Koh Phangan is a beautiful island on the East Coast of Thailand just over two hours by boat from Surat Thani town on the mainland . Koh Phangan used to be a back packer's destination as party people from all over the world flocked to the full moon party. These days we see couples, families and many different types of tourists enjoying their stay – a trend which is intensifying each year. The island offers something for everybody with calm tranquil beaches to the north, west and north-east to the “rave on” beaches located in the south. Much of the island is unspoilt and the jungle seems to go on forever.
Koh Samui is located just south of Koh Phangan and is just a twenty-minute catamaran ride away. The international airport is then ten minutes from the catamaran ferry terminal by minibus. There are also several ferry lines between these two great islands and the airport at Surat Thani can be reached by boat and bus.
Thong Sala is the main town and the major community of the island and it is here the ferry landing and major shopping are located. In addition to white sandy beaches, there are also two beautiful waterfalls: Namtok Phang and Namtok Than Sadet, 4 kms. and 30 kms. from Thong Sala, respectively.
Moving north from Thong Sala along the West Coast the road climbs the headland where there are stunning views out to small islands and a sand bar which is visible at low tide. The bay here is called Ao Hin Kong and Ao Wok Tum and is divided by a stream that feeds the sea – hence the two names.
As the road descends there is beach front land which runs for a couple of miles along the coast. Here the water at low tide is marshy, the view very photogenic and the land behind the beach flat and spacious. We pass the headland beaches of Haad Chao Phao and Ao Si Thanu and the road climbs to Haad Son and then down to Haad Yao where you will find a beautiful and busy golden beach.
There is a major road north from Thong Sala that skirts the island and there is an amazing sense of nature driving through the trees and fields. The island road is safe if a bit winding and the views are spectacular – particularly coming over the hill and first seeing the mountains surrounding the Chalok Lam bay area at the very north of the island. From Chalok Lam a boat can take you to the hidden Bottle Beach which is in accessible by road or drive through to Haad Khom a smaller beach location just over the headland from the bay.
There is a Chinese and a Thai temple set in the hillside surroundings on the approach to Chalok Lam from yet another road that comes from Thong Sala. This road is shorter but is covered in holes and is therefore much more dangerous. There is an Elephant Safari located very close to the two temples. Gazing out over the ocean from Chalok Lam Koh Tao can be viewed in the distance. Koh Tao is just 75 minutes by catamaran from Koh Phangan.
From Thong Sala south there is a thirty-minute drive to the party beach of Haad Rin the location of the Full Moon Party. There are several great beaches along this stretch - Baan Tai, Baan Kai. Haad Rin Nok and Haad Rin Nai with miles and miles of sandy beach, bungalows and resorts spread throughout. From this stretch of coast the island of Koh Samui is fully visible - fantastic views and brilliant sunsets. The road from Thong Sala to Haad Rin is a main thoroughfare- the busiest road on the island with shops, bars and many businesses springing up on a daily basis including very high class hotels, spas and restaurants.
Just off the main road you will find two temples – one with great views of the island and the other which enjoys festival at various times of the year. As Baan Kai is approached the terrain becomes hillier on the left and the road from Baan Kai to Haad Rin is steep, winding and care is needed to traverse it.
Haad Rin itself is a thriving resort that has grown hugely over the past twenty years. The main bay is simply stunning with resorts backing onto the beach. Often criticised for over development Land is at a premium here.
Other beautiful resorts on the east of the island such as Tong Nai Pan take some ninety minutes to reach by jeep from Thong Sala but are well worth the trek. Hidden resorts such as Than Sadet feature beautiful waterfalls and have the Kings initials carved upon the rocks. There are also many beautiful coves only reachable by boat – Haad Yao (not to be confused with its namesake on the opposite coast), Haad Wai Nam, Haad Thian and Haad Yuan.
As the sea is reached there are beautiful bays such as Thong Noi Pan which is promoted as a family retreat – a trend that is now seen all over the island.
To get to Koh Phangan by air is easiest from Koh Samui – a one hour flight followed with a 20 minute Catamaran journey from Maenam beach which is just ten minutes from the airport. Flights also land in Surat Thani and then there is a one hour journey by bus to the Don Sak port and a three hour ferry ride. A night boat leaves Surat Thani town centre from the river just behind the Seatrans office. If travelling by train from Bangkok this is a 12 hour journey and then a one-hour bus ride to Don Sak pier to catch the ferry. The bus from Bangkok takes some 12 hours to reach Surat Thani.