Posted by: James Shannon | March 31, 2012

The Environs Of Haad Rin: Sunrise and Leela Beach. And Chicken. Mr K’s Chicken. (Oh $#!t, I’m Drooling On My Keyboard, Ya Happy!?!)

 A piece of graffiti art adorns the side of a shop in Central Haad Rin on the island of Koh Phangan.  Home to countless tattoo artists, bars, restaurants of almost every cuisine type you can think about, and of course, the world famous Sunrise Beach, this town is a party-hearty backpacker’s mecca!

Originally being confounded by the lack of people on Sunset Beach in Haad Rin, and thinking that I had simply arrived far too early on Koh Phangan (seven days prior to the Full Moon Party), I quickly got my wits about me and realized that there another beach in Haad Rin town, the one on the East Coast, Sunrise Beach.

Perhaps this is where all the action was at?

 Indeed, my suspicions had been confirmed! It was considerably busier than the comparatively sedate Sunset Beach, as Sunrise Beach is the nexus of social activity, day and night, in Haad Rin town.  And what a starkly beautiful strip of sand it was, as limestone headlands rise precipitously from either end of the beach!

 Heavy waves wash in from about a hundred feet offshore on most days , making for a fun day jousting with the forces of nature … on a related note, I have no idea why people don’t surf here … they don’t get that high, but surely it would a great place for beginners to pick up the basics.  Business opportunity anyone?

 Between Sunrise and Sunset Beach, reached from ascending the hill above Haad Rin town and following the signs down to a resort sitting alongside, Leela Beach is a nice, quiet spot that many people miss when visiting the area.  This beach has an exclusive feel to it, as it’s shorter than the two previously mentioned beaches, and it is hemmed in by even higher cliffs than Sunrise Beach.

 At the western end of Leela Beach, a floating dock stretches out to what seems the horizon …  it passes over excellent sand bars in the shallows that extend well out into the bay, and over top coral reefs, where snorkelers can survey countless examples of marine life (even those who refuse to get wet can observe them from the platform)  Those folks would be hard pressed to stay dry however, as the vigorous surf frequently splashes up through the cracks in the pontoons, and warps them to fit the contour of the incoming waves!

 The view back towards shore from the end of the floating dock on Leela Beach … from the very end of the dock, the coral reef that fringes Koh Phangan drops off into the abyss, creating an amazing place to explore for divers … for non-SCUBA certified folks like me, it just looked damn spooky … too bad I couldn’t capture on my point and shoot!

 The narrow city streets two blocks from the ocean in Haad Rin … like anywhere in Thailand (but especially here), you always need to be on your guard, as you continually share the road with motorbikes of all kinds,  often driven by foreigners (Thais are usually more in tune with how things work on the roads over here, so you don’t tend to see them getting in nearly as many accidents here!) that are either drunk, stoned, or just plain ignorant of traffic rules. Add a sense of invincibility that comes with them being on vacation, and you have a dangerous combo on your hands!

 Mr K’s Chicken Corner, the inspiration for a slightly off-centre intersection just one block from Sunrise Beach.  The place is a hive of activity at all hours: bar promoters hand out fliers, ferry operators sell tickets for longtail rides to isolated beaches on the East Coast of Koh Phangan, and of course, Mr K slings his irresistible roasted chicken, among other tasty treats!  It was this solid base of protein that kept me going all night on the night of the Full Moon Party … highly recommended!

 Ferry shuttles wait in the strangely calm waters of Sunrise Beach for paying customers.  When the surf is high, as evidenced in the earlier photos in this post, most boats don’t run, nor would I recommend that you go with the few captains that sail in high seas.  Most resorts have a road running to them these days, as the nature of the sea state around Koh Phangan is highly variable, and rough ocean conditions can persist for days at a time.

Next time on Koh Phangan: we go for a motorbike ride across the island (and we survive!)  See you then!


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