Koh Phangan, the Full Moon Party
Koh Phangan (เกาะพะง้น, pronounced KOH pa-nGan) is an island off the Central Gulf Coast of Southern Thailand, halfway between the islands of Ko Samui and Ko Tao. It is known as a land of coconut trees and, above all, the world famous full moon parties.
Ko Phangan is famous for its Full Moon Party at Haad Rin Beach
Full Moon Party, Koh Pha Ngan – if you’re after party heaven you can’t do better than Haad Rin, an expanded village of beach bars, cheap chicken burgers, and low cut figure-hugging outfits. It is most popular one night a month – the night of the Full Moon Party. Every bar is hopping, the beaches packed with trance, dance, buckets, and various other suspicious substances. However, if the sight of thousands of bottles and other trash repulses you, make sure you leave the beach area before the sun comes up, or grab a garbage bag and help tidy up a little. If you’re not on Koh Phangan during the full moon, don’t worry: there are other parties to be had, including Half Moon (2 times a month), Black Moon, Jungle Parties, as well as the Shiva Moon party. There is always something to do in Koh Phangan.
Popular destinations in Koh Pha Ngan
- Haad Rin Beach
- Thong Sala – the island’s “capital” and main ferry port.
- Chalok Lam – picturesque beach at the northern tip of the island.
- Haad Chao Phao – beautiful beach fringed by a vibrant coral reef, on the western part of the island.
- Haad Mae Haad – wide sandy beach joined to Koh Ma by a sand spit, which is a National Marine Park with some of the best diving and snorkeling on Pha Ngan; there is also a small village and a variety of resorts, restaurants and bars.
- Haad Salad – an idyllic cove with several high-end resorts on the north-western part of the island.
- Thonglang Bay – Located between Chalok Lam and Mae Haed this almost undiscovered bay offers a delightful and peaceful escape from the crowds.
- Haad Rin (Hat Rin) – site of the famous Full Moon Party.
- Haad Yao – long white sandy beach just north of Haad Chao Phao, slightly more developed with more beach bars and restaurants.
- Haad Son – a beautiful bay with beach next to Haad Yao.
- Sri Thanu – A volcanic peninsula to the south of Haad Son and Haad Yao with bays and beaches.
- Ban Tai – the longest stretch of uninterrupted beach on the entire island facing Koh Samui.
- Ban Kai – From Ban Tai through to Haad Rin this beach offers an idylic setting – just minutes from the full moon party.
- Thong Nai Pan – scenic area on the north-eastern part of the island that includes the neighboring beach resorts of Ao Thong Nai Pan Yai and Ao Thong Nai Pan Noi.
How to get Koh Phangan
The closest airport is Ko Samui (USM) which has frequent flights from Bangkok and Phuket, daily flights from U-Tapao and Singapore, and several direct flights each week from Chiang Mai and Kuala Lumpur. Transportation to the ferry dock is easy to find at the airport. Ferries depart several times a day with the last one around dusk.
The next nearest airport is Surat Thani (URT) on the mainland. Flights from Bangkok there are significantly cheaper (1000-1500 baht in advance, or 2000-2500 if booked same day, instead of 3000-5000 if flying to Samui), as there are low-cost carriers (AirAsia and One-Two-Go) flying there, and even Thai Airways charge 30-50% less than to Samui. However, you’ll then need combined bus + boat travel to get to Ko Pha Ngan, which will surely take several hours.
Sunset Baan Tai and seaview to Ko Samui Ko Samui / Thong Sala
From Ko Samui: There are at least 3 ferries a day from Ko Samui’s “Big Buddha” pier directly to Haad Rin. Ferries also leave from Nathon and Mae Nam piers to Thong Sala several times a day.
Watch out for scammers at Koh Samui airport who try to sell you a bus/boat combo for an exorbitant price. Make sure to walk towards the exit of the airport where there is an Information counter and taxi stands.
By bus and boat
The best way in by bus is by Governmnent Bus to the Na Dan ferry piers: these are the most direct, quickest, reliable, safest, and hassle-free services. Tickets for these services can be bought at Sai Tai Taling Chan (southern) government bus terminal in Bangkok.
Buses also arrive in Surat Thani, capital of Surat Thani Province, from where passengers are inexorably swept up in the machine that will, several buses and at least one ferry later, spit you out on the rusty pier of Thong Sala.
If there are no available options listed above (usually only if you’ve arrived to the bus terminal quite late in the evening before a weekend or holiday), you can also try a bus to Chumphon and board a ferry there, see “By train” section below. You can buy a combo ticket on the bus station, it will cost same as if purchased separately (and the bus arrives 2-3 hours before ferry departure, so you shouldn’t be late).
Buses originating from Khao San Road (or others with travel agent sold tickets) are notorious for thefts from passenger luggage and should be avoided at all costs. Under no circumstances should passengers on Khao San Road buses leave valuables in bags that will go in the luggage stowage areas, even if the bags can be locked; consider it inevitable that every bag will be opened while the bus is in motion.
By train, boat and bus
Overnight train from Bangkok is an interesting option. Trains arrive in Surat Thani or Chumphon, and from there you can transfer by bus and then boat. Chumphon is the option if you’re planning to stop by at Ko Tao but if you’re heading straight to Ko Phan Ngan consider Surat Thani. Both stations are on the south-bounding Hay Yai line but arrival times in Chumphon (when using night trains) are annoyingly early in the morning. For example, the (recommended) express train number #85 arrives around 4am after which you’ll have to wait about 3 hours for the ferry. On the other hand, if you continue down to Surat Thani you can sleep an extra 3-4 hours plus you will arrive in daylight. Considering the waiting time in Chumphon and the longer ferry trip you will eventually get to Koh Phan-gan at about the same time.
Combined train-bus-boat tickets can be bought direct from the official Advance Booking Counter at Hualamphong station in Bangkok, although sometimes train get late, and your boat is already gone and you have to pay extra for the next boat. Thus joint ticket is not the best choice.
From February 2009, train e-tickets can be booked online in advance without any extra fees, see the main Thailand article. This is also quite an option to avoid travel agency fees while going back (as, obviously, there are no railway stations on the islands).
If e-booking is not available or not suitable to you for some reason, train tickets may be reserved up to 60 days in advance and paid for by email. In reality, the Thai authorities are lax in returning emails and/or will give the runaround, or flat-out refuse to reserve seats for non-Thais during peak travel periods (December – January and Songkran holiday in April). If your heart is set on going by train, start early, be persistent, and have a backup plan to go by bus or plane.