Nestling offshore from Thailand’s lower Gulf coastline and midway between Koh Samui and Koh Tao, Koh Phanghan is best known for its riotous Full Moon parties. Once a month, around 30,000 revellers gather on Hat Rin beach and party till they drop. Most leave the following day, transforming the island to a relatively peaceful haven for seekers of serenity and economical beach shack-based life. So for couples who like to have a Koh Phangan destination wedding, choose your wedding date knowing this and plan for the type of wedding party you personally want.
A choice of train, VIP coach, bus, air and boat gives transportation to suit all pockets, with flying to one of three nearby airports and continuing by ferry the fastest option. Koh Samui’s airport is the closest, hosting daily flights from Bangkok, Singapore and Phuket and twice weekly trips from Chiang Mai and Kuala Lumpur. As with most easy options, Koh Samui flights are far more expensive than those serving Surat Thani or Chumphon airports.
Chumphon is second favourite with most air travellers for its daily routes to Koh Phanghan from Bankok’s secondary air hub, Don Muang. Nok Air’s budget flights take an hour between the two terminals, and buses link Chumphon Airport with the ferry terminal and its speedy catamarans. Mainland Surat Thani’s airport serves routes from the capital at a cheaper rate than the Bangkok/Koh Samui fare, and combination air/boat tickets save more money. Nok Air is the economic choice, Air Asia is another option and Thai Air’s high fares include the convenience of departure from Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
Bus or VIP coach travel from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal to Chumphon or Surat Thani for the ferry ports is surprisingly inexpensive at an average of 700 baht, but takes around ten hours to arrive. Outfits to avoid due to baggage thefts are any buses leaving from Khao San Road and any offered by less than well-known travel agencies. From Surat Thani, the ferry trip is around three hours. The final option involves an overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Chumphon or Surat Thani, although arrival times are in the very early morning, giving a long wait before the first ferry leaves.
What to Do and Experience
Koh Phanghan is an enticing mix of jungles, white-sand beaches, great diving and snorkelling, adventure activities, relaxing spas and massages and, of course, buzzing nightlife. It has to be said that, if it’s traditional Thailand you’re looking for, this island is no longer the place, but for a romantic break or even a memorable honeymoon it’s still a good choice. Accommodation ranges from small beachside bungalow resorts to the upscale spa elegance set along the western coastline with its seductive, unspoiled bays and azure waters.
Activities on the island other than weddings are range between the usual tourist shows featuring Thai dance, trained elephants, Muay Thai displays and suchlike to the stunning natural beauty of the island’s interior and the Than Sadet Ko Pha National Park. Here’ you’ll find dramatic waterfalls visited by historic Thai monarchs, mangrove forests and endless flora and fauna species. For the island’s best views, the lookout points at Domesila and the outcrops above Bottle Beach are a hike from civilisation, and the glittering Chinese and Thai temples with their gilded Buddha images are havens of calm.
Of course, Koh Phanghan is well known for its weddings and watersports, with its surrounding shallow coral reefs perfect for snorkelling straight from the beach. Other watery treats available include sailing, scuba diving, fishing, kite- or windsurfing, cruises and long-tail boat hire, and the island is a great place to study yoga and meditation. If you’re visiting around the time of the full moon party but don’t want to get involved, remember that there are around 30 other beaches backed by natural beauty and peaceful accommodation scattered around the coastline.