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.

Where is the best place to stay on Koh Phangan

The Island of Koh Phangan has a diverse range of accommodation options and small towns and villages each with their own character. Some will appeal to certain types of visitor more than others. It can be difficult to choose where to stay as the guides will tend to tell you that everywhere is great, which in their own way they are, but this is of little help in choosing where to stay.

Here is our guide to choosing the beach location which will suit you best.

1. Luxury in Koh Phangan

Thong Nai Pan Noi

Thong Nai Pan Noi Beach

If you are looking for a luxury break in Koh Phangan then you should head to the small village of Thong Nai Pan Noi in the North East of the island.

Thong Nai Pan Noi has one of the best beaches on Koh Phangan. It’s about 800 meters long with clean white powder sand which slopes gently into the water. Thong Nai Pan Noi Beach is perfect for swimming from December through to September. The beach is within a sheltered bay and the sea is perfectly calm most days. It’s popular with families as children can play safely in the water.
Better Than Sex
Better Than Sex Restaurant and Lounge
Luna Lounge
Luna Lounge

Thong Nai Pan Noi has a small laid-back village with a good range of independent restaurants. The best two of these are Luna Lounge and Better than Sex at the edge of the village. Both restaurants serve good quality Thai, European and fusion cooking. The food at Better that Sex is slightly better than Luna Lounge, with some unusual Burmese dishes, such as curry with sour mango, and good Italian pasta and pizzas. Also worth mentioning are Jip Shop which serves tasty Thai food at mid-range prices, and Baan Muay Thai which serves authentic Thai food at very cheap prices – try the ‘Kanaa Moo Grop’ (Chinese cabbage fried with crispy pork in light oyster sauce) and ‘Gai Pad Prio Wan’ (Thai style sweet and sour chicken).

Visitors to Thong Nai Pan Noi have no fewer than 4 luxury resorts to choose from. If you bear in mind there are only a total of 6 luxury resorts on the whole island you can understand why we describe Thong Nai Pan Noi as THE luxury destination in Koh Phangan.

Buri Rasa
Buri Rasa from 2,900 THB per night

BOOK BURI RASA RESORT

Buri Rasa is Thong Nai Pan Noi’s newest resort which opened for business in 2012. The style of this new resort is something of a departure from the design of typical luxury resorts in Thailand. The rooms are a bit smaller, and the design is more modern with pastel colours rather than dark heavy wood tones. You get a lot for your money at Buri Rasa with room prices approximately half that of the other luxury resorts in Thong Nai Pan Noi. The beachfront location is excellent as is the hotel restaurant and bar, which are similarly good value for money. The rooms are very comfortable and guests benefit from the newness of the fittings and furnishings. The ground floor rooms feature very nice terraces with chairs and tables leading onto either the garden or the beach. Overall a reliable and good value choice, particularly for couples.
Panviman
Panviman Resort and Spa from 2,600 THB per night

BOOK PANVIMAN RESORT

Panviman is one of the first hotels on Koh Phangan having opened way back in 1987. It has changed a lot since then with a lot of new rooms and facilities having been added. The design style of the resort can best be described as ‘eclectic’ which is a reflection of its organic development over the last 25 years. The newest rooms, which are luxury individual cottages, are the best. The Presidential Suite built right on the rocks at the water’s edge on the headland is spectacular. The sliding glass doors open onto a private plunge pool and terrace right on the shoreline. The hotel rooms are nicely appointed and we have enjoyed staying there on numerous occasions. However, they are packed closely together and you feel as though you lack privacy on your balcony when the hotel is full. The dining options at Panviman are good. There is a cliff side restaurant where they serve a sumptuous buffet breakfast, and a beach restaurant with a BBQ and excellent Thai menu – in our opinion the best Thai food on the island.

Rasa Nan Da
Rasananda from 7,762 THB per night

BOOK ANANTARA RASANANDA

Koh Phangan’s most luxurious and most expensive hotel. The rooms range from hotel style to private beachfront bungalows where your terrace leads onto the sand. Built in 2008, Rasananda was a ground breaking development in the island’s hotel scene, and rivals the established resorts on Koh Samui and Phuket. It was Rasananda that established Thong Nai Pan Noi as a destination in the itinerary of the international ‘jet-set’. Several celebrities such as Jordan (Katie Price) have stayed at Rasananda.

The location and the construction of this resort is great, however, we feel that it is slightly let down by the standard of the catering. By comparison with the rest of the island its international menu is good, however, by comparison with resorts in the Maldives or the Caribbean it still has some way to go. Our feeling is that they would have been better off doing simple things well, rather than attempting a more complicated menu and failing to hit the mark. The supply chain of products in Southern Thailand makes creating a truly international menu very difficult. This said, there are so many restaurants within a short walking distance; the quality of the resort restaurant is not a deciding factor when you make a booking decision in Thong Nai Pan Noi.

UPDATE: Rasananda is currently offering Japanese cuisine. This appears to be more of a successful departure.
Santhiya
Santhiya Resort and Spa from 4,700 THB

BOOK SANTHIYA RESORT

Santhiya is a self-contained resort with the Island’s largest swimming pool, complete with faux waterfall. If you have children they will happily entertain themselves for the whole holiday in the pool whilst you relax with a drink at the poolside restaurant and bar enjoying the panoramic sea views. The accommodation is split between hotel blocks and individual cottages, some with private pools. The resort is a truly magnificent construction, made largely in wood along the design style of the Northern Thai Lanna culture. The reception and restaurant are masterpieces of intricate wood carving, all designed by the owner who is an architect.

The decision to use this much wood works well in the communal areas but has proved a poor one when it comes to the older cottages, which alas are looking slightly tired now. It was built in 2004 and the original rooms are in need of some modernisation. How much you enjoy your stay may well depend on which rooms you get.

This is the most successful hotel on the Island with a constant stream of visitors from all over the world (particularly Asian countries) on package tours. The vast majority of the visitors enjoy their stay and tend to remain within the confines of the resort for the whole time they come to Thong Nai Pan Noi. This is partly because the catering is good, and partly because it is slightly difficult to reach the main beach and village from the resort. If you want to easily access the local restaurants, as opposed to having a resort based holiday, you might be slightly better off staying at one of the other hotels.

2. Parties in Koh Phangan

Half Moon Party

Half Moon Party

Most of the people who come to Koh Phangan come for the parties. If you fall into this category you are best off staying in the Ban Tai area, which is the beach running northwards from the main port town Thong Sala. Many people immediately opt for staying in Haad Rin which is the location of the Full Moon Party, however, you are much better off staying in the Ban Tai area for three main reasons. Firstly, aside from the Full Moon Party, Ban Tai is where most of the action is. The Ban Tai area is close to the Half Moon Party, Jungle Experience, Loi Lay party, Ban Sabai after party, Black Moon, Sramanora Waterfall Party, MerKa Ba and Ku Club. There is something going on most nights throughout the year. Secondly, by staying in Ban Tai you can access a really good range of restaurants and bars. The restaurant options include the excellent Fisherman’s Restaurant, fast food at the Food Factory, or Muu Gra Tat, a type of hotpot cooked at your table, at Hell’s Kitchen. Lastly, and most importantly Ban Tai is much more relaxed than Haad Rin. The constant influx of often badly behaved tourists to Haad Rin has given the locals something of a hard edge.

There are lots of affordable accommodation choices in Ban Tai, many with a pleasant beach side location. Depending on your budget, you might consider one of the following three resorts:
The Beach Village
Beach Village from 250 THB per night
If you are on a budget, or don’t care too much about where you stay because you haven’t come to Koh Phangan to sleep, The Beach Village is an excellent choice. They have a range of dormitories beds and small inexpensive bungalows. They also have a swimming pool, a bar and restaurant, and host the popular Rhythm and Sands party. This is a good choice if you are on your own and you want to meet people.

Milky Bay
Milky Bay from 890 THB per night

BOOK MILKY BAY RESORT

This is a very nice bungalow resort in peaceful garden setting. It’s a cut above the other Ban Tai bungalows resorts with 6 different room choices. All the rooms have air-con and satellite TV making them great places to recover from the night before. There is a pool, restaurant and gym, where they teach Muay Thai, on-site. Milky Bay is a professionally run resort from the same people behind Lime N Soda and the Food Factory.

3. Families in Koh Phangan

Haad Salad

Haad Salad

Haad Salad is a small tucked away bay. Pirates used to hide here, hence the name which means Pirate Bay. It’s a bit away from the parties and crowds that come to Koh Phangan. Everything tends to shut down (except the Reggae Bar on the edge of the village) at about 9 pm. The peace and quiet, in combination with the value for money family friendly resorts, makes this an ideal place for a family holiday.

There are things to do and see a short taxi journey away. There is great snorkelling in Mae Haad, which is the next beach. About 3 km to the North is Chaloklum where there is a range of activities such elephant trekking, archery and wake boarding. To the south is Haad Yao which is a great swimming beach with a lively town.
Salad Beach Resort
Salad Beach Resort from 1,200 THB per night

BOOK SALAD BEACH RESORT

Salad Beach Resort is the most popular resort for families on the West Coast. It’s value for money, it’s friendly, and the facilities are a good standard. It’s busy all year round and you should book in advance. There are lots of things in the hotel grounds: beach front restaurant, pool, spa, supermarket, and motorbike rental shop. The resort is fairly large with 53 rooms, about half bungalows and half hotel rooms. All the rooms have air-con and satellite TV. The hotel rooms all have balconies, and the bungalow have verandas where you can sit outside. The accommodation is set within a lovely landscaped garden with water features.
Haadlad Prestige Resort and Spa
Haadlad Prestige Resort and Spa from 4,200 THB per night

Haadlad Prestige Resort and Spa is one step up in luxury from Salad Beach Resort and two steps up in price. The two hotels are next door to each other. The rooms and bungalows are better: bigger and better furnished. There are two restaurants, the main restaurant and the beachside BBQ terrace. The resort runs a very popular Thai cookery course with the jovial Chef Tummy. There is also a large beachfront swimming pool, which is filled with saltwater – good to know if you are allergic to the chemical used to clean the water in the pool.

4. Peace and Quiet in Koh Phangan

Mae Haad

Mae Haad Beach

There are plenty of deserted beaches in Koh Phangan. However, many of these are difficult to get to and have too few facilities for most visitors. Of the beaches you can get to fairly easily, and have enough restaurants, telecoms connectivity and shops to satisfy most visitor’s basic needs, Mae Haad beach is probably the most peaceful.

Mae Haad is a sleepy little village with a handful of restaurants, bars and resorts. There are also a couple of independent shops including Om Bakery. It tends to only get busy during the late morning and afternoons with people who come here for the snorkelling, which is the best on Koh Phangan. There is a coral reef about 25 metres from the shore line with plenty of fish – the area is a protected national park. Snorkels and flippers can be rented by the hour from Island View Cabana. As well as snorkelling, and chilling out on the perfect beach, there is also a waterfall in the jungle about a 10 minute walk from the beach.

In Mae Haad you have two good accommodation options:
Island View Cabana
Island View Cabana from 300 THB per night
Island View Cabana has classic Thai style wooden beach bungalows right on the beach. There aren’t too many of these left now on Koh Phangan as the larger resorts have gone ‘up market’. There are 4 grades of bungalow, some have air-con and fridges, others fans. It is not the luxurious rooms or facilities which you come here for, it’s the beach front location. If you are after a beach and inexpensive days chilling on a great beach, you can’t go wrong with booking at this resort.
Mae Haad Bay Resort
Mae Haad Bay Resort from 2,300 THB per night

BOOK MAE HAAD BAY RESORT

Mae Haad Bay Resort is a decent 3 star resort. The rooms feel luxurious. There are 7 room types, the smallest is a generous 45 sqm. Bear in mind that the average room size in a smart Bangkok hotel is 32sqm. The largest room is the massive 129 sqm Sunset Beachfront Suite Room. The centre piece of the hotel is the impressive swimming pool and adjacent decking area. All the rooms look onto the pool area. This great hotel has an open air restaurant & BBQ, a lobby lounge and a poolside bar. It’s close, but not right on, the main Mae Haad beach. The walk though is less than 1 minute around the side of the resort.

5. Beach Lovers in Koh Phangan

Bottle Beach

Bottle Beach

If the most important thing for you is the quality of the beach, then we recommend Bottle Beach (‘Haad Khuat’ in Thai) in the North East of Koh Phangan.

Bottle Beach used to be a hippy enclave with no electricity and very basic bungalows. It was, and still is, a little bit difficult to reach. The road to Bottle Beach starts near Thong Nai Pan Noi and it’s rough going in places. The road journey to Bottle Beach requires a 4×4 car or a white knuckle ride on a motorbike (you can do it on a moped but we don’t recommend it). The other way of getting to Bottle beach is by long tail boat from Thong Nai Pan or Chaloklum. There isn’t much there, a few bars and restaurants and no real night life. The beach though is fantastic and very good for swimming in the sea. There is a certain charm to Bottle Beach and it’s a good place to chill out for a few days.

Bottle Beach has only four resorts. The best two are:
Haad Khuat Resort
Haad Khuat Resort from 400 THB per night

BOOK HAAD KHUAT RESORT

Haad Khuat Resort has 15 hotel rooms, which are quite good, and 13 bungalows which are very basic. The hotels rooms are probably the best rooms on the beach, and the restaurant here does the best food.
Bottle Beach 1 Resort
Bottle Beach Resort 1 from 700 THB per night

BOOK BOTTLE BEACH 1 RESORT

This a bigger resort with 6 different room types. The cheapest, the standard fan bungalows, have the best location the beach. The quality of the room though goes up with the deluxe bungalows. This family run resort has lots of character. The service here works on ‘island time’. This is a relaxed place and a few delays with the orders doesn’t seem to bother the clientele much.

6. Foodies in Koh Phangan

Phantip Market

Panthip Market

The best food is to be found in, and around, the main town Thong Sala. For authentic Thai food your best bet is Phantip Market in the centre of Thong Sala. From around 4 pm there are around 40 market stalls selling a wide selection of Thai dishes for the cheapest prices on Koh Phangan. If you are after a taste of Southern Thai cuisine try one of the rice and curry shops. There are some unique southern dishes such as Gaeng Som (yellow curry), Khua Kling (very spicy dry mince pork curry) and Gaeng Sataw (spicy thick curry with a bean similar to a peeled broad bean).

For more refined dining you should head along the Ban Tai Road towards Haad Rin and then towards the Fisherman’s Restaurant and Fish at Thips both close to Ban Tai Pier. For European food try John’s Bistro or Santorini both in the centre of Thong Sala. There is also a very good, and relatively inexpensive, Mexican Restaurant called Ando Loco just on the outskirts of Thong Sala. The owner’s giant Margaritas are legendary and his home grown chilli gives the food that authentic Tex-Mex taste.

The list of really good restaurants in this area goes on and on. There are some small ‘treasures’ to be found if you search around. One particularly good restaurant is just around the corner from Home Mart. Coming from Ban Tai turn right immediately after Home Mart and immediately on your left you will see a small restaurant on your left. There is no English menu, but probably the best Issan food on the Island. Ask for ‘Laab Moo’, ‘Namtok Moo’, ‘Gai Yang’ and ‘Khao Nio’ for a taste of authentic Issan food. You won’t be disappointed, but be warned this food is very spicy and they don’t tone it down for the tourists!

There are lots of places to stay in Thong Sala. These are our two recommendations, one is a bungalow resort, the other a hotel.
Lime N Soda
Lime N Soda from 560 THB per night

BOOK LIME N SODA RESORT

Lime N Soda is the perfect kind of beach bungalow resort. Cheap and well maintained with a swimming pool and affordable on-site restaurant. The bungalows are fairly basic but good value for money. This place gets very busy around Full Moon but is a really pleasant and laid back place to stay for the rest of the month. It’s an easy walk into Thong Sala or to Ban Tai Village where there is some good nightlife.

Baan Busaba
Baan Busaba from 950 THB per night
Baan Busaba is the kind of well-run and nicely furnished mid-range hotel you find all over mainland Thailand, but not unfortunately in Koh Phangan where most of the accommodation is either bungalows for party goers or more upmarket accommodation for families. You might not think about staying away from the beach during a trip to Southern Thailand, however, we say give this hotel a go. It’s a slice of metropolitan comfort with a good range of satellite TV channels and a comfy bed. The only downside of this hotel is that it’s about a 1 km into the centre of Thong Sala and a bit further to Ban Tai. If you ride a moped then it’s a very simple straight road into town and onto Ban Tai. If riding mopeds is not your style then you can normally find a motorbike taxi or songthaew (pick-up truck taxi) who will take you the short drive back to the hotel at night.

7. Detox in Koh Phangan

Agama Yoga

Yoga in Koh Phangan

Whilst Koh Phangan is best known for its party scene, and more recently its emerging luxury tourism market, it has a long history of yoga, meditation and alternative therapies. Meditation and fasting is an important part of the Thai Buddhist culture. For a traditional Thai Buddhist ‘spiritual detox’ go to Wat Khao Tam in Ban Tai. For a cleansing herbal steam bath try Wat Po temple also in the Ban Tai area in the South of Koh Phangan.

For a yoga and detox you are best off heading to the west coast of the island around Sri Thanu and Haad Yao. Agama Yoga in Sri Thanu is the number 1 yoga centre on Koh Phangan. There is also the Yoga Retreat on the main road from Haad Yao to Chaloklum. There are also some places on the west of the island where you can learn Thai massage. C&M Study Centre in Sri Thanu runs massage courses as well as Thai language and cooking classes. You might also want to visit Chantima Massage and Holistic Massage Training centre where they offer an impressive range of beauty treatments and 5 day Thai massage courses. Our sources tell us that the courses are professionally run and the centre is kept very clean.

UPDATE: Agama was embroiled in controversy a few years ago when its head swami was accused of sexual misconduct. He fled the island and the authorities.
Ananda Wellness Resort
Ananda Wellness packages from 4,000 THB
Ananda Wellness is a hotel where they run detox programmes combining fasting, herbal detox, colonics, massage, yoga classes and steam sauna. There are courses for different periods of time: 3.5, 7.5 and 11 days. The accommodation is either bungalows or hotel rooms. They are adequate but basic. In addition to the facilities related to the treatments and courses, they have a salt water swimming pool and restaurant called ‘Love Kitchen’ which serves vegetarian and vegan food, as well as a full Thai menu.