Koh Phangan, Thailand

Koh Phangan

October 19, 2016

We never really expected we’d end up going to Koh Phangan.  Before coming to Thailand, all we really knew of the island was that it hosted full moon parties and was hugely popular with foreign tourists who wanted to get absolutely smashed.  Those who know us will know that we’re not really about the giggle water. However, the more we looked into it, the more we read about Koh Phangan essentially having two sides.  A kick-you-in-the-face-pee-in-your-bacardi-bucket-and-dance-like-a-flourscent-starfish side and a hey-man-can-i-get-a-gluten-free-vegan-avocado-and-sandalwood-infused-carrot-with-my-down-dog side.  The latter was definitely more our style.  We had also read that the north-west of the island was particularly beautiful and that we’d be able to get some pretty nice accommodation for a good price, since we’d be there during the rainy season. Turns out everything we read was true.

After a long journey through the night from Ayuthaya, via Bangkok, our boat finally docked at the tropical paradise that is Koh Phangan, where we were picked up by a lady who worked at Ling Sabai Bungalows, where we had booked in for 5 nights. We jumped in the back of her truck and off we went.

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A room with a view is what we wanted and that was exactly what we got.  Ling Sabai Bungalows are up a dirt track and nestled between the trees and many of them, like ours, have an amazing view of the sea.

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Our little bungalow was simply a bedroom, with a four-poster bed (no less) and a bathroom.  We had a lovely balcony with a hammock and a kettle for making tea.  Did we need anything more? Yes we did, we needed a cat.  And we got one who came to visit daily.

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Excuse all the crap on the bed…

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We stayed in Haad Yao area which was scenic and peaceful.  It took us around 2 minutes to get from the door of our bungalow to Haad Yao beach which is about a kilometre or so long.  We were there during the rainy season (my gosh is that a travel hack) and so the beach was almost empty most of the time.  There are a few hotels round the back of the beach so it probably has a higher foot fall during the busy season.  It really is the perfect beach to take a stroll along, pick up some shells and generally chill hard.  The tide goes really far out and in the mornings as we munched on our muesli and almond yogurt, we watched men and women right out in the distance collecting things from between the pebbles.

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We happened to arrive in Koh Phangan during National Yoga week (or something to that effect) which was a big deal where we were. Of the many yoga schools on the island, many were offering free classes all week and advertised timetables which showcased all of the weird and wonderful varieties of yoga, meditation and chi centred exercises and therapies.

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We participated in a number of classes including aerial yoga, qi gong, eye gazing meditation, kundalini meditation and vipassana mediation.  All of which were put on for us at Samma Karuna which was a short bike ride away.  Although there were a few Peep Show moments (like when we had to dance around the room and then stare at a stranger when the music stopped) we had some amazing experiences.  The eye gazing was a real surprise and once we got past the initial uncomfortableness of literally staring into someone’s eyes for several minutes, the whole thing became very moving and calming.

Aside from being dangled upside down, we also spent a lot of time enjoying the various different beaches we had at our fingertips because, well that is one of the rules of going to a Thai island.  When you arrive they tell you that you have to regularly plonk yourself on the beach and do absolutely nothing or you have to leave.

Haad Yao, which was a stone’s throw from our pad was great, but there were quite a few bits of plastic which seemed to have washed up which is no good for anyone, especially the fishies.

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We had a lovely walk along Ao hin kong which is a totally undeveloped beach.  The water is very shallow and the tide goes really far out  so you can just walk and walk.  The surface is covered in shells, crabs, dogs…

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When we rocked up to Chalok Lam beach, neither of us needed to say anything.  This was the kind of place we had seen in travel blogs, magazines and tv shows.  Tropical, emerald green water, white sand and little wooden fishing boats bobbing about gently.  Best of all there was hardly anyone there because it was rainy season.  I mean, look at those rainclouds, who in their right mind would want to visit during the rainy season. Yuck.

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We swam in the gloriously warm water and watched fish swim between (and occasionally nibble) our feet.

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It rained almost every day.  A quick downpour that lasted for half an hour if that and which was easy to avoid.  It was often during the night that the heavens opened, when we were already tucked up in bed.  We did however get caught in a few storms.  One was during an afternoon spent on the charming Mae Haad beach.  One minute the sky was blue and the next everyone was running for cover in the restaurant.  It didn’t take us long to realise how pointless this was as we were already wet, so we went back out and played in the rain.

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The other time we got caught in the rain was less joyful.  We had been out snorkelling around a coral reef which was quite far out.  To get there we had made our way across quite a large expanse of very shallow water, being very careful not to touch any coral, step on any sea slugs or slice our feet on any rocks.  All was going well until a storm came racing in from the distance.  We didn’t think to much of it but as the rain started and we realised we had absolutely no visibility in the water we made the decision to head back sharpish.  As the water was so shallow we were often swimming literally centimetres above the seabed as it wasn’t possible to walk on it.  Every now and then we would hit a dead end and have to redirect ourselves to find deeper water.  We must have taken a very different route back because as the rain really started to thrash down and the water started to look more and more like a kaleidoscope we realised that we were totally surrounded by loads of terrifying black spiky sea urchins (like the ones in this pic from google images).

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One of us had a mini freak out while the other one stayed calm and collected.  If you know us well, you will know which way round it was.

Seriously though, the storms were one of the best parts of our stay on Koh Phangan.  Watching huge bolts of purple lightning totally illuminate the sky was magic.  Huge glowing silver forks seemed to slice through the pitch black and we waited in suspense for the roaring thunder.  Storms that came in while it was still light out seemed to almost run towards us from the horizon, occupying their chosen part of the sky and leaving everything else along.

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As we had expected from our research, KP came up trumps in terms of food.  We were spoilt for choice really and although we frequented some of the same places, there was always something new to try.

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As usual we’ll do a little post about the grub we ate in a separate post.

In order to burn off a few of those treats, we went on a lovely little hike up to see the Phaeng waterfalls.  Unfortunately, after climbing 250m, we discovered it was without water and so to all in intents and purposes, was just a load of rocks.  It was still totally worth going though because we up a winding path which took us up to Khao Ra peak, the highest point on the island and an incredible viewpoint from which you can see a stunning view of Koh Phangan.

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We ended up beaching ourselves in Koh Phangan for about two weeks, despite initially booking just 5 days, because, well, it looked like this.

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