History of Koh Phangan

The story of Koh Phangan is a story of the people who have come to settle on the island over the past 3,000 years. Koh Phangan has experienced wave after wave of migration ever since the first people settled here and this has continued in modern times with the large number of tourists who go there now. Establishing the exact times people came is impossible as there little in the way of written records. However, the evidence that they were there is to be found throughout the Ang Thong Archipelago

Prehistory

Homo Sapiens remains (modern humans) dating back to the period of 36,000 to 25,000 BC have been found in Lang Rogrien cave, in Southern Thailand. Other such remains, ancient tools, and cave paintings have been found in most of the Provinces of Southern Thailand suggesting a thriving Stone Age population of early humans had spread out across the Kra of Isthmus long before the start of the Buddhist era. Whilst no archaeological artefacts this old have ever been found on Koh Phangan, there have been some significant finds on the neighbouring Island of Koh Samui.

The most important of those artefacts are the metal drums found on Koh Samui dating from 1,000 BC to 500 BC. These are the earliest definite evidence of human settlement in the Ang Thong Archipelago. The drum has been dated by the design which is uniquely associated with the Don Son culture of Northern Vietnam. The first of the drums was found at Wat Talingping (Koh Samui) in 1977 and is now on display at the Chaiya National Museum on the mainland. Another of these drums was found in Lamai (Koh Samui) in 2000 and is on display at the Lamai Cultural Hall.

An ancient stone axe has also been found on Koh Samui which is evidence that the Semang people of Malaysia visited the islands in the past. They are known to have lived in many parts of Southern Thailand at least 5,000 to 10,000 years ago. The Semang are only one of the Negritro ethnic groups in Asia, but the most likely of these to have come to Southern Thailand. The Thai know them as the Mani People. This ethnic group has diminished in number over time but still live in isolated pockets in the Andaman Islands, the Philippines, Mayalsia, Thailand and Indonesia. The Semang people are sometimes incorrectly referred to as ‘Pygmies’. Although they are short like the African Pygmy peoples they are a different ethnic group.

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The Semang people are the indigenous people of Southern Thailand in local folklore. The Nang Talung Puppet Show, for which the Southern city of Nakhon Si Thammarat is famous, depicts the indigenous peoples of Southern Thailand with characteristics more closely associated with the Semang than the Thai people. Perhaps not conclusive evidence in itself, but it does offer us clues as to the pre-history of Thailand.

The Moken People

Whilst we can’t know for 100% certain that the Semang people where the first to inhabit Koh Phangan, what we do know is that the Moken people have inhabited Koh Phangan for a long period of time. There is a still a community of Moken on Koh Paluay Island in the Ang Thong National Park. The Moken, also known as the Urak Lawoi or Orang Laut, originate in what is now Malayasia and have a unique and partly nomadic seafaring culture. They are sometimes described as ‘sea gypsies’ and the Thai people refer to them as ‘chao ley’ (sea people) or ‘chao nam’ (people of the water). The biggest concentration of the Moken people in modern day Thailand is in Krabi province on the west coast of Thailand. The Moken aren’t formally recognised by the Thai government and their inability to access schools and hospitals has meant that they have maintained their traditional culture and lifestyle rather than becoming part of modern Thai society.

The Moken people have maintained traditional, and inventive, fishing skills. The two they are best known for is spear fishing from their long boats, the fore runner of the Southern Thai ‘Longtail Boat’, and for holding their breath for long periods to collect shellfish and other sea creature from the sea floor.

Another Moken industry is the collection of bird nests for use in birds nest soup. Elaborate bamboo scaffolding is erected to reach the nests in caves. The Moken are known for making death defying ascents up cliff faces to collect this highly valued commodity.

Early Thai Visitors

By the second century AD the Thai people of the central and northern parts of what is now Thailand had created permanent settlements in the south of Thailand, which at that time was heavily forested and difficult to travel to by land. The earliest surviving written records of these settlement comes from Chinese merchants around 1,000 AD. They reported settlements along the eastern seaboard of Thailand, including large settlement in Surat Thai province at P’ai P’an (near Phun Phin where Surat Thani railway station is located) and at the Bandon Bay Tapi River area where most of the ferries to Koh Phangan depart. The earliest evidence that Thai people came to live on Koh Phangan is the Wat Nai temple. Wat Nai temple is a small chedi located near Ban Tai beach. It is believed to be the oldest structure on the island and is around 400 years old. Its not known how long these first monks stayed on the island, although the small size of the Temple suggested that the monks failed to create a permanent community. The island was sparsely inhabited at the time, and many of these inhabitants (such as the Moken) were not Buddhists. Life for these first monks was likely to have been very hard as there would have been few people to give alms.

The Hainan People

Hainan is the Southern most province in China with a sub-tropical climate and a distinctive culture. It comprises several hundred small islands clustered around the large Hainan Island. The migration of the indigenous Li People to Thailand began in the 16th and 17th Centuries as they were slowly pushed out of Hainan by migrating Han Chinese from neighbouring Fujian and Guangdong regions. The Li People finally rebelled against the Qing Government in the middle of the 18th Century. They lost their struggle and the majority of the population migrated. Today the Li People make up less than 15% of the population of Hainan.

The people of Hainan proved to be industrious and free from the oppression of the Chinese state they built thriving and successful communities in central and southern Thailand. In Bangkok they settled in the swampy riverside area in the Sampanthawong district of Bangkok. At the time the Thai people favoured living on boats on the Chao Phraya river and trading in floating markets. The Chinese settled on the land, most famously in Sampeng Lane which is the heart of Bangkok’s modern day China Town. They also created the first large land markets which were at the centre of Siam’s commercial life until industrialisation of the central region in the early Twentieth Century, and the descendants of the early immigrants went onto to build Thailand’s largest companies. There were less opportunities for trade open to the Li People in Koh Phangan and they took up coconut farming, fishing and tin mining. The main tin mining centres were in Thong Nai Pan and near Sri Thanu. On the way into Thong Nai Pan Noi you will see a large excavated area on your right. This is an old tin mine. In Sri Thanu the lake (Leam Som) was a large open cast tin mine.

The Li people integrated into the local Thai culture all over Thailand, and this is true of Koh Phangan which has its own mini China Town areas in Thong Sala and Ban Tai village. There are some excellent examples of Chinese style wooden shop houses. You will find the same style of shop house throughout Thailand: Phuket Town and Bangkok China Town are famous for them. The other major influence the Li people brought to Thailand was their cuisine. Hainanese chicken and rice (Khao Man Gai) is eaten throughout Thailand. In Koh Samui and Koh Phangan the local people eat some unique Hainanese foods which is not common in the rest of Thailand. The most famous of these is Hainanese dried fish. The picture above is taken in a market in modern day Hainan. If you go to the small shops and market stalls of Thong Sala and Ban Tai today you will see the same rings of dried fish hanging from pieces of string. There are lots of ways to cook with them. Fried in oil they can be eaten as a tasty accompaniment for a meal or a salty favouring.

Later Thai Visitors

By the Nineteenth Century Koh Phangan was starting to become well known to Thai people and this was the start of the modern period on immigration of Thai people to the island. Bear in mind that formal government did not come to Koh Phangan until the 1970s and the first permanent police station on the island came in the 1990s. Koh Phangan was a place of wild and natural beauty with settlements confined to the areas around Thong Sala and Ban Tai in the South, Sri Thanu in the West and Thong Nai Pan in the East. The most famous of the early Thai visitors, King Rama V, came as a tourist to visit the waterfalls at Than Sadet and Than Prawes Waterfall in Thong Nai Pan Noi. The King first visited in 1888 and a further 13 times during his reign and left his signature in the rocks at both Than Sadet and Thong Nai Pan Noi.

During the reign of King Rama V it was recorded that there were already 300 families living on Koh Phangan. Thai Law has allowed these early immigrants to lay claim to the land on receipt of proof that they have occupied the land for a long period and that this claim is not disputed by their neighbours. Certain families have become very closely associated with certain parts of the island such as Haad Khuat, Thong Nai Pan Noi, and Haad Rin (amongst other areas) and the current owners of much of the land are directly related to this wave of Thai immigrants to Koh Phangan.

The big industry on Koh Phangan for this group of Thai immigrants was coconut farming. Much of the Island was given over to coconut farming and the most prized areas of land were away from the beach areas. Fishing was also an important industry with piers built in Thong Sala and more recently Chaloklum. Sadly the local fishing industry gave way to the larger industrial fishing boats who scour the Gulf of Thailand and catch fish more cheaply. Much of the fish eaten on Koh Phangan is now imported from the mainland, with the exception of a small supply coming from fishing boats operating out of Chaloklum and Thong Sala. Coconut farming is not a massively profitable business and, with the decline of the fishing industry, Koh Phangan was not a wealthy island. The situation was made even worse by the end of the small tin mining industry in the 1970s.

The Japanese

On the 8th December 1941 the Imperial Japanese Armed Forces invaded Southern Thailand. The Japanese came in large numbers and landed in multiple locations along the eastern seaboard of Thailand. One of the initial invasion points was Ban Don in Surat Thani Province. The Thai army and police force briefly attempted to resist the invasion. The Provincial Administration building in Surat Thani was destroyed in the battle. After a few hours the Thai Government ordered the army and police to capitulate. The invading Japanese Armed Forces promised the Thai Government that they would not enter Bangkok and would only use the country as a staging post for invading British controlled Burma and Malaya. The Japanese did not keep this promise and spread out over the country. Koh Phangan was not formally occupied, but Japanese soldiers were stationed there. The main purpose of the soldiers coming to Koh Phangan was as a look out post over the Gulf of Thailand. Soldiers were permanently camped out on the hills above Thong Nai Pan where there are the best vantage points over the Gulf. There are still the remains of a Japanese armoured vehicle in the jungle on the slopes of Khao Ra mountain.

The Japanese occupation carried on until the war ended in 1945 with the surrender of the Japanese following the atomic bomb attacks on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Then Came The Tourists

Tourism on Koh Phangan started on a commercial scale in the 1980s. Foreign tourists started coming to the neighbouring Island of Koh Samui in significant numbers in the 1970s. The first tourist resort on Koh Samui opened in 1974: First Bungalow Beach Resort on the headland in Chaweng. Tourists were visiting Koh Phangan in the 1970s by boat from Koh Samui but there weren’t any resorts or hotels on the island at that time. No doubt some travellers stayed overnight or longer by camping rough, as had King Rama V in 1888. Alex Garland’s apocryphal story ‘The Beach’ has its origins in the tales of these early visitors.

The first resorts were set up on Koh Phangan at the end of the 1970s. The earliest resort was probably Mai Pen Rai Bungalows in Than Sadet. The next resorts to be built on Koh Phangan were in Haad Rin in the early 1980s. Paradise Bungalows might well be the oldest resort in Haad Rin. The tourism industry picked up considerably towards the end of the 1980s with a cluster of resorts being built: Wattana Resort (Chaloklum) in 1985, Phangan Rainbow (Ban Tai) in 1986, Panviman (Thong Nai Pan Noi) in 1987. Other similar resorts followed throughout the 1990s on the back of the growing popularity of the Full Moon Party.

The origins of the Full Moon Party are hotly debated. There are two competing versions of the story. One version is that the first Full Moon Party was held in 1983, when Mr Suti, owner of Paradise Bungalows, held an impromptu birthday party for one of the guests at his resort with a small sound system and bar provided by the resort. The other version of the story comes from Scottish journalist Colin Hinselwood who has written an account of his visit to the first ever Full Moon Party in October 1988. Colin was living in Koh Samui and claims to have visited and partied on the beach with a small group of foreigners for the night. Colin doesn’t explain how he knows that parties had never happened before his visit, and he doesn’t explain why there was a party there in the first place. For this reason, it appears likely that the Full Moon Parties probably started before Colin came to stay the night. Full moon is a significant time in the Thai Buddhist culture and it has been celebrated for centuries. The decision to hold a party on Full Moon night is more likely to have been taken by the Thais.

The latest phase in the development of Koh Phangan is the development of luxury resorts. Panviman in Thong Nai Pan Noi was the first with an upgrade to luxury status in 2005. This coincided with the construction of Santhiya Resort, also in Thong Nai Pan Noi in 2005. This was followed by a third luxury resort, Rasananda, in Thong Nai Pan Noi in 2009 and then a fourth with Buri Rasa opening in Thong Nai Pan Noi in 2012. Thong Nai Pan Noi is now the centre of the luxury tourist trade in Koh Phangan, with a number of private serviced luxury villas in the hills above the beach. The luxury tourist trade is also expanding to other parts of the island with the completion of the luxury Chantaramas Resort in Ban Tai in 2012 and two further luxury resorts in 2013: The Coast (Haad Rin) and Kupu Kupu (Nai Wok).

Koh Phangan is still a long way from becoming a mass tourism destination in the same way as Phuket or Ao Nang because of the poor infrastructure. It takes a long time to get to Koh Phangan, and the roads are pretty bad in places. The shopping options are limited. The water supply on the island is unpredictable in the dry summer months and the electricity still stops frequently. The next phase in the development of Koh Phangan will involve addressing those issues. Lots of things are happening at the moment. There is a major road building project to create a wide concrete ring road around Koh Phangan. The electrical system is being upgraded and a dam building project in the centre of the island has been approved by the Thai government. Perhaps the most significant of these projects is the plan to build a small airport near the Than Sadet National Park. When Koh Phangan can be reached directly from Bangkok tourism levels are likely to really take off.

Haad Thian West

There are 2 Haad Thian (also spelt ‘Tien’) beaches in Koh Phangan. Both of them are small beaches tucked away in coves and over-shadowed in popularity by more famous beaches nearby. On the south east coast there is Haad Thian East which has a famous yoga / New Age place called the Sanctuary as well as a few bungalow resorts. Haad Thian West is located between the two most popular beaches on the west coast – Haad Yao (to the south) and Haad Salad (to the north). There is one place to stay at Haad Thian West – that is Haad Thian Beach Resort. For those looking for a ‘private beach’ experience, but without the isolation and poor access Haad Thian West is a great holiday option.

Haad Thian West is a 15-minute drive from the main port town of Thongsala. You take the western coastal road and take a left at the junction past the turning for Haad Yao West. This road goes straight to Haad Gruad; to get to Haad Thian West take a left turn.

The beach at Haad Thian West is quite small, about 70 meters across. The white sand is slightly course as it is mixed with coral. A short distance out from the coast is a coral reef. This makes swimming in the sea better during the high tidal months from April to November. During other months the best swimming option is to cross the coral reef and swim in the open sea. One fun activity at Haad Thian West is exploring the corals b snorkelling. For those who want to dive there are several dive shops at Haad Yao and Haad Salad.

Accommodation at Haad Thian West consists of one resort called (not surprisingly) Haad Thian Beach Resort. It is a friendly, family-run resort with a good range of bungalows for rent. A basic bungalow with fan costs just 490 Thai Baht during the low season. There are also basic fan bungalows with two double beds. The ‘superior room’ is a concrete bungalow with air-con, satellite TV, DVD player and hot water. These start at 1,090 Thai Baht. Deluxe rooms are beachfront bungalows with large balconies as well as air-con, hot water shower, satellite TV, DVD player, mini bar and tea and coffee making facilities. These start at 1,690 Thai Baht per night. The same facilities are available in rooms located in an accommodation block. There is also one ocean view room and one family room with sea views.

The resort has a restaurant and bar serving a range of beverages and, of course, delicious home cooked Thai food as well as burgers, sandwiches, pasta and French fries. For sun worshippers there is a medium sized pool next to the beach with sun loungers. Other facilities include a convenience store, table tennis, laundry service, booking centre, internet shop, Wi-Fi, Thai massage and vehicle rental. In short, Haad Thian Beach Resort provides everything needed for a fun and stress-free holiday on a quiet and beautiful beach. Currently, Haad Thien Beach Resort in Koh Phangan (not Koh Tao) is unavailable for online booking with either Booking.com or Agoda.

And for those who want to explore the small beach of Haad Gruad is just a couple of miles away. There is also the nightlife of nearby Haad Yao to explore and the laid back vibe of Haad Salad experience.

Haad Thian West is not the most beautiful beach in Koh Phangan, but it is one of the most relaxed. It has one resort and so is spared a long row of businesses across the beach. Most evenings there is a fantastic sunset over the ocean. This is a place where you can enjoy nature’s spectacle without interruption.

Accommodation in Haad Rin

Luxury

The Coast Resort Koh Phangan 4 Star – from 2,800 THB
Haad Rin’s most luxurious and stylish resort.

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Best Western Phanganburi Resort 3 Star – from 2,000 THB
International standard resort. Safe choice.

Mid range

Moonstone Villa 2 Star – from 3,000 THB
1 bedroom villa with sea-view and lounge with sofa bed. Sleeps 4. Steep access.

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Palita Lodge 3 Star – from 1,800 THB
High quality mid range resort on the Full Moon Party beach.

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Phangan Bayshore Resort 3 Star – from 1,560 THB
Large hotel style resort on the Full Moon Party beach.

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Neptune’s Villa Hotel 3 Star – from 1,550 THB
Bungalows and hotel rooms. Good standard accommodation 5 minutes away from the Full Moon Party.

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Sea Breeze Resort 3 Star – from 1,500 THB
Good quality bungalows with fantastic hill top views.

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Sarikantang Resort & Spa 3 Star – from 1,400 THB
One of Haad Rin’s best resorts. Two pools and a beach bar. High standard accommodation. 10 minute walk to the Full Moon Party beach.

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Cocohut Village Beach Resort 3 Star – from 1,400 THB
Great resort with a variety of room types from wooden bungalows to pool villas. Full range of facilities.

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Rin Beach Resort 3 Star – from 1,100 THB
Good quality resort. Rooms range from basic to luxury.

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Hillside Bungalows 2 Star – from 1,050 THB
Basic rooms in a quieter location. 10 minute walk to Full Moon Party.

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Delight Resort 3 Star – from 1,020 THB
Hotel rooms of varying quality in a town centre location with good restaurant on site. 3 minute walk to the Full Moon Party.

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Blue Marine Resort 2 Star – from 1,000 THB
Friendly resort in a peaceful beach side setting. Range of accommodation available.

Sun Beach Resort 2 Star – from 1,000 THB
Bungalows in a good location with good facilities, but the rooms are basic. 5 minute walk to the Full Moon Party.

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Moonstone Studio 2 Star – from 1,000 THB
Selection of studio apartments about 20 minutes walk from town centre and Full Moon Party.

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Sunrise Resort 3 Star – from 950 THB
Basic accommodation right on the Full Moon Party beach. Free WiFi.

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Chang Phueak Phangan Resort 3 Star – from 900 THB
Nicely decorated bungalows on the hillside overlooking the Full Moon Party beach.

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Black & White Guesthouse 2 Star – from 900 THB
Comfortable rooms for backpackers with TVs and toilets. In town centre a 5 minute walk from the Full Moon Party.

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Blue Hill Resort 3 Star – from 800 THB
Good quality sea-view bungalows on a steep hillside. 15 minutes from town centre.

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Paradise Bungalows 2 Star – from 800 THB
Basic hotel rooms and concrete bungalows on the Party beach. Really good pool area for the price.

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Budget

Supreeya Guesthouse 1 Star – from 1,700 THB
Basic bungalows with 4 single beds. On the Full Moon Party beach.

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Venus Resort 1 Star – from 800 THB
Basic wooden bungalows in a hillside location overlooking the Full Moon Party beach.

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Baan Talay Guest House 2 Star – from 750 THB
Above average guest house in Haad Rin town centre. Free WiFi.

Black & White Bungalows 1 Star – from 700 THB
Basic bungalows with few services and little housekeeping.

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Thaniza Beachfront Resort 2 Star – from 640 THB
Value for money beach front bungalows. Decent quality.

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Friendly Resort & Spa 1 Star – from 620 THB
Large resort with basic rooms and big pool. Aimed towards younger travellers.

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Amaresa Resort & Sky Bar 2 Star – from 590 THB
Quirky resort on the hillside with dramatic views. Great restaurants and remarkable ‘Eco-style’ houses.

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Suksabai Resort 1 Star – from 580 THB
Basic concrete bungalows. Beach front location. 10 minutes to Full Moon Party.

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Moon Paradise Resort 1 Star – from 550 THB 

Value for money wooden and concrete bungalows. On the Full Moon Party beach.

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Suncliff Resort 2 Star – from 530 THB
Lovely small resort in quiet garden setting. Great views over the coast.

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Leela Beach Bungalows 1 Star – from 480 THB
Basic beach front bungalows. Value for money and quiet.

Sea Garden Resort Haad Rin 1 Star – from 400 THB
Friendly and value for money. Range of accommodation types. Close to the Full Moon Party beach.

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S.K Home Guesthouse 1 Star – from 305 THB
Cheap and cheerful. Small rooms with basic facilities. Ideal for a budget stay during the Full Moon Party. Book early.

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Thai Dee Garden Resort 1 Star – from 300 THB
Basic value for money choice. 10 minutes from the Full Moon Party.

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Same Same Guesthouse 1 Star – from 300 THB
Guest house with great restaurant and bar with party atmosphere.

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Lighthouse Bungalows 1 Star – from 250 THB
Small bungalow resort built on the rocks. Quiet but basic. 20 minute walk to the town/Full Moon Party.

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Haad Rin Beaches

Thongsala

Thongsala Beach

Thongsala is the principal town of Koh Phangan. It is also the main transport hub for the island. There are three piers that take most people on and off the island. Nobody considers staying in Thongsala because of its beach.

And yet to both sides of the main port area there are stretches of white sand beach. You can walk past the Lomprayah Pier east and come to the end of China town where there is a pretty patch of beach.

The beach immediately to the east of Thongsala centre is sometimes called Ao Bang Charu. As far as most visitors to Koh Phangan are concerned, the end of Thongsala is the beginning of Baan Tai.

Popular Resorts in Thongsala: Lime N Soda Beachfront Resort

Baan Tai

ban tai beach

Baan Tai Beach is located on the long stretch of coast line next to the main road that goes from Thongsala to Haad Rin. Many people consider this long sandy strip to be all part of Baan Tai. Other maps mark the beach part near Thongsala as being Ao Bang Charu and the last part before the steep hill that leads to Haad Rin as Bankai. The border with Bankai is a river that flushes out to the sea 200 meters before the 7-11.

Since nobody uses the name Ao Bang Charu we will divide the long southern beach into Baan Tai and Bankai.

The beach at Baan Tai is one of the longest on the island. At low tide it is possible to walk the entire length of the beach.

Baan Tai beach is a sandy beach. Parts near Thongsala have plenty of tree cover behind the beach; other parts are next to the road and not so scenic. While the views of Koh Samui in the distance and the sunsets are impressive the swimming is often not great at Baan Tai: during the lower tidal months from May to October the sea recedes a long way at low tide.

The better Baan Tai resorts have swimming pools. The main draw for this beach is what is becoming known as the ‘party zone’. This refers to the area of Baan Tai, Ban Kai and Haad Rin that hosts a number of big outdoor parties that include the Full Moon Party, the Half Moon Party, the black Moon Party, Jungle Experience, Shiva Moon Party and Rhythm and Sands. During about 10 days around the Full Moon Party there are parties nearly every night. Baan Tai is a great central location for this party scene.

There is a small fishing village at Baan Tai. It has a few bars, restaurants and shops. It is not great for shopping but has a few good bars. There is also a small pier at Baan Tai. Private speed boats and fishing boats use the pier.

Popular resorts in Baan Tai: Milky Bay Resort, Sabaii Bay Resort and First Villa

Bankai

bankai

Bankai starts near the 7-11 on the main Thongsala to Haad Rin road and goes to the rocky headland that marks the start of Haad Rin.

As with Baan Tai, Bankai is a sandy beach that is great for sunbathing but not so good for swimming during the low tidal months.
As with Baan Tai the resorts, hostels and hotels along the beach are geared towards those wanting to attend all night parties. In the jungle behind the beach is the setting for the tech/house Blue and Green Sramanora Waterfall Party.
It is a short walk from Bankai to the main road where there is a selection of shops, restaurants and bars.

Since both Baan Tai and Bankai are so near Haad Rin and Thongsala lots of people rent motorbikes and drive up down the main southern road to do their shopping and dining. Convenience is another major reason why people choose to get a room in this area.

Popular resorts in Bankai: Chantaramas Resort and Spa, Hansa Resort and Morning Star

Haad Rin Beaches

Haad Rin Nok

Haad Rin Nok is also known as Haad Rin Sunrise Beach and the Full Moon Party Beach. This is the best beach on the Haad Rin peninsula and the biggest. It is thus the obvious place to hold the Full Moon Party. The added bonus is that not only does the full moon shine brightly at night above this beach but also at dawn the sun rises over the ocean in a collage of yellows and oranges.

Haad Rin Nok is about 700 meters long. It gently curves around the bay. At the northern end of the beach is a large headland. You can climb up the steps to Mellow Mountain, a favourite bar during the big party, where you can sit and admire the view over the beach.

It is tempting to imagine that the Full Moon Party Beach must be full of trash and debris from the monthly parties. Thanks to teams of cleaners the beach returns back to its unlittered best within hours of the party closing down for another month.

This was the first beach in Koh Phangan to develop a tourist trade in the late 1970s. It is a wonderful beach and an ideal place for tourism to begin in Koh Phangan. The sand and sea is free of corals and the sea bed slopes gently down providing perfect swimming conditions year round.

Back in the day the beachfront at Haad Rin Nok was dominated by cheap bungalow resorts. While there are still a few resorts on this beach such as Palita Lodge, Sunrise Resort and Paradise Bungalows it is very hard to get an actual beachfront bungalow or villa on Haad Rin Nok. The sea view locations are reserved for the dozen or so bars that comprise the party. During the lulls between full moons these places sell food and drink but often offer nothing more than a bare bones service.

Haad Rin Nok is not a beach for snorkeling. There are dive shops in Haad Rin that take people to better sites for diving and snorkeling both around Koh Phangan and farther afield. You can rent kayaks and at your own risk (to your wallet), jet skis.

As would be expected, this beach fills up as the full moon approaches. It is the place to hang out, make friends and relax when you are not damaging your liver.

Popular places to stay: Palita Lodge and Sunrise Resort

Haad Rin Nai

On the other side of the peninsula from Haad Rin Nok is Haad Rin Nai. This is a west-facing beach and is consequently the best place to go in Haad Rin to see the sunset.

Haad Rin Nai or Haad Rin Sunset Beach is smaller and less picturesque than its bigger sister. The beach is about 150 meters long. At the northern end of the beach is a small pier with a regular ferry service to Big Buddha pier on the north coast of the neighbouring island of Koh Samui. The Haad Rin Queen Ferry service uses a boat that holds about 50 people. The boats run at full capacity during the full moon period.

The beach is not much of a spot to sunbathe and swim. The sand is not as fine as on the sunrise beach. Moreover, the inevitable pollution from the ferry service affects parts of this beach.

In contrast to Haad Rin Nok there is plenty of accommodation with sea views on and near Haad Rin Nai. It is a good spot to base yourself for the party as there are plenty of facilities nearby, and it is slightly quieter as the Full Moon Party sound systems are pointing away from this beach.

It takes about 10 minutes to walk between the sunset and sunrise beaches on the Haad Rin peninsula.

Popular Places to stay: Best Western Phanganburi Resort and The Coast Resort

Seekantang Beach

Seekantang Beach is also called Leela Beach. It is a long west facing beach below Haad Rin Nai. The name of this beach is a bit confusing for first time visitors as there is a resort on this beach that is called Sarikantang Resort and Spa.

To get to this beach you have to walk through the centre of Haad Rin Town and take a right at the end of the road and go up the hill. From there follow the signs to Sarikantang Beach Resort.

It is a beautiful white sand beach that stretches for over 500 meters. The northern end of the beach has large resorts while the southern end has more of an old-style Koh Phangan feel.

The beach has fine white sand and is good for swimming all year round. The beach has plenty of tree cover and although it becomes busy during the full moon period, this beach never feels crowded.

The beach is narrow at points. The trees fringing the beach include mangroves. For being so close to the main party beach, Haad Seekantang is a surprisingly pristine and diverse nature spot. As a result, those in the know often prefer staying at this beach when attending the Full Moon Party. It takes only 15 minutes for those lodging at Seekantang to walk to the party and when they have had enough revelry they can go back to a quiet room overlooking a stunning beach.

Popular Resorts: Sarikantang Resort and Spa and Cocohut Village Beach Resort and Spa

Full Moon Party Hostels

The Party Hostel 1 Star – from 800 THB
18 bed dorm and 2 bed private rooms. Central location.

The Party Hostel

Electro Hostel 1 Star – from 800 THB – CLOSED
10 bed mixed dorm and private rooms. Good quality.

Electro Hostel

Seventeen Hostel 1 Star – from 775 THB
Centrally located hostel. Mixed dorm rooms and free WiFi.

Seventeen Hostel

Bed N Bar Hostel 1 Star – from 750 THB
Rooms of 8 bunk beds. Free lockers and WiFi.

Bed n Bar

Gallery 1 Star – from 600 THB
15 bed dorm. Aimed at musicians and artists.

Maddy Hostel 1 Star – from 560 THB
6, 11, and 19 bed mixed dorms. Fun atmosphere and activities.

Maddy Hostel

Moon Dance Hostel 1 Star – from 550 THB
2 x eight bed dorms sharing 2 bathrooms. Clean with air-conditioning.

Moon Dance Hostel

Our House 1 Star – from 530 THB
10, 12 and 36 bed dorms. A/C, lots of toilets and bar.

Our House Hostel

Dancing Elephant HQ Hostel – from 485 THB
19 and 40 bed mixed dorms. Lots of on-site activities & facilities.

Dancing Elephant HQ Hostel

Peach Guesthouse 1 Star – from 380 THB
Budget private rooms for backpackers. Very basic.

Peach Guesthouse

Om Ganesh Hostel & Restaurant 1 Star – from 320 THB
Long running hostel with freebies around the time of the Full Moon Party.

Om Ganesh Hostel

Jaya Hostel and Guesthouse 1 Star – from 255 THB
6, 12, 16, 20 and 22 room dorms. Private rooms as well. In centre of Haad Rin

Jaya Hostel and Guesthouse

Fubar Guest House and Hostel 1 Star – from 220 THB
6, 17 and 22 bed mixed dorm rooms. 2, 3 & 4 person private rooms also available.

Fubar Guest House and Hostel

Phangan Hostel 1 Star – from 180 THB
3 air-conditioned mixed dorm rooms. Central location.

Phangan Hostel

Full Moon Party Venues

The Full Moon Party is not one party, it’s a lot of smaller parties taking place at the bars running the length of Haad Rin Beach. Every venue is different which is what makes the Full Moon Party so popular – there is something to suit everyone! This is our guide to the different bars, running North to South along the Full Moon Party beach.

UPDATE: Obviously, when the party is back after the covid-19 crisis, there will be a number of changes to this list as new leaseholders of the Haad Rin bars will look to re-brand. I also think trance and hard progressive techno will give way to newer forms of EDM.

Mellow Mountain

mellow mountain

Mellow Mountain is a laid back wooden bar perched on the hill above the sea. Mellow Mountain attracts an older and mellower crowd than the rest of the Full Moon Party with a mix of Techno/House/Funk. Catch DJ Lai from Thong Nai Pan on the decks at around 2 am for some original and upbeat house mixes. This is a great bar to either chill out or dance. The action’s all inside over looking the Full Moon Party. Lots of room to dance or chill out with drink sat on some cushions.

Tommy Beach Club

Tommy Resort

This is one of the four big venues on the Full Moon Party beach (the other three are The Cactus Bar, Drop Inn Club and Paradise Club). This place gets packed on Full Moon Party night with two sound systems on the beach outside the front of the bar. There is a lot going on here throughout the night. They have a good line up of DJs and play a mix of Psy-Trance, Tech House, Techno and Electro House. Tommy Beach Club has a club like feel with a giant laser, dance podiums, UV lighting, fluorescent sculptures and a fire wall. You are likely to want to spend some of your night at this bar.

The Orchid

the orchid

The Full Moon Party’s only Drum and Bass, R’n’B, break beat and hip-hop bar. This bar is one of the smaller venues on the Full Moon Party Beach. It has a loyal following who pack onto the covered concrete dance floor. People tend to come here for the music. It’s a good place to dance as well if you don’t particularly like the big crowds.

The Cactus Bar

cactus bar

Probably the busiest bar on the beach. They put on a good show with a fire show and pretty girls dancing on the bar. The music is more commercial than the other bars on the beach with the playlist ranging through 70s ,80s, 90s, Hip-Hop, Dance, Electro, Dance, Drum and Bass and classic dance ‘anthems’. The music appeals to a really wide range of people. Like the Tommy Beach Club they have fire wall, dance podiums and fluorescent sculptures. Good bar inside as well with two-storeys. Arrive early if you want to get seats for yourself and your friends. Keeping your seats all night is a bit more difficult!

Vinyl Club

Vinyl Club

Vinyl Club is a small club with a big sound system. Resident DJs Kay and Jok play Hard Techno and Psy-Trance to a cool crowd intend on partying hard until the early hours of the the morning. There isn’t much room inside the bar but plenty on the beach. Don’t expect to see the DJs playing vinyl.

Zoom Bar

Zoom Bar

Next door to the Vinyl Club and a very similar kind of club. They have a DJ booth overlooking the beach which is pretty cool. This bar has an unfortunate recent history – this is where tourist Stephen Ashton was shot dead at the beginning of 2013. Robert got caught in the cross fire when an island resident shot at another island resident. Not the fault of the bar, and it doesn’t mean that this bar is any less safe than another – it could have happened anywhere.

Drop Inn Club

Drop Inn Club

Launched in 1989, this a mainstay of the Full Moon Party. At points during the night they can attract up to 10,000 people. It gets busiest when their music starts to connect with the crowds. They play a wide range of music a lot of it falling into the category of ‘popular music’. This said at points during the evening they play really good House and Techno. The music is up and down, like everywhere at the Full Moon Party. You need to move from place to place as the music changes.

Paradise Bungalows

Paradise Club

This is the original Full Moon Party which started around 1983 by a certain Mr Suti. He put on a small party for some backpackers on full moon night and carried on doing it every month after. Starting out with only 20 to 30 people partying around a bonfire, the number of people who now go sometimes tops 30,000. Paradise is the place to experience the ‘old skool’ Full Moon Party. This is the place where they do the notorious fire rope skipping. Lots of party goers come away from Full Moon Party night with burns to their leg after trying this one. Be careful! They also have a fire wall and a rock slide. Paradise is a must visit when you go to the Full Moon Party. They play mostly House and Techno music.

The Rock

The Rock

The Rock is a laid back bar on top of a big rock at the Southern end of the beach. the Rock is run by the legendary Mr Suti and has an ‘old skool’ feel with wooden floors and palm leaf roof. This is a good place to chill out and you get a good view of the party but away from the madness. If you do decide to take time out be sure to try one of their cocktails, by far the best on the Full Moon Party beach. The music is generally Funky and Soulful although it changes in tempo throughout the night.

Top Ten Full Moon Party Hotels

Starting with the best, this is our list the top ten places to stay in Haad Rin during the Full Moon Party:
#1 The Coast
Haad Rin’s newest and hippest resort.

#2 Sarikantang
Fantastic resort on a beautiful stretch of beach

#3 Best Western Phanganburi Resort
International standard resort with pool and spa.

#4 Palita Lodge
Luxurious resort right in the centre of the party action

#5 Phangan Bayshore Resort
Large beach front resort with great rooms and a party atmosphere.

#6 Sea Breeze Resort
Smaller and quieter resort with luxurious air-con bungalows.

#7 Blue Hill Resort
Affordable hillside resort with stunning views.

# 8 Rin Bay View Bungalow
Value for money beach front resort with friendly atmosphere.

#9 Paradise Bungalows
The original Full Moon Party venue. The place to get into the party atmosphere.

#10 Thaniza Beach Front Resort
Lovely quiet and relaxed beach front resort.

Read More

Best After Party
10 Best Full Moon Party Hotels

Best Fast Food

Located on the Bantai Road, about 1 km from the centre of Thong Sala, the Food Factory is Koh Phangan’s best known and most popular fast food outlet. Koh Phangan doesn’t have a McDonald’s or KFC. The Food Factory, opened in 2009, is the closest you can get on the island.

The Food Factory is an efficient and modern business from the team behind Milky Bay, Lime N Soda, Outlaw bar and the excellent Bangers and Mash, which the is bar/music venue next door.

The Food Factory serves burgers and pizzas. They also have a bar with a wide range of drinks, including extra cold Singha beer on tap for 100 Thai Baht for an English pint glass (568 ml). The fun doesn’t stop there. They have large flat screen TVs showing sports like soccer and Aussie rules football. They make a point of putting on drinks promotions for major sporting events such as Wimbledon. This is a good place to come with friends to watch the big match. It is also a good place for a late night snack as the Food Factory is open 24 hours a day. The service is ably provided by young women in smart uniforms.

Below is a sample of what is on their menu, with prices in Thai Baht:

100% Australian Beefburgers

Beef Burger – 110 THB
Cheese Burger – 120 THB
Peri Peri Chicken Burger – 130 THB
Bacon Blue Cheese Burger – 195 THB
Regular Fries – 65 THB
Combo Deal (Burger, Fries & Coke) – 155 THB

Pizza Menu

Margherita – 170 THB
Hawaiian – 220 THB
Siciliana – 230 THB
Calzone – 220 THB
Regina – 220 THB
Salami – 220 THB
Diablo – 230 THB
Al Tonno – 220 THB
Garlic Bread – 120 THB
Pizza Caprese – 200 THB
Greek Salad – 180 THB

Best Fish Restaurants

Islands should have good seafood and Koh Phangan is no exception. You can buy it from the fish market in Thong Sala, or from the fishermen in Chaloklum, and cook it yourself. Perhaps on a home made BBQ – two concrete bricks, a bag of charcoal, and a grill bought for under 100 THB in Thong Sala will do the trick. Expect to pay around 160 THB a kilo for prawns in the market (the bigger they are the more they cost) and around 100 THB a kilo for whole fish. Squid and small shell fish are also widely available.

For the less adventurous, and those wanting simply to relax on holiday, there are excellent seafood restaurants on Koh Phangan. We recommend that you head to Bantai or Chaloklum’s Seafood village in the North of the Island.

Bantai

There are several good fish restaurants on Bantai beach. Bantai beach is located on the stretch of road from Thong Sala to Haad Rin before the turning to go up to Thong Nai Pan. The best two are Fisherman’s Restaurant and Fish at Thips.

Fisherman’s Restaurant is on the beach near the Bantai pier, about 3 km from Thong Sala. Run by local Chef Lek and his Austrian wife, many visitors rate this restaurant as the best on the island. The restaurant is well presented and the service is good. Some of the tables are set inside beach longtail boats. Longtail boats are the emblematic traditional boat of Southern Thailand still in use today. The most popular dishes are the mixed seafood platter, yellow curry crab (an authentic Southern Thai recipe) and fillet of barracuda. Bear in mind that price wise this a mid-range restaurant with fillet of barracuda, salad, rice and sauce priced at 300 THB. They serve wine and have an inventive range of cocktails. We recommend that you try the popular fisherman’s mojito.

Slightly further down the road is Fish at Thips. This is a more recent addition to the Island’s culinary scene. It’s similar in style to Fisherman’s restaurant, although the menu is different. Some people will prefer it to its long established neighbour. Our recommended dish is fish & chips.

Seafood Village in Chaloklum

Chaloklum is Koh Phangan’s main fishing port. This is the place to come and buy locally caught seafood. The bay at Chaloklum has an abundance of squid. To get there it’s a 20 to 30 minute drive north from the main town of Thong Sala depending on which route you take. A trip to Chaloklum can easily be combined with a trip to Koh Ma for snorkelling and a tour of the Chinese temple.

The main road in Chaloklum has been re-branded ‘Seafood Village’. It’s like a mini version of the sea front area in Hua Hin, with a cluster of seafood restaurants built on stilts over the beach. This is laid back destination and the restaurants are cheap. There are four dedicated seafood restaurants to choose from: Nong Nok, Aunjai Seafood, Seaside Restaurant, Hai-Thong Seafood. We recommend that you take a stroll along the road checking out the menus before deciding where to eat. All the restaurants sell tasty locally caught seafood so you can’t really go wrong.

Ferry Services from Koh Phangan to Koh Samui

There are now 6 companies providing ferry services between Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. This means there is an excellent array of options now for getting between the two islands in the Gulf of Thailand. This is good news for people wanting to pop over to Koh Phangan to catch a Full Moon Party or for those needing to get to Koh Samui to renew a visa or do a spot of shopping. This post will focus on the options for getting from Koh Phangan to Koh Samui.

Timetables

Timetables change because of the season, the weather and other logistical reasons. Below is an autmatically updated timetable of the current ferry timetable between Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. Clink on the link in the timetable to go to online booking.

Ferry Koh Phangan - Koh Samui ฿ 200–450 20m – 2h 30m
  •   Catamaran 07:20, 11:00, 12:00, 16:10
  •   High Speed Ferry 07:00, 08:00, 10:30, 12:30, 16:30
  •   ferry 10:00, 13:00, 15:00, 17:00
  •   Catamaran 06:30, 08:00, 09:30, 10:15, 10:30, 11:15, 12:00, 12:30, 15:30, 17:15, 17:30
  •   High Speed Ferry 07:50, 08:00, 08:30, 09:30, 11:30, 12:30, 12:50, 13:00, 13:30, 16:00, 16:30, 16:40, 17:00, 18:00
  •   ferry 06:00, 08:00, 09:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00, 16:30, 17:00, 18:00
  •   Speedboat 19:00, 20:00, 21:00, 22:00

Lomprayah

Lomprayah

Lomprayah operates a catamaran ferry service between the islands. It is the fastest ferry service available. You will need to check which pier in Koh Samui is closest to your destination as there are 2 options.

Boats leave at 07.20, 09.00, 12.00 and 14.40 from Thongsala pier heading to Nathon in the south of Koh Samui. The journey takes just 30 minutes.

Boats leave at 11.00 and 16.20 from Thongsala pier arriving at Pralarn Pier in Koh Samui. This journey is slightly quicker – just 20 minutes. Pralarn Pier is at Maenam in the north west of Koh Samui.

BOOK LOMPRAYAH FERRY

Seatran

Seatran

Seatran operate a reliable ferry service with medium-sized boats. They have plenty of seating inside and there is a small shop where you can buy drinks and snacks.

The Seatran ferry leaves Koh Phangan from Thongsala Pier at the following times:

08.00, 10.30 and 16.30.

Journey time is 30 minutes. The ferry docks at Bangrak Pier in the north of Koh Samui near Big Buddha. From Bangrak you can get to Koh Samui Airport in 10 minutes.

BOOK SEATRAN FERRY

Songserm

Songserm

The Songserm ferry is the smallest ferry to leave from Thongsala. The boat can rock quite a bit in rough seas. Be prepared if you get boat sick. The main advantage of the Songserm ferry service is that it is a little cheaper than using the Lomprayah and Seatran services.

There are 2 boats a day going from Thongsala in Koh Phangan to Nathon in Koh Samui. They leave at 07.00 and 12.30. The journey takes 45 minutes.

BOOK SONGSERM FERRY

Raja Ferry

Raja Car Ferry

The Raja ferry service is essential to the Koh Phangan economy as it a ship with a large hold that can transport cars, motorbikes and trucks. It is the safest boat to use in bad weather and the only way to bring a rental vehicle to the island.

There are 3 ferries a day you can catch from Thongsala to Lipa Noi in Koh Samui. They depart at 07.00, 12.00 and 16.00. It is a long journey – it takes 90 minutes. Lipa Noi is just south of Nathon, the administrative centre of Koh Samui.

BOOK RAJA CAR FERRY FERRY

Haad Rin Queen

Haad Rin Queen

The Haad Rin Queen is the only ferry service that starts from Haad Rin Pier. It is a small boat. You sit on deck and have an awning to protect you against the sun and rain. As you might imagine, the Haad Rin Queen gets very full just before and just after the Full Moon Party.

You cannot buy tickets for the Haad Rin Queen online. Tickets are sold at the counter next to the pier in Haad Rin. It is usually possible (outside peak times) to get a ticket on the day of travel.

Haad Rin Queen timetable

Boats leave at 09.30, 11.40, 14.30 and 17.30. The journey time is 50 minutes. The Haad Rin Queen uses Big Buddha Pier in the north of Koh Samui. This is near Big C Supermarket, Tesco Lotus, Bangkok Hospital and Koh Samui Airport. A one way ticket costs 200 Thai Baht.

ticket office for Haad Rin Queen

It should be noted for those arriving at Koh Samui Airport in the late afternoon looking to make it to Koh Phangan on the same day that the Haad Rin Queen is the last boat to leave Koh Samui for Koh Phangan. This boat is at 18.30.

Thong Nai Pan Express

The Thong Nai Pan Express runs only a seasonal schedule. It runs from January to October. During the rest of the year the sea is too rough for the small boat to operate.

The boat starts in Thong Nai Pan Noi and visits Thong Nai Pan Yai, Haad Than Sadet, Haad Thien and Haad Rin before heading off to Koh Samui. The boat docks at Maenam. The crew wait 90 minutes before doing the return journey to Thong Nai Pan.

The Thong Nai Pan Express leaves Thong Nai Pan at 09.00 and gets to Maenam at 10.30.

You can buy a ticket on the boat. Tickets cost 300 Thai Baht. No online ticket services are available.

The Thong Nai Pan Express offers the only scheduled ferry service for the remote east coast beaches of Koh Phangan.

Conclusion

Use the book buttons  and the links in the timetable to check travel times and make online purchases of ferry tickets. If you are on a tight schedule and cannot afford missing a connection then use the bigger ferry companies – Lomprayah, Seatran and Raja.

Hotels in East of Koh Phangan

Thong Nai Pan Yai

Mid Range:

Havana Beach Resort 3 Star – from 2,100 THB
Well run resort. Good Rooms. Great restaurant and bar.

BOOK HAVANA BEACH RESORT

Thong Nai Pan Beach Residence 3 Star – from 1,500 THB
Good quality beach front bungalows with restaurant and pool. Recently renamed; it was called ‘Central Cottage’.

BOOK THONG NAI PAN RESIDENCE

Candlehut Resort 3 star from 2,450 THB
Smart cabanas around a pool with restaurant on beach

Budget:

Pen’s Bungalows 2 Star – from 1,000 THB
Small friendly family run beach front resort. Now has swimming pool.

BOOK PEN’S BUNGALOWS

Dreamland Resort 3 Star – from 800 THB
Value for money beach front resort with restaurant and pool.

BOOK DREAMLAND RESORT

Nice Beach Bungalow 2 Star – from 700 THB
Small bungalow resort. No pool but good swimming beach.

BOOK NICE BEACH BUNGALOW

Starlight Resort 3 Star – from 600 THB
Variety of bungalows ranging in quality. Has a lovely swimming pool.

BOOK STARLIGHT RESORT

Baan Panburi Village 2 Star – 480 THB up to here
Value for money bungalows near the beach. Friendly service. Probably closed.

Than Sadet

Budget:

Mai Pen Rai Bungalows 1 Star – from 600 THB
Wooden sea view bungalows. Very popular.

BOOK MAI PEN RAI BUNGALOWS

J.S Hut Resort 1 star – from 450 THB
Beach bungalows with restaurant. Mixed reviews.

Haad Yuan

Mid Range:

Pariya Resort & Villas 3 Star – from 3,000 THB
Good quality accommodation on a quiet beautiful beach.

BOOK PARIYA RESORT AND VILLAS

READ ABOUT BEST HOTELS IN THONG NAI PAN YAI