Home > Uncategorized > Back to Koh Phangan – Part 1

Back to Koh Phangan – Part 1

Koh Phangan. I remembered fire-dancers spinning acrid flaming weights into mesmerizing patterns. I remembered peeing vast quantities of guzzled booze into the sea while admiring the big sliver moon pinned against the night. I remembered a hundred different music genres pushing out banal thoughts. I remembered hobnobbing with people from around the world in buzzing rustic cafes.  

That was the Koh Phangan that I remembered; the massive Full Moon Party, a Peter Pan lifestyle where no one ever grows up and the rest of the world could be touched through other country’s citizens. Four years on, I’m still foolish, less able to hold my wine and unlikely to stay awake after midnight. I should have crossed the island from my list of places but I was nostalgic. So I went back to Koh Phangan once more.

***

“The party’s on the 7th, this Thursday. Were you expecting a quiet time?” answered one of the British youths. I had wondered aloud about the many farangs (western tourists) on the ferry to the island. We were in a Song Thaew to Had Rin, where the full moon party would be held. The road climbed and dipped steeply. We hung on for dear life as the Song Thaew roared past other pedestrians or growling scooters. 

It was almost sun-down. Hand-painted signs were tacked to a tree. They pointed in all directions like an absurd signpost transplanted from ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Some brightly declared ‘warm-up’ sessions to the actual Full Moon Party at pub XYZ while others extolled the virtues of a nearby resort / bungalow / guesthouse / pub.  

“I tried the buckets that they were selling. You know, the ones that chuck a bottle of Thai whiskey, coke, red bull and ice in a little plastic bucket.” The British youth said to his friends. His eyes lit up. “It got me drunk so quick! Pure pleasure!”

Now that I think about it, it was mostly farang who were on that stretch of road.

***

I lucked out on finding a cheap guesthouse in Had Rin, especially with the Full Moon Party just a few days away. It was perched on a hill behind the beach. Clambering up to my little hut sapped my breath and energy. But once there, I had an excellent view of Had Rin and the beach town.  

The little town had sprawled. There was more development now; more new buildings, paved roads and concrete bungalow skeletons encroached slowly up the hillside. There just wasn’t anymore space near the beach.

There were plenty of sounds from the sprawl. They came rushing quite easily up the mountain. During the day, I heard metal clang, happy yelps and longtail boats complain gutturally as they sped between beaches. The night was dominated by loud trance and techno from the shoreline pubs; the lyrics (if any) were crystal clear to me from my bed. And it was appropriately quiet in the morning; the town slumbered beside the uneven blue-grey sea.

***

Had Rin is Holland Village doped up on Speed. Everything was ostensibly catered towards the party crowd.

‘Bucket of Joy – 200 bht!’ shouted a sign in neon-red paint.

The main sprawl was dominated by cafes, Thai massage parlours and tour operators. They line up on the main street connecting Had Rin Nok and Had Rin Nai. Internet access at jacked-up ADSL speeds can be rented at 2 bht / min (120 bht or SGD$5 / hour) at all decent shops. Message parlour windows are plastered with Japanese messages of commendations; well and good for the Japanese-literate. Cafes are chic and versatile; décored out in beach bum fashion and attracting the same.  

‘Pizzas, shakes, Israeli breakfast, Fish and Chips, Thai food!’ cried another sign just outside a busy cafe.

The sprawl is crowded. Buffed boys and gorgeous beach babes showed off beautiful tans and physique with precious little coverage. Others were red-faced from peeping at the sun for too long. A couple, chattering in Israeli, strolled past me. Packs of ‘one-day’ friends debated in English with different accents. Their table was packed with drinks and more alcohol. The busiest queues were at booths selling fixes of banana pancakes and fruit shakes.
Everyone had come in from a day out at the beach and they were buzzing with incredible energy.

A shake-seller slipped me a piece of paper. ‘Mushroom Shake’ was penned on it in blue ink. I smiled back and slipped him back the paper.

My senses were frying; there was just too much noise and party universe for me. I fled back to my hut on the hill. It was four days before the Full Moon Party.  

***

Two days in Koh Phangan and I was getting antsy. The days and nights were unfailing similar. I would head to a beach (I tried Had Yao and Had Rin) to swim for a bit and burn under the sun, go into the sprawl for food and drinks, then back to my hut at night where I would write my entries. There didn’t seem to be any variety apart from drinking or talking to other tourists. After a while, everyone looked the same to me. I couldn’t tell them apart and I didn’t want to either. 
 

I needed to do something else. The island couldn’t just be one big party place!

Or was it?  

Koh Phangan

What to do
Loads of beaches and beachy activities, massive party atmosphere in Had Rin, some trekking. Not a place to ‘find’ Thailand.  

Getting there
From Surat Thani: Night ferry only
From Raja Pier: Several ferries in the day (2 ½ hours, 200 bht one-way)
To Raja Pier: Bus from Surat Thani (1 hour, 90 bht, ask at Bus station)  

Sleeping
Resorts and budget guesthouses galore. Take your pick from the touts at the ferry.

I stayed in Stonewall Bungalows: quite a climb up a hill. It’s near to Had Rin but far enough to get some peace.
Huts for singles: 150 bht / night (shared bathrooms)

Food
Plenty of food in the guesthouses or at the beaches.

           

 

 

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