On an island most famous for crazy full moon parties, Andy and I found tranquility and one of our best work routines on Koh Phangan. We originally thought we’d go to Koh Tao after our resort stay on Koh Samui, but we couldn’t find any decent guesthouses that looked like they were near restaurants. But then our friend Gillian suggested a beach on Koh Phangan on the opposite side of the island from the full moon parties, and we were sold.
We stayed on a beach called Haad Yao, which means Long Beach, for nine nights. It was lined with guesthouses and hotels for a variety of budgets, and each one had its own restaurant on the beach, so there wasn’t a shortage of food.
It was a decent beach if you just wanted to lay out but not so great for swimming since the moment we walked into the water, we were stepping on hundreds of tiny pieces of shells and coral. Breakfast time seemed to be high tide, which almost entirely swallowed up the beach. But the view was beautiful and relaxing.
What we really enjoyed was the atmosphere. The whole area seemed laid back and peaceful. Being about as far away from where the full moon parties take place meant it was an older crowd. No loud parties here.
Our adventure day
We had such a good routine going that towards the middle of the week we realized that maybe we were in a rut. We decided we needed to see another part of the island, so we went over to Ao Chaloklum which is on the north side of the island. Adventure day was the name we jokingly gave to the day because just the simple act of hopping on a songthaew and going a few miles away to look around and have lunch was enough to re-energize ourselves.
It was a nice area with a pier and lots more boats than we saw where we were staying. We wandered past several bungalows and a tiny roadside bar that only had three stools. It was also the first time I tried Penang curry and realized it was the curry dish I had been looking for.
We asked about going to see some nearby waterfalls, but we were told they were pretty much dried up and unimpressive since it was dry season. But several waterfalls dot the island, and it sounds like they’re gorgeous during the rainy season.
I am a sucker for sunsets. Maybe it’s cliche, but I just love them. I was so happy the beach we were staying on faced west, so I sat out on the beach almost every day to watch the sun go down. The best one was our second night there when Andy and I sat with a drink at a little bar on the beach, and a few minutes after the sun dipped below the horizon, the whole sky turned pink.
If you’re looking for the full moon parties, head for the southeast corner of the island. Otherwise, the northwest is peaceful and relaxing. Though even there, prices go up the closer it gets to the full moon. I’m glad we didn’t let the party reputation scare us away from Koh Phangan because this is an island I’d definitely return to if we ever end up back in southern Thailand.