Destination Guide: Koh Phangan, Thailand

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November, 2009

The planets did not align for us in Koh Phangan, so to speak. I just spent 3 days in the place, and leave the island feeling like I accomplished and Thailand 956experienced shockingly little. To be fair, we came to Koh Phangan for the globally infamous, downright debaucherous, wildly irresponsible event that is Thailand’s—and the world’s—largest full moon party, though the island offers much more than just the party scene.

Taking the hour and a half long ferry from Koh Tao, we came to the island more to be casual observers of the event than full blown participants. Besides, with literally tens of thousands of partygoers, if the party was missing two people it wasn’t exactly going to wreck the scene. This party, in a nutshell, is a complete and total mess. It’s like the lawless, crowded streets of Vegas meet the narco-fueled outdoor rave scene of Ibiza. Throw in Thai Thailand 1048firedancers, thousands of day-glo painted hippies and backpackers all looking to get laid, and what you get is a party like no other that goes strong through the full moon, sunrise,  and on past 9 in the morning. For more full moon party info, check out full moon party FAQ’s.

The party is centered on the southeastern tip of the island in Hat Rin, which is reachable via either direct ferry from Koh Samui or a twenty minute taxi ride from the main pier in Thong Sala. Anyone looking to get even remotely any sleep should not plan on staying anywhere in Hat Rin as the bass from the party literally carries to a couple of towns away. We perched in a garden villa overlooking the water at the  Sea Breeze bungalows on the outskirts of town, and could still hear the party like we were drunk on the dance floor.

While the party was definitely an experience, the unfortunate reality is that Koh Phangan is a really large island with lots to explore, with the majority of people simply staying only for the  party chaos. While here on Koh  Phangan, I didn’t want to be one of those people. The island has everything from deserted beaches on the north coast (Bottle Beach) Thailand 1075to jungle trekking and waterfalls, but unfortunately none of that seemed to work out for us. The weather turned foul and we got stuck in a full-blown monsoon for two straight days, and then out of nowhere Heather got sick, so we simply hunkered down in our overpriced bungalow on the hill ($36/night) and listened to the rain in a muddy town full of perpetually hungover backpackers. As much as I wanted to stay and explore the island, all signs were simply pointing to getting the hell out of Dodge.

Comically, while I was surfing at 3pm the day after the big party, there were still chemically-enhanced individuals rocking out on the near-empty beach to trance music on  iPods, refusing to believe the party was no more. That’s right, one good thing brought in by the storm was it kicked up some surf on Thailand 1089the east facing beaches, and I was actually able to hunt down a traveling Argentinian with a surfboard and get a little slice of home for an hour or so.

So please, if you ever go to Koh Phangan, get out and explore the rest of the island and not get stuck in the Hat Rin scene. Do it for the guy who wasn’t able to.

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