There are many things to do on Koh Phangan besides the Full Moon Party. Travelling there by night boat and bus from Phuket is by far the coolest thing you can do and it will immediately set you apart from the comfortable travelers who fly to Koh Samui and take the boat from there. The best reason to go by bus and boat from Phuket: it will only set you back $20.
Finding a hotel on Koh Phangan is easy, but finding a good hotel is hard. Fortunately, I have already scouted out the best options and can highly recommend Phangan Cottages. No, I didn’t get paid to say that although I should because this place is excellent. We paid roughly 800 baht per night ($26) and got to live in brand new bungalows right on the beach with poolside bars.
Want more tips & tricks? If you thought there is a lack of things to do on Koh Phangan, then boy were you wrong. It all starts with… The Reggae Boat. It is operated by a gentleman who loves Reggae, calls himself Reggae Man, loves Rasta, Marley and everything that comes with it. Expected to be treated to vast amounts of ganja on this trip, the Reggae Man carries plentiful on him at all times.
Besides the weed, this boat offers a spectacular view of the entire island and allows you to snorkel at multiple dive spots. Snorkeling is one of the many things to do on Koh Phangan, and if you are lucky you will spot sea turtles and even dolphins. We were very unlucky when we went snorkeling and actually ended up in the middle of a coral seed/mini jellyfish cloud. Besides stinging the hell out of us, they blocked our view and ruined the snorkeling experience. This was apparently a seasonal thing so watch out if you go in January.
The reggae boat stops at about 5 locations including a waterfall. Pictures from the shenanigans are below.
ADVENTURE: How-To is about adventures after all and not exciting resorts. So when it comes to food and things to do on Koh Phangan, the food market in Thong Sala will serve well for a review. The Thong Sala night market is full of possibilities to learn how to haggle. There are quirky things such as fried grasshoppers, frog legs (actually pretty normal fare for French people), whole grilled squid with the innards so it becomes extra gooey, and various chicken hearts on sticks. Basically, it is the weird food lovers paradise and I sure did like it.
The deep fried grasshoppers are probably the weirdest things on Koh Phangan and were crunchy and tasted like dirt – basically like a boring potato chip. The chicken hearts on sticks were really good and had a grilled liver taste to them. The grilled squid was a bit disappointing as the gooey innards got the upper hand after a few bites. Too much goo, too little chew.
Unfortunately my camera got stolen on a subsequent trip so all the pictures of me eating fried grasshoppers and squidtestines are gone. But I promise I did it.
Another funny thing about Thong Sala is the stage where local Thai bands play Thai rock. It is a form of pop/rock that has hints of reggaeton and various other exotic sounds. I’d like to show you a sample but this stuff is available in Thailand only. What I can show you is what it didn’t sound like: Thai Country Music at random Bangkok Market.
Renting a Scooter
This was by far my favorite of the many things to do on Koh Phangan. It is dangerous, exciting, scary and adventurous all at once. For starters, you drive on the wrong side of the road (compared to the right side of the road, haha. Get it?). There are absolutely no traffic rules and if there are, everyone seem to have forgotten about them. To drive a scooter on Koh Phangan you need to be organic and dynamic, basically the opposite of driving in the west. Just go with the flow basically and have fun.
Once you get the hang of driving, there are many spots to go to like Thong Sala, Haad Rin, Wat Maduea Wan and a vast array of beaches. If you go to Haad Rin you will get to test your scooter skills to the limit, because here the beach road and boardwalk merge into one and offers the opportunity to slalom between tourists, cars and other bikers. While riding, also be prepared for rain and general power outages because they are very common on Koh Phangan.
Okay, I admit it. I didn’t stay long enough to explore all the cultural offerings, but of all the things to do on Koh Phangan, partying is the most popular. Besides the Full Moon Party which only happens once a month, there are many bars and hotel clubs lining the west side of the island. These are popping pretty much every night but offer a strictly international crowd (much like the rest of Koh Phangan). If this is sad to you and not to your liking, then aim for a more local experience by visiting Koh Samui instead. All in all, Koh Phangan has something for everybody as long as you go in with an open mind. Enjoy your stay and don’t fall of the scooter!