Visitors arriving in Koh Phangan might be surprised to see a war ship docked in the berth in between the Raja Ferry, Seatran Discovery, Lomprayah and Songserm piers. This is HMS Phangan. It is a decommissioned Thai Navy ship that has found its final resting place on the island from which it took its name. It is expected that in the next few years HMS Phangan will become a tourist attraction that will provide an opportunity for the island to present more of its history to the world. The ship is well worth a few minutes to visit whilst you are waiting for a ferry to Koh Samui or Koh Tao.
Decommissioned Naval Ship
The former Thai Navy ship was decommissioned in 2009. At which point it was given to the Koh Phangan municipal authorities along with a government grant to build a permanent dock and to create a museum inside the ship. They have finished building the permanent dock for the ship but the accompanying museum has yet to be finished.
The ship has a large area inside the hull which was designed as a storage space for tanks. This space has started being used for events. In the 2014 Colour Moon Festival a display of local artwork, including drawings and Tattoos, was installed inside the hull with visitors entering via the front of the ship up the ramp.
The ship was built by the US Navy in 1945 as a tank landing ship LST-1134 (as the American’s called her). It was given on loan to the Thai Navy in 1966. King Rama IX renamed the ship ‘Phangan’ after Koh Phangan. This is the present King; and the fact that he took possession of the warship in 1966 gives us a clear indication of just how long he has been on the throne.
Although the ship was originally ‘loaned’ to the Thai Navy, it appears that the US Navy either didn’t want the vessel back or the Thai’s just ‘forgot’ to return it. The ship looks impressive in its final resting place in Thongsala. It is 15.5 meters tall and 98 meters long. In her active days she had a crew of 130. It is unclear whether she saw any active service; no doubt the museum will answer such questions.
HMS Phangan makes an interesting addition to the island’s tourist attractions. The on-board museum will also help to explain the strategic importance of the island. Elderly locals still remember the presence of a Japanese ‘spotters’ hiding out on the jungle in the interior during the last World War. It is hoped that someone has informed the soldier that the Emperor admitted defeat and surrendered. Joking aside, it is important for the long term development of Koh Phangan for it to ‘reclaim’ its history and local traditions so that it can move forward with a development plan that is sensitive to the culture of the island. The last things people on Koh Phangan want are aquariums, doped-up tigers, a permanent surplus of hotel rooms, deforestation and streets upon streets of hookers as is the fate of Koh Samui.
Location of HMS Phangan
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