Sunday, 30 May 2010

Trekking Routes in Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan is blessed with an abundance of unspoiled nature: jungle, mountains, waterfalls and inaccessible beaches are all available to explore by those wishing to trek on the island. This post details some of the trekking routes available on Koh Phangan.

Khao Ra

Khao Ra is the highest peak in Koh Phangan. It stands 630 meters above sea level. From the summit there are great views of the bays of Thong Nai Pan and Chaloklum. On a clear day the distant island of Koh Tao is also visible. The trek starts near the elephant place and view point on the road between Thong Nai Pan and Bantai. It is not an overly strenuous walk but the path is not well marked. ‘Bird and Trekking’ man (on the Bantai-Thong Nai Pan road) has organized tours up the mountain.

Phaeng Waterfall

This is one of the best waterfalls on the island. It is a national park so the whole area is protected against development. It is free to enter the park. The trek involves a steep walk up a jungle trail. Once at the waterfall it is possible to take one of several clearly marked trails to a nearby mountain viewpoint. From there you can follow trails up Khao Ra. The trail is in the middle of the island. To get to the trail head take the main road from Thongsala to Chaloklum and take the sign posted turning off to the right (if you are heading north).

Chaloklum to Bottle Beach

You can reach the remote and beautiful beach of Bottle Beach or Haad Kuat. The trek takes about two hours. The path starts at the western end of Chaloklum. Follow the dirt  path to Haad Khom and then take the narrow and winding narrow path over the mountain that drops down to Bottle Beach.

Haad Yuan and Haad Thian

This is an excellent two hour trek that starts in Haad Rin and goes north over mountainous terrain before dropping down to the beautiful beaches of Haad Yuan and Haad Thian. There are no roads to these beaches, but you can take a boat out or retrace your steps.

Companies offering organized trekking tours include: Hippo Club Tours (Thongsala), Phangan Safari (Chaloklum) and Phangan Safari Eco-nature Tour (Chaloklum).

Remember to follow these simple rules for your own safety.

1)    Don't trek alone
2)    Tell somebody where you are going so they can call out help if you don't home back.
3)    Bring plenty of water and sunblock.
4)    Wear boots or good shoes. Not flip flops. The island has many snakes, including the poisonous variety.
5)    Get a map, no matter how basic, to guide you. A compass is also useful too.
6)    Give yourself extra time to do the trek. There's nothing worse than being stuck in the middle of the jungle in the dark.
7)    Bring insect and mosquito repellent.
8)    Don't leave any rubbish behind.
9)    Don't start fires.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Reviews of Mandalai Hotel in Chaloklum

The reviews are generally good for the Mandalai Hotel in Chaloklum. It is branded as a boutique hotel. It is a small hotel with cout yard and swimming pool. Next door is the Sheesha Bar and Restaurant that serves the usual mix of Thai and Western cuisine. It is a mid-range option.

Some people love the traditional feel of Chaloklum as a working fishing village. Others find it a bit noisy, smelly and busy with traffic going up and down the road. It is really a matter of how isolated and remote you want your beach. If you want really remote try Haad Yuan, Than Sadet or Haad Khom.

Anyway below are a number of reviews of Mandalai Hotel in Chaloklum. They have not been edited.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Muay Thai in Koh Phangan

Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand. Every boy at school learns the basics. Millions stop what they are doing every Sunday afternoon to watch the televised Muay Thai bouts. Muay Thai champions are famous in Thailand.

And of all the places in Thailand to study Thai boxing, Koh Phangan is one of the best. The reason for this is that the great weather and laid back atmosphere of the small island near Koh Samui seems to suit former champions. There are several 'big names' working for the Muay Thai gyms in Koh Phangan. Thus, if you are looking for a place to learn Muay Thai or improve on your Muay Thai technique then Koh Phangan could be the place for you.

The oldest and best established gym in Koh Phangan is the Jungle Gym in Haad Rin. It has been running for more than 13 years. They have a full range of equipment for working out and also offer yoga classes.

The beautiful and remote beach of Haad Thien (or Haad Tien) in the south east of Koh Phangan is the location for the Horizon Thai Boxing Camp. They have a former champion in residence and offer training sessions every day - one in the morning and one in the evening. Horizon Thai Boxing Camp has a fight now that is staged at Bantai. It is 500 bahts to get in.

The Chorenrit Boxing Stadium in Thongsala offers expert tuition on a one to one basis and has a fight night where they have fights at all weight divisions and include women Muay Thai boxers.

There is a small Thai boxing stadium in Thong Nai Pan. It is called Muay Thai Stadium Pechrunruang. They offer personalized Muay Thai training sessions at competitive prices and have a fight night the Monday before the Full Moon Party during high seasons.

There are a few more stadiums and Muay Thai schools dotted around the island. All of them offer training programs for beginners and advanced students. They also organise for non-Thais to participate in fight nights. If you want to learn Muay Thai, just get a work out, lose some weight or get an insight into Thai culture attending a Muay Thai gym in Koh Phangan may be for you.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Coco Garden Bungalows in Bantai Review

Coco Garden Bungalows in Bantai are reasonably cheap at 450 thb for a night and have lots of good reviews from travellers who have stayed there.

Here are a selection of reviews from people who have stayed at Coco Bungalows in Bantai.

There is only one word to describe our time at coco gardens and that is awesome!!! Service was perfect, all the staff there are really nice and helpful. Food was great, cocktails were great, and the fry up in the morning went some way to curing our hangovers :). We will come back one day....

Keely and Phil  - Jan 10th 2010

Coco Gardens by far is one of the best places to stay on the west side of Thailand. The staff are so helpful and the rooms are of a high standard. I stayed for 10 days over Christmas and wished I could have stayed for more. You d be mad not to try this little gem out. Room 101 is the aircon ed top bungalow and well worth the price. Ady. Lee and Thai the owners cannot make you feel more welcome. Try it and see. Happy holidays.

Tompkins - December 30th 2009

the bungalows are great, you step off your balcony and you are on the beach. The room is simple, but sturdy, clean and well kept. the restaurant serves amazing (and cheap) food from 8-10. the beach bar is the place to be at night if you want to escape the lunacy at Haad Rin, the local bar flies make for entertainment and good conversation and the owners (Adrian and Lee) make excellent drinking buddies (If you can keep up with you). I would highly recommend Coco Gardens to anyone, whether you are full mooning or not. Just far enough away from Haad Rin to not goet bothered or robbed but to still have some amazing night life. Lek also makes the best Mai Tais on the island! Cheers Guys, see you again soon!

Samuel Hughes - September 8th 2009

I went to Coco Garden with my wife and a friend of ours for two nights - to attend the Half Moon Party. We were so pleased with our choice. The air conditioned bungalows we stayed in were clean, charming and simply furnished. Exactly what we needed and had hoped for. The rest of the resort was a delight. The staff are just lovely and the beachfront bar was a great place to congregate and loosen up before the party with a few cocktails and beers. The restaurant served yummy Thai food with a smile and the setting was just beautiful. I guess, as others have mentioned, the beach was a bit of a letdown but not such a big deal that I would not stay here again. Apparently the tidal problem only happens a few weeks of the year and honestly, it didn t bother us that much. A great resort on a lovely island - we will definitely return. Thanks Adrian, Lee, Tai and all the other great people running the place. David, Chryss and Gill.

David Bamford - June 16th 2009

The location is great. Staff is vey pleasant and the restaurant provides good food in a very pleasant setting. The rooms (we had a fan room facing the beach) was very basic but perfect for a place to sleep. A fridge is the room will be nice. Will stay at Coco Gardens again. 

Dave Engelbrecht - South Africa March 19th 2009

All the other reviews I have found of Coco Garden Bungalows in Bantai have been similarly glowing. They obviously provide good service on a great beach. To book a bungalow at Coco Garden Bungalows online go to Phangan

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Thongsala Cheap Eats

Thongsala, the main port town in Koh Phangan, has the best selection of cheap places to eat in Koh Phangan.

Below is a list of some of my favourite cheap eats in Thongsala.
  • Just down from the post office is a local hole in the wall place that is usually full every lunch time. They serve a mean khao mu deang (red pork with rice). It cost 30 baht when I was there last. The food comes quickly and the walls are covered in classifieds.
  • At the edge of the market there's a street food stall that serves good and cheap Thai food.
  • In the evening the night market (on the main street, half way down) is the place to get a cheap meal Thai style. Rice and curry or noodles is the standard fare. You can also get a cold beer with your meal. The night market usually has plenty of people and atmosphere and is a good spot to hang out early evening.
  • More expensive, but tasty is the fish restaurant on the corner by the sea, on the same road as the post office. They serve fresh shark, snapper etc. with salads and rice. Other than the food, the best thing about the restaurant is the view of Thongsala bay.
  • Finally, if you are waiting for a Lomprayah ferry the best place to get a snack is the 7-11 opposite the pier entrance. Cup noodles, burgers and crisps are good choices. Stay clear of Thai 7-11 sandwiches - they are sweet with odd (relatively speaking) fillings.
  • If you want western food, then A's is the place to go. It's good but not in my 'cheap eats' category.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Koh Phangan Review - the First Post

For those who have visited the place it needs no description, for those yet to visit it is difficult to describe in a sentence. Koh Phangan is different to Koh Samui, Koh Tao and other even less visited islands but it has its own unique charm.

The abundance of great beaches, the chilled out atmosphere, the easy island life style of service is seriously addictive. After just a few days on the beach you will start wonder why you don't spend every day on the beach. That is the dream and the beauty of Thailand and Koh Phangan in particular.

This blog is about independently describing what Koh Phangan has to offer. It is hoped that the information herein is found useful and amusing. And that readers will chip in with good comments and suggestions.