While Koh Phangan is famous for its Full Moon celebrations and Western party-goers, the island boasts many attractions for those whose idea of a good time is more than lowering their inhibitions on the white sand beaches of Haad Rin. Though the monthly lunar party attracts thousands for a night of first-rate seaside debauchery, few experience the charm of the less trafficked areas on the island.
This may be due to the underdeveloped, crumbling infrastructure that often makes travel difficult, if not downright risky. Still, those seeking a little off the beaten path adventure should trek to Thong Nai Pan Yai on the eastern shore where you will find exotic beaches punctuated by peaceful bungalows. Ask the locals nicely and they’ll give you a lift along the weather-beaten road for a small fee; just remember to say “khorb khun” (“Thank you”). When you arrive, you can relax, improve on your tan and enjoy the fact that, even by Thai standards, Thong Nai Pan Yai is inexpensive.
But your day doesn’t have to be just hammocks and pints of Singha (a popular local brew). Hidden in a tropical garden just off the beach is a Baraaza favourite, Dolphin Bungalows. It’s home to simple, well-maintained bungalows and a hip, open-air bar serving Thai twists on Western-friendly food and drinks. The international cast of travellers and mellow background music keep the atmosphere inviting well into the night.
Dolphin Bungalows, located a few yards from the sea, is perfect for overnight stays and a stylish alternative to the more rowdy party spots on the island. But keep in mind, despite immaculate cleanliness and fashionable surrounds, the bungalows lack hot water and air conditioning, making cold showers more necessity than novelty.
If Thong Nai Pan Yai sounds like your cup of chai, make your way between January and April, before late April showers bring May monsoons that persist through December, muddying terrain too much for all but the most daring travellers.
[Dolphin Bungalows is Australian-Thai owned and doesn’t take reservations or have a website. Rates vary seasonally. Expect to pay 400-600 THB for a bungalow with fan and private lavatory]