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When you bring up the island of Kok Pha Ngan to travelers, the first thing that gets mentioned is usually the island’s infamous Full Moon Party. While it is true that the lunar bash forever cemented Ko Pha Ngan on the backpacker circuit, there’s a lot more to this Thai island than day-glo paint and buckets. If you’ve been putting off a trip there because of its reputation as a party island, it’s time to think again. Here’s a little taste of all that Ko Pha Ngan has to offer, aside from the wild parties of course:
There are plenty of dive sites around the island suited for all levels of divers. Sail Rock is one of the most popular dive sites in the Chumphon archipelago, attracting divers from the other islands in the area. There is a dive site for every sort of dive located around Ko Pha Ngan, ensuring that you could spend a whole week diving here and never get bored. Some other spots include Ko Tae Nok, Haad Salad and Ko Ma.
Ang Thong is a National Marine Park consisting of 42 islands. There are many travel agents booking tours to the island by speedboat. The biggest attraction of the park is Thale Nai – an emerald seawater lake surrounded by limestone cliffs. You can also hike up a trail on Wua Talap (Sleeping Cow) island that climbs up to 500 meters and offers views of the whole park. Snorkeling, kayaking, camping and diving are also possible.
If it’s an enlightening vacation you desire, Ko Pha Ngan has no shortage of options. There are so many yoga studios throughout the island offering everything from single classes to month-long retreats. Agama Yoga, The Yoga Retreat and the Sanctuary Thailand are just a few of the studios on the island. After all the intoxication during Full Moon, why not stick around and detox?
Most of Ko Pha Ngan is untouched, mountainous rain forest and as such there are many hiking trails that lead to beautiful waterfalls and amazing views. Bottle Beach is the most secluded beach on the island as it’s only accessible by boat or a 2-3 hour hike. There’s also a nature trail through the mountain linking Haad Rin to Haad Yuan and Haad Thian that takes 1.5 – 2.5 hours depending on your fitness level. The highest mountain is called Khao Ra and from the top you can see all the way to Ko Tao on a clear day. The waterfalls are beautiful and best enjoyed in the rainy season when they’re much stronger. It’s possible to swim in most of them, and some are even equipped with a rope swing.
As the national sport of Thailand, it should come as no surprise that Muay Thai is big on Ko Pha Ngan. If you’re into learning the famous martial art yourself, there are a few training centers offering a variety of classes. Those who feel more comfortable in the stands than in the ring can catch live bouts very frequently – just look for the advertisements around the island or ask around. Check out some highlights from an evening of Muay Thai on Ko Pha Ngan here:
Because of the large permanent population on the island, you can experience all the Thai festivals and holidays with the locals. We were there for Songkran – the Thai New Year – and although it’s not as popular a place to celebrate as Bangkok or Chiang Mai, there were still many parades, water fights and dancing in the street with locals and tourists alike. Grab a squirt gun, some water balloons, and a cold Chang beer and join in the fun.
Ko Pha Ngan is hardly the place to experience Thai food as there are many western style restaurants catering to tourists. However, there is a great night market in Thong Sala, the main town on the island. You can find many food carts serving up curries, soup, sushi, whole barbecue fish, rice and noodle dishes and meat on sticks. It’s a great spot to fill up your belly without emptying your wallet, and the variety on offer means that everyone in your group will find something they like.
Hopefully by now you’ve realized that Ko Pha Ngan has much more to offer travelers than one night of drunken lunacy. Those who visit and take the time to explore this beautiful island will be rewarded with an excellent holiday. With beaches, hiking trails, waterfalls, numerous dive sites, yoga/meditation, markets, Muay Thai and more, Ko Pha Ngan is a great place for your next tropical vacation.