As with Koh Samui I ended up visiting Koh Phangan twice – once with my sister for Half Moon Party and then again once she had gone home for Full Moon Party. The first time, with Marie, we left Bangrak Pier around 3:30/4pm and arrived at Thongsala Pier, Phangan about an hour later. We then paid 100 baht each to be taken to our hostel in Baan Tai, Echo Beach Backpackers, via Tuk Tuk with about 10 others, all squished together.
It was pretty busy when we arrived at Echo ChacBeach and it took us a good hour to get checked into our triple room across the road from the main building. We headed out for dinner, walking about 10 minutes to a sea view restaurant where we both had curry (mine a delicious but spicy duck one) before going back to our hostel for a couple of drinks; you step out of the bar area right on to the beach, with hammocks to laze around in, making it the perfect place to chill out with a cider (or two).
The following day we hired mopeds (a first for Marie) and rode about half an hour to the area of Haad Rin so that we could go to Leela beach – recommended to us for its white sands. It took us a while to first find gasoline to get us to Haad Rin, then even longer to find Leela beach, that by the time we arrived we managed to take a few photos and get our arses on the sand before it decided to tip it down – we legged it for shelter inside CocoHut Beach resort where we shared a couple of salads. An hour or so later we were back out on the beach – even though it wasn’t the brightest of skies, the view was still beautiful and the swim in the ridiculously clear water amazingly refreshing.
We left at around 5pm so that we were back before dark, being hit by another wave of showers on our journey, and then later ride our mopeds to the night food market by Thongsala Pier – about 20/30 minutes from Baan Tai, this well-lit food market has stalls offering full Thai meals, barbecued meats, sushi, Weston food, Indian food and fruit shakes. We shared a couple of pork kebabs, a grilled mackerel and a bowl of veg – all from different stalls and all very tasty. After raving about how good the avocado shake I had in Cambodia (Koh Rong Samloem) was, we decided to then share an avocado shake, which sadly wasn’t as good and therefore let me down in trying to sell it to my sister!
The next day was Half Moon so we decided to relax in preparation, walking about 10 minutes along the beach from our hostel to a more remote area with nicer sand. We plopped ourselves down on the sand in front of a resort and spent the next few hours sunbathing and swimming before heading into the resort’s restaurant for some ping pong (not that kind – we’re not in Bangkok – the other, table tennis kind) and Pad Thai. Around 6pm we showered and got our glad rags on for Half Moon before heading to the bar at our hostel for pre drinks and body paint; we were fortunate enough to have a tattoo artist working there, with him beautifully painting my leg and Marie’s arm.
The whole hostel were getting in the spirit and soon we were creating body paint art on each other (Marie was way better at doing men than I was hers – she even got some requests!) At around 11:30pm we were shoved into a Tuk Tuk to be taken to the Half Moon party in the jungle, only about a 10 minute ride from where we were staying. Once we arrived we squeezed our way through the crowd of people queuing to get a ticket, until we got to the front where we realised we needed to exchange our ticket from our hostel for an entry ticket; using my best Matrix and elbow skills, I weaved (barged) my way to the front of the queue, changed our tickets, and in we went.
The 1,000 baht entry ticket included our Tuk Tuk ride there and two drinks each, and the party itself is quite well laid out with decent, clean toilets, various bars and a few music stations with different genres playing. We tried each music “station” out but eventually settled on the sweaty, hot commercial one, where we could jump around to music with actual words and sweat off all the paint from our bodies. At 4am, all danced out, we made for the exit and located an available Tuk Tuk to be taken back to our hostel for 100 baht each, where a potty-mouthed girl got rage with the driver for not leaving quick enough after she had got on, and then spent the duration of the journey interrupting a conversation I was having with the guy next to me.
After having an avocado bagel breakfast at Bubba’s cafe opposite our hostel, the two of us left for Koh Tao at lunchtime the following day. I then returned 6 days later from Koh Samui, after Marie had gone home, taking the one hour ferry from Big Buddha pier in Samui directly to Haad Rin pier in Phangan, this time staying at Jaya Hostel in Haad Rin (about a 10 minute walk from the pier) as the Full Moon Party is on HR beach. After checking into my 4 person dorm (which only had one other person, Jack, in it) I took myself to Leela Beach, apparently again wanting to recreate the experience with my sister, before heading out for dinner that evening. I started chatting to the guy on the table next to me as he – Aviv, an Israeli – was also on his own, and we ended up heading down to Cactus Bar on the beach afterwards; with great music playing and an impressive fire-throwing show, followed by dancing on the beach, it was a great way to see in the early hours of the morning with our buckets of lethal whiskey and pineapple.
At Aviv’s enthusiastic suggestion, the following day we went to The Challenge; Koh Phangan’s answer to Wipe Out. We joined 4 other Israeli’s in a Tuk Tuk for a 40 minute journey at 100 baht each, then paid 500 baht to enter The Challenge. We were briefed on the course and how to complete it safely, before deciding to start our route into the water via the inflatable pillow; you leap onto the pillow and make your way to the farthest end, laying down face up, before 3 Thai men jump onto the opposite end at a height and launch you into the air, landing in the water. You are advised to keep you head up, facing forwards, so that you land in the water upright, yet my body didn’t seem to have a choice; as soon as I was airborne, my body went into a haphazard laying down position, and that was how I landed in the water – back first with a graceful thud. It actually completely took the wind out of me and bruised my back so I laid on a couple of ice packs for half an hour. The girl who went after me landed face first and had to apply ice packs on her eyes (poor cow). I now understand why they suggested doing the pillow last!
Once recovered and back in the water I attempted to tackle the rest of the course, although my balance isn’t great at the best of times, let alone whilst navigating bouncy, swinging obstacles on the water. My climbing skills, however, despite having pretty poor upper-body strength, were awesome. That’s one thing I achieved, at least.
Exhausted but refreshed, we then took a Tuk Tuk to Amsterdam Bar, which is located at the top of a hill and offers incredible views of Koh Phangan and a stunning sunset over the sea; I would definitely recommend this as part of a Koh Phangan visit, although advise getting there by 5pm to bag a good seat.
The day after was the Full Moon Party, so after a lazy one at the beach I got ready and put on body paint with the guys in my dorm (two more – Alex and Hamish – had arrived the day before) and a group of others from the hostel, drinking the classic whiskey-pineapple buckets before leaving for the beach around midnight. There isn’t an entry fee for Full Moon like with Half Moon, but it has far less structure and is a lot more chaotic; the beach was literally heaving with people and the music generally the same from bar to bar (other than one with some weird commercial-electro mix), whilst the toilets were far from pleasant. I preferred the music and the general atmosphere of Half Moon, yet there was something just amazing about being part of a massive party on the beach, with fire skipping ropes and inflatable cylinders in the sea (so so much fun – you launch yourself inside, through which I ripped the strap off my dress and had to makeshift tie it together for the rest of the night, and then proceed to behave like hamsters, running and jumping in one direction so as to set it in a circular music across the water). It was insane but really cool.
I literally wanted to curl into a ball and die the morning after, but chose instead to rotate between laying under air con in a desperate bid to not vomit, attempting to sleep and failing, and trying to get some food down me – and to keep it down. It is the first day in 3.5 months of travelling where I ate entirely western food and it is the slowest I have eaten – at that stupidly slow pace that people I hate eat. Speaking of food, I had some amazing meals at My Friend’s House not far from Haad Rin Beach – I would 100% recommend.
Ready to leave Phangan I booked a ticket to Koh Phi Phi for the day after, leaving at 6am, but I must first blog about going to Koh Tao in the middle of my Phangan visits with my sister…