in on every new dance event; and their entourage of digital nomads and hangers-on. It is a more closed scene and the focus is on drugs and unhealthy living.
In many ways Srithanu is the opposite side of the same coin to Haad Rin. Both are places with reputations that proceed them. One sells succour to the soul; the other cap nip to the synapses.
Which do you prefer Haad Rin or Srithanu?
Other Koh Phangan Hubs
- Muay Thai Training in Koh Phangan
An explanation of the martial art of Muay Thai, and a look at the Muay Thai scene in Koh Phangan.