It is very much in the nature of businesses in Koh Phangan to change hands periodically. In many cases the land is leased and when the business stutters it is eventually sold to another party who re-names and launches.
There are, of course, very successful ventures like Panviman (Thong Nai Pan), Haad Yao Divers and Drop in Bar (Haad Rin) that seem solid business ventures and are not likely to close. In Haad Rin the lease costs are very high and one bad Full Moon Party might be all it needs to make the leaseholders walk away. By many Koh Phangan landowners it is seen as the safest option to lease land for resorts, bars, shops, spas and restaurants rather than attempt to develop a business themselves.
Another common story is that a place was successful for several years but hits a decline. This is the tale with the Jungle Bar in Thong Nai Pan Noi. It started in 1997. I remember it was my birthday and I went there to have a couple of cocktails. The lad serving us had no idea how to make our drinks. Still I liked the place. It had plenty of relaxed seating on mats as well as a couple of hammocks. The nightclub lighting and the feeling of being on the edge of a jungle all made it a cool place to me.
Now fast forward to 2007, ten years later. The Jungle Bar’s Monday night is packed throughout the high seasons and still busy at other times. The bar has become something of an institution, and the Thai couple running it minor celebrities.
For a long time it was DJ Ton on the decks. It went from vinyl to CD and never really made it to computer mixing. He played all the crowd favorites and often ended the night with an hour of hard and loud techno. People would get drums out and bang along. From 1am to 5am there would be continual whoops from enthusiastic revelers.
The success of the Jungle Bar in Thong Nai Pan Noi had one obvious consequence – the setting up of another nightclub bar on the beach. A good business idea in Thailand needs to be copied. The Hideaway got going around 2006 and had a big Friday night party.
The other consequence was that Noi got a bit of a reputation as a party beach; so much so that a German business started having a 10 day minimal techno festival every summer. They bought with them a large group of Europeans, most of who stayed at Baan Panburi, as well as big name DJs.
The loud noise put people off staying at Sandee Bungalow. The other dubious types of behavior that goes with a party scene put off the traditional visitors to TNP – the hippies. Prices and accommodation quality both started to go up.
Then the beach took the next leap to a high end resort beach. And it wasn’t long before the party scene evaporated. It was this change of scene that caused the Hideaway to close in 2011 and for the Jungle Bar to finally bite the dust in 2013.
The lease has been allowed to run out. The Jungle Bar will be torn down and replaced with small units for rental as businesses. The land is next to the new Buri Rasa ‘Village Square’ and could well be used to create a profitable business that caters to a different and richer clientele.
The story of the Jungle Bar has no doubt similarities to the history of many businesses in Koh Phangan and Thailand. The country is moving fast and so is the business scene.