Koh Samui & Koh Phangan | Thailand - Part Four
Hello! I'm stuck for a good intro today.. so let's just get into it, k? Koh Samui & Koh Phangan are two islands right next to each other, so if you're going to one, you might as well visit the other one. Which is what we did! Let's start with Koh Phangan & the full moon craziness.
When I say extremes, I mean a tranquil green yoga-retreat filled island by day, and a crazy party central by night. From hearing all the insane full moon party stories that this island is famous for, you wouldn't think it's as beautiful as it really is - at least as long as you stay away from Haad Rin, which is where the madness takes place. The beaches were some of the most unspoilt we saw in Thailand, and if you're lucky enough, you'll find about 8 dogs to keep you company on your sunset beach walk.
We happened to fly to Samui around full moon, so my friend Ance insisted that we take the ferry over to Phangan and go to the party. If you're there, you might as well, right? So I booked us 2 nights on the island (a lot of people apparently just party till the first ferry, but let me tell you - it's quite a choppy ride on an old ass ferry, so I would highly not recommend it), in a very basic bamboo wall bungalow right on the beach, no AC, mozzies everywhere - the works. However the memories of this bungalow are probably some of my fondest from the trip. It's amazing how such a humble (using a hip word here, read as 'crappy') space can make you appreciate everything around so much more. There was jungle with all of its noises on one side, the sea on the other, and THE steepest hill I have encountered leading into town. This is the link to our AirBnb, in case you wanna rough it too (in a good way). The host was incredibly kind & helpful. And if you haven't used AirBnb before, you can use this link to get £25 off, yay.
Now, the main event. The Full Moon Party, at Haad Rin Beach, said to host up to 30k neon-clad partiers every full moon. And even though you'll find full moon parties elsewhere, this is where it originated about 30 years ago. I had to learn the facts to talk myself into this. SO, after lots of hesitation, we put our tie-dye dresses on, got in an open-back pick up truck already filled with 8 other partygoers, and went to the beach to dance like crazy till 3am, amongst many MANY highly intoxicated people. It was crazy, sweaty, smelly (literally smells of petrol everywhere), but super fun. As someone who doesn't drink, I surprised myself by enjoying it as much as I did.
- Wear closed toe shoes - no flip flops, please!! You'll get stepped on countless times and glass bottles / drunk people usually don't mix. All the guys also pee in the sea, or near the sea, depending on the level of drunkenness. Not sure I'd wanna walk around with my feet out.
- Pick your jam - when you arrive, make sure to walk along the whole beach and pick what music you like the best. Every bar will be blasting their own tunes, and there's quite a variety to choose from. Dance in one place for 20mins, then go somewhere else.
- Embrace the craziness - if a total stranger asks you to join them in a weird dance-off, do it. So much fun. When we went, the vibe was actually surprisingly happy and positive, and we didn't have any unpleasant encounters.
- Be careful, especially with your drinks - goes without saying really, as you should be careful in these types of situations. And may I also suggest - if you're really drunk, maybe don't go jumping on the burning jump ropes. We felt really safe in general - just be cautious and careful and you'll have an amazing night!
Out of all the islands we visited, Samui was definitely the cleanest and poshest. There are so many fancy retreats, bars, healthy restaurants, yoga classes, lots to do and see. Here's what we did & our tips:
- Renting a bike - they cost the same here as everywhere else, 200 baht (= £4.60) for a day, but they are all sparkly and new! We had a fluorescent yellow one, we called her our Bee. Don't forget to wear protection! I mean a helmet. There's actual serious traffic on this island. And SPF on your shoulders when on the road!
- Wat Phra Yai - Big Buddha Temple - you can see the Buddha's gold head from the other side of the island so it's cool to go see him up close. Beautiful place. Funny thing that happened here - I was watching some other tourists getting a blessing from a monk, and thinking 'it's okay, I'm not gonna do that', but the next thing I know I was sitting there getting splashed with a bit of water. He was a very persuasive monk.
- Vikasa Life Cafe - DAMN GIRL. Still dreaming about this food. I'm not sure if it was actually THAT incredible or if after 2 weeks of Thai food we were just happy to see something besides noodles and curries. Super healthy, loads of veggie / vegan options. We came back here 4 more times, for breakfasts & dinners. Gorgeous view during the day, and live music some evenings too. It's expensive for Thai standards - we paid about £20 each for starters, soft drinks, mains, and dessert. Which brings me to my next point..
- It's expensive! It's not that expensive for western standards, but having just come from Lanta where a full meal costs about 2-3£, it was a big adjustment. But you also get beautiful polished interiors, cleanliness, and proper toilets. Massages are only a tiny bit more expensive so take advantage of those!
- Day trips to smaller islands - it's a great place to be based out of to go for some full day adventures. Sadly we didn't have enough time to visit Koh Tao which is meant to be a diving paradise, but then again we don't dive, oh well. We did choose to go to the Ang Thong Marine Park, and funnily enough my butt was definitely hanging out my swimsuit. Was that joke too obvious? Moving forward. The National Park was GORGEOUS, and we went on an amazing hike on one of the islands we visited, called Koh Wua Talap. From the viewpoint at the top, you can see loads of other little islands and formations, apparently you can count 42 of them all around. We also stopped at a snorkelling spot for about an hour, and got to chill on some really pretty beaches. Deffo worth a day trip.
- Fisherman's Village - lots of cute boutiques to stock up on gifts for your loved ones, or some funky Thai decor. There's plenty of cafes around here, lots of healthy options, lots of beach bars. There are also many spas and massage salons here, do take advantage of those. We went to one called Sakura where they only use products that are natural, organic, etc etc. As I mentioned before, prices are pretty much the same as anywhere else.
- Coco Tams - a beautifully designed open air restaurant / bar, with a cool rooftop (ish) space that opens in the evenings. We came here during the day to cool off, and then on our last night we chilled on their beanbags on the beach. We actually had a great laugh here with our waiter as whatever we asked him about the drinks menu, he'd go "umm", then pause for a second and then say "I don't know" and start laughing. And then we would laugh. Repeat that about 5 times. Not sure how, but we did manage to order in the end :)