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Island Hopping – Part Three – Koh Pha-Ngan Posted by on Apr 7, 2011 in Travel, Uncategorized

While Koh Pha-Ngan is most famous amongst travelers for its monthly Full Moon Party, there’s plenty more to do on this Thai island than deck yourself out in day-glo paint and drink buckets of cheap whiskey. With beautiful beaches all around the island, you always have the option of sunbathing with a good book. Of course, there’s also plenty to do in the water, with snorkeling, kayaking, scuba diving, and fishing all at your fingertips. If you prefer to stay on land, there are a variety of parks and waterfalls that you can hike around. For those who go on vacation to relax and spoil themselves, there are massage parlors and saunas, as well as meditation and yoga classes. Finally, if you just want to eat, drink and be merry, there are tons of restaurants, bars, street food stalls, and cooking classes for you to choose from. This is one of the many great things about traveling in Thailand – there is something for everyone.

With a few days on the island, we did our best to do a little bit of everything. In order to assist in our exploration of the island, we rented another motorbike. It should be noted that it’s quite easy to rent a bike on the islands in Thailand; you just need your passport and some cash. On the mainland, however, an international license is required for motorbike rentals. Although these bikes are a cheap, fun, and convenient way to get around, they obviously carry some risks. Throughout our trip, we ran into several fellow travelers with all sorts of bruises, cuts, and burns as a result of motorbike accidents. Luckily, we both managed to make it out of Thailand without any motorbike battle scars (although I did have a close call or two).

One of the many waterfalls on the island.

Atop one of the island's viewpoints.

Aside from beach bumming (which we did plenty of), we went hiking to see some of the many waterfalls that Koh Pha-Ngan has to offer. With the assistance of a motorbike, you can easily see most of the island’s waterfalls and get plenty of exercise from hiking. The largest waterfall on Koh Phangan is Than Sadet Waterfall National Park, also called Than Sadej or “Royal Stream”, which has always been a favorite of Thai kings. In addition to the beautiful falls and occassional swimming holes, there are also plenty of hiking paths that will take you high up where you can enjoy spectacular views of the entire island. With so much outdoor fun to be had, we spent a whole day hiking, swimming, and admiring the scenery from the viewpoints.

After working up a sweat and an appetite, we hit the Panthip night market in Tong Sala. Open every night, this outdoor market houses an abundance of vendors cooking up all things Thai, such as: curries, noodles, barbecue, sticky rice, and fresh seafood. For a very reasonable price, we loaded up on grilled fish, spicy curry, and pad Thai. A trip to this market is not only a great way to sample a variety of Thai dishes, but also a fun way to warm up for a night on Koh Pha-Ngan.

 

Night Market

Muay Thai

In terms of nightlife, there’s plenty of options all over the island. Having already gotten our party fix in with the lunar

Neon lights and Buddhist monks.

nonsense, we opted for the more relaxed side of Koh Pha-Ngan’s nightlife for our other nights there. One night, we attended a Muay Thai boxing event featuring seven different bouts. With both Thai and foreign boxers, as well as an announcer who explained the customs and rituals of Muay Thai in English, it was both an entertaining and informative event. Another night, we stumbled upon what can only be described as a Buddhist carnival. With Buddhist monks performing a spiritual service inside a small tent, the surrounding area was full of carnival games and snacks. With a huge crowd of locals, it was nice to see what the natives of Koh Pha-Ngan like to do for fun in the evenings.

Although some jaded travelers may talk about how islands such as Koh Tao and Koh Pha-Ngan have been “ruined” as a result of their development, they are still beautiful places with so much to see and do. While it is true that modern day backpackers won’t be able to recreate “The Beach” while visiting Thailand, the Gulf Coast islands still have a lot to offer. From lazy days in the water and on the sand, to adventures out on the hiking trails, to strolling around the various markets, to munching on delicious, mouth-numbingly spicy Thai food, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of my stay on these two lovely Thai islands.

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.