As part of our island hopping off the east coast, we next travelled to Koh Phangan. Koh Phangan is close to Koh Samui, and we were lucky to get the 1.30pm express boat and arrive by 2pm!
We were staying at a place called The Friendly Resort & Spa which cost us £24 for two nights. Still super cheap, but a bit more than we’d paid in Koh Samui. This time we’d treated ourselves to a room with AC (the best), a hot shower & the place had a pool! We really were living in luxury. The Friendly Resort & Spa is in Haad Rin (or Hat Rin), which is the main tourist spot on the island as it is home to the infamous Full Moon parties. It’s at the south of the island, facing across to Koh Samui. It was 150 baht per person for the trip from the ferry pier in Thong Sala down to Haad Rin, which we did in a minibus with some other people off our boat.
Koh Phangan is smaller than Koh Samui, and we already preferred it! It was much prettier, with the coastal roads having incredible views as they twisted and turned round the steep cliffs. On the minibus journey from the ferry to our hotel, I really wasn’t sure we’d even make it up one of the hills! It wasn’t as built up, but still was full of restaurants and shops.
Once we arrived and checked in to our hotel, we went out to explore and get some lunch. It was much cheaper to eat here than Koh Samui – so many places had the offer of ‘all Thai food 50 baht’ which was half the price of the places we’d been eating previously. We were staying on the west coast, but it was only a ten min walk through the town to reach the east, which had the main beach (this is where the full moon parties are). Down one of the little streets here we found a restaurant where we had a noodle soup, before heading back to our hotel to grab towels and swim stuff and come back to the beach.
Unlike the beaches in Koh Samui, there were no waves here in Koh Phangan. The sea was very shallow – you could walk for long time and still the water not be up to your waist. In Koh Samui you could run and dive under the waves after a few meters, which I definitely prefer! But it was still really nice, and the water seemed a lot clearer here too. We had a lovely swim before walking back through the town browsing shops.
From signs I learnt that the beach we’d swam at was the sunrise beach, and our hotel was right on the sunset beach. This beach we never saw anyone swimming at, as there were a lot of boats and the water wasn’t as clean on this side. As it was on the west side though, it did have a sunset! We walked down to watch it from the beach, where we also found coconuts that had fallen off the palm trees and cracked these open on the rock. They’re a lot harder to get in to than I thought! I’d definitely be useless if I were stuck on a desert island…
That night we went for dinner just round the corner of our hotel at a place called Mango, as we wanted to get an early night for a full day of exploring in the morning. I got Sweet & Sour Chicken, which was so good! I couldn’t finish it though – the portions were huge! Here we also met a cute stray dog which had followed us from the hotel down the road and sat down next to us whilst we ate. We named him Sandy. Finding it very hard out here not to adopt all the cute stray dogs!
The next morning we hired a bike from a place near our hotel and set off on our adventure. We’d decided to drive up to the north of the island through the national park to see some waterfalls, then come back down to the south along the coast. The roads as I already mentioned were pretty crazy – I was quite scared at first by how steep they were but I soon got used to it and the views were incredible from the top! We stopped for breakfast at a place called The Shack on the side of the road coming into Thong Sala, where we got toasties. This place was really cool as it was decorated with the most random stuff!
We then carried on toward Than Sadet National Park, which is home to lots of the islands waterfalls. We parked down at the bottom for a small price then made our way along the path. There are lots of different waterfalls that you see on your climb up, but we’d heard about Phaeng Waterfall which was the one at the top so we went all the way.
This is not an easy walk! A lot of the path is very, very steep – so if you’re going I’d advise wearing trainers rather than flipflops. It was also really, really hot. The humidity also made the path slippery in some places, though most of it did have a rope to hold on to and pull yourself up! The national park itself is beautiful – with amazing scenery. After the walk up we were expecting something amazing, and we couldn’t have got more of an anticlimax really!
This was at the end of the path. The waterfall we’d hiked up several hundred metres to see! From pictures I’d seen of it before, we obviously caught it on a bad day – it had dried up a lot! It literally was a small trickle of water over the rocks. We couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that we’d expected something so much more and had found this instead. We were going to go to the viewpoint on the way back but we were both so hot by this point we just headed back down. I think maybe I’d have preferred to go to the viewpoint over the waterfall if I’d have known what to expect! But oh well – it was good exercise! We headed back down past the other waterfalls, wandering if we should let those hiking up who seemed to really be struggling know that it wasn’t really worth it..! I’m still glad we did it as it was beautiful, but maybe do it for the walk rather than the waterfall at the end…
Once back on our bike, we felt much better with the wind in our face to cool us off! We then headed along to Paradise waterfall. On our way there we also passed a beautiful Chinese temple. We weren’t dressed to go inside so I didn’t get a picture, but it was really cool – if we’d had appropriate clothes on we would have! We got to Paradise waterfall, which was better than the last but still not amazing! I think when I think of a waterfall I expect at least something the size of the man made one at the Eden Project, so I’m quite often left disappointed! Paradise waterfall did go into a nice pool which was big enough for swimming in, and had a rope swing!
Feeling a bit waterfall-ed out, we carried on up to the north of the island. I’d read online that one of Koh Phangan’s hidden beauties is Haad Salad beach, so we headed there. We parked up outside a resort and walked through to get to the beach – I’m not sure if there is an actual public road to the beach but this was easy enough. Once there I could see what all the fuss was about, the beach was beautiful. It had basically white sands, with clear blue waters. There weren’t many people there either, which made a change from the beach down at Haad Rin! We put down our towels and headed straight into the water. It’s very, very shallow there, which was the only thing I didn’t like. Desperate to cool down we ended up just lying in the shallow water! There were a few rocks to be careful of when walking, and loads of sea cucumbers! At first I thought they were just rocks, but on closer inspection I saw one wasn’t, then realised how many of them there were. James picked one up to prove to me they were harmless, but I still didn’t really like the idea of being surrounded by the things – I’m not very good with sea life…! We headed back in to the beach where we lay and read our books in the sun, trying to dry off. Haad Salad also has a swing on the beach so you can really feel like you’re living that island life. The sun went in and we were feeling hungry so we decided to leave and head back down the coast to Thong Sala for some food.
We stopped at a little cafe which did all asian food for 50 baht, so filled ourselves up on noodles before going back to our hotel. No one was in the pool so we decided to have a swim! The good thing about our hotel being on this side of the island meant that it got the afternoon sun really nicely!
We splashed around for a while before realising that the sun would set soon! We’d read that the best place on the island to watch the sunset was Amsterdam Bar, so we got ready and headed back out. Amsterdam Bar was back up to the north of the island, past Thong Sala and so the journey took us about half an hour on the bike. The last little road up was very steep! But we made it up, and the views were worth it. The place was really chilled out, with people all sat on cushions on the floor. We sat down for a fanta as James was driving and I wasn’t really feeling like drinking. It was quite cloudy so you couldn’t actually see the sun set, but it still had amazing views so we stayed and finished our drinks as it got dark.
Once it got dark we headed back down south, where we stopped in Thong Sala for some food at their night market! We’d read this was something to do on the island, but we’re sure when it was so were lucky to stumble across it. We bought some fairy lights here for our room, as we’d been on a mission to find some sort of lamp – budget places tend to have horrible lighting! Satisfied with our new purchase, we got some curry from one of the stalls and then a fruit shake.
After this we headed back to the hotel to pack as we were off to Koh Tao the next day! That morning we woke up and it was really sunny again, so we had a quick swim in the pool before dropping the bike back to the rental shop and checking out of our hotel. We got one of the island taxi bus things up to Thong Sala and grabbed some lunch from a nearby cafe. Our boat in the end was an hour late! So we just waited on a little beach next to the pier in the sunshine.
I’d definitely preferred Koh Phangan to Koh Samui. I feel like part of that may be because we had such better weather here! But as an island, it was a lot less built up and the water was much clearer. I’d left Koh Samui feeling like I hadn’t really made the most of it, but leaving Koh Phangan I felt like we’d had the best time we could’ve on our bike adventures! We weren’t there for the party aspect, but I can imagine it’s a different place during peak season when there’s a full moon party. If we’d been there a day longer I’d have liked to have gone across to Angthong Marine Park, but I was feeling content with how we’d spent our time there. And as we were going to Koh Tao next which has some of the clearest waters and amazing swimming spots, the marine park wasn’t necessary! The way things were going, each place we visited only got better. Thanks for having us Koh Phangan, you were amazing! Next up, the much anticipated Koh Tao!
Charlotte Rick x
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