Sunday, December 17, 2006

Ko Phangan updated

Last visited March 2017

Dusk shot from balcony of budget bungalow, Bottle Beach One, Had Khuad, north Phangan.

The Hat Rin peninsula, south-east corner of Phangan. Hat Rin East (Sunrise) is the main beach. Hat Rin Sunset is across the peninsula to the left. The smaller beach left side partly concealed by the near headland is Leela Beach. The south coast stretches away towards the top - Ban Khai is about half-way along, Ban Tai a bit further. The beach on the far right is Hat Yuan (image Creative Commons-Manfred Werner)

Hat Rin bottom right, Thong Nai Pan top right, Than Sadet mid right, Mae Had top left (Koh Maa on map), Had Salad just below Mae Had (image
A full sized version can be seen here.

Some of the places mentioned on this page.




HAD RIN EAST (Had Rin Noi/Had Rin Sunsrise)
Don't let anyone tell you THE PARTY VENUE, Had Rin East ,isn't a gorgeous beach. And it's become a whole lot nicer in recent years with a big swimming enclosure which keeps out the water craft.
It never gets too shallow to swim, plus there is now a daily detailing by these guys....

The nicest parts of Had Rin East are the center and northern end - behind the camera is not as attractive. Some very competitive restaurants/bars back the beach - they set up candlelit tables on the sand at night.

Despite the moans of the traditionalists this beach is not shabby at all - white white sand which is very clean , clear water which is not too shallow a short distance out and some nice shade from trees in back of beach particularly towards this northern end. Budget beachfront bungalows out of frame to the right - more high on the headland behind camera with some pretty cool restaurant/bars. On the passing ferry from Than Sadet to Samui I also noticed some cool not too expensive looking headland bungalows above the seaside rocks out of frame to left, far end of the beach (if you click-expand the shot top of page you can see some of them) - it would be maybe a 10 minute walk from these to central Hat Rin and the beach. Note the relative lack of people on the beach at prime 1100 sunning time in Phangan's second high season (because of the better weather, Phangan/Samui/Tao tend to have an August high season almost as busy as Christmas/January).

Bungalows on the sand - Had Rin East. These are at the far northern end (turn left on reaching the beach). I think they are called Sea View.

You don't have to wait for the Full Moon Party for a fire twirler show - this can be seen on many beaches most nights (image ASIAEXPLORERS

UPDATE MARCH 2017 - I noticed some new high end bungalows going in on the hill above the south end of the beach. Apparently these are being developed by the same company that runs Leela Beach's COCOHUT VILLAGE - but according to a staff member they will be listed as a new resort when opened.
If you click-expand you will better see the ones on the crest of the hill  (the development continues on the LEELA BEACH side. Crest units have great views back over towards SAMUI besides West Had Rin in this direction.
CAVEAT - all the above will suffer NOISE big time during the party. As a matter of fact LAST BAR just out of frame to the right has very noisy music until 0200 many non full moon party nights.

Had Rin East from high on the southern headland. There are some nice budget/flashpacker accommodation places up here - maybe 10 mins walk to town: not too steep

HAD RIN WEST (Had Rin Noi/Had Rin Sunset)
A one km long strip of sand starts immediately west of the small harbour at the foot of Had Rin town's cross isthmus shopping street and finishes where those rugged hills dive directly into the sea less than 2 km from Ban Khai on the central southern coast. The eastern third of this beach is Had Rin West - the rest is known as Ao Hin Lor.
From the other (western) end - Had Rin headland in the background. This beach is not a touch on Had Rin Sunrise - sand narrower, not as white and the whole length suffers badly the low tide blues. Less clean in parts too - there are resorts of all manner along here - less continuous/more midrange/newer close to the camera where they range up the steep hillside with magnificent views across to Ko Samui. Google Blue Hill Resort and Tanou Garden Bungalow. Most of the higher end places manicure the beach but some lesser places give this a miss. Closer to Had Rin some mangroves make progress difficult towards full tide. Old time visitors will be surprised by how some of the traditional places closer to Had Rin have updated over the years - maybe they could google Coral Bungalows....
....Coral has a nice and not small elevated pool the other side of the entrance. They hold Phangan's biggest pool party about a week after the Full Moon Party - I have seen shots: looks like a good way to let off steam. I like that sign at right of image - FREE POOL ENTRY and those HAPPY HOUR prices seem lower than normal.

Had Rin area beaches - modified oblique Google Earth image

Leela is my favourite Had Rin beach - nice sand, never crowded, a couple of nice midrange joints, one budget and (around on the eastern rocks) one budget/flashpacker. And it's far enough from Had Rin East that the noise on FMP night should not worry most people.

Leela ain't a nudist haunt like the old days. It is a little too built on for overexposure. Nevertheless, it is a very laid back beach, uncrowded even on the nicest days, has nice sand which gets a bit narrow at highest tide, and good swimming except at lowest tide when lots of rocks just below surface make this difficult, although it is still dead easy to find a sandy spot to sit in or splash around and is ideal for fossickers .

Leela is on the sunset side of the Hat Rin peninsula, east of the harbour and fairly close to the SE corner of the island. You can reach its western end in about 5 minutes from the end of the Hat Rin East main street (take the stairs and follow the sign to Coconuts) or the far eastern end in a little more than ten (follow the signs from the top of the stairs up the dirt road to Leela Beach Bungalows). So Leela is a good alternative to Hat Rin East for people wanting to stay on a nice and much quieter beach.

I stayed a little further past the beach at a place lauded in a Thorntree post, LIGHTHOUSE RESORT which is accessed by taking a wooden walkway for about 300m over the rocks from the far eastern end of Leela. “Lighthouse” gives the impression it’s on top of the headland but this resort starts on the seaside rocks and rises to about half way up the steep hillside. Nevertheless, a great location, almost on the SE corner of the island with nice views across to Samui (sensational views from the higher 800 baht bungalows especially at night when the lights came out).Wooden walkway to Lighthouse Resort with Leela Beach in background. The restaurant of Leela Bay Bungalows is the first building on the beach. (image Lighthouse Resort)

Those dearer bungalows were pretty big and looked fine. But I have to say my 200baht bungalow (outside bathroom) was a dump - its 15 degree lateral list beat a 10 degree longitudinal dip, it was pokey with a three quarter size bed and barely enough room for two people’s gear, it wasn’t very clean, had advanced wood rot in the roof beams and the veranda beam at the top of the stairs was so low it scalped me first time. The super steep stairways in several places through the grounds had PVC water pipes across the air gaps. On the plus side, the outside bathrooms for the cheapies were reasonable, the restaurant food was good if a little overpriced compared to really good value bungalow restaurants and the service was quick if unsmiling (at least from the female side - the blokes were pleasant enough).

Lighthouse Resort - good views across to Samui from just about all bungalows (image Lighthouse Bungalows)

UPDATE AUGUST 2009 - I rechecked Lighthouse latest trip. The place seems little changed. The more expensive bungalows still look pretty sweet and as can be seen from the shot below, the obstacle course to some of the cheaper bungalows was still present.My elcheapo bungalow from the 2006 trip had not fallen down - closer inspection showed a fair bit of new woodwork. This is a 2009 shot.
If I were looking for a cheapie in this area I’d try LEELA BEACH BUNGALOWS which had a lot of 300 baht (with bathroom attached) places up the back row. They looked okay in a pretty pleasant setting, maybe a little close together. LBB was putting in new beachside bungalows in March, which looked like they were to be aircon. Nice position - absolute beach-front.
One downside may be this outfit’s two dogs, who got over-exited from terrorizing a beach jogger and then decided to harass all passers-by. Maybe not such a good idea when one of those passers-by was a dog-hating Orstrayan with his really big bush stick.

For people looking for a nice midranger on the beach close to Hat Rin main street, COCO HUTS on Leela looked pretty nice to me. They have a pool.
UPDATE - LEELA BEACH BUNGALOWS was not operating when I revisited in August 09. But when I called in in June 2010 it was open. No sign of the pesky dogs.
COCO HUT had also been redeveloped and has headed upmarket from lower midrange.
Adjacent is a new midrange place with some less expensive bungalows up the back - SARIKANTANG. Check Google for plenty of websites and reviews.

UPDATE - in 2015 I stayed at SARIKANTANG with Lady Tezza. Pretty nice place.
SARIKANTANG buffet. I stay budget most trips but when Lady T comes along we often head upmarket. Buffets like this remind me how bankrupt the average Thai budget bungalow breakfast is. Apart from international resorts like this, I'm convinced Thais just don't get breakfast - at least in the western sense.

Out front the Leela Beach post sunset was not shabby.

2009 shot of Leela Beach from the western Coco Hut end. Lighthouse Bungalows are out of sight around the headland at the far end (click to expand pix)

UPDATE 2010 - Low tide shot - still some nice bits deep enough to sit in between lumps of almost exposed coral. Lack of people indicates low season nature of June - compounded by impact of Thai political trouble and world financial crisis.

Leela - same time, opposite end.

Taking it easy on Leela

UPDATE MARCH 2017 - I decided to stay a few nights at LEELA BEACH BUNGALOWS. Worked out a bit tricky because the place has been bought by COCO HUTS (now calling itself COCOHUT VILLAGE) - the eastern third of the bungalows have been knocked down and a new joint is about 60% finished - gonna be called THE CABIN RESORT or similar.
In the mean time COCOHUT is still letting out the remaining LLB places but seems to be hopelessly disorganised (their RESERVATIONS MANAGER didn't even know LLB had a website - no wonder my emails were unanswered, She also took up to a day to work out if a bungalow was vacant) and seems to be content to let the bungalows deteriorate until demolition which can't be too long in the future (no one could give me an approx date). My 1000baht beachfront aircon bungalow was in the worst condition of any of the hundreds of Thai places I've stayed over the years, and its replacement, a 600b fan job was not much better.
Whoa!! Call Roger the repairman.

This nice strip of sand (back-ground) about 400m along Had Rin Easts northern headland is apparently accessed via a rainforest track which runs from the high bungalows above Had Rin Easts north end. In July 2013 I failed to find the start at the Had Rin end - I'd just climbed across the mountains behind to Had Yuan/Thian taking over 4 hours return and had injured my foot, plus bungalow places in the likely area had signs up about 2000baht fine for non-guests (probably a response to all the dead beats prowling around on FMP nights) so I gave it a miss after a while. However.....
I later got this shot from the longtail on the way back from Had Thian. That building behind the right end of the beach appeared to be half finished and abandoned.

As for HAD RIN itself - I like it. The town has heaps of restaurants, shops and services (people who haven’t ventured down through Western Hat Rin for some years will be astounded by development here).
And for one of the best people watching places anywhere, grab a beer from the corner store fridge at the “crossroads” in HR East main street and watch the passing parade.

Crossroads mid Hat Rin Main Street and cross isthmus road (left)/mid beach access lane (right). My favourite corner store at left - Chicken Corner. Order a chicken burger, grab a cheap beer and sit watching the passing parade. This August (high season) 2009 shots shows fewer people than normal - the World Financial Crisis seemed to be having a bigger impact on backpackers and budget travellers than midrangers from what I could see. Not that Hat Rin was still only a backpacker/budget haunt - there was a big hotel-like development midbeach-front with a pool, and even bigger joint midway between sunrise and sunset beach, and a fair few smaller bungalow places seemed midrange. Not to mention plenty of expensive looking people tanning on the beach and hopping into speedboats to fang off on some daytrip. But hey, few sunlounges on the fine beach which I personally approve of and still plenty of budget places to stay.

JULY 2012
Wow, good old Chicken Corner shut down! Maybe the obvious upgrade from the former shot was a tad too expensive. UPDATE - open in Feb 2015
Up and running again 2017

Had Rin itself has continued to develop - more former budget joints going midrange...the place I stayed at in 2015, PARADISE BUNGALOWS, which claimed to be the site of the original Full Moon Party, now had a lovely 25m pool, a modern but not too flash hotel block and spacious aircon bungalows. BTW it is at the southern end of the beach with my bungalow in the hillside garden a bit further south. I found party noise on a non-FMP night (every night is a party night at Had Rin) did not excessively bother me - unlike when I stayed in a more central beachfront joint on a similar non FMP night in 2010. However I reckon the situation might be different at Full Moon where volume, venues and duration are amped up big time.

Another major change from early years which had continued was...
....the development of the main east-west route - this runs right across the isthmus (maybe 10 minutes beach to beach) with a few zigs from Chicken Corner to Had Rin West Harbour. It has become main street usurping the busy north-south street behind Had Rin Sunrise. Just about any type of business is along here - a really comprehensive CBD.


The beaches along the south coast of Phangan are not as nice as the east and north west, but not shabby. My first Phangan stay was in this area and I remember fine views back to Samui, water which got quite shallow at low tide and a really good shuttle of songthaews along the main road between the pier/main town Thong Sala and Hat Rin. 
I noticed in later trips that a lot of really nice midrange places have developed in places like Ban Khai, Ban Tai and Bang Charu (closer to Thong Sala) - although there are still plenty of cheapies along here - some with excellent facilities and management. A good strip for Full Moon Party goers because of the transport which runs frequently along the main south coast road. And the monthly no-moon parties (BLACK MOON) are held in Ban Tai. The above shot is taken from the just west of Ban Khai where the high road descends to sea level and the beach which runs continuously to Thong Sala in the far background starts.

South coast beaches from the western Thong Sala end. Most of this section has a flat hinterland inland from the beach which is intensively farmed for coconuts and similar. Resorts this end have good views of the rugged Ang Thong marine park islands to the right as well as Ko Samui directly ahead. The main south coast road these days is more or less a continuous strip of restaurants/bars/service businesses behind this 7km beach.
Note there are some neat little coves with nice strips of sand in the narrow section where the high mountain ridges dive to the sea between the eastern end of Ban Khai and Had Rin - quite a few have attracted one or two accommodation places, some quite high-end. 
Past this is the near-Had Rin south coast beach of Ao Hin Lor (see Had Rin section) which becomes Had Rin West.

**************** THE EAST COAST


This twin beach area is towards the north end of the east coast. Once considered a laid back retreat compared to Had Rin it now has become a good compromise area - way more relaxed than the former but with sufficient entertainment and variety of accommodation to keep most people happy. Labels may be clearer if you click image to expand.

- is a  really nice beach surrounded by rain-forested mountains, quite a lot of accommodation from basic to mid-range, some beach bars etc, but with a laid back, uncrowded feeling. There is a separate village with several small supermarkets, some restaurants and an ATM.

I’m a sucker for elevated el-cheapo bungalows with stunning views, so in March 2006 I got myself a 200 baht job at WHITE WIND, built up the steep headland hillside at the north end of the beach. What a contrast to Lighthouse! A well built, clean bungalow in good condition. Restaurant with fantastic views   - see 2nd shot below.

White Wind bungalows on the southern headland of Thong Nai Pan Yai. Tezza's cheapy is partly seen far left side just above rocks.

UPDATE August09 - I walked over from Than Sadet to recheck TNP. That's the view from White Wind's restaurant above.

White Wind had expanded in the restaurant area - this is on the top deck of the left building below. The mid and ground levels contain an internet cafe, art and tattoo studio, a store/travel agency. The small structure to the right is a bar and lounge area with some sun lounges in front. The bungalows are up and to the right, overlooking the rocks and sea. Prices were still pretty attractive - 200b small outside facility bungalows, 300 for bigger and 500 for bigger with bathrooms.

STOP PRESS - Jan 1 2011 - I just got this message from Abby:
"Wanted to let you know that White Winds on Thong Nai Pan Yai is out of business. After seeing this for ourselves, we were told that the place was being "renovated" (looked like it was becoming more upmarket and would include a spa) but I'm not sure if it still maintains the same owners."

STOP STOP PRESS - May 2012. I stayed a couple of nights on Thong Nai Pan a few weeks ago. Yep, White Wind is shut down. It has been purchased by Panviman. The bungalows were still there but vacant and the restaurant was out of action. Panviman is slowly moving around the headland - they had some new to me villas not too much more than 50m from White Wind.
Note that the beach bar in the above shot was still operating. Nice place to spend time.
I have a fair few pix and more info on my latest stay in the PHANGAN TRIP REPORT section.

The other main change in this area is that the SHORT CUT TRACK from TNP Yai to TNP Noi up thru White Wind and Panviman has been THOROUGHLY blocked off, not partially as in 2009 - you now have to take the longer road route between the beaches. 

LATEST - well things keep changing - in Feb 2015 I had little trouble finding and following the short-cut track: seems the locals are using this a fair bit between the beaches. I noticed too that Panviman has not developed the old White Wind site - they had a whole bunch on new flash units going in higher on the hill in their existing mid-headland position and seem to be uninterested in developing around the hill towards TNP Yai

This is the view of Thong Nai Pan Yai from the viewpoint constructed by Panviman Resort which straddles the headland between TNP Yai and TNP Noi. 

I saw someone bad-mouthing Panviman on Thorntree - “new headland hugging concrete monstrosity mega bungalows“- hey, looked pretty good to me and an attractive 3 day package even if the daily rate is a bit over the top (that website also shows Panviman Ko Chang - don't confuse).

- is a slightly smaller beach on the northern side of Panviman's headland. This used to be considered slightly more a backpacker hang but my latest visit confirmed that midrange and better places are becoming more established here than on TNP Yai. The small main street area has more restaurants, bars and shopping opportunities too.

Thong Nai Pan Noi. If you click to expand you can see Santhiya's little beach across the small headland from the far (northern) end of the main beach.

In early 2012  I saw a post on a travel site claiming the whole beach at Thong Nai Pan Noi had been taken over by one high-end resort. Which was a major reason for me returning to the area for a few days in April 2012.
I found "... the whole beach" is a slight exaggeration - Anantara Rasanada takes about 60%. A new high end place under construction had the southern 20%. The only survivor of the bunch of neat budget joints from the good old days was Baan Tapan which had about 15% of the north end. There are still budget joints on the inland side of the shopping restaurant street and one on the small headland between Santhiya and the main beach.

I pinched this shot off my April 2012 TRIP REPORT page to show the extent of midrange domination beachfront at TNP Noi.

This is the high end Santhiya Resort and Spa on its own little beach just 20 metres over a low headland north of TNP Noi. The last time I saw this little bay there was no sand (it was shipped in - the original beach was pebble) and the resort was less than 50% complete.
Note there is now a good path crossing the small headland near camera to the north end of the main beach, meaning Santhiya is now not isolated from some variety in restaurants, swimming etc - a complaint in early user reviews.


The biggest change I saw on both beaches was the upgrading of bungalows. There seemed to be few budget bungalows beachfront on Noi - most were upmarket jobs. And if you look closely at the near headland bungalows on the Yai Shot 4 images up you will see swimming pools which didn't exist on my first visit.

However many of the upgraded places on Yai still have some inexpensive bungalows up the back and there are a few places towards the north end like Longtail  Bungalow where I stayed in (April 2012) which are predominantly budget-flashpacker. I have details of Longtail Bungalow on the TRIP REPORT LINK a few paragraphs up this page.

As recently as a few years ago I wrote: The long road into TNP from the south coast is a little better than last time I visited, but still super steep and rutted in many places, real easy for the inexperienced to stack a motorcycle. Please take care, particularly if you have your trusting girlfriend on the pillion.
The good news is that on my April 2012 trip I found this road much better. All the super steep parts had been paved plus quite a lot more. I am an amateur motorcyclists but I now wouldn't hesitate to take a bike into Thong Nai Pan. 

Gets better - in Feb 2015 the full distance from the south coast to TNP Yai/Noi had been paved.

This section is at the just north of the roundabout where the road to Than Sadet leaves to the left - this newly paved section looks less than 3 years old and goes from about 800m the far side of the roundabout right down to Thong Nai Pan and Noi beaches. Maybe 6km behind camera. The road was in way better condition than the average Australian country paved road. Brilliant.
Heading left to Than Sadet the pavement goes for less than 1km - past there the road still needs fairly high caution in parts - say 3km.

There seems to be only two public songthaews from THONG SALA each day, but several bungalows send pick-ups to meet most ferries (you would be looking at 150-200 baht in 2009. I'd baulk at over 200 in 2012 - I did a much longer Mae Had to TNP Yai trip then for 700 including a non-share trip in an aircon pickup from Thongsala).
Water-taxi longtails will bring you up from Hat Rin East but these guys look at all farangs as a walking ATM - be prepared to bargain hard. I wouldn't go much above 600 in 2012 prices although the bozos owning the price board in the shot below wanted 1500.
The good news is the small  ferry which leaves TNP about 9am, picks up at several of the little beaches down the east coast, calls in at Hat Rin east beach and then goes on to Mae Nam on the north coast of Samui for 300-350 baht. This comes back in the afternoon (see the Than Sadet section below for more info). Latest - in April 2012 I did TNP to Than Sadet on this ferry for 150 - Than Sadet to Had Thian which is not too far north of Had Rin for 250 and Had Thian to Samui for 350.

This taxi boat price board was on display at TNP Noi beach April 2012. Prices killed me - you can click to expand but to save you time - (prices for 1 or 2 people - more people pay a slight premium: Bottle Beach and Than Sadet 600baht. Chalaoklum 1200 Had Salad 1500 Had Rin 1500. To put this into perspective a longtail dude at Chaloklum said he'd bring me around to TNP for 700 before bargaining - I reckon I could have got it for 500 without too much work. But hey, these dudes with the price board seemed happy to swank back in their beach chairs checking the farang bikini babes - the occasional windfall gain under such conditions is to them maybe way better than constant harvesting which takes them away from their beach chairs with a view. Hmm, maybe not such a dumb business plan.

Both beaches now have a reasonable shopping/restaurant street behind the beach. There are no banks but Yai has 3 ATMs, Noi  at least 1. Yai has a medical clinic.

You can walk into TNP Yai from Than Sadet on a trail considerably closer to the coast than the roads - see the opening map. This leaves Sadet about 5 minutes up the main Sadet access road just inland from the Ranger Station - follow the signs to Viewpoint Bungalows but veer left where the track to Viewpoint turns hard right uphill after another 5 minutes. This track is not for motorbikes being super rutted in sections and narrowing to a one-person rainforest path in the highest third. It dumps out adjacent the small supermarket/travel agency/motorbike hire place about midway along TNP Yai's inland main street. The track took me 55 minutes to walk - beach to beach 65 minutes. I also have modified a Google Earth image to show this page on the PHANGAN PART 2 PAGE.
You can also walk from Thong Nai Pan to lovely Bottle Beach on the north coast and if you are crazy like me, continue on to Coral Beach further west on the super steep jungle track over the mountains. You can see this route on the opening map at the top of the page too - plus I have constructed a map on the PHANGAN TRIP REPORT PAGE.

Thong Nai Pan Noi, right - TNP Yai left. That's part of high end Panviman Resort on the headland between.

Thong Nai Pan Yai from the dirt road which goes over the southern headland. This road is kinda conspicuous from the beach but please note: this is NOT the track to Had Sadet which is further inland. The above road heads south for a km or so and then takes a dive down towards the sea - no doubt terminating at some property close to the water - it was pretty rough and steep so I didn't keep going.

- is south of TNP on the east coast. This laid back beach had a surprising amount of accommodation, much built up the steep hillsides both sides of the beach, and a small waterfall about 1 km up the road with a good pool for swimming and a big rock with a small cave from where you can actually enter the pool by swimming underwater a short distance.

Mai Pen Rai, which has bungalows on the beach, riverside and hillside, gets lots of good comments on the travel forums. So on my August 2009 trip I spent quite a few days at Mai Pen Rai - report and pix on the Phangan Part 2 page.

Had Sadet aka Hat Sadet, Than Sadet from the wonderful restaurant deck of Plaa's Thansadet Resort.

I was so impressed with the above view and the food at Plaas that when I returned to Than Sadet in April 2012 I stayed a few nights there. More details in the TRIP REPORT section.

Pre-sunrise from my Plaas Than Sadet Bungalow

Had Sadet and near neighbour Had Thon Reng - the small stream with its also small waterfalls and pools runs roughly parallel to the left of the access road.

For people looking for really quiet out of the way beaches, Hat Sadet would not be a bad start, but it gets more chill along the strip south towards Hat Rin starting 5 minutes over the small headland at AO THONG RENG site of the Tree House Phangan run by the same people started Tree House Lonely Beach Ko Chang.
UPDATE JAN 2012 - I just got news that Tree House has lost the lease to their land - the lease-owners have sold out to some upmarket developers. Jeez, I was planning a couple of nights at Tree House in April.

The report was true - abandoned bungalows Thong Reng April 2012

There are a couple of seemingly deserted beaches heading south of Thong Reng. The second is Had Yao (the east coast one) which actually has a couple of small places to stay.


Starting just north of Had Rin are 3 of my favourite Thailand beaches. They offer relaxed accommodation to cover most budgets and lifestyles (even got something for the new-agers) and are linked by not too difficult headland tracks.

Tiny HAD WAI NAM on the lower east coast. One bungalow place here - the laid back Wai Nam Hut with budget and flashpacker accommodation - much of it up the slopes behind the beach and on the southern headland. Yoga classes available. 3 minutes across the far headland is the equally attractive beach of Had Thian East.
Wai Nam is a bit rocky on entering the water at low tide but no problems other times. Reasonably good coral in north end of bay closest camera to the right out of frame.

HAD THIAN (east coast) is the new-agers' beach with funky The Sanctuary Resort (flashpacker thru midrange plus a dorm) with its rehab and personal development courses and wonderful restaurant in the corner of the beach, plus another 4 budget into flashpacker places including Horizon Hut with bungalows high on the southern headland adjacent camera (and a kick-boxing school), and the very good value Beam in a great garden setting about 200m behind the beach where I stayed in June 2010 - more info/pix on the second Phangan page.
No problems with rocks or water depth on most of the beach low tide - a nice sunbathing platform mid bay out of shot and surprisingly good coral north end, the beach end of which you can see half way across shot.
Lots more Thian info/pix on the PHANGAN PART 2 PAGE. 10 minutes walk behind the camera is the bigger but still attractive Had Yuan (east coast)

UPDATE - Thian and its two neighbouring beaches have become my favourite region in Thailand so I made a point of staying a few nights at THE SANCTUARY in July 2013. I'll put more details in the TRIP REPORT section when I get a chance.

HAD YUAN (east coast one) is only a few minutes longtail ride from Had Rin and has become a sort of overflow beach for that area. However it is a very attractive beach with white sand, deep water all tides and wide range of accommodation. Nearest camera on the northern headland are some budget/flashpacker places with great views, down on the beach are nearly a dozen flashpacker into midrange and midrange+ joints, and if you click to expand the shot you will see a wooden walkway along the far headland with some very funky budget/flashpacker places built on the rocks.
There is a walking track over that far headland which is supposed to start behind Big Blue on the beach but I could not find it and locals there didn't have a clue. And a new road which I believe is pretty rough meaning most travellers still access via longtail from Had Rin.
I'm penciling in this beach for my next Phangan visit. It's a nice one.

This trio of interlocked beaches - Had Yuan, Had Thian and Had Wai Nam - were by 2012 just about my favourite Thailand location. So I made a point of staying at Had Yuan on my Phangan crawl in April/May 2012. More info and pix on Yuan on the PHANGAN TRIP REPORT PAGE.

Trekkers crossing from adjacent Had Thian move down past Bamboo Hut's restaurant towards Had Yuan beach May 2012

UPDATE MARCH 2017 - I got back to what I now regard as my favourite Thailand beach area - stayed at THE SANCTUARY in a DORM (my first ever in Thailand) and at the seaward end of Had Yuan at CLUB BAR EXCHANGE. \
Longhouse dorm at the SANCTUARY one of the cleanest and most spacious I've stayed at - and I have used hundreds of dorms over the past 30 years.


Lovely sheltered beach on the east end of the north coast. Nice white sand, water not too shallow at low tide although it does take some distance to deepen. 4 relaxed accommodation places here with ranging from budget into midrange - Bottle Beach 1 and 3, Bottle Beach 2 (Had Khuad Resort) and the well regarded Smile. I stayed at Bottle Beach 1 in June 2010 - got a beachfront budget room right on the sand for 400b - despite low season, pretty good value for a joint with a lovely pool. More details on the Phangan Page 2.
This used to be a difficult beach to get into with access only by longtail from Chalok Lum 20 minutes around the far headland. This has improved slightly so that Bottle Beach's bungalows in busy times now bring in guests by 4 wheel drive vehicles over the long rough mountain track north of Thong Nai Pan. The last few km of this track is too steep and rough for all but skilled motorcyclists. Having used this road and the longtail, I much prefer the latter.
This pic is shot from the viewpoint east of the beach which you can climb in about 30m - very steep in some sections, moderately steep in others. There is an equally steep track over the far headland to Coral Beach (Had Khom - see shots below) - one way you are looking at an hour.
Notice Ko Tao on the far horizon.
There are a lot more info and pix on Bottle Beach on the Phangan Part 2 page and in the TRIP REPORTS section.

This is how it looked I first visited. Pretty sweet - and with 4 very relaxed budget/flashpacker resorts.

I returned in June 2010 and you can see dead low tide sure makes a difference to the place. Nevertheless Coral Beach gets very good posts from travellers and it's one I intend to stay at in the future.
Access to Coral Beach is now very good. From the west the track from Chaloklum is now a concrete road for several km and ends just past the beach where the walking track over the headland to Bottle Beach begins. There are steepish access roads from the concrete road into the bungalows.

The mountain between Bottle and Coral Beaches isn't quite as formidable as this oblique image implies (I cranked up the vertical exaggeration a bit too much) but it does give a good workout - I have done the trip each way 3 times now - look for around 80-100 minutes beach to beach.


This fishing town is in the middle of a large bay in Phangan's north. The town itself despite the two busy piers is pretty laid back with a good range of shops, restaurants and services and tends to attract long term travellers with some inexpensive places to stay at. The beach is not too hot close to town but at both ends of the bay it gets pretty nice, despite the water getting very shallow at low tide. There are some very nice resorts both ends - a bigger range at the western end.
This pic was actually shot off the dining terrace of Coral Bay Bungalow - the pic two shots up was snapped from its eastern bungalows. Good shot to click-expand.

These ladies were busy cleaning the night's squid catch near Chaloklum's pier. This is a good town for seafood restaurants. Quite a few bungalow places east of the pier behind camera and a couple of nice ones towards the far end of the beach in shot.

Oblique Google Earth of Chaloklum area from the east. The beachside area the near side of the pier has a range of budget/flashpacker places. The sandy area in the far west is less settled - has half a dozen or so flashpacker into lower midrange joints. As can be seen this area suffers the low tide blues, but is still pretty pleasant.


Had Mae, Had Salad and Had Yao (west coast) in the north west.

Another place which caught my eye on my very first visit was TT poster and Phangan resident girllrig’s favourite non-TNP location, MAE HAD (Hat Mae, Mae Haad), a nice smaller beach (TT says the beach “isn’t fantastic”. Well technically that’s right, but it’s pretty nice) on the n.w corner of the island, with good swimming away from lowest tide, some good coral near a small offshore island, about half a dozen bungalow places, but not too crowded. This seemed to have mainly young Euro couples and families staying. Between the boat trip and the motorcycle I visited three times, including a great sunset last evening while using up time waiting for the night ferry. I have done a bit of research on less expensive places to stay for my future trips. Wang Sai resort on the slopes overlooking the beach and with the restaurant beach-side has had good posts in the past. I have used the restaurant which was standard Thai budget type - tasty and inexpensive.
The other place which appealed to me was Ko Ma Resort - some budget bungalows on tiny Ko Ma which is joined to Mae Hat beach by a spit of sand. At high tide there is a boat shuttle.

MAE HAD from the sand-spit leading out to tiny Ko Ma Panoramio-The Globetrotter

On my April 2012 crawl around Phangan I finally got to stay at Mae Had - beachfront cottage at Mae Had View - laid back place on a laid back beach. More info in the TRIP REPORTS section.
I also found Mae Had like most Phangan beaches now has some more upmarket accommodation.

HAD SALAD is the next beach south of Mae Had. Really nice location with mainly midrange accommodation these days. Lots more info/pix on the Phangan Part 2 page.

Hat Yao (the west coast one) was similar to the present Mae Had when I first visited in ‘97. Now it is fully built up, with a big array of bungalows, restaurants/beach bars, dive centers etc. Nevertheless, it is still an attractive place. Hat Yao (west coast), low tide August 2009. It gets a bit shallow here on the low tide, like most west coast beaches. Sand is white, water clean, lots of accommodation in all price ranges on the beachfront, the headlands each end and in the small township along the main beach road behind. A fair few bars/restaurants meaning some good nightlife without being over the top like Hat Rin.

UPDATE JULY 2013 - I had called in at Had Yao plenty of times but never stayed there so for the first 2 nights of my latest Phangan visit I booked Shiralea Backpackers', a good value place 3 minutes stroll from the beach with excellent expat staff. One caveat - the place can get a bit lively and may not suit those who like a quiet time.

Phangan Part 2 has some extra info/pix of both Mae Had, Had Salad and it's near neighbour, Had Yao West.


There's a bunch of nice beaches starting just south of Had Yao.

This small attractive beach is immediately south of Had Yao. This is shot from the main coastal road and is looking north-west towards the attractive Haad Son Resort - decidedly midrange. There are some nice elevated roadside joints along here too like Sea Garden Resort.
Had son looking south. A couple of beachside budget places for you walk-in travelers.

A short distance south of Had Son the coastal road descends behind this beach. It's not a bad stretch of sand with some nice mainly flashpacker/lower midrange places lining it. It does seem to be pretty shallow someway offshore at low tide. There is a cool bar at the far southern end, but I didn't like the looks of its giant speakers from the point of view of nearby quietness at night.

 A small section of rocks separates this from Ao Chao Phao. This is the less developed, more budget oriented part of Srithanu. Behind is Laem Son Lake or Lake Srithanu. Around the far corner is.....
....SRITHANU MAIN (my name) - a nice section of manicured beach with mainly flashpacker accommodation. A couple of nice budget joints behind the camera. The sea here also suffers the low tide blues. About 100m out is a fringing reef you could wade to at low tide - the snorkelling is said to be okay without being special. I was too lazy to check. At the far end of the beach is a breakwater....
....protecting a small inlet which is daytime anchorage for a handful of fishing boats. At the other side of the inlet..... the southern most section of Srithanu Beach. Some nice looking places there - Google for Loyfa Natural Resort

The main coastal road just inland from Srithanu main has a good little shopping/service area. Just to the north it passes by.......
LAKE SRITHANU aka Lake Laem Son, a freshwater lake. Above is WIPEOUT, a bar/restaurant/water sports joint with very attractive happy hour prices. This young lady was about to try the bungy swing over the water. Looked like fun.



Labels seem a bit small - might be worth clicking to expand.
This area is relatively the least appealing beach region on the island. But compared to what you are used to closer to home it still may be a gem. Certainly there are some nice little spots along here with various resorts achieving high ratings on the user forums. If a bungalow place keeps the beach clear of flotsam, plants a few extra palms, has good management/staff plus nice rooms/a sweet beachfront restaurant, and (if above low budget) puts in a nice little pool your stay can by idyllic. Good sunsets and views of the Ang Thong marine park islands don't hurt.
From the north (left of image):
Ao Hin Kong and Ao Wok Tum -a long srip of sand with occasional mangroves. Suffers the low tide blues markedly with shallow water way out to the fringing reef which is about 300m offshore. Wok Tum in the south is separated from Hin Kong by an inlet - a local stream has cut a pass through the reef although it doesn't seem to have disturbed the sand deposits too much between beach and reef in the above image - Google Earth probably shot this in late dry season. Behind the beach the coastal plain is flat with some farming and small settlements. Most resorts along here tend to be on the budget side of the ledger.
Wok Tum beach from the passing Toa-Phangan ferry - if you click expand you may be able to see the inlet on the left. I didn't personally get to walk this beach or any of the other lower west coast ones on account I only had 2 days (actually 1.5 after the ferry ride) to check this side of the island and I was much keener to get some pix of Had Son, Ao Srithanu etc just south of my accommodation at Had Yao.

Ao Plaay Laem - a sizable hill/mountain, Khao Hin Nok, backs the coast closely here and its ridges and spurs have formed small sandy coves. Lots of rounded boulders, palms and rainforest make this area much more attractive. There are some midrange places which attract good reviews (google Golden Hill, Sabai Beach) plus some good old timers.

Ao Nay Nok - this is the stretch of beach just north of the main town of Thong Sala. In character it is much like Hin Kong/Wok Tum except the flat land in back of beach is more intensively settled and the beach itself has more places to stay. This was the first place old time travellers stayed back in the 60s/70s due to proximity of the ferry piers and there are still some very budget places but as usual some more upmarket accommodation has been developed too.


The size and ruggedness of Phangan plus a lot of delightful beaches to trek into make this a good island for the hiker. I have a fair bit of info and maps on the following:
Than Sadet to Thong Nai Pan on the Phangan part 2 and Trip Report pages
Thong Nai Pan to Bottle Beach (ditto)
Bottle Beach to Coral Beach (ditto)
Had Yuan to Had Thian and Had Why Nam (ditto)
Had Yuan to Had Rin on the Phangan Trip Report page
Mae Had to waterfall, Had Salad and Chaloklum (ditto)
Than Sadet to the waterfalls (ditto)
Had Rin to Had Kongthi (ditto)
Had Salad to Had Yao (west coast), Had Kruad, Had Thian (west coast) on the Phangan Part 2 page.


From Bangkok
- the cheapest would be train or bus to Chumpon and then hop on one of the fast ferries which goes to Phangan via Tao. Chumpon is a long way north of the popular alternative of Surathani. I know the sleeper train south (I think final destination is Hat Yai) gets into Chumpon in good time to catch the first express boat out each morning.

I have seen a lot of posts saying Lomprayah ferry company's bus/fast catermaran combination is very reliable - there are two services a day - one bus goes overnight.
UPDATE - I used Lomprayah to get from Samui to Phangan on my August 09 trip. The Mae Nam (the pier is at the western end of the beach) to Thong Sala trip was pretty quick at about 30 minutes, but they do pack the passengers in. Note that the 1130 trip out of Samui (which goes on to Tao and Chumpon) includes free transfers from your Samui accommodation which will save you a 300 to 500 baht taxi fare from Chaweng/Lamai areas. Similarly the incoming boat which arrives in Samui at 1100 will shuttle you to your accommodation gratis. I noticed one shuttle bus had AIRPORT on it.
I came back to Samui on the smaller east coast ferry which starts in Thong Nai Pan and arrives at a different Mae Nam pier (central beach). Plenty of taxis, motorcyle taxis and charter songthaews meet this - Lady Tezza and I paid 100 each for a songthaew which also shuttled some people to the airport for 50 each. More information for this ferry can be seen on Mae Pen Rai's website and under the photo at the bottom of this page.

A more expensive time-saver is to fly to Samui and then hop across to Phangan or fly to Surathani and catch a ferry. Bangkok Air and Thai fly into Samui from Bangkok - and Bangkok Air also flies in directly from Phuket, Krabi, Chiang Mai and U-Tapao near Pattaya. Thai and maybe others fly into Surathani.
UPDATE 2012 - on my latest trip I noticed Lomprayah had billboards up promoting a joint Solar Air flight/Lombprayah fast catamaran service via Chumpon. 
2013 - I also heard Nok Air or similar is now flying Bangkok-Chumpon

Direct flights into Samui are offered by Bangkok Air from Hong Kong and Singapore. Berjaya fly from KL as does Firefly.

I have a copy of losing_touch's great ferry timetable here.
Note that ferry companies can change times etc so it's a good idea to check each company's website for latest info.

What is the latest boat you can get from Samui?
Travel forums get a lot of questions from people arriving on late flights into Samui wanting to get to Phangan on the same day.
The last boat at time of writing is at 1830 - the Had Rin Queen from Big Buddha.
It takes around 10-15 minutes by cab from the airport to Big Buddha pier.

The 3 ferries which leave from near the airport are Lomprayah from western Mae Nam, Seatran from Bo Phut/Bang Rak, Had Rin Queen from Big Buddha and the east coast beach ferry from the central "pier" on Mae Nam.
The first 2 go to Thong Sala, where pickups are waiting to transfer all over the island - the last one is good if you want to go directly to the east coast beaches (last stop is Thong Nai Pan) but runs to Phangan early afternoon only, Had Rin Queen is great if you want to go to that place or nearby because of the frequency of its trips.

Had Rin Queen arriving at Big Buddha pier

Other ferries on the link start on the Surathani coast and pick up in Samui's Nathon which is a long way from the airport and from the popular east coast Samui beaches.

The closest ferry piers to the airport are Bo Phut/Bang Rak and Big Buddha. There’s quite a lot of good inexpensive accommodation there - google travelfish for reviews of places there and at Bang Rak which is part of this area.
Mae Nam is maybe 20 minutes west of the airport by taxi or shuttle bus - plenty of cheapies there.
Note that Lomprayah has a free shuttle to their ferry so it doesn't matter where you stay if you use that one. In July 2013 I caught the free shuttle from the airport to pick up the early afternoon Phangan/Tao Lompraya ferry.

If arriving too late for the last ferry, I wouldn't use a longtail to cross at night - can be quite bumpy and wet, sometimes outright dangerous - and it would cost a bomb. A bigger fishing boat would be outrageously expensive and still bumpy and maybe wet.

Spedboats can be chartered - would be very expensive, particularly after dark. I have travelled this area in pretty big seas on speedboats, they tend to throttle back and ride the swells reasonably - not good if you suffer seasickness though. And very bad if overloaded as on Full Moon Party dates.

I'd stay on Samui, go down to one of the little restaurant/bars overlooking the beach/piers and have a nice first night relaxing. Big Buddha is particularly attractive after dark where the 2 main streets of the fishermens' village leading down the pier become a busy "walking street" zone with people in their best holiday gear strolling around and checking the many nicely lit shops, restaurants and bars.

From the Andaman or the South
- most people come in through Surathani. Some ferries leave from the town itself but more, including vehicle ferries depart from piers around Donsak 30-40km further east on the coast. If you are coming in via the bus station, the airport or railway station (the last 2 both out of town), there are travel counters or adjacent travel agents who will sell you a shuttle bus-ferry ticket right onto the island.

One of the vehicle-passenger ferries between Don Sak and Phangan. I shot this from the Songserm boat which is faster, but because it calls in at Samui (at least on its afternoon run) it doesn't save much more than half an hour over the bigger boat which is way more comfortable, particularly in bigger seas. I noticed that we were both passed by Lomprayah's fast catamaran - but check the website, at time of writing I think only the afternoon service starts at Donsak. I think the morning service to Phangan still starts at Samui's Mae Had.

One of my favourites is the night ferry which leaves at 2300 from the town pier, chugs down river and then across the bay, you on your designated matress and pillow, arriving in Phangan about 0500 where transport is waiting at the pier to take you to your beach of choice. You can grab a swim and brekka while all those lazy travellers are still tucked into their bungalows cutting the zzzzzs.

From Phi Phi in one day.
This question and its reverse trip gets asked lots of times on the travel forums. Poster english_dave gave this answer in April 08:
"'P.P.Family' - I think this is the only company that does the full trip in one day.Phangan -> Phi Phi - leave at 7am from Thong Sala, Arrive Phi Phi at 3:30pm - cost = 700baht
Phi Phi -> Phangan - leave at 9am, Arrive Phangan about 6pm - cost = 800baht.
Pretty much any travel agency in Phi Phi or Phangan will be able to arrange these tickets for you."
A small caveat here. There have been lots of complaints of thefts from luggage in the underbus storage area of coaches put on by private travel companies between Krabi and Surathani (and KSR and Surathani) So to be safe don't leave any valuables in your luggage - have them in your carry pack in the cabin.
Maybe a BIG caveat - PP Family probably gets more complaints than any other regular Thai transport operator - not only for underbus thefts but for time wasting and general lack of care - travelfish advises against them. I reckon if you catch the first ferry out and the normal Krabi-Surathani minibus you would make it in a day. Catching the night ferry from Surathani town pier around 2200-2300 assures this. Actaully you would probably be able to leave PP on the afternoon ferry and still make the night ferry.

The Phangan/Samui/Tao area tends to have a different wet season to most of Thailand. Normally this kicks in late September/early October and runs into early January, although the fact that Christmas/New Year is peak season indicates that it can't be too bad come late December.
The good news is that when the Andaman and Eastern Gulf islands are in wet season midyear, the Phangan area is usually much drier. Sure it will rain a bit in these months but usually sunshine dominates. This drier weather means a second high season in July/August and consequently not the bargain accommodation prices you will find in Phuket, Krabi or big Ko Chang etc.
February thru April are even drier. Note March April can be pretty hot.
A point about Phangan's wet season - frequently this can be as holiday friendly as most other areas, but every now and then they have a shocker. In all the years I have been following Thai weather this is the only place I have seen forum posters complaining about persistent bad weather, prolonged heavy rain etc. This seems to happen every 3rd or 4th year, but not necessarily on a regular basis. So if I was planning a Thai beach holiday in say Oct, Nov or early Dec I might think more about the mid or eastern Gulf or the Andaman. However if these months were the only time I could visit and I really wanted to see Phangan, I would not be put-off - my first visit into this area was in a November and I got real nice weather, as good as my 3 August visits.
A smaller point - May in this area and many other Thai regions often gets a little blip of extra rain compared to adjacent months. Usually this is not enough to make it a mini wet season but once again I occasionally see complaints from the Phangan/Samui/Tao areas about prolonged rainy spells.

For the price conscious, you are going to get good discounts in wet season. But note months like March, April, June and a lot of Septrember are usually not wet, yet many accommodation places go into low season pricing. Note too that low-budget places are much less variable in pricing compared to midrange and high-end joints.

A really good link which has all sorts of info on Phangan, including great maps, accomm from basic to swish is HERE

Top deck of the slow ferry which starts at Thong Nai Pan around 0900 and heads down the east coast of Phangan picking up at several beaches including Than Sadet, Hat Thian and East Hat Rin and then goes across to Mae Nam on the north coast of Samui, not too far from the airport and Chaweng Beach in around 2 hours from TNP - cost from Than Sadet August 09 300baht. The boat returns starting early afternoon. Some real nice mountain/beach views passing down the coast. Don't be alarmed at the tilt - the boat is doing a turn out of Hat Thian's bay here.



XXXX - If you have exta info or see mistakes in the above, please post below. But if you have any questions, please ask them in THE FORUM rather than below. I don't get a chance to check all threads daily, but unless I'm travelling I'll try to monitor THE FORUM regularly.


Ben said...

Dear Tezza, thank you for your wonderful travelogue.
Next august I'll spend a few days in Koh Phangan and I've a double about the beach where to stay: Had Salad or Had Leela? I know if there are some problem with the tydes, so I prefere the beach where this problem is less important. Thank you again.

tezza said...

Wow Ben - I check the forum page most days but rarely the foot of each island page. Just saw your post! Okay, it aint August yet and maybe others will have the same problem - thing is my just finished trip this June saw Leela suffering considerably more from low tide than I have ever seen at Salad - will have a pic of low-tide Leela up soon.

Marion Eleonora... said...

Me and my boyfriend are going to Thailand in the end of this month. We have once before stayed at the beach Had Yao East and we really liked it. I wonder if you have any info about the current accomodation situation?

Jack Ax said...

I was on Phangan in March - May 2012. The longtail trip from Had Rin to Had Yuan (or the other way around) is usually 200, you can sometimes negotiate it down to 150, especially if there's a few of you. Had Yuan is great, Bamboo is widely known for their good & affordable cuisine (love the pumpkin salad!) and most of my yoga pals would head up to Eden on Had Yuan for their Saturday parties. Catching a longtail to Had Rin is usually possible through much of the night on party nights, otherwise trickier. Barcelona had some decent 400 baht bungalows, that end is more quiet than up on the rocks near Eden.

Mae Had is the best beach for snorkelling on Phangan, easiest on high tide but they have cleared a path so you can walk to deep water without having to walk on corals at any time, even at the lowest tide. There's a sign around the middle of the beach pointing to the start of the path. I spent days and days there snorkelling; wonderful beach, great shade, quiet vibe, great swimming, very good waves at times. The path makes Mae Had the only western beach I know of where you can always walk out to deep water on sand regardless of tide, on all other beaches there's some coral. Def my favourite beach on the western side, and best snorkelling off beach. Too bad the bungalows on Koh Ma have been abandoned. Nudies sometimes use Koh Ma for bum tanning, though you'll have to lie on rocks as there's precious little sand there. If you clamber over a few rocks to the left, there are some nice spots with large, flat rocks to lie on & deep water right off the rock, excellent snorkelling & swimming.

I'll probably head back there soon and stay a few months. Some of the eastern beaches are real gems and the locals there don't seem to mind nudity that much.