Activities for South Koh Phangan

LOCAL CULTURE

Wat Khao Tam

Wat Khao Tam
Location: Ban Tai

Wat Khao Tam is a hilltop temple in the jungle. One of the reasons to come here is the great sea-views. Another is the tranquil forest setting. The temple, or Wat in Thai, is pretty. There are a few interesting Buddhist statues inside the Wat and in the grounds. This is a peaceful place to visit, although it does get fairly busy when they are running meditation retreats. These last 10 days each and run throughout the year under the watchful eye of Buddhist Nun Mae Chee Ahman who runs the temple. There is accommodation on-site for up to 88 students. If you would like to join one of these meditation retreats telephone +66 (0) 87 974 94655 and ask for Tookata. To get to Wat Khao Tam turn right before Ban Tai village on the road from Thong Sala to Haad Rin.

Chak Phra Festival

Chak Phra Festival
Location: Thong Sala
Times: Late October

Chak Phra is a unique and traditional Southern Thai festival. In Koh Phangan it takes place every October in Thong Sala. Chak Phra celebrates the Lord Buddha’s return to earth from heaven. Literally translated though, Chak Phra means ‘pulling the monk’ and the festival involves Buddha statues being pulled on land and at sea. The highlight of the festival in Koh Phangan is a long boat race in the sea and a procession of cars and colourful floats carrying Buddha images. A small village of market stalls sets up in the area near the port in Thong Sala along with stages for dance performances and beauty pageants at night. This is a week-long party and the locals come in large numbers to enjoy themselves late into the night.

Loy Krathong

Loy Krathong
Location: Ban Tai
Times: November (Full Moon Night)

Loy Krathong is the second most important celebration in the Thai Buddhist calendar. It happens on the Full Moon between the 11th and 12th lunar cycle in the Thai calendar. This happens each year around the 11th or 12th November. Loy Krathong is celebrated by floating a small boat with a candle in the middle on a river or the sea. These boats, known as Krathong, are normally made from banana tree trunk and are decorated with flowers. The acts of releasing a Krathong symbolises letting go of hatred, anger and things people have done wrong to you. Thai people also believe that wishes made as the Krathong floats away will come true. The biggest Loy Krathong celebration on Koh Phangan happens at Ban Tai pier. It is very beautiful and romantic to see hundreds of candles drift off out to sea. The pier becomes full of food and market stalls. There are lots of places to sit down and eat a wide range of Thai dishes for very cheap prices. There is a bar and a stage with Thai dancing and a beauty pageant, which is a traditional part of the Loy Krathong celebration. It’s free to go and everyone is welcome. Smaller Loy Krathong celebrations occur all over Koh Phangan although they tend to be less open to tourists. There is a nice gathering which also happens in Thong Nai Pan Yai where Krathong are released into a river.

Wat Pho


Location: Ban Tai

This is Koh Phangan’s largest temple. It covers a wide area on two sides of the road. To get there take the turning to Thong Nai Pan from the Ban Tai road. It’s’ about 300 metres from the turning. On the left hand side of the road there is small Wat and some halls. This area is used for funerals and some festivals throughout the year. On the other side of the road is a walled temple complex where the monks live. There are several Wat inside and some statues. There is also an herbal steam sauna here. The sauna is open from 11.30 am or 3pm until 6pm each day depending on the season. The herbal sauna costs 50B a person. The heat is created by a wood fire and lemongrass and other herbs are used. The sauna involves two 10 minute sessions inside with a 5 minute break in between. It is very hot and you will find 10 minutes is more than enough to get the herbal benefits of the sauna. There is one room for women and another for men. After the sauna you might like to have a Thai massage which is available from the massage centre next door.

HMS Phangan

HMS Phangan
Location: Thong Sala

HMS Phangan is a Thai naval ship which was decommissioned in 2009 and dry docked in Thong Sala next to the Songserm Pier. If you are waiting for a boat you should go and have a look. HMS Phangan was originally a US Navy tank landing ship given on loan to the Thai Navy in 1968. The King renamed it HMS Phangan. The ship is 98 metres long and 15.5 metres high. You can’t go inside. The plan is to open it up as a museum but this hasn’t progressed very far.

TOURS

Lomprayah Tour to Koh Nang Yuan


Location: Thong Sala
Times: Departs 8.30am and return to Koh Phangan at 4.10pm
Costs: 900 THB return trip

The Lomprayah Company runs a Catamaran service every day from Koh Phangan to Chumporn on the mainland. The Catamaran stops at Koh Nang Yuan about an hour and half into the journey. Koh Nang Yuan is a set of three islands connected by a sand bar. The big selling point of Koh Nang Yuan is the snorkelling. There are loads of fish and coral to see very near the island. There is also a viewpoint and a restaurant, which is fortunate as you aren’t allowed to bring your own food and drink to the island. The beach gets a bit crowded at times as this is a very popular tourist destination. Other negatives are the add-on charges. It costs 100 THB to disembark on Koh Nang Yuan. It also costs 100 THB to go to the beach, another 100 THB for a sun chair and 50 THB for a shower. These small charges aside, this is a really good day out. We recommend booking at least a day before (the office is in Thong Sala) or through any local travel agent. Please note that it normally costs the same to buy a ticket at your resort as it does at the Lomprayah Office. For smaller bungalow resorts the commission they receive on selling these boats tickets is an important source of income. We urge you to support small businesses on Koh Phangan whenever you can.

Itsaramai Cruises

Itsaramai Cruises
Location: Ban Tai Pier
Times: Tuesdays/Wednesday December to October
Costs: 5,400 per person overnight trip

Itsaramai Cruises runs overnight trips to Ang Thong Marine Park in a 66 foot wooden sailing boat. Ang Thong Marine Park is a cluster of 42 islands situated in the Gulf of Thailand about half way between the main land and Koh Phangan. Itsaramai Cruises stop at various islands where you can climb out to view points, snorkel and kayak. Trips include accommodation, meals, soft drinks, snorkelling gear and kayaks. They also run day trips at 3,500 THB per person and are available for private charter. Telephone +66 (0) 8726 0940 to book.

Orion Boat Trips

Orion Boat Trips
Location: Ban Tai Pier
Times: Depart 9am return 6pm
Costs: 1,800 per person (200 extra for kayak rental)

Orion Boat Trips will take you around the coast of Koh Phangan or to Angthong Marine Park in a 22-metre-long motor cruiser. Trips include a light breakfast and buffet lunch with beer for sale. Their Marine Park trip departs at 9 am. It first goes to Koh Wao and Koh Tay Plow for snorkelling. Next the cruiser goes on to Na Tap Beach on Koh Mae Island to see the famous Emerald Lagoon which is featured in the film of ‘The Beach’ with Leonardo DiCaprio. From there you can also go kayaking around the rock formations and sea caves. You get back to Ban Tai pier for around 6 pm.

Safari Boat

Safari Boat
Location: Thong Sala
Times: Every day during the tourist season
Costs: 1,000 per person for Around Island Tour

Safari Boat is one of Koh Phangan’s most successful tour companies. They are efficient and professional. They run four different trips:
(1) Ang Thong Marine Park – 1,800 THB plus 200 THB entrance fee
(2) Around the Island Tour – 1,000 THB (1,500 with elephant trek)
(3) Rainforest Adventure – 1,200 THB (1,500 with zipline/1,800 with zipline and elephant trekking)
(4) Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan – 2,000 THB plus 100 THB entrance fee

The Around the Island Tour is very popular and a good way to see all the major sights on the island in a single day. The tours get very busy around Full Moon Party time and the groups can sometimes be quite large. The tour takes you to Thong Sala for breakfast; to the Chinese Temple; then onto an elephant trekking centre. After the trek, there is kayaking around Koh Tae Nai, which is a small island off the west coast. Then it’s on to Haad Khom for snorkelling and finally to Bottle Beach on the East Coast, which is one of Koh Phangan’s most beautiful and remote beaches. This tour is run by really nice guys and we recommend it. Telephone +66 (0) 77 238 232.

Red Star Sailing

Red Star Sailing
Location: Ban Tai Pier
Times: Ring +66 (0) 82 551 292
Costs: Full Day Tour – 2,800 per person

Red Star Sailing runs 4 different trips from its base at Ban Tai Pier in a mid-sized motor boat with 4 berths and a kitchen below deck:
(1) Sunset Tour – 1,500 THB. Departing 4.30 pm and returning at 6.30 pm
(2) Half Day Island Cruise – 2,000 THB. Departing 1 pm and returning at 5 pm.
(3) Full Day Island Cruise – 2,800 THB. Departing 10 am and returning at 5 pm.
(4) Ang Thong Marine Park – 3,500 THB full day trip
Red Star Sailing is all about a fun day out and they provide beer and food on all trips. The boat is fully equipped with life jackets, communication equipment and GPS navigation to ensure your safety.

UPDATE: Red Star Sailing is, sadly, permanently closed.

PARTIES

Full Moon Party

Full Moon Party
Location: Haad Rin
Opening Times: Full Moon nights
Costs: 100 THB per person

Not just one party – it’s a cluster of small parties running the length of Sunrise Beach in Haad Rin. From North to South this is our Guide to the main Full Moon Party venues:

Mellow Mountain: Laid back venue with funky and soulful dance music
Tommy’s Resort: Moderately busy bar playing Psy-Trance music
The Orchid: Haad Rin’s only Drum & Bass, Hip Hop, Break Beat venue. Has a loyal following.
The Cactus Bar: Centre of the action playing commercial R’n’B and Hip Hop
Vinyl Club: Smaller venue playing Psy-Trance music.
Zoom Bar: Mid sized venue playing Psy-Trance music.
Drop Inn Club: Long running bar playing the popular music of the moment.
Paradise Bungalows: The original Full Moon Party venue. Keeping it real with techno and house music.
The Rock: Chill out venue playing funky and soulful music Ibiza style.

Half Moon Party

Half Moon Party
Location: Ban Tai
Opening Times: Twice monthly
Costs: 600 THB includes a free drink

The Half Moon Party is a smaller party to the Full Moon Party and feels more intimate. It’s set in the Jungle rather than on the beach and attracts around 2,000 to 3,000 people. To get to the party take the turning by the 7-Eleven towards Thong Nai Pan. It’s about 300 metres from there, on the left. The venue is an enclosed area with large open air dance floor and smaller covered area with bars and food stalls. The music is mixed live by a changing line up of Thai and International DJs. They occasionally feature some very well known DJs. The music is complimented by dancers, performance artists, lasers, and neon/fluorescent decorations.

Jungle Experience

Jungle Experience
Location: Ban Tai
Opening Times: 1 & 4 days before Full Moon Party
Costs: 300 THB (free before 10pm)

This party is sometimes described as ‘Space Ibiza in the Jungle’. This is a party in a tropical garden where people often dress up in unusual costumes. The centre piece of the party is a half-dome DJ booth. They tend to play House and Techno music to a crowd of up to 1,000 people. This is a laid back party with a small but loyal following.

Loi Lay Floating Bar

Loi Lay Floating Bar
Location: Ban Tai Pier
Opening Times: Sundays from 9pm
Costs: 200 THB (free before 10pm)

This Koh Phangan’s only party on a boat (moored to the Ban Tai Pier). Every Sunday around 50 to 100 people visit this floating club for a laid back friendly evening of drinking and dancing. They describe their music as ‘Funky Sexy Deep House Music’. The fun starts from 6 pm. Sailor’s uniform not required.

Anahata Lounge

Anahata Lounge
Location: Ban Khai
Opening Times: Saturdays from 8 pm
Costs: Free

This is a small venue with a growing number of visitors. This year it has been getting up to 200 visitors a night. Resident DJ Katsumi (Japan) plays a mix of Minimal, Techno and Tech House every Saturday evening. This venue has an indoor and an outdoor area. Inside is a tastefully decorated wooden house and the garden is beautifully lit up with lanterns. Much more laid back than the Full Moon Party.

UPDATE: The Anahata Lounge is closed. The Facebook page for the club is now dedicated to a young, Spanish-speaking woman gaming and streaming her efforts for money. Huh.

Ban Sabaii After Party

Ban Sabaii After Party
Location: Ban Tai near Ban Sabaii Resort
Opening Times: 8 am the day after Full/Half/Black Moon parties
Costs: Free

Koh Phangan’s biggest after party. It starts at 8 am until 2 am the next day after most of the major parties. This is the place to go if you want to carry on partying. This is a free party on the beach. They play Trance music.

Black Moon Culture

Black Moon Culture
Location: Ban Tai at Mac Bay Resort
Opening Times: 10 pm
Costs: 600 THB

This party was first started in 1999 by two local boys: DJ Leung and DJ Bung Bung and it has grown into one of the Island’s largest parties with around 1,000 visitors every month. The Party is held At Mac Bay Resort with a dance floor only 10 metres from the shoreline. This is a well organised party with a good sound system and excellent decorations.

Sramanora Party / Waterfall Party

Sramanora Waterfall Party
Location: Ban Khai
Opening Times: 2 days before/after Full Moon Party
Costs: 300 THB (free before 10pm)

It takes a bit of effort to get to this party. You need to turn off the Ban Tai road and follow the signs to Sramanora River. The wide concrete road turns into a single dirt track after about 2 km. It’s about another 300 metres walk from there. The party takes place by the Sramanora Waterfall. There is a large covered dance floor by the waterfall and plenty of outside areas to sit down. There is also a natural pool where you can swim if you get too hot on the dance floor. Resident DJ Peter G and a line-up of Thai and Western DJs play Tech House and Minimal Electro. They have performers doing fire shows and a show with scorpions.

Mer Ka Ba Beach Club

Mer Ka Ba
Location: Ban Khai
Opening Times: Tuesday evenings and Sunday afternoon
Costs: Free

You will find this purpose built club on the way from Thong Sala to Haad Rin near the Blue Hill Resort. Tuesdays from 9 pm its Golden Vibes Night with local DJs Graham Gold (UK) and Venus Vibes (Germany). Sunday is a BBQ with DJs from 3 pm. This beach front club has a swimming pool and a covered dance area.

Ku Club

Ku Club
Location: Ban Tai at The Beach Village Resort
Opening Times: Friday and Saturday Nights
Costs: Free

This smart new addition to the Phangan clubbing scene only opened in February 2013 and has already become an established party venue. The club is modelled on the Ku Klub in Ibiza and like that famous venue, Koh Phangan’s Ku Klub has a clean white decor and modern furniture. The covered dance area to the side of the bar leads directly onto the beach. Friday and Saturday nights are party nights with sets from Resident DJs Graham Gold, Snoopid, Rob Gritton and Rory Gallagher. Expect between 100 to 200 other party goers to be in attendance on any given night.

HEALTH & FITNESS

Kobra Muay Thai Camp

Kobra Muay Thai Camp
Location: Ban Tai
Opening Times: Classes at 8.30 am and 4.30 pm (Mon-Sat)
Costs: 300 THB a session

Friendly Muay Thai Camp is run by the charismatic Master Kongpipop and his three able assistant instructors. Master Kongpipop is a veteran of over 160 professional Muay Thai bouts. Located within the Ban Tai Entertainment Zone, Kobra Muay Thai Camp is a fully equipped gym with Muay Thai ring and covered training area. They also hold fight nights here. For anyone wanting to stay longer and fight they offer monthly rates of 7,000 THB (one session a day).

Chorenrit Muay Thai Camp

Chorenrit Muay Thai Camp
Location: Thong Sala
Opening Times: Classes at 8 am and 4 pm (Mon-Sat)
Costs: 400 THB per session

Chorenit Muay Thai Camp is Phangan’s largest and most authentic Muay Thai Camp. Although they accept foreign students, the locals make up the majority of the people who train here. Over the past few years they have become more tourist oriented by adding in a fitness gym on the premises which you can use separately for 200 THB a session. They have 5 trainers and a full range of bags and other equipment. You can find Chorenit Muay Thai Camp at the top of Thong Sala. Take a left at the traffic lights past Tesco Lotus and it’s 200 metres down the road on the left.

Muay Thai Chinnarach

Muay Thai Chinnarach
Location: Thong Sala
Opening Times: Classes at 8.30 am and 4 pm (Mon-Sat)
Costs: 400 THB per session

This Muay Thai Camp is right in the centre of Thong Sala about 300 metres walk up from the ferry terminal on the town’s main street. Master Chinnarach has fought over 250 Muay Thai bouts in a career fighting on the tough Bangkok circuit from the age of 13. Some of his fights at Lumpini and Rajademnern Stadiums in Bangkok are on YouTube. This Muay Thai camp has a ring, covered training area, bags and boxing equipment. A month’s training, once a day, will cost you 7,000 THB.

Siam Healing Centre

Siam Healing Centre
Location: Ban Tai (Near Thong Sala)
Opening Times: 9.30am – 5.30 PM (Mon-Sat)
Costs: Thai Massage 300 THB

Siam Healing Centre is just outside Thong Sala, behind Ando Loco Mexican Restaurant. This professional centre offers a wide range of treatments and courses. In addition to traditional massage (300 THB), they do oil massages (400 THB), reflexology (350 THB), and sports massage (450 THB). They run Yoga lessons (300 THB) at 9.30am and 4 pm Monday to Saturday. Courses in giving Thai Massage and Theta Healing are also available. Telephone +66 (0) 89 9658 752 for more information.

ADVENTURE SPORTS

Just For Fun

Just For Fun
Location: Road to Thong Nai Pan
Opening Times: 10am to 5pm
Costs: Adults – 800 THB. Children – 600 THB

Just For Fun is located in a hillside jungle location. To get there take the turning to Thong Nai Pan from the Ban Tai road. It’s about 5 km up the road. This is a ‘Canopy Adventure Centre’ with tree-top rope bridges, swings, high walkways and zip lines. Before you attempt the course they run a mini training session. Full safety equipment is provided. A free drink is included which is served in their sea-view bar.

Kite Boarding Asia – Koh Phangan


Location: Ban Tai
Opening Times: Telephone +66 (0) 80 6000 573
Costs: 1 Day Course – 4,000 THB

Thailand’s only IKO registered kite boarding company with 12 schools across Asia. Their Koh Phangan branch is on the Ban Tai road about 3 km outside Thong Sala. They offer a range of 1 day courses from beginners to advance kite boarders. They also rent out equipment. A complete set costs 1,400 THB per hour.

Phangan Shooting Range

Phangan Shooting Range
Location: Haad Rin (By Best Western Phanganburi Hotel)
Opening Times: 9am to 6pm
Costs: Telephone +66 (0) 80 3285 555

Koh Phangan’s only shooting range. They have a wide range of pistols, rifles and shotguns. Shooting takes place under careful supervision in a purpose built range.

CLASSES

My Wok and Me

My Wok and Me
Location: Thong Sala (Ban Tai Road)
Opening Times: Classes at 9 am and 2 pm
Costs: 1,350 THB per person

My Wok and Me is Koh Phangan’s leading cookery school. The school has a fully equipped and specially design kitchen which is light and airy. Cookery courses last 4 hours. They start with a bicycle trip to a local market to buy ingredients. The Chef leading the class provides a guided tour of the market and explains the local produce on offer. A tasting of exotic local fruits is included. Back at the kitchen students are shown how to prepare three dishes which they consume after.

Workshop Silver

Workshop Silver
Location: Haad Rin & Thong Sala
Opening Times: 9 am to 5 pm
Costs: 1 day course – 1,500 THB

This Koh Phangan’s very own silver jewellery making workshop. As well as making jewellery for sale they also run courses teaching the skills of heating and shaping silver, as well as setting stones. The 1 day course starts at 10 am and finishes at around 6 pm. The price includes the cost of the materials to make one item of jewellery and pick up/drop off at your hotel. 2 day courses cost 3,000 THB and 3 days costs 4,500 THB. Another popular activity is for couples to make their own wedding rings out of silver and semi-precious stones.

WATCHING SPORT

Food Factory

Food Factory
Location: Ban Tai
Opening Times: 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
Costs: Purchase of food or drinks required

This 24 hour fast food outlet on the Ban Tai road is a great place to watch sports. They have several large screen TVs and show all the current popular sporting events. They often run special drinks promotions to coincide with sporting events. The Food Factory has a long bar and lots of tables and chairs. They serve excellent burgers (from 110 THB) and pizzas (priced from 170 to 230 THB). Beer and other drinks are decently priced. A pint of Singha beer costs only 100 THB. The service is prompt and friendly. Next door is the Bangers and Mash bar run by the same people and a great place to go for a drink after the match has finished.

Haad Rin Muay Thai Arena

Location: Haad Rin
Opening Times: From 9.30 pm on Fight Nights
Costs: 500 THB per person

Haad Rin Muay Thai Arena is located by the lake in the centre of Haad Rin. During high season they run regular Fight Night where toy can watch 7 or 8 Muay Thai bouts a night. This is a great night out. Muay Thai matches are part theatre, with traditional dances and music, and part sport. Food and drink is on sale. On Fight Nights pick up trucks with loud speakers drive around constantly. Listen out for the trucks if you fancy going. They also run Muay Thai classes at the Arena every day Monday to Sunday at 10am and 4pm.

SHOPPING

Thong Sala Walking Street Market


Location: Talad Khao Road in Thong Sala
Opening Times: From 4 pm until 10 pm every Saturday

After 4 pm every Saturday the Talad Khao Road (Thong Sala’s China Town) turns into a pedestrianised market area. Walking Street Markets are springing up all over Thailand. The original, and still the biggest, Walking Street Market takes place every Sunday in Chiang Mai. Koh Phangan’s version is smaller but has the same components: party atmosphere, food stalls, souvenirs, clothes shops, jewellery and leather work. Well worth a visit if you are in Koh Phangan on a Saturday.

Shopping In Thong Sala

Even as little as 5 years ago there was very little tourists would want to buy in Thong Sala. That is all really changing now with a lot of new shops and a much wider range of products on sale. These are our recommendations for a day out shopping:

Books – Book Mark
Electronics – Plantip Market
Souvenirs – Plantip Plaza, Siam Souvenirs
Music – Guitar Shop
Food – Tesco-Lotus, Big C, Limpipong Homeware and Health Food Centre
Shoes – Bata at Big C
Fashion – Phanganer, Nok Shop, Plantip Plaza

All of these shop are on the Main Street in Thong Sala, except for the Nok Shop and Phanganer (on the Talad Khao Road), and Limpipong and Big-C (on the Ban Tai Road).

Shopping in Haad Rin

Haad Rin has lots of clothes and jewellery shops. There is no problem getting hold of some unique Full Moon Party fashion, or hippy style old skool Phangan outfits.

You might like to try the following shops:

Full Moon in Love Clothing Shop – Full range of fluorescent T-shirts, bikinis and other Full Moon Party related items
Fusion Clothing – Phangan style women’s clothing
Natural Art Gallery – Unique jewellery, bags, wallets and other accessories
Amazonas – Glamorous women’s clothes shop
Workshop Silver – Locally produced unique silver jewellery
Magic Stones – Hippy style unique pieces of jewellery

Phangan Spirit Distillery

Phangan Distillery
Location: Thong Sala
Opening Times: Telephone +66 (0) 90 4909 070

Phangan’s first and only fruit brandy distillery, combining Hungarian know how with locally grown fruit. You can visit the distillery to try Phangan Spirit on its own or in cocktails. It’s located in the north end of Thong Sala. To get there either take the main road towards the West and turn right. Or take the Ban Tai Road out of Thong Sala and turn left at BP Air Electric Shop. Phangan Spirit comes in two sizes of bottle 330 ml (costing from 390 to 420 THB), and 700 ml bottles (costing from 820 to 890 THB). The following flavours are currently available: Banana, Banana with orange & pineapple, Banana with lime & lemongrass, Banana with honey, Pineapple, and Mango.

Will the Full Moon Party Start Again?


This is a very good question. Such a good one that CNN and the BBC have both run stories on it, seemingly using the same material. And that is no surprise: so much of Thai tourist culture is a copy of something else that succeeded in making money.
If you set up a bar that draws lots of custom for having draught beer, the other bars will reluctantly follow suit. If moped hire becomes popular, before you know it dozens of places are renting out mopeds. If one place gets a plethora of yoga devotees, before you know it other resorts suddenly discover they are in fact on a spiritual journey. There seems to be a dearth of new ideas for making money; better to try something that has already been proved to be successful. And hence the reluctance to move on, or try something different.

Where is this going? Well, my guess is that the Haad Rin monthly parties will continue because it is a veritable cash cow. The organisers have become rich. The landowners in Haad Rin have become rich. The rich can do what they want unless the police step in, and then the police can sometimes have marvellous amnesia and pretend they never had any objections all along.

This is all somewhat guess work. Thailand is the land of the free, and yet it has been several years since they’ve had an election. You can’t use the USA or Europe to understand the political system of the country. There aren’t any locally elected councillors to scrutinize by-laws, no local political parties posting pamphlets and knocking on doors. And then there is the police.

It is instructive to remember the fiasco of Koh Phangan Airport. It is not unreasonable to expect surveys and land purchase agreements to quickly uncover if land is designated as protected national park. However, this was only revealed after Kan Air failed to secure funding partners for the stalled project. It wasn’t the rules that prevented the airport being built, it was a lack of suckers ready to put forward money.

The BBC and CNN interviewed local business owners many of whom would like to see the Full Moon Party better regulated, with more policing, and more concern for the environment. Indeed, many sense that ‘up market’ holds the keys to more tourist dollars. Perhaps a FMP for polite east Asians? They could drink watery beer, wear face masks and go to bed before midnight. They would be less offensive than the fuck bucket brigade. But back in the real world…

Asking people to wear face masks and social distance at a Full Moon Party is ludicrous and would be viewed as a total kill joy for those avid Full Mooners, many of whom regard themselves as immune to the coronavirus. People gather in their masses for the anarchic experience; considering themselves unlikely to get burnt by the fire rope, get raped or drowned in the sea.

And the organisers of the Full Moon Party know this. They have clout on the island. It would take considerable determination for the junta in Bangkok to halt the parties.

It is more likely that the vagaries of fashion, the whim of what is cool to be more of a decisive factor in curbing the excesses of the party. There is always the next ‘in’ place to top the must-do list of young travellers. Just as overnight it seemed that tattoos were the last word in street, so a new unmarked generation will just as quickly leave older generations looking decidedly out-of-touch for having blue inked skin. Don’t expect any local diktat to tone down the party. The only reason the party was put on hold was because the tourists vanished. When they return so will the DJs, buckets, flaming ropes, dealers, night walkers and bucket sellers.

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.

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.

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10 Best Full Moon Party Hotels