Ko Phangan (or Ko Pha Ngan) is a small island just to the north of another of Thailand’s popular island of KoSamui, in the clear waters of the Gulf of Thailand. It has a coast line of approximately just 50km but do not be fooled by the apparent insignificance of the size, there is plenty to here especially if you enjoy an active holiday although you can, if you wish, simply relax on the beach and enjoy the food and beer in the bars and restaurants.
Getting to Ko Pha Ngan is perhaps not the most straight-forward thing in the world to do but once you have arrived you will realize it was well worth the effort. Flights to Ko Samui Island or Surat Thani are available daily though during the “high season” you will probably need to book in advance. If you fly to Ko Samui Island you should be able to buy connecting bus and ferry tickets from Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok which will make the journey a little easier to manage. Thai Airways serve both airports, Bangkok Airways fly to Ko Samui only and flights are available on a daily basis. Air Asia fly to Phuket where you can get a connection to Ko Samui with Bangkok Airways
Alternative transport is of course available but takes much longer, but then they are cheap alternatives so still worth some consideration. A bus runs from Bangkok directly to Ko Pha Ngan, departing at 6pm and takes about 16 hours. Make sure you purchase a joint bus and boat ticket prior and these are available at most travel agents in Bangkok. The last option is to travel by rail, again you can purchase a joint train and boat ticket toKo Pha Ngan and the journey is likely to take 14+ hours. There are several trains that depart from Bangkok in the early evening. Please note that the trains in Thailand are not fast and unless you buy a 1st class ticket, they are likely to be a little uncomfortable too (compared to what you are used to).
Most accommodation is on the west side of the island, in and around the town of Ko Pha Ngan but there are hotels and resorts scattered around about 60% of the coastline. There is little beach on the north and east coast but where there is a beach you will find accommodation nearby. As with all of Thailand’s islands you will find accommodation to suit all budgets and the quality of them ranges from good to excellent.
Do not expect to see a supermarket style of shopping here but you will see plenty of local markets with local delicacies, if you like very spicy food you are in for a treat.
So, what to do once you are on the island…. Ko PhaNgan is renowned for its “full moon” parties where 1,000’s of people (up to 30,000 in the high season) will congregate on the beach at Haad Rin as the sun begins to set to dance, drink and be happy (all night long in many cases), and there is a party every month of the year, sometimes two!
There are many excellent beaches on the island to relax on and some good diving (including diving schools) and snorkeling can be found too. Away from the sea there are lots of wonderful waterfalls and several temples (wats). Additionally you will find Elephant trekking, Thai cooking classes and boat trips.
The Maneerat Elephant tour can be fun, if a little wobbly at times and can be found between Haad Salad andMae Haad to the west of the island. 30 and 60 minute rides are available to take you through jungle to a viewing place, some 630m high, where you can get a superb view of the island.
The diving can be great of the coast of the island, and Sail Rock is a noted area where even the occasional Whale Shark has been known to visit.
As the island is small you are never going to be far away from temples or waterfalls and all the hotels, resorts etc.will have details of all these locations but there is no harm in doing some online research to wet the appetite a little.
Is there naughty nightlife here as well? Yes there is, wherever you find a concentration of (mostly) single male holiday makers you will find young Thai ladies looking to take advantage to earn some money and even find a husband. This though is a relatively recent development on the island but has caught on fast. There is now an area between Thongsala and Haad Rin in KoPha Ngan town. It is nothing different from any other tourist location in Thailand in the respect of the bars, they typically have a central bar with scantily clad young ladies doing their best to tempt you in to “their” bar. If you do not want to enter that bar or be with one of the many ladies, simply refuse but do it in a polite manner and no offence will be taken, they will just look for the next passer-by to tempt.
The local population are not quite as keen on these bars or the activity it provides so bare this in mind if you are thinking about trying to "hook up” with a local lady, she may well give you a few sharp words that you will not understand. Don’t be offended, just head back to the bars if you are looking for that sort of action.