Thailand: Koh Phangan, the magical island

Koh Phangan is like the manifestation of “I want to live on a tropical island” dream hence there are hundreds of expats who have chosen this paradise island as their second home. It also sits on a quartz rock, which creates a strong connection with the moon, that is also probably the secret behind its magic 😉

If you can manage to do a remote/ online job, or have some sort of rental income coming from your home country, you can join the expat community easily. There are several options from 6 month tourist visa to education, volunteer to retirement visa, which also make living in Thailand easier than most of the other countries.

I’ve spent close to a year in Thailand in the last two years on different occasions and I know it is now my second home.. as the saying goes, home is where your heart is ❤
This video is capturing beautifully why Koh Phangan is a dream come true:

Conscious activities on Koh Phangan

The reason for my first random visit to this paradise in 2015 was to get my Yoga Teacher Certificate at Samma Karuna, one of the many yoga schools scattered around the island that I found thanks to Google. Before that, all I knew about the island was the infamous Fullmoon Parties but that was far from my plans.

When I did the internet research on my couch in Brooklyn, I was looking for peaceful beaches and yoga, or even better yoga on the beach and I hit the jackpot without knowing. At this point I don’t believe in coincidences anymore and I know I was led by the universe to Koh Phangan to open the next chapter in my life.

Since the yoga school was located in Srithanu, on the West coast of the island that is the area where all the spiritual schools are situated, I fell right in the middle of the conscious/alternative community without searching much.

What’s great about this little beach town is that the expats from all over the world who made Thailand their home share their skills and talent. I have learnt so much from the community as well as discerning as it sometimes becomes like a spiritual supermarket (inevitably). It’s good to judge what is best for you and what’s not since you can cause more harm than healing if you are in the hands of an inexperienced “teacher”. Luckily my travels and spiritual growth in the last few years have given me a solid perspective to make good decisions.

Some of the workshops/practices offered are:

Tantra Courses (at various places but most importantly at Agama, the tantra university), various kinds of meditation, yoga (all kinds from ashtanga, hatha, vinyasa, therapeutic/restorative, acro, aerial, nidra..), rebirthing, ayahuasca, hoolahoop, ecstatic dance, kirtans, reiki, therapy dance, fire dancing, connecting with femininity, women circles, yoni/lingam massage, dreamcatcher making, meditative drawing, macramé jewelry making, raw vegan cooking, sweatlodges and so on…

These practices opened my eyes to a new reality and I’ve become so much interested in investing my time and energy into the path of self-realization to compensate all the years I’ve spent without self-work.

To get informed about the current events on the island, you can check out the message boards in cafes and Koh Phangan Conscious Events facebook group.

Yoga on Koh Phangan:

The island is full of yoga and healing studios and these are the ones I have tried or have friends who teach classes there:
  • Agama Yoga (for tantra yoga courses and workshops). This is a controversial tantra school, which I will write a post about soon. But in short they do yoga differently with the purpose of uniting with our higher self vs yoga for fitness. The poses are held longer and relevant chakras for each pose are activated. 8 limbs of yoga are practiced in its entirety (with a great emphasis on pranayama and meditation techniques). I am so grateful for having found Agama!
  • Orion Healing Center It is basically a great detox center but they offer several yoga classes all day long, in addition to herbal sauna, kirtans, and a yummy restaurant and health store. Bonus: It has a lovely setting with hammocks right on the beach. Try classes with Ben and Kat.
  • The Sanctuary – I haven’t been there yet but know people who have done retreats in their beautiful sanctuary/beach setting.
  • Samma Karuna -sort of a spiritual circus with teachers at all levels. Offers nice volunteering opportunities (if you are in your 20s) and their new location on the beach is really beautiful.
  • La Casa Shambala
  • Ananda Yoga & Detox Center
  • Pyramid Yoga (try the kirtans in their amazing sound dome and ecstatic dance parties). You need to ride up a very steep road to get there but it’s worth it.
  • Jaran’s Yoga
  • Wonderland (picture below) Sunday pool party w/vegan brunch and ecstatic dance
  • Anahata Yoga Shala
  • Akasha Yoga Academy for TTC

img_7109

And other activities..

What also makes Koh Phangan great is that it offers something for everyone from yoga and wellness centers to candlelight dinners, vegan music festivals to techno music, and trekking in the jungle to nude beaches.

Check out this  map to find out which part is best for you. I stayed within Zone 5 (Srithanu) 100% of my time on the island.
spheres-of-activity-in-Koh-Phangan

This map is missing Haad Thian, Wai Nam and Haad Yuan beaches that host Sanctuary, a leading detox and wellness centre as well as Guy’s Bar and Eden Bar, two popular late night party spots. If you want to have fun while watching the sunrise, they can be reached by taking a longtail boat @ Had Riin beach (in Zone 3).

If you are traveling as a family/with kids and need activities during the day, one of the resorts in Had Rin would probably be more entertaining as there’s a big shopping area and white sand beaches. Check out Cocohut Beach Resort on Leela Beach.


My favorite Restaurants and hang out places around the island:

Since I am a vegetarian and a yogi, my recommendations will be towards healthy eating and doing. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do 😉
  • The Dome – It’s a herbal steam sauna and a popular hang out spot among Koh Phanganers located on the road to Chaloklum. Try to go when there’s live music and experience the magic around the fire.
  • Taboon – Israeli plates, yummy salads, falafel, hummus, etc. and nice ambiance
  • Green Gallery  – They offer a strictly vegan kitchen with Middle Eastern inspiration (fantastic shish kebab veg) that can be enjoyed in the beautiful garden or under the veranda.  In the menu also they offer a wide selection of smoothies and extracts. Don’t miss the drum circles around the fire on Fridays!
  • Pure Vegan Heaven– opened in 2017 and offers a wide selection of vegan dishes
  • Eat.Co – Vegan cuisine, yummy raw desserts, and yoga+diva clothing and jewelry
  • Karma Cafe – Vegan/vegetarian restaurant. I love their burritos!
  • JJ’s – International cuisine and hammocks on the seaside
  • Romanzo Tropicale – Romantic Italian sunset dinner on the beach
  • Orion Healing Center– Healthy cuisine as well as detox and yoga programs
  • Golden Rock, cheap local food, great sea view, cheap bungalows
  • Aree’s Ayurvedic Cafe A great ayurvedic vegan buffet for 150 bath
  • Anutta – Local Thai eatery run by a family. Can’t beat the price and they have brown rice!
  • Kupu Kupu– a bit upscale resort but awesome for the pool, sunset views and drinks
  • Cafe della Moca– Located in Chaloklum, serves yummy Italian pastas and pizzas on the beach, romantic ambiance, wine, candle light, you got the drill..
  • Rimini in Chaloklum- same.. good Italian restaurant with a wide seafood selection
  • The Jam for live music/open mic/stage jam sessions nights on Tuesdays and Saturdays
  • 360 Bar Viewpoint – a must visit! Amazing vibes and breathtaking panorama.
  • Top Rock Bar – a much better version of Amsterdam Bar next door. A nice place to chill, eat, drink and watch the world go by.
  • Phantip Food Market in Thong Sala: this is an open food market with various stalls and mini restaurants in the center of Thong Sala.  Soul Organics prepares tasty vegan dishes for around 60 thb.
  • Purina Mini Sheep Farm: This is an unusually fun activity if you have a couple of hours to spare. For 100 thb/person, you can feed the sheep with bottles of milk. They seemed very happy to see us 🙂

Volunteering opportunities in Koh Phangan

PAC Animal Shelter: If you have time to spare to care for dogs, PAC is a great place where you can donate your time for.  They provide medical care for stray and wild animals but when I volunteered with them, they only had dogs. Get in touch with them to see when/if they need help.

Trash Hero: The Koh Phangan arm of a much larger organization that organizes beach clean up days in SEA. You can also buy their reusable water bottle for 200 thb and refill it in participating restaurants for free!

Beaches:

img_6637
Chaloklum Beach
  • Happy Beach and Zen Beach (next to each other in Srithanu) for great sunset views, socializing, impromptu sunset jams, nude beach, and other surprises! 😉
  • Secret Beach – A favorite spot during high tide (but the water is warm and low during low-tide). There’s also a nice little beach bar hut and restaurant. Perfect for watching amazing sunsets. From there, you can walk to: Haad Son Resort ↵
  • Haad Son Resort – Perfect to jump in the water from the rocks and snorkeling even during low tide. Shakes are good but a bit pricier and I wouldn’t recommend the food. Lots of small fish are awaiting in the water!

A music videoshoot @Secret Beach:

  • Mae Haad Beach and Koh Ma, which is a small island connected to Koh Phangan by a sandbar  – great for snorkeling and hanging out on the quiet beach
  • In Chaloklum on the North of the island, Coral Bay Beach aka Haad Khom is a narrow and long beach, very quiet and picturesque and Malibu Beach
  • On the North East side: Tan Sadet, Thong Nai Pan Noi and Yai (adjacent to each other)

When the beaches are not perfect during the low-tide season (due to the super shallow and hot water), luckily there are so many pools that become handy  these are some of my favorites:

  • Bluerama Hotel – especially if you don’t want kids’ noise, this is an adults only hotel! Enjoy good food and drinks in the infinity pool overlooking the sea. Great for watching the sunset.
  • ODT inside  Le Divine Comedie Hotel
  • Kupu Kupu Resort (in low season it’s free but in high season, they asked us to spend 500 thb on the menu)

How to get to Koh Phangan

I had to prepare a guide to my friends who visited me so I am copy/pasting it here. It seems a bit of a hassle but the reward is definitely worthy! 😉

  • The fastest and most expensive way to get to KP is with a Bangkok to Koh Samui flight (one hour) and then a 45 minute ferry ride from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan with Lomprayah
  • A more economic way but longer is with the all-inclusive “Island transfer” package from AirAsia departing from the second/smaller Bangkok Airport, Don Mueang (DMK), conveniently accessible by taxi or shuttle from Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK). The package includes flight from Bangkok to Surat Thani (1 hour), bus to Donsak (1 hour) and ferry to Koh Phangan (3 hours). Seven hours in total if you take the flight of 11:40 and arrive at 18:30 and $70-80

When to visit

December to March is the high season as the water is high, the temperature is extremely pleasant and the activities are in their fullest capacity. But beware of the fact that it will be harder to find a long term accommodation without a preparation beforehand and the hotels/resorts will cost higher compared to other seasons.

  • July to the end of September is the second high season and the beaches are enjoyable but the water level is still lower due to low tide. As an alternative to beaches, there are many waterfalls on the island to cool off in the scorching hot days. Also expect occasional rains.
  • April to June is super HOT, water is low and like bath water, and full of plankton. The island is half-deserted and activities are at a minimum.
  • From October to December is the rainy season and it rains continually. The houses are not equipped well for rain, they are filled with moisture and mold, the streets become flooded. You can’t even dry your laundry.

Accommodation options: 

It’s easy to live on Koh Phangan on a budget either in the jungle side or on the beach.

If you are staying longer than 2 weeks, renting a bungalow would be the best choice as it will be cheaper and you’d enjoy having a kitchen/fridge and privacy. Best way to find a bungalow would be by following a few Facebook pages that list available housing on the island or by just going around the island and asking people. Just look for the House for Rent signs and don’t be shy to talk to people or call the numbers listed.

To give an example, my bungalows on Hin Kong Beach in two different times cost me $300 and $380 (10,000- 13,000 thb) and and I know there are places for $250/month (8,000 thb) with everything you need in them.  So for an average cost of 10,000 baht monthly (including light, gas and internet wi-fi) you can get a private bungalow (about 40sqm + terrace) equipped with a kitchen with gas stove, fridge, bathroom with hot water, and a bedroom with a king size bed. Don’t know why but all the beds are huge in Thailand.

For short term stays around Srithanu, you can check out these budget options on the beach:

  • Phangan Cove
  • Nice Sea Resort
  • Seaview Rainbow Bungalow
  • Zen Beach Bungalows
  • Haad Chao Pao Resort

How to get by on the island:

♥ Rent a scooter: I highly recommend to get a scooter in order to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Koh Phangan like any other parts of Thailand. Otherwise you will be stuck in your bungalow and miss out on all of the amazing beaches and activities.
♥ You can also rent a bicycle from a shop on the main street but it still won’t get you too far.
♥ Get a songthaew /collective taxi – but it will be costly (around 200 thb each way) and you never know when they will pass by.

IMG_6778
My cute scoopy 🙂

I rode my first scooter in Thailand in 2015 with the help of a guy who taught me in an open area close to his store. You can ask any of the local rental shops to teach you, which won’t take too long. As long as you use caution while driving and wear a helmet, you will appreciate the freedom it will give you all around Asia!

The daily rental fee is usually around 150-200 thb but you can negotiate a weekly or monthly price. For instance I rented my Scoopy for 2500 thb/month at Ohm located on Srithanu main road.

Beware of scams!: Some scooter rental places in Thong Sala (where the ferry port is located) charge a ton of money for the damages on the bike even if you didn’t make them! Yes. Make sure you take a video and lots of photos of the scooter when you rent it. And do not rent it from Thong Sala.

Hospitals and Emergency

img_5176
Scooter accidents like this happen all the time

Make sure you get a travel insurance before starting your travel.  Worldnomads or Insuremytrip are some of the top websites to compare different plans and prices. This should be done as soon as you have purchased your ticket since if you forget (like sooo many people do!), you may end up with bills that add up to thousands of dollars (trust me I heard many examples and saw many fundraisers to help) for minor scratches that turned into giant wounds or scooter accidents (which happen frequently).

Some private hospitals charge a ton of money especially for overnight stays (Best Western Hospital) and/or transport you to Koh Samui if your case is too complicated for KP.  I’ve used Koh Phangan Hospital, which is a public hospital for minor infections and the bill did not exceed $100 + my insurance reimbursed me all of the amount.

In case of Emergency call Thai Police at 191 and Ambulance at 1669 or 1554

If you go to Koh Phangan and stay for a while, you will probably have several conversations with people about how much they feel connected to the island hence they keep coming back again and again. I hope you get inspired by the serenity and the generosity of this beautiful island like many of us did.

Please visit my other blog entries about Thailand here and leave a comment if you visit Koh Phangan!

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s