Posted by: James Shannon | March 23, 2012

Arrival In Koh Phangan: Countdown To The Full Moon Party … T- Minus 7 Days And Counting

 A hearty breakfast at Imm Bar, across from my guesthouse, My Home guesthouse, in Kanchanaburi, Thailand.  My travel itinerary over the next 26 hours was to be quite ambitious, but it had a solid payoff: arrival in the Thai gulf island paradise of Koh Phangan.

With a steady, but psyche-penetrating rain pouring down in the provinical outpost of Kanchanaburi, my thoughts turned to my next destination … a far-away but tantalizing difference in backdrop.  The Thai tropical paradise and party capital of the country, Koh Phangan, laid a punishing 26 hours away.

In several segments, that is.

You see, Kanchanaburi is a town located near the terminus of a dead-end road … as such, and lacking the apparent need for direct connections to Southern Thailand, getting to the South required a 3 hour backtrack to Bangkok.  From there, I had an 8 hour layover in Mai Sai, or the Southern Bus Terminal, followed by a 10-12 hour bus ride to Don Sak, the ferry terminal to Koh Samui and Koh Phangan.  Then, I would sail 2.5 hours across an often choppy Gulf of Thailand to the main port in Thong Sala, the main town of Koh Phangan.  Finally, a songthaew ride over many hills and through twisty roads to Haad Rin, the final destination on this epic journey, borne out of a need for surf, sand, sun, and beer suds.

Sounds exhausting doesn’t it?  Well, enough talk, let’s get on the pictures, shall we?

 After slipping in and out of sleep all night long on the night bus to Don Sak, I finally arrived at the ferry terminal just before sunrise.  A stiff breeze blows as I await the imminent arrival of the car ferry that would transport me to paradise!

 As we cast off from the dock at Don Sak, the sun finally arises from its slumber, peaking out from behind the limestone karsts that dot most of the Gulf coastline from Chumphon south through Surat Thani … just hauntingly beautiful!

 The sun gets high enough in the sky, and the waters surrounding Koh Phangan contain enough silts and bioluminescent lifeforms, to transform the sea around our ship to such a mind-melting hue of blue that it stripped me of any conscious thought in the moment, leaving me to only take in the view that now laid before my eyes.  It’s like the waters of Maligne Lake in the Canadian Rockies, only about 25 degrees Celsius warmer.  Otherwise, they are as equally as transfixing!

After getting transferred to Haad Rin via the previously mentioned songthaew, the search was on for accomodations … one of the benefits of showing up a week before the Full Moon Party rather than hitting and running from the event is that you get your choice of places to stay … or so I thought.  I decided on a place called Charung Bungalows, unloaded all my stuff into the room, and set out to explore the nearby beach…

 My first thought was “Where the hell are all the people?!”  It turns out that this strip of sand, known as Sunset Beach or Haad Rin West is NOT where the Party takes place.  It is, instead, a place where one can luxuriate in the sun and sand in peace and quiet, and not be disturbed by the constant throbbing beat of bass that defines Sunrise Beach, where most of the action is located.  It’s not all peachy keen though, as the surface of the sea floor is mucky in many places, and sea grass starts not far offshore.  Also, the sand is a bit more corally and rough than silky smooth Sunrise Beach, and you may find yourself wading through certain sections at high tide, as it is a fairly narrow beach.  Overall, it is a fairly choice spot, in my humble opinion.

 If this scene can’t convince you to give Koh Phangan a chance, I don’t know what will … maybe pics from the next coming photo essay on Koh Phangan?  At any rate, even if you come here close to a Full Moon Party, you will find respite from the crowds on this blissed-out gem!

Salivating yet?  Well, wipe off your chin and change your shirt, because there’s a lot more where that came from.  The next Phangan essay will shift over to Sunrise Beach, where all the magic happens!

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