Twelve Hours in Koh Phangan
January 1, 1970
by Hannah Lobb
Koh Phangan is my favourite place in Thailand. I love the relaxed vibe and numerous cats, chickens, dogs, and buffalos, the delicious food, idyllic beaches, lush jungle, and balmy temperatures. While the island is notorious for it’s Full Moon Party, there is so much more to be discovered and, with the King’s recent passing there’s even more reason to explore outside of the usual tourist traps.
The itinerary below is my ideal day on the island. It includes super tasty food, both the beach and yoga scenes and plenty of active relaxation. So, let’s begin!
8:30am: Orion Café
If you’re an early riser, feel free to start the day before the sun at 5:30am and head to the beach to watch as the sunrise spread pinks and blues over the still ocean horizon. Or, if you’re already on island time like me, head out at 8:30am to Orion for breakfast. Orion has gorgeous healthy food, and is also one of the prettiest eateries on the island. Located in Sri Thanu on the beach with it’s own garden, yoga studio and detox centre, just being there will help you to start the day off feeling Zen.
For breakfast I recommend trying out their luxurious smoothies and chia seed bowl.
10am: Secret Beach
Once you’re well fed and ready for a day of adventure, it’s time for Secret Beach, which is actually not particularly secret. Head north from Orion for about 10 minutes. I highly recommend you hire a scooter as the hills on Koh Phangan are no joke and it will take you a lot longer to explore the island by bike. One day of hire won’t cost you more than 200 baht. Secret Beach is well sign posted and just down the hill from a particularly nice lookout over one of the island’s many lagoons. Park your bike and head down the path to what is one of the cleanest beaches on the island. You will find white sand, palm trees, clear water and a restaurant with good wifi and comfortable seating.
If you go there later in the day, I recommend sampling their Som Tam (Papaya Salad).
11:30am: Yoga Class
A trip to Koh Phangan without taking a yoga class is near sacrilege. The island is a haven for yogis, and for good reason. You can enjoy almost every type of yoga under the sun including Vinyasa Flow, Alignment Yoga, Medicine Tantra Yoga , Hatha Yoga, Nataraja (Dance) Yoga, Detox Yoga, Arial Yoga and more. There are also a selection of 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training courses available, if you are so inclined.
The best yoga centres are all located in Sri Thanu you can choose to head back to Orion or go to Samma Karuna or Agama. I recommend heading Samma Karuna if you are on a budget as they offer free classes everyday, taught by their students.
1:30pm: Haad Rin
Now that you are relaxed, it’s time to drive all the way to the opposite side of the island. You’ll want to factor in about thirty to forty five minutes to take the trip. The beach at Haad Rin is where the Full Moon Party is held once a month but during the day you can enjoy beach volleyball and great shopping. This is arguably the best place to shop on the island as it has the most variety of products, although due to the high volume of tourists, it is a little pricier than other areas. One of my favourite places to eat lunch in Haad Rin is Paprika. They offer a 150 baht deal for falafel and a fruit shake. You will notice that many restaurants across Koh Phangan offer Israeli food. You can eat hummus, falafel, shakshuka and tabouli until your heart’s content.
You can also hire jet skis or, if you have plenty of time, take a taxi boat to some of the more remote areas of the island, which are not so accessible by road.
4:00pm: Phaeng Waterfall
Now you’ve experienced both the beach and yoga scenes, it’s jungle time. Phaeng Waterfall is close to the middle of the island and if you climb the whole way up, you will be rewarded with a beautiful vista of the coconut palm packed island below. You might be expecting to see a lot of water, given the name, but both times I have been there it has been fairly dry. Nonetheless, the jungle walk is really beautiful and will definitely get your heart rate up. And, as a bonus you are guaranteed to see some of the local butterflies and lizards.
There are a few shops near the parking area, should you feel that you need to refuel before or after the climb.
6pm: Phantip Market
This small market has all the bustle and variety you could wish for from a South East Asian night market. It offers sushi, spring rolls, falafel, curries, pizza, salads, soups, noodles, mango sticky rice… you will be spoiled for choice. My personal favourite is the Burmese Tea Leaf Salad from Capana. The market is also home to several smoothie stands, which at only 30 baht each, are a must. They have an amazing variety of combinations, my favourite is a papaya and cantaloupe blend.
Thai Massage is world renowned for good reason and I think it is one of the most luxurious experiences you can have. Expect your limbs to be twisted, bent and pummelled while the candles flicker and local music plays gently in the background.
You will finish with a cup of hot tea feeling entirely unwound.
9:00pm: Moonlight Cinema
I saved the best for last! The Moonlight Cinema is a must do while on Koh Phangan. The gorgeous, mystical garden feel coupled with the friendly staff, great food and plush theatre will give you a truly unique experience. For only 150 baht per person you will receive a complimentary popcorn and a place in the modern, well-cushioned silent theatre. Everybody receives headphones before entering so you can adjust the volume to your own preference and enjoy the show.
Make sure you check out their Facebook page for the week’s show times. The cinema is open Tuesday to Sunday and offers chick flicks, blockbusters, movie marathons, kids movies and plenty of new releases.
All that’s left for you to do is lean back amongst the cushions, enjoy your popcorn, and unwind. You’ve just spent 12hrs in Koh Phangan!