A Backpackers Paradise: Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand

by The Runaway Guide on October 7, 2012

Pork sandwiches, lush coconut filled jungles, bath warm beaches, cheap pad thai and sticky mango rice, legendary parties, skooter mania, beautiful Thai ladies and not to mention lady boys ><, Chang beer, Seven Elevens, and island life makes Koh Pha Ngan (Ko Pan Yang) one of the coolest places on earth (not an overstatement).

Even 6 months after my latest trip there, I still often find myself entranced by delightful day dreams of skootering to the beach while snacking on a pork sandwich. It is the epitome of exotic island life and you can feel it from the moment you arrive.

Whether you want to get gloriously drunk with overly aroused backpackers or take in the mountain like tropical clouds on a barren beach, Koh Pha Ngan provides it all.  It is without a doubt a backpackers paradise.

History of Koh Pha Ngan (Ko Pan Yang)

backpackers in walking down the beach in koh phangan thailand

In the mid 1970’s, at the height of the hippie era, a few wandering nomads set off in search of an island paradise. They had grown tired of the bustle of Bangkok and the overcrowded beaches of Phuket, and wanted to find a place off the beaten path. After hearing of the local vacation island known as “Co Fangan”, they decided to check it out for themselves. They hit the Jackpot!

Koh Pha Ngan was just what they were looking for, a secluded retreat, miles from the mainland, filled with natural edibles, and most importantly a place to get their drug enhanced free love and moon god worship on. Thus the infamous Full Moon Party was born.

Since then, the word quickly spread. And today, Koh Pha Ngan has become a regular stop on the SE Asia backpacking trail. However, despite the mass of backpackers that converge each full moon, the island manages to remain relatively quaint and local.

The Full Moon Party

thai whiskey buckets on had rin beach in thailand

There is no party, other than perhaps the half moon party (the jungle rave), that’s as life altering as the Full Moon Party. Countless backpackers, myself included, have drank the buckets, spit fire and become totally engulfed by the debaucherous atmosphere of this insane beach party. Did I mention waking up in a random hotel room?

From mid day till the morning after, the beach is ablaze with booming beats, buckets of Thai whiskey mixed with Red Bull, and backpackers looking to escape their minds and have an epic night of partying. The party takes place on Had Rin beach during the full moon of every month. However, no matter what moon it is, there is always a party going on. Even if you’re not the partying type, this is definitely an experience not to be missed.

Other Cool Things to Do

riding scooters to the seven eleven in thailand

One of my favorite things about this island are its awesome coastal roads and cheap scooter rentals (5$/day). There are countless beaches and jungle paths to explore. You can head downtown to the street market and pick up sticks of pork or head into the jungle for some home made coconut ice-cream. You can visit one of the wildlife sanctuary’s and ride an elephant or just hang out with a monkey. And when your beat from a long day, you can chill out in your hammock with a beer and a book.

Where to Stay

Another thing I love about this island are it’s bungalows. For around 5 bucks you can get yourself a simple bungalow. And for as little as 20$ you can live it up in a fully loaded beach front bungalow. Remember, you can always bargin prices down especially if it’s the low season and you stay multiple nights.

One of my favorite places to stay is in the secluded north west at a resort called Wattana. Not only is it one of the cheapest, but the staff is friendly, the kitchen cooks amazing food (the pork sanwhich), the beach is practically private, and you can always sneak into the pool at the resort next door.

How to Get to Koh Pha Ngan

backpacker girls riding a ferry to koh pha ngan thailand

If you live in North or South America, or Europe, getting to Koh Pha Ngan unfortunately isn’t cheap. However, it also isn’t as expensive as you might think. From New York or London, you can generally find round trip flights to Thailand during the low season for around 1000$.

Once you arrive, head to the infamous Khoa San road and book a hostel for a night. It’s not the most relaxing place to get over jet lag but its a backpacker mecca. When you’re ready to head south, there are two ways to get to the island.

The first way is to take a flight from Bangkok to Ko Samui for around 100$. From there you can catch a cab for 8 dollars, and then a 1 hour ferry for about 10 dollars.

The second way takes much longer but is considerably cheaper and more adventurous. Take a cheap bus from Bangkok airport to the central bus station. From there you can book a night bus to Don Sak for around 30$. Once you arrive, book the slow ferry for around 10$ to Koh Pha Ngan. Although it takes around 3 hours, it is one of the most magical rides in the world. As you depart the port, a massive hillside white Buddha bids you safe journey.  Then you can buy Chang beer on board, socialize with local Thais and other backpackers, and soak in the scenery.

When To Go

If you’re on a budget and want to avoid the crowds,  the best time of year to go to Koh Pha Ngan is from April to June. However, these months are usually the hottest with an average temperature of  93 F or 34C. Fortunately, since this is the beginning of the rainy season, you will generally experience refreshing mid day showers.

No matter what time of year you go, you are going to have fun. Everything is wonderfully cheap and delicious, and everyone is looking to have a good time. Check out the video below for a short glimpse of backpacker paradise.

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