When I told people I was going to the island of Koh Phangan, Thailand, they invariably whooped: FULL MOON PARTY! I’m sure the parties are awesome there. Except I was travelling to the other side of the island where the beach is much better and the experience much quieter.
On the ferry koh phangan to koh samui
The ferry from Maenam beach on Koh Samui briefly stopped at Haad Rin beach on Koh Phangan, the original home of the full moon party. Haad Rin was quiet, it was the middle of the day afterall, and all that moved were sunbathers applying more oil. The beach was lined with bars which no doubt look amazing at night when your eyeballs are wired like their pulsing lights but by day they looked like a shanty town.
Slowly, as we chugged on around the island, the resorts became smaller and the solitude greater. For THB300 I’m surprised people take the alternative way to get to the far side of the island – a ferry to Haad Rin and then an hour cramped in the back of a ute for near enough the same price.
Our destination, Thong Nai Pan Noi beach finally came into sight, the last ferry stop. The other beach nearby is Thong Na Pan Yai; Noi = north, Yai = south. Thankfully, it was easily the longest and most inviting of the many beaches and resorts we had passed. Thong Nai Pan Noi is your classic palm-lined beach reaching back into a mountain jungle back drop.
Thong Nai Pan Noi beach
The beach is certainly not an undiscovered secret spot. It has five notable resorts and is home to Koh Phangan’s only 5 star resort. Apparently there were 500+ beds available around Thong Nai Pan Noi yet you hardly ever saw more than 50 tourists on the long beach at any one time, even though it was the August high season. Baan Panburi Village, the cheapest best alternative, had fan-cooled bure’s from THB500, but for a princely THB1200 you can upgrade to air-con and a (not quite absolute beach front) sea view.
I’d like to tell you about all the energetic and cultural activities that are possible from this idyllic location. But that’s really not the point of the place. Certainly if you’re looking for a singles scene and all night parties it’s definitely not the place for you.
There are things to do but we didn’t even make it on a day trip to the Ang Thong Marine National Park, or for a paddle in the canoes for hire, or even for a noisy ego-boosting jet ski off the beach. Some gruelling early morning girlfriend-led yoga was done before a breakfast of banana pancakes, however. We instead ended up following this daily routine which my friend Sio, who had kindly recommended Thong Nai Pan Noi, had described to us:
Baan puri village on Thong Nai Pan Noi beach as seen from ferry
Whilst there, we had breakfast at Baan Panburi, then a 250m stroll takes you the apex of your existence –
- Thai Massage by Tanaporn,
- Handsome Sandwiches – try the tuna burger, if I explained it to you, you would never try it but just trust me, deliciousness to the extreme.
- Now for the real culinary experience: Again and Again restaurant (you can also have breakfast and lunch here), where Bhut and her daughter serve up the most amazing and delicious thai food ever, plus absolutely, the most coldest beers I have ever had in my life.
Clearly, I couldn’t agree more with these recommendations. I’d also add to Sio’s list – 4. Drink large Singha beer and read a book in the shade overlooking the ocean. And repeat for the rest of the day.
As we left Koh Phangan on the ferry for Koh Samui, we stopped again at Haad Rin. I realised I had missed out on mixing it up at one of the world’s more notable backpacker hot spots. I’d have to make up some stories of thai whiskey ‘buckets’ and mad-for-it nights for friends. But I was happy in the knowledge that I had been looking for something quite different (maybe you are too?) and I can only report I found what I was looking for.