Samui's sister island Koh Phangan is known all over the world for its monthly Full Moon Parties, but the island has much more to offer visitors that thumping bass and buckets of booze. A 30-minute ferry ride from Samui's Bophut or Big Buddha beach (even shorter with a private speedboat) takes you to one of Thailand's most beautiful tropical islands.
Thanks to its enduring reputation as a place for young revellers to "tune in and drop out", many visitors to Thailand
leave Koh Phangan off their list of must-see attractions believing it to be little more than a place to party. In recent years, however, the Tourism Authority of Thailand has been promoting the island as one of the kingdom's green destinations
, and a range of options have emerged that offer visitors a much more peaceful version of the island.
Many of Koh Phangan's bays and beaches are only accessible by boat or four-wheel drive jeep, which has kept them from being over developed and if you take a day trip to any of these beaches you will discover some stunning natural scenery and a unique, laid back ambience that in many ways represents the very essence of Thailand's island appeal.
Healthy island living
Koh Phangan has become a popular choice for those in search of alternative health and exercise. The island is now home to a number of yoga, massage and fasting centres and Thai Chi, as well as many other alternative healing arts are also taught in beautiful locations around the island.
One of the most famous centres is The Sanctuary in Haad Tien, accessible only by boat. This is also a great place to visit for lunch as the menu is vast and full of healthy ingredients, as well as a few special treats of a more gluttonous nature. The centre attracts an international clientele, and has even welcomed celebrities who head for its calm environs to recharge their batteries away from the stresses of a fast-paced world. There is also a herbal steam and sauna at the temple in Ban Tai village known as Wat Pho, where you can indulge in a cleansing session Thai-style by simply making a donation. It's a basic but fun experience and Ban Tai also offers a number of simple beachside eateries that are perfect on a day trip.
Koh Phangan's mountainous, forested interior remains largely untouched, making the island an ideal choice for those looking to get close to nature off the beaten track. Thansadet is the island's famous national park, where former Kings have even graced the stunning waterfalls, giving the island a national reputation for majestic beauty. The northeast coast is also home to some rare birds and wildlife, including giant monitor lizards, which can grow up to three metres in length and wander freely through the forest as a reminder of a times past.
If you really want a challenge, you can plan a trek to the peak of Koh Phangan's highest mountain, Khao Ra, where you will be rewarded with some incredible views. A guide can be hired locally to help you find your way through the jungle but you will need to arrange all the details in advance through an agent or your villa manager as it can get quite wild up there. Adventure seekers can also enjoy a shorter, more sedate elephant ride through the forest, head up the winding lanes on mountain bikes or hire kayaks to explore one of the bays. Other watersports options include wake boarding and snorkelling, the latter most impressive off the northwest coast at Koh Ma.
Best of the Beach
Thong Nai Pan on Koh Phangan's northeast coast boats two of the finest beaches in Thailand. The smaller of the two bays, Thong Nai Pan Noi (small) is also the chosen location for Koh Phangan's most upmarket resorts, which means you can literally drop anchor in the bay, paddle ashore and be sitting down to a five-star feast within 15 minutes of arrival on the island. The water is clear as glass, the sand an alabastar marvel and the lack of nearby roads means the soundtrack is mainly birds and gentle lapping waves.
The beach opposite Koh Ma is also a stunning stretch of sand, made all the more attractive by the fact that at low tide you can walk along sand spit that connects to the island. In fact, those in search of a "Robinson Crusoe" feel will definitely appreciate a visit to Koh Phangan and with such easy access by boat, or even by road if you arrive early on the island, it's certainly a worthy day trip.
Once you see the unspoiled beauty on offer and soak up Koh Phangan's peaceful beach vibrations, you'll banish all those visions of fire dancers and body painted party animals of good.
by LVH Marketing