KOH PHANGAN: Downshifting in a Yoga Island

by admin

The rain forms a wall you nearly can’t see through when we arrive in the port of Koh Phangan 23 November. Is this how it will be? We’ve taken a risk and paid in advance for ten nights on an island where it rains most in November to December.

But on the way to our accommodation on Salad Beach, the rain stops and the sky starts to get clearer. Maybe it will all work out.

Previously, we’ve travelled all over Thailand on Koh Samui, Koh Lanta, Koh Lipe, Koh Ngai, Phi Phi, Koh Jum, Khao Lak, Koh Kood, Koh Chang and Koh Phayam but not on Koh Phangan.

The island charms us on the way to our accommodation, already.  The lush greenery just immerses us. In spite of the rainy season, the atmosphere is lively. We see familiar Thai signs: GASOLINE, MOTORBIKE FOR RENT. Mopeds come and go. In stalls by the road, they sell fruit and fruit shakes. In restaurants, dinner is being prepared. The air is full of familiar scents of Thailand.

Koh Phangan. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Koh Phangan.

Koh Phangan. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Koh Phangan.

It’s nearly dusk when the pick-up taxi drops us off in front of the Green Papaya Resort after climbing steep hills. The porters escort us to our bungalow.

We’re relieved to see the room is spacious and stylish and the bathroom is modern and tidy. We were a bit apprehensive about booking accommodation in Green Papaya because it has received mixed reviews. The bungalows were also called old-fashioned and smelling of mould. Our bungalow is not new but it’s stylish, well-maintained and clean.

On our second trip to Green Papaya, however, we had to change bungalows because there was a smell of wet soil.

Green Papya Resort, Salad Beach. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Green Papya Resort, Salad Beach.

Deluxe Cottage, Green Papya Resort. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Deluxe Cottage, Green Papya Resort.

Green Papya Resort, Salad Beach. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Green Papya Resort, Salad Beach.

Salad Beach, Koh Phangan. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Salad Beach, Koh Phangan.

The beauty of the garden and the beach are revealed on the way to our morning swim. The small tropical garden looks quite magical in the morning light, and the pool in the middle of it glistens with shades of blue. The sea water is bright and turquoise, the sand is fine and white. The beautifully curved beach is flanked by hills full of palm trees.

A stylish bungalow, a beautiful garden, a great beach, and stunning scenery. So far, we haven’t been able to find a more charming place to stay on Koh Phangan than Green Papaya. It cost us about 70 euros a night in November 2017.

The small Salad Beach is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful ones on the island. There’s no lively nightlife, and people riding mopeds will like it. Salad is just under 15 kilometres from Thongsala, the centre of the island. We can also recommend Haad Yao Beach nearby.

Salad Beach, Koh Phangan. Photo: Mila Hyytinen

Salad Beach, Koh Phangan.

Haad Yao Beach, Koh Phangan. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Haad Yao Beach, Koh Phangan.

After a day of riding a moped, it’s nice to return to the peace of Salad. We end the day by getting a massage on the beach. An oil massage for 400 baht an hour and the gentle sea breeze are so relaxing that we lose all sense of time and space.

Koh Phangan is known for wild full-moon parties on Haad Rin Beach. It has created misconceptions about the whole island. Phangan offers mostly a quiet village atmosphere. It’s also known as a yoga island.

Thongsala, Port of Koh Phangan. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Thongsala, Port of Koh Phangan.

Yoga Center Orion Healing, Srithanu Village. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Yoga Center Orion Healing, Srithanu village.

It’s good to know which way to go when arriving in Thongsala, the harbour village. Those who want to avoid parties, should go left to the north of the island. In our opinion, that part of the island offers the best of Phangan, the loveliest beaches and villages. We also visited Haan Rin Beach once but weren’t really charmed by it.

We get to know the country road from Thongsala to Salad very well. Along with riding a moped, we go and do yoga in the Orion Healing Centre in the village of Srithanu. We bump into familiar-looking yogis and hippies in the charming Cookies Cafe in the village. It’s also a kind of information centre of the island attracting downshifters who stay on the island longer.

Srithanu Village, Koh Phangan. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Srithanu village, Koh Phangan.

Cookies Cafe, Srithanu Village. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Cookies Cafe, Srithanu village.

Cookies Cafe, Srithanu Village, Koh Phangan. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Cookies Cafe, Srithanu village.

Downshifters can live very cheap on Koh Phangan, at least off-season when there’s no need to book accommodation in advance. On the small beach in Srithanu village, middle-ranking bungalows cost 1,000 baht a night in November 2017. At the Thongsala food market, you can get two tasty meals for a couple of hundred baht a day.

In Srithanu village, we find the most interesting restaurant on the whole island. Mama Pooh’s looks like a shack about to collapse by the road. The wall is adorned with a sheet saying: REASONABLE PRICE, BUT NICE.

Mama Pooh´s Kitchen, Srithanu Village, Koh Phangan. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Mama Pooh´s Kitchen, Srithanu village.

Deep Fried Fish, Mama Pooh´s Restaurant. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Deep Fried Fish, Mama Pooh´s Restaurant.

Mama Pooh’s is a tourist attraction in itself. At the entrance, there is a table with two old guys fixing electronic devices – or at least pretending to. The table is full of tools, small parts, and bottles of oil.

Along with the menu, the waiter brings us insect repellent. The ordering system is creative.  After every dish, there is a number. To avoid misunderstandings, the waiter brings paper to write the order on in numbers.

The dishes are tasty. We start with papaya salad and crab, and the main is pan-fried fish. The whole restaurant experience is uniquely eccentric. Fisherman, the top restaurant on the island, is no match for it.

Koh Phangan. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Koh Phangan.

Nai Pan Yai Beach, Koh Phangan. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Nai Pan Yai Beach, Koh Phangan.

Those who like riding mopeds should also visit the east of the island that is quieter. It’s about 20 kilometres away from Thongsala.  On the east side, there are two beaches right beside each other: Nai Pan Yai and Nai Pan Noi. Both are quiet and beautiful. However, the atmosphere in the east is secluded. We’re happy to go back to the west of the island.

We’re very lucky: the monsoon rain stays away and we get plenty of sun. First impressions of Koh Phangan are confirmed during ten days there. In our opinion, it’s the best holiday destination in Thailand. We have to visit it again, maybe go for a yoga holiday.

Translated into English by Katja Juutistenaho. Original Finnish text by Tuomas Hyytinen and Mila Hyytinen.

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