Ko Phongan Boat

Relaxing on Ko Phangan

Ko Phongan Stay

Ko Phangan’s Tranquil Side

Thailand’s eastern islands of Ko Samui, Ko Tao, and Ko Phangan are renowned for their tropical beauty of white beaches and crystal clear waters. But they’re also becoming increasingly known among the backpacking circuit for their party atmospheres, especially Ko Phangan: think buckets of lethal alcohol, glow sticks, and partying until dawn at a full moon party.

For some travellers it’s a place to let their hair down: to meet with holidaymakers from back home, to sit back and drink (lots of) beer in the sun in between partying hard. For others this can be a disappointing environment to discover. So what do you do on Ko Phangan when you’re all partied out, and your stomach churns at the thought of another bucket of energy drink; or when you simply want to bypass the party lifestyle this time and chill out? Do you get on a boat straight out of there? Hold your horses – because, surprisingly, the most relaxing place to retreat to is actually just around the corner.

The Next Cove Along

Ko Phongan Statue

You would not expect such a relaxing place to be quite so close to the very beach – Hat Rin – famous for such riotous parties. But on the very same sand you’ll quite easily find a chap who is willing to give you a lift in his long-tailed boat just around the headland to a paradise that might as well be a million miles away.

Hat Thian is about ten minutes ride from Hat Rin, if that, so it only costs a few Baht (probably more than you expect, since there is no way to get this beach via land, unless you fancy scrambling through jungle for a few hours, but let’s face it, it’s only a couple of quid, so don’t let that stop you). Hold onto your bag as you bounce on the waves and swerve around the rocks, and then listen to the quiet settle in once you’re left on the beach.

Where To Stay

Ko Phongan Hut

The small cove is dominated by the Sanctuary resort, a yoga retreat made up of various levels of accommodation ranging from dorms to rather luxurious (by backpacker standards) private cabins. The prices match, so if you’re an extreme penny pincher like me, on the other side of the cove, a little way through the coconut trees, you’ll find the lovely and more reasonably priced resort of Beam Bungalows. Like the staff at the Sanctuary, the staff here are extremely friendly and helpful. The private cabins extend up the hillside to the shaded jungle. They’re pretty comfortable (though there is no air con), and they’re ensuite (but we’re talking rustic bathrooms here – self-flushing with bowls of water. But hey, that’s what travelling is all about!). There’s not much going on in the resort itself, but you have a hammock on the veranda and you are just a stone’s throw from the beach – bliss.

Sun Salutations And Shrimp Salad

Ko Phongan Food

So what to do in Hat Thian, aside from enjoy the quiet, sandy beach and swim in the calm cove? (There’s a floating platform to swim out to if you’ve got the energy). Well now’s the time to give yoga a try and soothe your aching bones, stiff from carrying that backpack, . This is a retreat focused on the practice, so there are classes a plenty. It is such a soothing place to relax, with nothing but the sound of nature around you. And the English-speaking teacher I had when I were there was really great. (Please note: be sure to wear mozzie spray – sadly, I didn’t and a mosquito got up my trouser leg when I was in a downward dog and made a feast of my leg!). If you’re a real enthusiast there are full yoga programmes: you could do hours of yoga a day as well as meditation. They even have a fasting programme for the truly dedicated among you.

But why fast when, for such a small place, there are such nice places to eat? The Sanctuary restaurant had a wonderful, extensive menu, as well a great cocktail list. Beam Bungalows itself had excellent breakfasts on offer; and there was a small café just off the beach run by a friendly old lady who did a lovely glass noodle and shrimp salad (just watch out for the chilis!).

There’s not much in way of nightlife, though there is a bar or two along a sandy path from the beach. To my disappointment there was a party going on there when I stayed, and the booming music echoed around the cove from dusk until dawn. But I was led to believe this was a rare occurrence, judging by the way everyone in the cove invited everyone else along, as though it was a once in a blue moon event. I hope this is the case as it seems to me a sad thought that this cove might one day follow in its neighbour’s footsteps. If it does, now is the time to go there to relax, before everything changes.

Refreshed And Ready To Carry On

Ko Phongan Boat

But, at present, one leaves Hat Thian tanned, toned, and chilled out; and therefore my experience of Ko Phangan was quite different to everyone else’s who associated the island with crazy all-nighters and head-banging hangovers. Upon hearing about Hat Thian, a great many travellers I met wished that they’d paid it a visit: so, whether you go for a day, a week, or a month, I guarantee you it is one place in Thailand that you will relax in, recharge those batteries, and will feel refreshed and invigorated to carry on with your trip.