10 Things to do in Koh Phangan, Thailand
Koh Phangan is a popular island destination in the Gulf of Thailand. It is best known as a party island with Fullmoon and Halfmoon festivals being the highlights of the party scene. However, Koh Phangan has a lot more to offer than just party hostels and cheap buckets of booze. Here are some of the top ten things to do in Koh Phangan that don’t break the bank and that don’t all end in a hangover.
Swimming at Bovy Beach
Bovy Beach is a small area on the western side of the island. You can access it by following the road down to Golden Rock Bungalows. When you reach the bar at the beach walk right into the sea to reach the small set of secluded coves. This whole area is great for a dip and a beautiful quiet place to watch the sunset. Often you will have one of the coves to yourself. Occasionally you will find people relaxing and playing music. If wandering through the ocean isn’t for you then turn left at the bar and walk along the sand to Zen Beach. You may see people practising yoga from the resort nearby and in the evening you can find musicians at Zen Beach Shack.
Exploring Bottle Beach
Bottle Beach is famous for its crystal clear water and gorgeous white sand. It is only accessible by boat from Chalok Lam Beach or by 2-hour hike. The boat journey is definitely worth it. Chalok Lam is a beautiful quiet beach and a great place to swim or explore while you wait for the taxi boat.
Snorkelling and Kayaking at Koh Ma
Koh mah is a small island linked to Koh Phangan by a thin strip of sand along Mae Haad beach. Mae Haad beach is a beautiful area which boasts luxury resorts and many massage beach shacks. From here you can rent snorkelling equipment or kayaks to explore Koh Mah.
Sunset at Amsterdam Bar
Sunset is by far the highlight of the day wherever you are in Thailand. The sunset views from Amsterdam bar are simply stunning. The bar is always lively at this time of day with a very chilled atmosphere. It has two terraces where you can lounge or sit on traditional kapoks as the sky puts on a show.
Play pool at Echo Beach Hostel
Even if you are not staying at Echo hostel they have a great bar which hosts pre-events for all of the most popular island parties. Even in low season, evenings at Echo are lively and it is the best place for a game of pool. The pool table is free to play and a great way to socialise with the many different nationalities of traveller who are passing through.
Live Music at Rasta Home
Rasta home is a bamboo shack on the west side of Koh Phangan. With many fun features, nooks, crannies and decorations it transports you to a relaxing island space. Friday nights host their live music and the venue becomes very animated. The music is mainly low tempo reggae but can get more upbeat with a supportive dancing crowd.
Burning Man Festival at Sea Garden
Sea Garden is one of the many resorts along the west coast of the island. For a few days each year in August or September it hosts its own burning man festival. In its essence burning man is a spiritual and creative festival. Even if this is not your thing it’s worth going at night to see the beautiful light statues and art pieces that are scattered along their small section of beach cliffs. At the end of the festival, the massive wooden sculptures are set on fire.
There are many techno, tech-house and psytrance parties on Koh Phangan. New ones are popping up all the time and most parties happen on a weekly to monthly basis. Lost Paradise stands out from the crowd due to its unique and beautiful location. It is on a small private beach on the east coast which is only accessible by boat or 4×4 taxi. The party runs from midnight until midday. To really make the most of this party it is a good idea to arrive early in the morning, around 4 am to witness sunrise on the beach. Taxi boats are available from Haad Rin throughout the night and the nighttime boat journey by moonlight is absolutely beautiful. Listen to the party continue until the daylight hours whilst sat in the shallow waters watching the sunset. Then make the return boat journey in the light of day and see the same coastline in a completely new light. Eden, Guys Bar and Lighthouse are nearby alternatives along the east coast.
Food Market at Thong Sala
For a decent street food meal the market in Thong Sala is perfect. There is a wide selection of food available from pad thai to curries and noodle soups. Not to mention a wide range of vegan and vegetarian food and many fruits and sweet treats. It is open from 3 pm until 9 pm but vendors will often stay longer if there are still customers so most will stop serving between 9.30pm and 10 pm.
Fullmoon Festival at Haad Rin
Fullmoon party is the islands most famous party. Every full moon unlicensed beach parties are legal and pop up all around the island. The biggest of which is at Haad Rin where every bar along the half-mile stretch of beach blares out music until sunrise. If crowds of up to 30,000 people are not quite your thing then its worth paying a small amount extra to attend the VIP parties on the terraces of some of the bars. From here you can experience the night with plenty of space and crazy views of the crowds on the beach below. For an ordinary ticket its only about 100 baht (3 dollars) and the money is put towards cleaning the beach afterwards.
The tourist industry all over Thailand is a booming one, especially on Koh Phangan. New restaurants, events and bars open up all the time and many of the places listed in this article may not last into the next few years. However, this is what makes Koh Phangan such an interesting destination and its definitely worth doing some exploring of your own and finding your own favourite sunset spots, eating dives and exciting parties.