13.7563° N, 100.5018° E
One of the things I’m always interested in is WHY someone visits the place they do.
Often times, it because it’s part of the backpacker’s circle known for a good party or somewhere famous like Rome or Angkor Wat where you go for the history.
There are a million sights to see, and obviously we’ll keep making trips to see touristic places like Dubrovnik, (coming soon! we head to Europe tomorrow, Get ready Scotland, Amsterdam, Ireland, Italy, Croatia, and Iceland!) but some of our favorite places are the more remote places you hear about via word of mouth.
Ending up on Koh Phangan for a month is one of those luckily coincidences for us.
Going off the reputation of Koh Phangan we most likely would have skipped it. The majority of travel blogs have made Koh Phangan famous for their monthly Full Moon Parties, yet very few write about the many secluded coves on the more remote areas of Koh Phangan.
We ended up on the mostly quiet beach of Haad Tien for me to attend my Ashtanga Vinyasa All Yoga Thailand Teacher training. Over a year ago on a rainy night in Bali, Tom introduced me to the movie The Beach. Our love for Bali and the curiosity The Beach inspired to see Thailand planted a seed in my head that we would be coming back to SE Asia. When I was looking for a vinyasa teacher training the main criteria I set was that it be in Thailand.
Little did I know the teacher training I found would be on our own mellow, yet beautiful version of the beach.
Just like Richard, Françoise, and Étienne take a crazy journey to get to their beach; getting to Haad Tien is quite an adventure itself.
From Bangkok we booked the famous Thai joint ticket (plane, bus, and ferry) to get to Koh Phangan. Taking a 2 week detour to Koh Tao first, we arrived at the ferry terminal in Thong Sala a little skeptical of what the Thai Islands had to offer.
Stepping off the ferry we were immediately in a completely different universe than Koh Tao. Where Koh Tao had the wanna be feel of a resort, there was something a little grittier about Koh Phangan. I appreciated that there were taxis waiting to scoop me off to the hotel who paid them the most.
Our taxi driver quickly brought us just south of Thong Sala to the Morning Star Resort. Within minutes of being on the island we already had a bungalow with aircon for 600 baht (less than half of what we found on Koh Tao.)
We stayed one night in Thong Sala to take advantage of the weekend market and some street food before hiring a taxi to take us to Haad Rin to hire a taxi boat to take us to Haad Tien.
Haad Rin is THE BEACH where the famous full moon party takes place each month. Once a month the place supposedly becomes packed, (We chose to skip the full moon party the month we were there.) but on any other Saturday morning the place is dead.
Our taxi dropped us off a block from the beach and when we asked where the taxi boat office was he simply waved his hand. We soon found out that means you have to walk down the beach looking for a taxi boat driver. The ride with a full boat is 300 baht ($10) a person one way so unless you want to pay double you have to wait for the boat to fill. We sat around for about 30 min before enough people had wandered onto the beach.
We arrived on a windy day and I’d be lying if I told you the ride from Haad Rin to Haad Tien wasn’t one of the scariest boat rides of my life. I spent the entire 15 minutes clinging to my bag, afraid it or myself might bounce off. The adrenaline rush continued right up till the end when the boat sped up as we neared the rocky shore to make it through the narrow opening onto the beach.
The driver quickly threw our bags down on the ground and was off leaving us on this random beach with only small dilapidated shacks in sight. Having been told to head to Beam Bungalows we followed the signs up the hill. The 400 Baht a night bungalows didn’t quite do it for us so we splurged and stayed at the bay’s Hippy Haven Resort AKA The Sanctuary Spa. Our first room was a gorgeous open air apartment suite with only 3 walls, so we got to look straight into the jungle as we were falling asleep. Being a little spendy ($60) and a trek from the main area of the resort, after a couple relaxing days we decided to move to an ocean view bungalow ($50) for the remainder of our stay. It was the most expensive accommodations we’ve had of the trip, but at the time we didn’t even blink an eye as we were so excited to have a place to call home for 26 days–our longest stay since we got married in Aug 2013!
I was pretty distracted most days with my yoga teacher training, but Tom would fill me in on the conversations and sights he’d overhear in the Sanctuary Cafe as he took calls and carried on business as usual.
When I showed up at lunch it would be normal for Tom to be wrapping up conversations with other traveling entrepreneurs and/or writers. With the smell of ganja in the air we’d wait for our spinach and feta omelettes with tofu sausage while watching kids chase after cats and ladies sunbathe topless on the beach. It’s not uncommon to hear the person next to you talk about the crystal class they took the other day or the walk through the labyrinth they were planning for full moon. It was hard to drag myself off to yoga each afternoon after the invitations to take part in the beach Olympics or hula hoop dance the afternoon away. (Please read my sarcasm. I’d much rather do yoga than walk through labyrinths with my hula hoop.)
Seriously though, you could people watch all day and we did meet some really cool people as well.
If people watching isn’t your thing, there were few enough people to ignore everyone else and just take in the beauty of the bay. Sunrises were spectacular and we were lucky enough while we were there to catch a very rare red moon.
Haad Yuan just to the west of Haad Tien is the slightly more commercial area of the bay. While not much bigger than Haad Tien, it did have the biggest mini mart in the area and a total of 4 resorts!
Just East of Haad Tien was the most eclectic of the beaches, Why Nam. Why Nam only has 1 resort, but draws the hippiest of the hippies. Home to some amazing vegetarian food and the prettiest beach of the 3, I can see why it draws the crowd it does. We yogis rounded out the hula hoopers and fire jugglers the days we headed over to muck around.
Koh Phangan may have been a little quirky, but I couldn’t have imagined a better place to attend a yoga teacher training. Between the 3 beaches we had everything we needed and most of the time we didn’t even leave the Sanctuary. The Sanctuary only serves fish and vegetarian dishes, yet this carnivorous couple found ourselves craving the delicious and filling vegetarian meals. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten at a restaurant that serves as many veggies with each dish!
Don’t worry, the Sanctuary didn’t convert us into crazy health nuts. To balance out all that healthy eating, we often indulged in one of the Sanctuary’s amazing desserts, most of which were gluten free.
On the rare occasion when we were sick of our staples at the Sanctuary we had our pick of 4 other great choices.
Beam: The cheapest food on the island, but just because it was cheap doesn’t mean it wasn’t good!
Bamboo: The most authentic Thai food and the best view!
Big Blue: For their nightly movies.
Spice: For some fancy Thai Fusion and amazing Chocolate Lava Cake.
My yoga teacher training was basically all day 6 days a week, so we didn’t have a ton of free time to explore. On the rare day off, we enjoyed taking the water taxi to bigger beaches to stock up on cash (there is no atm on Haad Tien and every business is cash only!) and/or shop for fun tie-dyed treasures. The few days we had to just chill and get to know our new friends were so relaxing and calm I can see why people come and stay here as long as they do.
Overall Haad Tien was perfect place for Tom and I both to dive into our passions for 26 days. I got to spend day in and day out mucking around with 24 yogis just as passionate about yoga as I am. While I was busy working on my handstands, Tom got some much needed time to write his latest book and create the SOP’s necessary to expand his rapidly growing business.
While our version of The Beach was nowhere near as dark as the movie, we had a similar abrupt ending. Following teacher training graduation, the majority of us boarded 2 water taxis and journeyed to Koh Samui on the stormiest of days. Thanks to a handful of garbage bags our luggage stayed dry, but we weren’t quite as lucky. Bags checked and a clothing change later we were moving on to the next adventure leaving Haad Tien like it was all a dream.
From Koh Phangan we headed straight to Phuket where I was hosting my first yoga retreat! Stay tuned for some more on that!
Tomorrow we take our adventures to Scotland. Get ready for more Morki fun, as we pick up Mary Morkes for 2 weeks of European Adventures!
Until I have time to write about, leave us a comment and let us know what you think of Koh Phangan?