If you’re here to read about buckets and full moon parties, you might be disappointed. This is a little love story between me and Koh Phangan.
When talking back home about my upcoming stay in Thailand, I got the reccomandation to get to Koh Phangan a lot. This came mainly from people hitting the island for the full moon party, actually. But funny enough, they ended living on the other edge of this piece of land, since this place lacks of beds in Haad Rin when the event is about to go down, between yogis and beach sunsets, so I thought that there’s hope for me to find something on Koh Phangan I was missing in a very long time.
The moment I arrived in Phangan I already could feel this place to be more a quiet note. Ok, let’s say maybe after I had to bargain my scooter taxi ride between 100 other people without losing my nerves – mostly eighteen to twenty-somethings dressed in neon colors ready to go crazy, because, New Moon party. But after all, admitted: the scene was so chaotic that it was utterly entertaining. My heart racing slowly started to wind down while I was packed on that scooter with all my belongings (all.of.them.), riding through palm jungles and concentrating on the grip of my hands in order to not fall after catching a bump on the road.
It all dissolved the moment I saw my bungalow. Not that I never saw one before, but this hut was what I was imagining for myself in the past months: in the middle of a lush jungle garden, an open roof bathroom, fairy lights inside, a large patio with cushions and a hammock. Cats and dogs coming to hang out were another huge plus, because it gave me some honest childhood chills. I had little to no idea on my activities, I did some research and figured I wanted to stay near Sri Thanu, a place were yoga, vegetarian food and sunset drum sessions are a thing. After my check in I had a walk to the one of the only restaurants close by, a thai joint with very friendly girls but a hella unfriendly owner. While eating the cheapest, most delicious thai food, I was trying to study all the yoga and ayurveda flyers hanging on the wall and figured that the town of Sri Thanu was two kilometers away. I had a little laugh on the inside, I knew somehow I was going to stay longer on this island, so I was curious to see how I was going to move around with no scooter skills.
The moment I was wrapping my mind around that, a guy asked me if he could sit at my table. We ended up conversating about everything under the moon and by the end of our meal he invited me to join him for the sunset drum session at Zen Beach. We passed a wooden track and a group of bungalows, and the moment my feet were walking on sand while hearing music in the background I knew I was in the right place. There were people drumming, chanting, meditating, having a dance, or just minding their own business, and in whatever category I could have fallen, it was totally fine. It was easy to engage with a complete group of strangers, it was normal to say hi to everyone and when it got pitchblack outside having a ride back wasn’t an issue.
This is the thing with Koh Phangan. It’s a bubble. People are easy, they smile, are inviting, you’re not a stranger. Best thing on top there is no judgement. I ended up staying a little more than two weeks, the feeling of wanting be stuck forever was strong, probably as strong as my three times spent in Hawaii.
Days followed of me renting a fairly overpriced BMX bicycle (but who cares), eating at vegan cafés, discovering an authentic Italian restaurant where I found family and ended up watching the sun go down from their beach patio every other day. Meeting again, cruising and bonding with somebody I only met for a few hours on new year’s eve party two years ago (thank you!), joining good electronic music events, using a thermal steam room and lay down on a blanket to gaze at the stars. Every single thing I came across here was priceless. Everything was unplanned but falling into place exactly how it should have been. The people I met helped me out without expecting nothing in return, I tried to pass it on during my journey and still do to this day as much as I could.
Koh Phangan is a world apart where I discovered a sense of belonging and got what I was missing a lot from our western world. As organised and neat we can be in Europe, I realised that people being open, giving, accepting and helping allow me to feel a much stronger sense of home. People greeting on the street, chatting from the next table without even knowing you, giving you a lift even if it’s just for 100 meters down the street, basically the easiest things were the ones I missed the most. We often forget in our busy mind how this all can matter and make a difference. We often forget to pause at all. There was a connection in every small talk, every encounter was enriching, every compliment was honest, every human gave me something along the way.
It’s a place I had everything I desired and needed. The beaches, the spiritual community, the food and good electronic music. It’s slow paced but there’s always something going on if you feel to crawl out of your quiet space. Most likely, the duality of this island is what makes it what it is. The fact of being an attraction to such different types of crowd, coexisting on such a tiny spot, sometimes blew my mind when thinking about it. Is it touristy? Sure. But I’ve seen far worse. In fact, Koh Phangan felt more airy compared to same sized places I’ve visited where I had the urge to escape before I drown between the masses. Seriously, you’ll find your spot according to what you’re looking for, this is the beauty and diversity of it after all.
To everyone who crossed my path there, I will be grateful forever and I hope to bump in every single one of you soon. To everyone who was expecting a more of a classic blogpost I’m sorry. But this is a declaration of love I had to make. Still, find some useful tips below.
How to get there: There are multiple boats departing daily from Koh Samui and other surrounding destinations, my ride was smooth and didn’t even take one hour.
Where to Stay: I was lucky enough to be home at Jungle Garden Bungalows. I would have never traded this place for something else. The huts are huge, there is a communal kitchen to use and as well garden and a steam room. I paid 500 Baht a night. They work with a scooter rental service in case you need one. (Just take pictures of your ride before you rent it, rip offs in that matter are not a secret anymore.)
Getting around: Scooters are probably your best friend. If you lack at driving abilities like I did and you need to be self sufficient in your area, a bike will do. It took me four days of asking every person possible but I found my happy place at the Phangan Cycling Shop located at Hin Kong Beach (opposite of Freeway Bar) in the end.
Parties: I am not a full mooner, and probably at age 32 never will be anymore. I am used to a little quality in the parties I head to because I move around in the overall electronic music scene since 15 years. I often checked Phanganist.com for events or found good house & techno line ups even just laying on the 7-eleven counter (yes, as simple as that I swear!). Locations vary, but a good one with panoramic view I liked a lot was the 360 Bar.
Food: there are countless spots I could include to the list, it’s crazy. A few of my favourites in the Sri Thanu area were Romanzo Tropicale, Anutta, Karma Kafe, Pure Vegan Heaven, Rain or Shine, Café Wan – and so many more I briefly stopped it’s almost hard to find bad food there.
Safety: I had several people warning me about safety here (again). But I never felt any urge to speed up while walking or biking at night. This can obviously change in Haad Rin the whole moon parties series. If you drink loads of buckets, go nuts on drugs and at the end you follow a bunch of guys to a remote area, then you’re stupid, I’m sorry. Trust is good, but common sense and following your gut feeling is even better.
If you came so far, congratulations. I hope this served you as inspiration. Now go out there and see it yourself ❤