We don’t know of many travelling families who have been moving as continually as we have in the 10+ months that we’ve been on the road. We’ve never stayed in any one place for longer than 12 nights or so. But especially after our travels through India, we are a tad bit tired. Yet still surprisingly (to us anyway) we ended up staying on Koh Phangan for 26 days, and loved every minute of it!
So what did we do there?
In a nutshell, not much! After our Visa Run fiasco, we upgraded to a resort at neighbouring Haad Yao, which offered a much nicer room, a swimming pool overlooking the beach, and a buffet breakfast for all of us (all for a low season rate of 800THB/$26.65 USD per day). Our day consisted of eating 3 meals, with swimming either in the bay and/or in the pool and making sandcastles on the beach in between.
Maddy also improved her snorkelling skills, as well as learned to volley a beach ball, and to draw more detailed pictures. Yasmine meanwhile, chatted the ears off the many staff at the resort, entertaining them with her detailed stories and insights.
Sometimes we would zip around the island for a change of scenery on our motorbike that we ended taking a monthly rental on. We also liked to eat at the Night Market in Thongsala a few times a week, which was about 20minutes away. Great inexpensive cart food could be had so we got our share of fruit shakes, pancakes, and crumb chicken skewers for 10-30B each.
And for the first time in a long time during this trip (not including the great people we met in Sanur, Bali as well as the bunch that we met in Vietnam), we were very social here. Probably in part to us being a family with young kids and not finding ourselves in the usual ‘social spots’, coupled with the hours that we keep (up early, back to our room early), our interactions with other travellers has been somewhat limited and fleeting. Here, we met and interacted with some warm, interesting and like-minded fellow tourists, who spoke English too! (Usually, we’ve just met French and Germans, particularly in India and in Khao Lak.) We had in-depth conversations over breakfast with a professor from Boston University and his partner as well as with a couple of engineers from Houston (Texas), sharing travel insights as well as thoughts on long term travel with children in tow.
We even made friends with 2 families with kids the same age as ours, although we saw many more families here and there on the island. Our children haven’t interacted much with other kids since we left Australia as we just haven’t met many families, and if we did, their children either tend to be much older or much younger than ours. We ended up meeting an interesting family of 4 from Winnipeg, Canada, and the kids played together for a couple of afternoon until they left. Then we met a family of 6 from Sweden, who had 4 kids aged 6yrs and under! (And we thought we had it tough—they were backpacking also, while pushing a tandem stroller!) We really enjoyed spending time together with this special family for a few hours of the day and the kids played easily together despite the language barrier. We also tended to eat our lunch and dinners together as we favoured the same restaurant.
What Makes Koh Phangan So Special?
We’d been asking ourselves this because our time there had been very unique from the other places that we’ve been so far. We’ve surmised that it’s because there just isn’t much to do on the island, other than to just relax and be. And the island is quite small and compact, so you can easily get a change of scenery (with a motorbike) and not feel trapped. Yet the island offers everything you need for a relaxing vacation: markets, good food, massages galore, motorbikes to hire, internet access, and lots of beautiful beaches. Koh Phangan just seems to grow on you.
And before you know it, it’s time to leave. And you suspect that you probably won’t find anything quite like it anywhere else.