Category Archives: Things to do

How Do You Rate Haad Yao?

haad-yao-at-night

For those aficionados of Koh Phangan it is a moot point to declare the best beach. Is it Thong Nai Pan Noi? Is it Haad Yao? Is it one of those obscure beaches on the east coast where they do colonic irrigations? Or is it Haad Rin Nok, the Full Moon Party beach? It is very much open to debate. A great beach isn’t just the sand, sea and palm trees. Often people are attracted to the atmosphere of a beach location just as much as the natural beauty of a place.

This is where Haad Yao scores so highly. Yes, it is a beautiful long beach with soft white sand; yes the palms tower into the sky; and yes the distant mountains display vast virgin forest. But that isn’t the whole story. People love Haad Yao because it is just at that right level of development. You can find cheaper wooden bungalows as well more luxury rooms. The beach front hasn’t been taken over by 2 or 3 large businesses. There is still room for the locals and the proverbial ‘little man’ to set up a reggae bar, a mom and pops shop or a little restaurant.

Along Haad Yao beach as well as back in the village there is an eclectic mix of bars, restaurants, shops and massage houses. There are local characters. There is a feeling of staying in a little community of beach folk when you go to Haad Yao.

At dusk the beach gets lit up with lights, cool music can be heard mingling with the sound of the surf and the cocktails are downed while everyone looks out to sea and the invariably fantastic sunset. No doubt at any given time many of these sunset gazers are wishing that their holiday didn’t have to end so quickly.

If you want to go back then you know it is a great beach.

Although Trip Advisor ratings go up and down as new entries are posted it seems that the general consensus is that Haad Yao is one of the best beaches in Koh Phangan. Only Thong Nai Pan Noi, Thong Nai Pan Yai, Haad Yuan and Haad Salad came out with a higher rating in the ‘Things to Do’ list. Haad Yao was rated much higher than Haad Rin, Than Sadet and Jungle Experience.

Latest News on Koh Phangan Parties

There has been a lot of uncertainty over the last few months regarding the fate of the numerous parties in Koh Phangan. Many people visiting Haad Yao hope to attend at least one big party during their stay on the island. In order to clarify the situation I have summerised the situation as I see it.

The party scene peeked in 2014 prior to the military take-over. At that time Koh Phangan had a big outdoor event virtually every week. Near the Full Moon Party the parties were coming thick and fast (especially around the jungle at Ban Tai) as people sought to cash in on the increased visitors, many of whom were forced to stay in Koh Phangan for a few days due to compulsory minimum stays at hotels and resorts.

At that time the Full Moon Party, Half Moon Party, Black Moon Culture, Jungle Experience, Shiva Family, Rhythm and Sands and Sramanora Waterfall Party along with club events at Ku Club, Club 9 and Merkaba vied for the raver crowd Baht. 2013 and 2014 seemed years when any bar, club or dance event could be introduced into the Koh Phangan dance scene with a fair chance of success.

Then in the autumn of 2014 the Thaksin government was ousted and the new military regime soon embarked upon a self-imposed crusade to clean up Thailand. This was given more urgency by the tragic death of a British couple on the neighbouring island of Koh Tao. The young couple were at an all-night party. The party culture of drugs and laissez faire island politics was exposed and the loss of international face meant the junta imposed a ban on Koh Phangan parties (excepting the Full Moon Party).

The ban was lifted for the peak Christmas / New Year season in 2014. Encouraged by the seeming softening attitude by the authorities in Bangkok, the organisers of the Half Moon Party published a full schedule of parties complete with DJ line-ups booked until autumn 2015. They also increased their entry fee to 1,000 THB (expect reductions during the low seasons). It is telling that Black Moon Culture, Jungle Experience and Shiva Family have both remained silent about their next all-night, outdoor parties.

Recently the municipal authorities organised Koh Phangan’s first ‘Colour Moon Festival’. It was a show case for Thai culture and local crafts along with food stalls. It was a far cry from the booze and drug fuelled parties normally associated with Koh Phangan. It was part of an on-going (and poorly financed) attempt to re-brand the island and attract a different type of tourist.

Thailand Authority of Tourism has always been keen to attract a certain type of tourist – ones that spend big, stay just a few days and stay clear of the illicit attractions of the Kingdom. Rarely does the ideal actually tally with reality. Russians have seen a massive drop in the value of the rouble, and cases of Chinese bad-behaviour on an airplane to Thailand (www.thenanfang.com/blog/land-of-smiles-turns-to-frowns-after-more-misbehaving-chinese-tourists-at-historic-bangkok-site) have meant the right type of tourist stereotype is just that – a stereotype.

Don’t expect those in power to discontinue pushing for re-branding in order to maximise profit and improve image. But also don’t expect the party scene to vanish from Koh Phangan. Money is slow to be spent by the oligarchs on things other than high-end resorts. One sure bet for Koh Phangan is that the Full Moon Party is the golden goose who will be allowed to lay eggs until it dies. Too many livelihoods are connected to the party. At the same time don’t expect a return any time soon to the normal ‘lunacy’.

Weddings on the Beach

Wedding on beach
Over the years it has become a fairly common sight to see people celebrate their wedding in Koh Phangan. Some couples come to a beach in Koh Phangan for their honeymoon, others to renew their vows, and others to have their wedding ceremony. I am sure that at some point someone must have got married at the Full Moon Party. Every party I expect there are a few wedding proposals as well. Haad Yao is no exception. Sandy Bay Bungalows has wedding packages to make it easy for people to arrange their big day.

For people who spend their working life in a big city with cold winters and high prices there is something magical about a beach wedding. It is tying the knot in a paradise setting. It is very romantic and the wedding guests can enjoy a beach holiday on a tropical island at the same time.

Sandy Bay Bungalows is a family-run bungalow resort on Haad Yao that has been running since 1985. It is a mid-range resort with swimming pool, restaurant and free wifi. They have cheaper fan bungalows as well as deluxe bungalows with air-con, satellite TV, fridge and safe.

The wedding package offered by Sandy Bay Bungalows offers a profusion of flowers and floral decorations including a floral arch to walk through during the wedding ceremony. They also provide a band for the reception and then later on a DJ with light show. Since this is Koh Phangan they also have a fire dancer.

Wedding guests can sit down to a meal or have a sea food BBQ on the beach. Either option means fine, clean linen and a proper sense of occasion.

Simply contact Sandy Bay Bungalows for more details: sandybay111@hotmail.com or telephone 66 (77) 349119

It should be mentioned that the ceremony is not considered legally binding whether it is performed by a Christian priest or Buddhist monk. In Thailand people have a wedding ceremony but have to go a government office to officially register their wedding. Some do and some don’t.

Number 1 Thai Massage on West Coast

Chantima Massage
There is a certain amount of subjectivity regarding Thai massages: some people like their massage hard and verging on painful; others prefer something gentler. Thai massage probably came into being in the 19th Century as an amalgam of various Thai and Indian massage styles. However, the legend has it that the founder of Thai massage, Shivago Komarpaj, was no other than the physician to the Buddha himself.

All this aside, Chantima at Chantima Holistic Massage claims to be the ‘number 1 qualified teacher in Koh Phangan’. Her massage centre is in Hin Kong, about 10 minutes away from Haad Yao, down the coast.

It is quite a fancy massage house for Koh Phangan with tasteful décor and comfortable furniture. They are at the top end of the price spectrum for massage places in the area. They offer a wide range of spa and beauty treatments as well as traditional Thai massage. You can get a Dead Sea Mud Mask (1,200 THB) and a Himalayan Crystal Rock Scrub (800 THB). They also do foot reflexology and aromatherapy. For the full list of massages and treatments see: http://www.chantimamassage.com/treatments.html.

For those seeking to learn more about Thai massage or to even gain qualifications to practice Thai massage in a commercial milieu, Chantima Holisitc Massage also hold training courses. Below is a list of their course times and prices for 2014.
courses for 2014
It makes a good activity to do on holiday. As with learning Thai cooking, it is a skill you can take away from your holiday and practice at home. Massage can be beneficial to the health, and definitely is a great aid in relaxing and providing relief to over-worked muscles. They also hold courses on aromatherapy and foot reflexology.

If you are staying in Haad Yao and are looking to do something productive with your time, other than work on your tan, checking out Chantima Holisitc Massage is not a bad idea.

Koh Phangan Wipeout

Koh Phangan Wipeout

A new company has set up called Koh Phangan Wipeout that offers visitors a lot of fun for a few hours on Laem Son Lake. It is the largest lake on the island and is located just a few kilometers south of Haad Yao on the coastal road.

The lake used to be home to a small tin mine. When the mine was closed the area held little attraction for tourists. A few would venture out to use rope swings and explore the pine woods around the lake, but generally the place was deserted by tourists.

That has all changed with Koh Phangan Wipeout. They have set up a series of inflatable obstacle courses and other attractions on the lake.

There are giant red balls that you can try and cross. It is virtually impossible. There is a giant white pyramid that you can climb to the top and dive off. And then there are monkey bars in the water.

The best fun is a giant inflatable by the side of the lake. There is a high platform next to the inflatable. One person lies on the inflatable and two others jump from the platform onto the inflatable. This causes the person on the inflatable to fly through the air and into the lake. The catapulted person can get quite a lot of height and perform somersaults in the air.

Koh Phangan Wipeout doesn’t currently have a website. You can find out more by visiting their Facebook page.

Wangsai Waterfall

Wang Sai Waterfall

Wang Sai waterfall is in the north west of Koh Phangan. The nearest beach is Mae Haad. Those who make the effort to get to the waterfall will be rewarded by an impressive natural spectacle. It is also more than likely that you will be the only group there. Although tour groups are emerging in Koh Phangan, they are few and it is still often the case that you can go into the interior of Koh Phangan and find yourself alone.

This means that you should be prepared – bring plenty of water and sun block; and don’t set off late in the afternoon. Also don’t go walking in the jungle in flip flops.The best way to get to the waterfall is to get to Mae Haad beach and then walk into the jungle following the river. You can pick up the river about 50 meters from the beach.

Wang Sai Waterfall in Koh Phangan looks like an avalanche of boulders has occurred down a ravine. There are high rock faces beside the course of the waterfall. As with other waterfalls in Koh Phangan such as Than Sadet and Than Prawes, it is not one drop but rather a stream of water that makes its way down several levels. Some of the levels have large basins where you can cool off. There are also a few cascades that make good photo opportunities.

The limestone sedimentation creates a blue color to the cascading water at points along the course of the water. This fact makes Wang Sai Waterfall special.

It is an area untouched by development other than the blue pipes which draw off some water for irrigation and human use. There are plenty of old trees and lush forest foliage to enjoy.

A trip to Wang Sai Waterfall makes an enjoyable hour clambering up the waterfall and chilling in the rock pools; it makes a good half day excursion away from Haad Yao beach.

Image from: www.yogaretreat-kohphangan.com
The Yoga Retreat is the subject for a future blog post.