Things to do in Koh Phangan
Koh Phangan of Yesterday
Back in the late 1980s there was very little to do in Koh Phangan other than swim in the sea, play Frisbee, get stoned and watch the stars. For many people of my generation that is how they still remember the magical island of Phangan. It was a slightly lawless and out-of-the-way paradise where you could live on a beach for a few dollars a day. It is this lifestyle that is no doubt a large part of the inspiration for the Alex Garland book, ‘The Beach’
Koh Phangan Resources
www.phanganaccommodation.net - Guide to Koh Phangan including an informative blog
Koh Phangan of Today
The times are a changin’. We live in a world where people demand more of a location. Moreover, a great number of people involved in tourism in Thailand have decided that although the hippies probably had better manners, it is the party animals and the ‘5 star tourists’ that really bring in the bucks. Upgrades in accommodation, changes in visa regulations and a big upswing in prices have pushed out the backpackers and hippies from many places in Thailand. Koh Phangan is no exception.
One of the positive ramifications of this change has been the development of various activities on Koh Phangan. Tourists have a lot more spending money and a whole plethora of activities have emerged to meet the new spending parameters. Here is a list of things to do in Koh Phangan.
There are those who might not regard getting drunk and staying up all night as an activity, but this is the activity that for many Koh Phangan has become synonymous with. It is a massive money spinner. More so now they charge everyone 100 Thai Baht entrance fee to enter the Full Moon Party on Haad Rin Sunrise Beach. Be certain this will go up annually.
The FMP consists of a row of bars on the beach with sound systems pumping out tunes and selling drinks. The revelers dance, get burnt attempting to skip over a flaming rope, make out and in the morning move on to an after-party spot.
The success of the Full Moon Party has spawned a host of imitators – the Half Moon Party, the Black Moon Party, the Jungle Experience, the Shiva Moon Party, Blue and Green Sramanora Waterfall Party, Love: Is and Rhythm and Sands Kiwi Party. On top of that many of the bars have DJ nights and live music nights.
The party scene is focused around Haad Rin and Bantai.
For many gap-year travelers and for hardened party monsters doing the Koh Phangan party scene is a must. You either love it or hate it.
Diving and Snorkeling
The next most popular activity on Koh Phangan is to go diving. There are numerous dive shops dotted over the island that offer dive courses as well as fun dives for the qualified. Koh Phangan has a long stretch of coral reef off its west coast. There are also a few good dive spots off the north coast such as Haad Salad and Haad Khom. The best diving, however, is to be found farther away at Sail Rock, Chumphon Pinnacles, Koh Tao and Ang National Marine Park.
All the dive shops offer similar deals. Some have speed boats to get you to the dive spots quicker. Some have instructors that speak several languages. There aren’t any dive shops offering nitrox, double tanks, skin diving or spear fishing. Here is a list of some of the dive shops in Koh Phangan:
H20 Scuba School – Thong Nai Pan Noi
Dreamland Divers – Thong Nai Pan Yai
Haad Yao Divers – Haad Yao
Chaloklum Diving – Chaloklum
Lotus Diving – Chaloklum
Phangan Divers – Haad Rin
Pirate Divers – Haad Salad
Most of the dive shops will take people out to snorkel on the same boat as divers. If that is not what you want then there are numerous operators offering island boat tours. These tours invariably make a stop at Koh Ma for some snorkeling. Koh Ma is a like a mini Nang Yuan – a sand bank leading to a small island. It has a coral reef and lots of marine life to spot. Koh Ma is the only Marine Park in Phangan waters.
There are two places offering elephant rides. One is on the road between Bantai and Thong Nai Pan. The other is just outside Chaloklum village. For a few hundred Baht you get to ride on an elephant through the jungle.
Koh Phangan’s jungle is impressive in itself and if you have never ridden an elephant it is an interesting experience. They seem very intuitive animals. It is perhaps a shame that they have been literally roped into the tourist industry against their will.
Mountain Bike Resources
www.funbikeshop.sitew.com - Funbike Shop
You can rent mountain bikes in the main port town of Thongsala. A few resorts also rent out mountain bikes such as Panviman in Thong Nai Pan Noi.
This is a sport growing in popularity around the world. However, the steep hills and the blazing sun of Koh Phangan might discourage all but the true enthusiasts from enjoying mountain biking in Koh Phangan. There is a reason why all the Thais on the island ride motorbikes!
You can find plenty of small tracks in Koh Phangan to explore. There are plenty of off-road opportunities. There are also plenty of descents to discover. Koh Phangan really needs a proper mountain bike club to chart out some routes and help develop this sport on the island. The closest there is to this is the Funbike shop next to Tesco Lotus in Thongsala (http://www.funbikeshop.sitew.com/#Welcome.A)
www.kohphanganjungleflight.com - Jungle Flight
Paintballing and Ziplines
Just outside Thongsala on the west coast there is a place offering paintballing. It is called Paintball Warfare. It consists of 2 rai (3,200 sq meters) of jungle. They have helmets, jackets and all the kit. What they don’t have is a website
On the road between Bantai and Thong Nai Pan, at the top of the steep hill is a place called Jungle Flight. Chai is a friendly local who has built 2 ziplines totaling 400 meters. They are over a steep hill. You are high above the ground as you go down the ziplines. Chai also does tours into the jungle to spot monkeys and birds. This is one of the most untouched and wild parts of the island and so is great for enjoying the wildlife and experiencing a rainforest.
There are various trails to follow along the rocky coast of the island. There is also a trial up to the top of Koh Phangan’s highest mountain, Khao Ra.
Haad Rin to Haad Thian
From Haad Rin town you can take a trail north. It starts off going up a steep hill. Once at the plateau you get a great view of Haad Rin and in distance, Koh Samui. It is a short trek from the top to Haad Yuan beach. You can carry on and make it to Haad Thian beach. The whole trek takes about 2 hours.
Chaloklum to Thong Nai Pan Noi
From Chaloklum take the forest path to the small beach of Haad Khom. From there you can follow a coastal path to Bottle Beach. This takes about 2 hours. From Bottle Beach it is another hour trek up and down a steep mountain road to Thong Nai Pan Noi
Khao Ra is 600 meters above sea level. It is the highest mountain on the island. The start of the trail is on the road between Bantai and Thong Nai Pan. The man at Jungle Flight leads tours up the hill. It is not a difficult climb. You get great views of the north east of the island from the top.
This is the biggest and most impressive waterfall on Koh Phangan. It is a short trek to get there. The trail is sign posted. The start is located on the Thongsala to Chaloklum road. From the waterfall it is possible to follow a trail up to the top of Khao Ra. If you go down the other side of the mountain you end up crossing a large part of the jungle interior of the island.
You won’t find any luxury yachts for hire in Koh Phangan. For that you have to go to Bophut in Koh Samui. However, Cookies Sailing based on Plaay Laem has small catamarans and Lazer sailing boats for hire. They also offer tuition. You can go sailing with Cookies during the high tidal months between December and April.
Kiteboarding, Wakeboarding and Windsurfing
Kiteboarding and Wakeboarding
Opposite Milky Bay Resort in Ban Tai is Kite Boarding Asia. They have a good selection of boards and kites for sale and for rent. They also offer instruction in this popular, adrenalin inducing sport. The best wind is from December to March and from June to September. They also offer wakeboarding.
There are a few places in Koh Phangan that offers windsurfing. They are:
Cookies – Plaay Laem
Kite Boarding Asia – Ban Tai
SL2K – Baan Manali Resort, Nai Wok
As you can see from the video, when the conditions are good you can get up some good speed.
Yoga, Wellness, Meditation
Just as many people fail to see how partying could be an ‘activity’ another sizeable portion of folk will question how sitting crossed legged and staring at the end of your nose qualifies as an ‘activity’. The wellness, spa and alternative therapy sector in Thailand is booming. People want to go on holiday and be pampered; they want to tone up their muscles; they want to rejuvenate; they want to look younger; they want to detox; some even want to embark on a spiritual journey. There is a little of all of this on offer in Koh Phangan.
In Thailand where there are expensive hotels there are spas. This is certainly true in Koh Phangan. The luxury hotels on the island are Panviman, Santhiya and Rasananda. These 3 hotels are on Thong Nai Pan Noi beach. They each have a spa offering facial scrubs, Thai massage, wraps, aromatherapy and reflexology. Rasananda spa has a steam cave. On the same beach is the hugely successful and much cheaper Tanaporn Massage House.
For an authentic Thai experience try the steam sauna at Wat Pho in Bantai. It is very cheap and very, very hot.
All beaches have a sala where you can get a Thai massage. All of them are ‘clean’ establishments except for the obvious places on the road between Ban Tai and Thongsala.
The Sanctuary is a centre for colonic irrigation and yogic chanting. It is located on Haad Thian east, just a short boat journey from Haad Rin. The place has had rave reviews from numerous media sources, and some bad ones on Trip Advisor.
There are several yoga teachers on Koh Phangan. You can probably find a yoga class near which ever beach you choose. However, if you decide to come to Koh Phangan especially for yoga you will probably head for either Yoga Retreat in Haad Salad or Agama Yoga Center. Agama is spread out over 3 sites along the west coast, all near Srithanu.
For those into yoga no doubt the websites of these yoga places will help in decision making. Agama also does 12 week teacher training courses.
From just this brief review of things to do on Koh Phangan I have managed to write 2,000 words. 15 years ago it would have been 200 words. There is a lot to do on the party island other than party.
More Koh Phangan Hubs
- Baan Tai Beach in Koh Phangan
Read an introduction to one of the best party beaches in Thailand.
- Mae Haad in Koh Phangan
Haad Mae Haad in Koh Phangan
- Haad Salad
Guide to Haad Salad beach
- 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.
- Changing Face of Koh Phangan
A look at how Koh Phangan is changing and an argument for how the planned airport in Koh Phangan won't turn the island into Koh Samui.
- Full Moon Parties in Koh Phangan
A review of the Full Moon Parties on Haad Rin beach in Koh Phangan. Including a look at the atmosphere of the party, the music and the problems with the party.
- The Difference Between Koh Samui and Koh Phangan
A revealing insight into the difference between the two Thai islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan.
- Changes on Thong Nai Pan
A look at the changes that have occurred on the beautiful beaches of Thong Nai Pan in Koh Phangan.