Koh Phangan, Thailand’s infamous party island, is situated in the Gulf of Thailand, just off the South East Coast. On my first trip to Thailand in 2010, I stayed in Haad Rin for a week and a half. I got a taste for the island, and thought I’d share my 6 favourite things to do in Haad Rin (and beyond!).
Koh Phangan is reached by boat, most commonly from Surat Thani, which takes about three and a half hours. The kinds of boats differ, as does the timetable, which can be found here. Haad Rin, located on the south tip of the island, is the tourist hotspot town of Koh Phangan, and home to the famous Full Moon Party.
Boat Trip to Beaches
Koh Phangan is home to some varied and wonderful beaches. The best way to see these is by boat, spending a day speeding round the island in a longboat, stopping at beautiful beaches for snorkelling and waterfalls along the way. These boat trips can be booked at your hostel or in Haad Rin tourist shops in town. As the content of these excursions vary, make sure you know what you’re getting before you sign up. Bottle Beach is a must see, with stretching sandy beaches and food available at the hostels that dot along the coastline. If you fancy a more luxury tour than a long-boat, Boatagogo offer day tours in a privately rented speedboat!
Day trips from Boatagogo start at 17500 THB (about £335.30) for up to 10 people.
Views and Food at Amsterdam Bar
Amsterdam Bar is tucked away at the top of a cliff, about 2 kilometres away from Thongsala. Best reached by road, you’ll need to hire a taxi or call the bar to arrange a collection from town. But, the journey up winding cliffside roads is worth it! Amsterdam Bar is located on a viewpoint, with 180 degree vistas across to the neighbouring islands of Koh Samui and Koh Tao. It is truly breathtaking, and when accompanied by wonderful food on a budget and a comfortable seating area, Amsterdam bar is not to be missed.
Visit Amsterdam Bar: Ao Plaay Laem, Koh Phangan
Relax and Refuel at Friendly Spa & Resort
This photo of Friendly Resort & Spa is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Friendly Spa offers a little bit of luxury while you’re on your travels. In the middle of Haad Rin town, this welcoming spa greets guests with tea and an array of pampering options. From an authentic Thai massage to an aloe vera gel treatment (for the more sunburned among us,) there’s so much choice. The prices are reasonable too, although remember – this is a resort spa so don’t expect the same rates you’d get on the street.
Friendly Resort is a fantastic hostel, situated across the road from the spa. It offers accommodation in the form of private ensuite rooms, some with a beach bungalow exterior. There’s also a bar area downstairs serving food. Plus, Friendly has a swimming pool and views over the port too.
Rooms at Friendly Resort begin at £13 (March).
Visit Friendly Resort & Spa: 110/13 Moo 6 Bantai, Haad Rin Beach, Koh Phangan
Try a Tattoo
Bamboo tattoos are an artform in Thailand, and many intricate back tattoos can be seen along Haad Rin beach. The tattoos are made by drawing the design in tiny dots with a length of bamboo tipped with a needle. Many visitors to Koh Phangan leave with tattoos, but make sure you use your discretion and choose your shop wisely. On my trip to Koh Phangan, I met a tattoo artist called Wut who worked a little further down from Friendly Resort. His shop was clean and he used sanitised, fresh needles. Although I didn’t get a tattoo from him a lot of my friends did and had no problems with them. He was a very talented artist, and his hand drawn designs were incredible. Wut’s brother owns a great little bar, Reggae House, where you can find directions to Wut’s shop, and have a drink or two! If you fancy a tattoo of the more temporary kind, there are many studios also offering henna designs too.
Brave the Beach for a Full Moon Party
Most nights in Haad Rin involve an impromptu beach party, but none quite like the legendary monthly Full Moon Party. It isn’t for the faint hearted, but it really is an experience! Picture thousands of revelers from across the globe having one huge party on one small beach, add in fire dancers (and terrifying flaming skipping ropes,) alcohol-filled buckets, a variety of music and a very large slide down the side of a club… You’re getting close to Full Moon. While it can be loads of fun, Full Moon also comes with its health risks, aside from drinking responsibly there are lots of other things to watch out for, from pick pockets and drink spiking to fire burns and broken bottles, be aware that the beach isn’t as safe as it seems. In the next week I’ll be posting a Full Moon Party survival guide, so keep watching. You don’t want to spoil your night!
Get Out of The Tourist Trap
While Haad Rin is full of young backpackers after the Full Moon experience, the relentless party atmosphere isn’t for everyone. Get out of the tourist trap and explore the rest of Koh Phangan with some more natural activities – there are some wonderful discoveries to be made. Midland Koh Phangan is home to some fantastic trekking routes, including the hiking trail to the top of the highlands starting at Baan Maudeuawaan.
Have you ever been to Koh Phangan? What was your favourite thing to do there? I would love to hear your suggestions!