Thursday, 17 December 2015

Doing Something Different in Koh Phangan

The popularity of Koh Phangan has mushroomed over the last decade. The island has gone from obscure backwater status, to being just as famous (if not more) than neighbouring Koh Samui with its 5 star hotels, airport and ring road. Koh Phangan isn't as developed as Koh Samui, but it does feel sometimes just as touristy. For those wanting to escape the feeling of being caught in a tourist trap here are a few notes about doing something different in Koh Phangan. Let's start by making a list of what is not, in my humble opinion, something different; what lots of people do are (in no particular order):
  1. Learn Muay Thai boxing
  2. Have cookery classes
  3. Have scuba lessons
  4. Go to the Full, Half, Black Moon Parties, or go to any of the big parties
  5. Sleep with a bargirl in Baan Tai
  6. Do an island boat tour
  7. Organise a fishing trip
  8. Extend your visa by pretending to study Thai
  9. Take up kiteboarding
  10. Rent a motorbike and chance riding the roads around Koh Phangan
  11. Go snorkelling at Koh Ma
The list could go on. There is now a lot to do in Koh Phangan. I didn't even mention the water obstacle course at Laem Son Lake, archery, elephant rides, gun range, mountain biking, teeth whitening, free diving, trekking, tattoo possibilities or having a herbal sauna at Wat Pho in Baan Tai. I am impressed by the few wild and crazy souls who approach Koh Phangan with a different mind-set. Those who shun the beaten tracks and the organised activities.
Most recently I read on Facebook about a Latvian man. The picture on Facebook showed him in the sea with a raft he had made himself. It looked like 2 planks and random bits of wood lashed together with a bit of rope. The poster didn't mention his name. What was mentioned was that the guy had managed to get his homemade raft from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan.

While being dangerous and reckless, it shows the Latvian has balls. From the picture I'd say he was in his 50s. He is currently living on the deserted beach of Haad Khontee, next to Haad Rin. He forages for fresh water and fishes for sustenance. Apparently he makes the odd visit to Haad Rin to stock up on coffee and other essentials. Is he off his rocker? Maybe. Is he over-staying his visa? Maybe. Is he doing the usual stuff in Koh Phangan? No.

 A few years ago Greg Spurgin started in Koh Samui and kayaked to Koh Phangan and other places in the Gulf of Thailand. He was clearly an expert kayaker. He circumnavigated Koh Phangan staying in obscure inlets and islands and avoided paying accommodation and the company of others. He stayed one night on the tiny island of Koh Kong near Thong Nai Pan. He made a blog about his journeys on his kayak. It is one of the best records of a holiday to Koh Phangan I have read. He has visited places I suspect very few other Westerners have on and around Koh Phangan. Here is his blog -

You read various things about the treks to be done in Koh Phangan, but you meet few people who have actually done them. It appears the easy option of a taxi or the exciting option of motorbike rental seems to be the winning options for most people.

And then there is the interior of the island. The island is 90% virgin forest. It holds a wealth of flora and fauna (supposedly including deers) that nobody gets to see who are doing the typical beach and party holiday. Thong Nai Pan Magazine blog has some information about snakes, birds and other animals that inhabit the forest.

 The closest to eco-tourism on Koh Phangan is Jungle Flight. It is run by a local farmer. He has ziplines in the jungle just outside of Baan Tai. He also takes people on tours into the jungle and sometimes gets a sighting of a rare bird or monkey.

 I'm not suggesting anybody takes upon themselves to explore the interior independently, and I certainly don't recommend over-staying your visa (the authorities are cracking down on over-stayers), but I would love to read a blog about some wild, romantic soul living in the heart of the forest - foraging and getting a bit Walden. There was a Japanese soldier in the war who had a solo look-out post up a mountain in Koh Phangan. He apparently didn't discover the war had ended for quite a while. If only he had written a blog.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Review of L’Alcove in Hin Kong

One recently opened restaurant on the west coast of Koh Phangan has quickly made its presence felt on the island. That restaurant is L’Alcove. It is a French run restaurant serving European food on the beach. This restaurant is part of a growing trend on the island away from ‘standard menu’ restaurants that used to cater for backpackers visiting the island.

Two French women have decided to make Koh Phangan their home. They have put a great deal of time and love into creating a friendly little beach bistro in Hin Kong. They try to bring a taste of France to the island with such menu items as duck confit, fresh bread, charcuterie and homemade cheese cake. Naturally there is a wine list. For those whose budget doesn’t quite stretch to French wine there is of course ice cold beer, soft drinks and cocktails.

There is a relaxed and friendly ambience to L’Alcove. There are tables inside the small restaurant as well as on the beach. The restaurant is a basic open structure with wood panelling and thatch roof. The restaurant is airy and light. They have opted for a red theme with the cushion colour and lower wall.

They play a good selection of chilled out tunes. On Friday and Sunday nights there is live music (normally jazz by Katarina) these musical soirees are accompanied by a fire show by the self-dubbed ‘Magical Ninjas’.

The beach where L’Alcove is located is called Hin Kong. It is on the west coast just a few minutes away by motorbike from Thongsala. It is a quiet beach less frequented by tourists and the ideal spot to watch a sunrise and enjoy great food and drink. It is also just up the road from Ananda Wellness Resort. After some rich and delicious French food you can always assuage your guilt by trying some detox.

L’Alcove is open from 8am to 9pm Monday to Sunday.


Address: 15/1 MOO 6 Hin Kong
Telephone: +66 94 579 3769



Saturday, 25 July 2015

Things to do in Haad Rin Other Than Partying

During the 10 days around the Full Moon Party period there are numerous party options in Haad Rin and in Baan Tai. However, there are those who want to do more than just drink buckets during their visit to the beautiful island of Koh Phangan. This post will list a few non-drinking activities to enjoy while staying in Haad Rin.

Football Competition

4 days before the Full Moon Party there is a beach football competition. You can enter as a team or as in individual. The organiser will put solo entrants together to make teams. Contact for more details. This is a fun event, and a great way to make new friends before the party. Prizes to be won.

Volleyball Competition

4 days before the FMP. The competition is organised by the same man behind the beach football competition. 2 person teams compete and follow International Beach Volleyball rules. You can enter a team or individually. Even if you haven’t played beach volleyball before it is an easy game to pick up and lots of fun. Prizes to be won.

Boat Tour

There are various boat tours leaving Haad Rin every day. Typical itineraries include Than Sadet waterfall, snorkelling at Koh Ma and visiting the double bay of Thong Nai Pan. Tour prices usually include lunch and soft drinks.


There is a good kiteboarding school in Baan Tai near the pier. It is a branch of Kiterboarding Asia (KBA) and has certified teachers and all the equipment needed.This sport involves flying a kite and using the propulsion from the wind to surf over the sea on a board similar to a snowboard or large water ski.

Trek to Haad Yuan

There is an excellent trek from Haad Rin to the small and remote beach of Haad Yuan. The trek 6.7 km trek takes about 2 hours and includes a hill climb and great coastal views. This is a chance to see something of the jungle scenery on the island. For more information see

Thai Massage

There are numerous places in Haad Rin with spas offering a range of services including Thai massage, oil massage and herb steam sauna. For those interested in holistic treatment, meditation, Pilates and yoga there are a number of detox/health/meditation centres around Koh Phangan. The closest is the Sanctuary on Haad Thian on the east coast. You can get there by longtail boat from Haad Rin.

Banana Boat

Yes, there are fun rides available around Haad Rin Bay. You probably haven’t done a banana boat since you were kid. Why not have another go!


Don’t rent jetskis. There are too many horror stories of tourists being held to ransom to get their passport back after ‘damage’ has been spotted on the jetski. The fumes aren’t very nice for swimmers either.

Teeth Whitening

Don’t do this either. The chances of the person administrating the laser equipment having any training or the equipment being checked for safety are very, very low.


You can find tattoo artists in Haad Rin that use machines as well as the traditional bamboo hand method. Think carefully about how you want to permanently mark your skin. Probably best not to choose a tat when drunk.

Teach English

There is a hostel in Baan Tai called Echo Beach Backpackers that run English lessons for Thais. This is a great volunteering opportunity.  Opportunities for those with or without TESOL certificate are available. They want you, however, to commit to 2 months teaching a couple of hours a day.


You can find deep sea fishing trips advertised in Haad Rin. For freshwater fishing check out  Palida Resort in Baan Tai ( For those just wanting to take a rod and stand on some rocks by the sea you can find lots of fishing equipment in Thongsala. Ask in a shop for the best fishing spots.

Rent a Moped and See the Island

One popular activity in Haad Rin is to rent a cheap moped and tour the island. It is a small island and much of it can be seen in one day. You can take the road over the mountains to Thong Nai Pan. You can head for Thongsala and check out Walking Street, the night market as well as stock up on essentials at Tesco and Makro. Another good bike journey is up the West Coast taking in the Chinese Temple and then snorkelling at Koh Ma.

A bike gives you freedom and massively increases your options for activities. However, drive carefully (and not fast) and beware of the pitfall of coming off the bike, injuring yourself, and paying over-the-odds to fix the bike. Car rental is also available in Haad Rin.

This list you should hopefully get you thinking about what else Haad Rin and Koh Phangan has to offer in terms of holiday experiences other than big outdoor parties.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

The Attraction of Baan Tai

The first time I stayed at Baan Tai I couldn’t quite understand the attraction of the place. Why would Princess Eugenie choose to stay at Baan Tai rather than at one of the luxury hotels at Thong Nai Pan Noi? If she wanted to party why didn’t she stay at Haad Rin or the nearby Leela Beach?

Baan Tai is a pleasant stretch of white sand. The 7-11 on the corner with the Thong Nai Pan Road is a great shop with lots of cheap eats and drinks. The red light zone at night has its obvious appeal for men. Resorts like Milky Bay and Lime n Soda are good mid-range options. There are plenty of bars and small restaurants to check out.

But the choice of places to eat and drink is not as enticing as in Haad Rin. The bigger problem is the beach. Half the year (during low tidal months from May to October) the sea remains shallow for 200 meters until you get to the coral reefs. While those who like to snorkel might appreciate the chance to see marine life, most of us just want a sea that is warm, that has sand under foot and that gets deep at a reasonable distance from the beach.

In terms of beach quality Baan Tai is not as good as east coast beaches such as Haad Thian and Than Sadet or north coast beaches such as Bottle Beach. If you choose a beach holiday than surely the quality of the beach is the primary consideration? Perhaps not. Baan Tai has other advantages that seem to weigh more heavily for tourists. The most important advantage of Baan Tai is that it is well connected to the best facilities and amenities on the island.

Baan Tai is located on a good road that links the main town of Thongsala and the main tourist centre of Haad Rin. You can get to either place easily by rented motorbike or by one of the frequent pick up taxis plying the main road. In Baan Tai and Thongsala you find the best shops on the island. There are plenty of shops for clothes and souvenirs. There is a fishing shop. There is Baan Computer and of course there are the big supermarkets such as Tesco Lotus, C Market, Big A and Makro.

Those who like eating out there is Fisherman’s Restaurant, Food Factory, CafĂ© Amazon, Fresh Sushi, Outlaws Salon, Hell’s Kitchen, The Lounge, The Pier Restaurant and Ando Loco. You can get everything from fresh fish to great fast food; from cheap Thai curry to pizza.

The same goes for nightlife. There are bars and clubs such as Loi Lay Floating Bar, Amnesia and Ku Club that have DJ music as well as White Rabbit and Outlaws Salon that have bands. There are several hostels that get busy around Full Moon and who throw pre-party events. And then there are big outdoor raves such as the Half Moon Party, Jungle Experience and the Black Moon Party. For the young who come to Koh Phangan to drink and socialise Baan Tai is an excellent holiday destination.

While the minimum stay requirement for the Full Moon Party also applies to Baan Tai accommodation the area has plenty of cheap places to stay such as Hacienda Backpackers, Palida Resort, O Sole Mio and My Palace. There are plenty of dorm beds. Many of the resorts have swimming pools and are next to the beach. There is little beachfront accommodation in Haad Rin; the place gets very noisy during the run-up to the party, and few places have swimming pools at Haad Rin. You get more for your money by staying at Baan Tai even if your main holiday goal is to do the FMP.

And of course if you want to risk your health there are a dozen bars with girls for rent.

When you put all of this together it becomes less of a mystery as to why people (including British royalty) choose Baan Tai rather than a more picturesque beach with better swimming.