About Koh Phangan
Koh Phangan is located in Suratthani province in the Southern Gulf of Thailand and is part of the group of islands that make up the Samui Archipelago; a group of over 40 islands fashioned in granite from age old igneous formations. The provincial capital is also called Suaratthani and acts as the main overland transport hub for the islands. Koh Phangan is 70kms from the mainland and approximately 12km away from Koh Samui which acts as the main airlink to Koh Phangan.
History and Facts
Koh Phangan has aways been a beautiful and spiritual place for the Thai people, it has been visited by no less than four Kings of Thailand; with the Great Rama V coming over 10 times, leaving his royal seal engraved on a rock at Thaan Sadet Waterfall; and the current King Bhumibol following in his footsteps. The island was uninhabited until about 600 years ago when passing monks realized its tranquility and spiritual importance and settled in Wat Phu Khao Noi just outside Thongsala. It is Thailand's fifth biggest island and has an area of 167km. Thus over 90% of Phangan is unspoilt tropical forest; and due to its granite structure, there are several small mountains where it's possible to trek and even camp.
There is and abundance of wildlife from monkeys to birds of paradise and then there is the amazing underwater world that surrounds Koh Phangan; with over 10km of vibrant coral and 20 local dive sites. And if you have any energy after that, there is the nightlife that the island became internationally famous for, with the globally renowned Full Moon Party and weekly outdoor events in jungle and beachfront venues; not forgetting the daily session that goes off in Haad Rin.
Koh Phangan has been officially designated as a zone for economy-tourism, so is you are planning to visit make sure that you join in. There are plenty of activities such as doing a local trek up the highest mountain or beach hopping along the east coast. For those that need a bit more speed pick up a mountain bike for around 300 Baht per day.
If you have plastic or travellers cheques, there are plenty of places to get cash; the main towns of Thongsala and Haad Rin have the best selection of exchange booths and banks, who all offer similar rates. Most towns have ATMs and there are a few 7-Eleven's, supermarket and resorts with them.
Internet & Email
Koh Phangan has tons of internet shops dotted around the island which are either independent or inside the hotel; the old dial up modems are almost a thing of the past as most shops now have ADSL broadband, you will find fairly good wireless network coverage around Koh Phangan and Samui.
Koh Phangan Hospital near Thongsala has a good standard of care but lacks facilities, there is an X-ray machine, excellent motorbike wound repair and a weekly dental clinic, but should really be considered as your family doctor and not as fully equipped as Thai hospitals can be. Koh Samui offers several choices if you need good care and the Koh Phangan Hospital will quickly hand over cases they can't handle whilst arranging a speedboat if necessary. If it is not too serious then there are numerous clinics around the island; three good choices being the Bandon Inter Clinic and Haad Rin Inter Clinic both in Haad Rin, or the Phangan Medical Center by Bangkok Hospital in Baan Tai. Bigger Hospitals are available on Koh Samui and also in Suratthani.
Koh Phangan also has a rescue service kindly by a group of volunteers to help in any kind of medical emergency. The staff are trained at the Narenthorn EMS Center to be skilled in dealing with common life threatening events, such as motorbike accidents. In the unfortunate circumstance that there is fatality the Rescue service will help by providing support and guidance, contact friends are family, while also dealing with the police and hospital. The service is free and open 24 hours a day, entirely run on donation and kind of offering is wholeheartedly appreciated. Contact the Rescue service on 077-377500, 077-377194 or 08-1698-9493 (Khun Lek).
There are currently no Tourist Police officers on Koh Phangan, so if you have exeperienced a crime and want too make a report, it is beast to go to the Police Station near Thongsala, where there are English speaking officers ready to make an official record. If you need assistance at the Full Moon Party, there are volunteers on the beach. For more information contact the Samui Office on 077-421281 or the Hotline on 1155.
Danger & Annoyances
Koh Phangan is very safe place where most troubles are self inflicted; with drink driving and drug arrests the biggest problem makers. Motorbike accidents are fairly common; the unsightly scar has become known as a “Koh Phangan Tattoo” so you should always wear a helmet and shoes; most of the roads here are concrete now so they are crucial, jeans and jacket are advisable. If you are inexperienced rider, be careful on sandy corners and do not attempt the hills of Haad Rin or Thong Nai Pan. Taxis and rental jeeps are cheap, especially if you hire one in a group!
My advice is don't be tempted by drugs; this island has had a bad reputation for a long time and the open taking of drugs is not tolerated. Thailand has also had a crackdown and the police are very hot on stopping the problem. The days are gone when you could buy your way out for a few dollars and the penalties in Thailand are harsh to say the least – expect a hefty fine and possibly an extended jail term if caught. Theft in uncommon, but if it does happen go to the police station near Thongsala town and get a report for your insurance. Always leave your valuables in the resort safe (especially at FMP) and do not give opportunists the chance, as most theft is through an open bungalow window or from the front basket on the motorbike.
Thailand it is polite to be wear that the following behaviours are considered rude and will reflect badly on other tourists:
- Don't touch the head of older people, as the head is believed to be the most sacred part of the body.
- Don't step across the body Thai people sitting or lying on the floor.
- Don't disrespect or talk badly about the King and Royal Family.
- Always take off shoes before entering into a Thai house or Buddhist Temple.
- Don't wear a only bikini or swim-suit in the town or while walking around in public places.
- Generally Thai women are conservative. So do not touch without their consent.