KOH PHANGAN

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOON

Koh Phangan is super famous all over the planet for its extra wild Full Moon Parties, celebrations taking place every month throughout the year, with music, fire entertaining, body painting, dancing and alcohol buckets all night long. The party mainly takes place along the beach of Haad Rin.

Map of Koh Phangan

Map of the Island. References [Thai-English] *  Ban (town), Khao (mountain), Wat (temple), Koh (island), Laem (cape, promontory), Ao (bay), Haad (beach).

Half Moon Parties, officially called festivals (they are more like raves) are now held in a venue specifically designed in Ban Tai, on the road to Thong Nai Pan. Normally there’s an admission fee and their spirit is kind of different.

I am not for nor against parties. I used to dance the night out in my teens and beyond… Last time I set foot on a dance party I was a both mom and way over thirty. I’m not here to judge and I do not intend to.

In full honesty, had I been a few years younger I might have worked closely on the dates to visit the island when planets aligned (or moons… you know!). The thing is, I don’t care anymore. I don’t even enjoy super buckets of alcohol.

I’ve had my share of wild fun in the past (and it was quite a share). This time, relax and solitude were enough… An occasional glass of Thai beer would do as well.

Accommodation in Koh Phangan.

 

Full Moon Aftermath. Just clean up when it's over...

Full Moon Aftermath. Just clean up when it’s over…

 

Mathematics 101: Koh Phangan + kids = Bottle Beach. Leaving out Phangan out of our circuit was not an option, but I was not in the mood for a loud, crowded beach. Being the island even bigger than Koh Tao, I was certain there were some less touristic sides on it.

While gathering information online, I came across an article about a certain beach on the opposite side of Haad Rin, exactly on the other side of the island. One could only arrive there sailing (with a certain daily schedule) or with a pick-up truck (again subject to timetables and weather).

The time we were going to spend on the island was not that long so why not take the risk of isolation? And enjoy it as well.

We arrived from Koh Tao at midday, happy to discover there was a taxi-truck waiting for us not far from the pier. We traveled through a landscape that took my mind back in time, to our trip to Jericoacoara, in Brazil. A hilly terrain with palm trees and coconuts fallen on the wide roads, a few isolated shops selling fruit and yellow flowers, sharp bends and jungle exuberance all over the place. It was cloudy, hot and humid.

Birds kept humming a melody welcoming us to Paradise.

We arrived to Ao Chalok Lam, where there should have been a pier to leave for Bottle Beach. I knew I was not going to find a formal structure, with a ticket office or anything, I mean we were expecting a long tail boat. However, there was no pier. We rolled up our pants, took off our flip-flops and jumped on the boat together with our backpacks (these are the moments when I thank the Universe for taking out of my head the idea of bringing a regular piece of luggage).

So we sailed together with eggs, meat, bread and fruit for our resort. In a way we traveled with our week’s breakfast. It took us 45 minutes to reach a movie-like site, dotted with fantastic little bungalows on the beach.

“I hope they give us a front beach one; please, make them give us the front beach one, I hope they give us a front beach one; I hope…”

Yeah! they gave us a front beach one!

Heaven on Earth and back to civilization. Bottle Beach was the perfect choice for us. Little cozy apartments, with quite precarious internet connection if far from the dining area. Something that drove me mad at the beginning but turned into a blessing later on… I finally turned off the computer and the phone. I turned my inner self on. It had been a long time since I last had enjoyed full mornings with my kids, playing in complete bliss, without even checking if I had mail. I couldn’t even remember the last time spending such long relaxing hours of non-stop sleep on the beach (Thank you hubby for taking care of our kids after lunch, you’re amazing!). I don’t know whether it was the heat, the marvelous food they served, the beer I don’t normally drink at lunch. Or maybe the book I was reading had too small characters (frankly, it wasn’t boring at all)… Anyhow, I use to wake up and see the sun shining over the trees. Wondering weather I had slept much, though it wasn’t possible, the sun was still there. Guilt didn’t even touch me. A soft breeze invited me to close my eyes tighter, to sleep more.

Palms trees Koh Phangan.

One of my most vivid memories of this beach are palm trees seen from this perspective…

The beach was calm, not crowded at all. The hotel hosted many solo travelers, many digital nomads, long-term hosts of the resort, people absorbed in their books and notes, mostly silent but smiling and polite. There were a few families too, but not many. Our children, who normally go mad when they see a swimming pool in a hotel, didn’t even use it. It was nice, but still, they didn’t care. I think they remembered about it once we were back in Italy. Such was the beauty of the sea. So was the charm of our little corner of heaven. They had fun playing in warm waters. Again, nobody left the sea at least until it was dinner time.

Food, as in all Thailand, was to kill for [read my post about Thai food]. Ingredients are combined wisely, things are fresh and spicy at the same time, as well as fragrant. And don’t be fooled, when you read the menu every day, after a while everything seems to be the same. Big mistake: it isn’t. My piece of advice? Try it! Try everything! You won’t regret it.

Bottle Beach, Koh Phangan.

Bottle Beach, Koh Phangan.

Facilities were simple, a bit on the expensive side if I am to compare it to other resorts. But it was fine for a short stay, and it was expensive for Thai standards, not European one. Being almost confined there, everything you need must be bought from them (there are also other two structures on this beach, but we never visited them, I suppose because this place was not bad after all). Some might argue that rooms could be bigger. Not me.

We were outside 95 % of the time, either on the beach, in the water, or enjoying our balcony later at night, so if you use your room just to sleep, you don’t need more. When you put one step out and there’s white sand, you don’t need more. My idea of paradise is not inside a room of a hotel. Paradise here was outside, and we took so much advantage of it.

Koh Phangan, Thailand: Bungalows among the trees.

Bungalows among the trees.

Kids always had fun. Koh Phangan Thailand

Kids always had fun.

Time went by as fast as it could. When it was time to go, I felt tremendously sad. I didn’t want to leave. Our next stop was also our last island. After that, we had just two more days in Bangkok and then this wonderful Asia was going to be over. The most sad of all was thinking that we had spent almost 8 months planning everything and in a question of days it was going to be a memory. Khao San road was over, Wat Pho was over, Ayutthaya was over, even Koh Tao had come to an end.

The time had come to say goodbye to Koh Phangan. A different Koh Phangan. An island we had been able to detach from a madness cliché and make it completely ours. An island that still today, my children still describe as the best of all the islands in Thailand, the most peaceful of all. The other side of the moon.

Days were going to be intense, and we were still to meet two people who would really touch our hearts. But we still didn’t know. We were just leaving another paradise. My hopes for Samui were not that high. And it was cloudy this time, cloudy indeed.

Moving on: Koh Samui

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Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan Island Thailand

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