Introducing Ko Pha-Ngan
Slacker, hippie-at-heart Ko Pha-Ngan has become so synonymous with the wild and massive Full Moon Party on Hat Rin that the rest of the island – and even Hat Rin outside of full moon week – gets forgotten. It's a strange juxtaposition where for one week the island has some 30,000 people crammed on one beach partying their minds out and then, off they all go on the next boat, leaving the beaches and accommodationshalf empty. It's at this time that budgeting serenity seekers can retreat into a fog (perhaps with a slight herbal scent) of the backpacker days of old and nab a fan-cooled beach shack from 400B (on the northern beaches at least). This will probably change quickly with the imminent opening of the island's airport in late 2014, but for now this exceptionally gorgeous island is in a sleepy sweet spot where you can even find a solid bungalow on Hat Rin for around 1000B outside of full moon mania.
Ko Pha-ngan has plenty to offer the more clean-cut, comfort-seeking traveler as well; its peace and quiet make it a great choice for families. Remote Hat Thong Nai Pan Noi in particular feels like a miniature version of Ko Samui with its elegant resorts fronted by rows of cushion-clad beach loungers, while the easier-to-access west coast has attracted a handful of new upscale resorts and a few older places have been revamped to attract a more ritzy market.
The phrase ‘private infinity pool’ and ‘personal butler’ may soon be heard more frequently than ‘magic milkshake’ and ‘another whisky bucket please’. But whatever happens, chances are that the vast inland jungle will continue to feel undiscovered, and there will be still plenty of stunning, secluded bays in which you can string up a hammock and watch the tide roll in. Enjoy.