Protecting the Coral

Haad Yao Divers boat

Haad Yao Divers boat

One of the most important marine resources in Koh Phangan is the coral reef located 400 meters off the shore at Haad Yao. There are a variety of coral and the list of fish you can see includes manta rays, porcupine puffer fish and anemone fish. The reef is close to Koh Ma, Koh Phangan’s only marine park and so contains many of the same species.

Whereas Koh Ma benefits from the protection afforded it by its National Park status, the Haad Yao corals are not as fortunate. Moreover, Haad Yao attracts a lot more temporary residents staying in the many rooms the beach and the surrounding locale has to offer.

One of the main activities for tourists visiting Haad Yao is snorkeling and scuba diving. It is a great sport and a great way to gain a new perspective on the marine environment.

There are often tours advertised that explore the reef off Haad Yao. Don’t take these tours if they set off from Haad Yao beach. Only take diving tours that use a boat that sets off from a pier. The longtail boats that go from the shore have outboard motors with long propellers. These propellers often scrape the reef as they cross over to the other side. This causes damage to the reef that can take many years to repair.

Also the boats often leak fuel into the sea which pollutes the sea and can harm marine life. The noise from these boats disturbs the peace of those enjoying the beach and the drivers often cannot see all the swimmers in the water.

So be responsible and only sign up for scuba and snorkeling trips on boats that use a pier. By doing so you are protecting the reef for future visitors to the area and helping to preserve one of the most important natural environments on the island. Thank you!

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.

Haad Yao Lounge

Haad Yao Lounge

Haad Yao Lounge is a restaurant, a bar, a spa and a gym. It seems unlikely that a place that purports to fulfill so many different service needs can be any good; but it is. Trip Advisor rates Haad Yao Lounge as the 19th best restaurant on the island. As of February 2013, Haad Yao Lounge had 36 reviews, most of which were very positive.

Haad Yao Lounge, Fitness and Sauna is located at the southern end of Haad Yao, just off the main road. It is on elevated land in the jungle. There are great views, especially in the early evening when the sun dips below the horizon.

The fitness area takes in the great view. It is an open area that benefits from sea breezes. There are 17 machines to use including the only treadmill on the island. The machines and weights are spread over 3 different areas. This means you can choose your type of exercise as well as location for your work out. It is an impressive gym for Koh Phangan. For those really keen on exercise there is a 10% discount for becoming a member. The membership card also entitles the holder to a 10% discount on food and drink.

The Lounge is a beautiful area with wooden floors, large balcony and comfortable sofas. They serve Thai and Western food. For those not concerned about the calories there are delicious burgers. For those wanting to keep their body as a temple there are healthy juices and shakes on offer as well as vegan food and protein shakes.

Between 5pm and 7 pm there is the ‘Sunset Happy Hour’ when you can get Chang and Leo beer for 50 Thai Baht and cocktails for 99 Thai Baht. For those looking to party or share a drink the drinks menu includes Sangsom (200 THB), Vodka (250 THB) and Mai Tai (400 THB) buckets to enjoy. The Lounge is a great place to hang out after exercise as well as a good spot to include on the itinerary of a big night out in Haad Yao. To help with the fun there is a great pool table in the bar as well as cable TV.

The spa is also impressive. They offer 2 herbal saunas. They are in private rooms with showers. The herbal saunas use 15 different herbs. Between Tuesday and Sunday there are yoga classes. These are on the balcony using soft mats. The instructors practice Ashtanga Yoga. The only thing the spa section of the business doesn’t provide is Thai massage. I am sure this absence will be addressed in the future.

The real success of Haad Yao Lounge is not its exercise machines or saunas but the care and thought put into the business by the owners Pete and Nang. If you are in Haad Yao you should definitely check out Haad Yao Lounge.

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.

Haad Yao Divers

One of the best known dive resorts in Haad Yao is Haad Yao Divers. There are other dive shops on the beach such as Reefers Diving and Sail Rock Divers. These other shops also are highly recommended but this post will focus on Haad Yao Divers.

The dive school is located on the northern road to the beach, near Apache Bar and behind Silver Beach Bungalow. Haad Yao Divers is a 5 star PADI IDC Dive Resort. For those not familiar with the acronym ‘IDC’ it means ‘international dive center’. The dive shop has 5 stars from PADI and is officially an instructor development dive resort. That means that they offer course to take you from absolute beginner all the way to dive instructor for Open Water courses.

Haad Yao Divers was the first dive shop on the West coast of Koh Phangan. Since then this school with Western management has built up organically into a much bigger business. However, they have kept true to their roots – their dive groups are still small. They are also dedicated to environmental issues. They are a ‘Go Eco Operator’ and they also participate in the ‘Green Fins Thailand’ initiative set up to monitor the health of coral reefs in Thailand.

There are instructors who speak English, German, French and Spanish. If your English is not too good then this is perhaps the best scuba school to look at for foreign language instruction. However, it is always a good idea to check in advance that they have an instructor that speaks your mother tongue as dive instructors tend to move on after a season or two.

Trip Advisor rates Haad Yao Divers as the fifth best activity on the island. It has 43 reviews at the time of writing.

Prices for diving include free transfers, food on the boat and free equipment. Don’t be misled by the phrase ‘resort’ in their accreditation. They don’t throw in accommodation with their diving packages. This is more a Koh Tao idea where intense competition forces the big dive shops to offer the best value possible. However, in contrast to Koh Tao operators dive groups are very small – just 4 students to 1 instructor. Moreover, Koh Phangan is closer to the best dive sites such as Sail Rock so they tend to get there before all the big boats from Koh Tao.

So if you fancy doing something exciting while staying in Haad Yao we recommend checking out Haad Yao divers.

Website: http://haadyaodivers.com/en/index.php

Why is Haad Yao the Perfect Beach?

HaadYaoSunset
Describing Haad Yao in Koh Phangan as the perfect beach is probably slight hyperbole. Nevertheless, it is a great beach. This post will look at the reasons why Haad Yao is called ‘the perfect beach’.

A Long and Wide Beach

Haad Yao is about 1 kilometer long. It is one of the longest beaches on Phangan Island. It is also a wide beach. This means there is plenty of space on the beach for all kinds of activities such as volleyball, football and Frisbee. Moreover, the size of the beach means that there is always plenty of space for sunbathing. You can easily find a spot to lie down and take the sun. It definitely enhances a beach experience when you don’t feel that you are squeezed in with hundreds of others.

The Look of the Beach

Haad Yao has a gently curving beach. There are rocks at both ends of the beach, framing the sandy picture as it were. Behind the sand is a line of coconut palms and other trees. Pictures taken of Haad Yao beach from a distance do look spectacular. From an aesthetic point of view, Haad Yao beach does look perfect.

The Sand

For many people, the quality of the sand is a big factor in whether the beach is any good. As with many of the beaches on Koh Phangan, Haad Yao has fine white sand that feels soft underfoot and is comfortable to lie on. Care is taken by the various resorts and bars along the beach to keep the beach clean. It is therefore safe to walk around without shoes on. However, the sand does get very hot in the summer months. Moreover, it is rude in Thailand to enter a building with dirty feet.

The Water

Koh Phangan has improved its infrastructure over the years – electricity, road access, transport links, internet etc. without going overboard with big-scale development. 90% of the island still remains virgin rainforest. The sea around the island is also very clean. This is particularly true of Haad Yao. You can go into the sea in Haad Yao without fear of encountering trash. The water is warm and often very calm thanks to the coral reef 400 meters out to sea that acts as a wave break. The only downside to the sea in Haad Yao is that during low tide and especially during the low tidal months between April and October you have to walk a fair distance for the water to get deep enough for swimming.

Diving and Snorkeling

The upside of having a coral reef off the coast is that there is plenty of marine life to spot. It is possible to swim out to the reef (about 400 meters off shore) and go snorkeling. Among the wide variety of things to see are porcupine fish, squirrel fish, parrot fish, blue spotted rays and fusiliers.

There are a few dive shops in Haad Yao that are happy to take both beginners and experienced divers out to see the reef. It is long reef and an easy dive with maximum depth of 14 meters. It thus makes a great dive for those working towards their Open Water qualification.

For many having such healthy corals just off the coast makes Haad Yao a perfect beach.

Amenities and Facilities

When people talk about Haad Yao beach they often refer to the wider beach area. There is a good range of accommodation on offer that fits all budgets. You can stay in traditional Thai bungalows or hotel style rooms or in stylish boutique style accommodation. There are also plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from as well as a few shops to get your every day necessities as well as souvenirs. The road to Haad Yao from the main port town of Thongsala is in good condition and it is easy to get into the main town to do bigger shopping, change money etc. Convenience is a big reason why Haad Yao is considered perfect.

Sunset

Last, but definitely not least is the sunset. Haad Yao is a west-facing beach. This means every afternoon there is a spectacular sunset to enjoy. Watching the sunset on the beach is the perfect way to end the day on a perfect beach.

Credits

Sunset picture from: http://brandleblogphoto6.blogspot.co.uk/

Haad Yao and the Full Moon Party

full-moon-party
The biggest draw for Koh Phangan is the Full Moon Party. It is an event that started off as just a small party for a few hippies on Haad Rin beach in the late 1980s. Over the last 30 years it has escalated into the biggest outdoor rave in South East Asia. There is nothing quite like the Koh Phangan Full Moon Party anywhere else in the world. Attending at least one FMP has become a bucket list item for many.

However, now that we live in the age of information people are fussier than ever about the details of their holiday. I have always just turned up in Koh Phangan and found a bungalow to rest my head. This is not an option for many: especially those who have only a few days in paradise before they are back to the grindstone of 9 to 5. They want to confirm all the details about where they are staying, the amenities available, the activities on offer, and the cost before they leave home.

For many the thought of staying in Haad Rin during the Full Moon Party does not appeal. It is not hard to find out or to imagine that during the night and following day of the party Haad Rin is a very noisy and riotous place. There are also plenty of stories of bungalows being robbed during the party. The ideal situation is to be able to go to the party and then to leave when you have had enough of dancing, drinking and socializing. And when you get back to your bungalow you want peace and quiet. You don’t want the noise, trash or party just outside your bungalow.

This is why Haad Yao is attractive for many. It is a long beach with white sand. There are plenty of rooms on the beach and rooms overlooking the beach. There is a choice between cheap bungalows at places such as Easylife Bungalows and Haad Yao Bayview Resort, mid-range places like Long Bay Resort and luxury places like See Through Boutique Resort. Haad Yao is just 10 minutes away from the amenities of Thongsala, and of course there is a good road between Haad Yao and the Full Moon Party in Haad Rin. There are taxis going all night between the two beaches, and the journey takes about 30 minutes.

Trip Advisor is full of comments by people who say Haad Yao is too far from the party, a bit remote; that the taxis are expensive etc. These comments need to be taken with a pinch of salt. People who haven’t minded the journey are far less motivated to write a review on TA. Moreover it is the distance between the two beaches that makes Haad Yao so peaceful and enjoyable to hang around during the day.

After all, the Full Moon Party is for many a-once-in-a-lifetime event. It is worth the 30 minute journey and $15.