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Ko Phangan Travel Guide

by Dr. David
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Ko Phangan is one of the 3 famous islands on the eastern side of Thailand (Gulf of Siam). It is located south of Ko Tao and north of Ko Samui which is also closer. Ko Phangan is the 5th largest island in Thailand, located some 70 km away from the land, 15 km away from Ko Samui, and 35 km from Ko Tao.

Ko Phangan became famous for its Full Moon parties that appeal to tens of thousands of young visitors every month. The island is also known for its pleasant beaches and calm atmosphere that is much different from the heavily crowded, commercialized, and busy island of Ko Samui.

Ko Phangan’s economy was largely based on mines, fishing, and agriculture in the past, but the mines have been long closed, and most of the Island’s income is now based on tourism – roughly 500,000 tourists visited Ko Phangan in 2017.

Generally, most of Ko Phangan tourists can be classified into 3 groups:

♦ Party tourists – young crowds who come for a very short time to the island, to attend Full Moon and Half Moon parties on the beach (Haad Rin) or in the forests (Baan Tai).

♦ Relaxation tourists – both young and older tourists who come here for a chill vacation on the beach and stay for a longer time than the party crowds. Their goal is to stay longer while paying less – and such tourists are typically yoga enthusiasts, often into tantra and such activities that are common in certain parts of the island.

♦ Couples and Families – these tourists arrive at Ko Phangan for vacation purposes, as they prefer a quiet island with beautiful beaches and a laid-back atmosphere – unlike the commercialized and busy Ko Samui. My articles on Ko Phangan mainly serve these tourists.

The Weather

Most visitors to Thailand are aware of 2-3 seasons in the country including the Monsoon season. You should keep in mind that on the eastern islands (Ko Samui, Ko Pangan, and Ko Tao), the Monsoon season starts and ends on different dates than the rest of Thailand!! While in the rest of the country it begins around July and ends in October – the Monsoon season in the eastern islands starts and ends later – from October to December.

Of course, you can travel and explore Thailand throughout the year – regardless of seasons; nature is at its best in the rainy season, which is good for hiking. However, when it comes to laid-back vacations on the beach (what you usually do in the islands) – the weather may intervene and change your plans.

The high tide and low tide – many tourists plan a fun vacation on one of the islands in the Gulf of Thailand, lying on the beach and bathing in the sea – but once they arrive at the beach they find an unpleasant surprise: the water either cover the beach (high tide) and leave a narrow strip of sand, if at all, or retreat back hundreds of meters (low tide), leaving a wide, murky strip of mud, that is both unpleasant to see and makes bathing impossible. Most people are unaware of this issue, which may disrupt their vacation.

The reason to that is the strange phenomenon of high tide and low tide in the Gulf of Thailand.

Koh Phangan Beaches

Ko Phangan coastline is much more curved than its neighbor, Ko Samui’s. This created many little bays with intimate beaches along the shore and so, the island has a different appearance and feel than Ko Samui. On the other hand, some of Ko Phangan’s beaches are very shallow, which is problematic in months of low tide throughout the entire day.

Ko Phangan’s Natural Attractions and Outdoor activities – Thailand’s most impressive natural attractions, such as waterfalls, rivers, lakes, unique temples, etc., are mainly inland, at the north, center, and south of the country, whereas the islands are more suitable for laid-back vacations.

Pay Attention – If you’d like to travel and enjoy Thailand’s lovely nature – do so on land and afterwards move on to the island of your choice for vacation. Other than Full/Half Moon parties that attract young visitors rather than families – Ko Phangan has little to offer families.  

There are some average snorkeling spots, few observation points, typical beach cruising and the only special attraction here is sailing to Ang Thong National Marine Park (the 42 islands archipelago). Also, consider that Ko Phangan doesn’t feature water sports as Ko Samui does.

Arriving In Ko Phangan

Building a private airport in Ko Phangan is something that’s been discussed for years, but up to now (July 2018) there isn’t a local airport and the only way to get here is by sailing from Ko Samui or one of the piers on land (Chumphon, Surat Thani or Don Sok).

Ko Phangan Travel Guide Conclusion: the most beautiful beaches, snorkeling, and diving spots in Thailand are on the western side (Andaman sea), and less on the eastern Gulf of Thailand. However, of the 4 famous islands of the gulf – Ko Samui, Ko Tao, Ko Phangan, and Koh Chang – Ko Phangan features the loveliest, most pleasant beaches. On the other hand, the island has little to offer families, other than laid-back relaxation on the beach. While Haad Rin beach attracts younger visitors and party people, the other beaches offer only a few restaurants, perhaps some shops, and massage parlors in the hotel area (if at all).

So, please consider that Ko Phangan is mostly a destination for laid-back beach relaxation, the ‘traveling’ you’ll be doing here is mainly from the hotel room to the pool, dining room, or beach. Families who look for the quiet atmosphere would love it here, but those who seek action, shopping, activities, and bubbly culinary sites will probably be bored and disappointed.

Ko Phangan Travel Guide Tip

When picking the hotel and beach destination, don’t forget to choose the right season to visit Ko Phangan, and pay attention to the high/low tide issue, considering the special conditions at the Gulf of Thailand,

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