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, Café 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.