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Johnny's Guide to Koh Phangan for Digital Nomads

The legendary full moon party island has recently become a viable digital nomad escape from Chiang Mai. The island itself is so much more diverse than just the party with great hiking, fantastic scuba diving, and a ton of hidden gems to explore, plus a new coworking space. The dream is to live on a beautiful island with great wifi and crush it throughout the month while being able to go to a world class party on the beach to chill out and have fun, well the good news is that the dream has come true.

As I wrote about the party in 12 Weeks in Thailand, I've been to Koh Phangan around 5 times now but always just for the full moon party, and never really got the see the rest of the island until this trip. This is my guide to visiting the island or living here as your home away from home while running your online business.




How to Get to Koh Phangan:



I flew direct from Chiang Mai but the route would be similar if you were coming from Bangkok. There are two airports near Phangan, Koh Samui (USM) and Surat Thani (URT)

Both choices are about a million times better than taking a bus or train as those overnight excursions are rough, but flying into Samui is the way I ended up choosing even though it was more expensive.

Chiang Mai to Surat Thani to Koh Phangan - Sounds doable on paper, but in reality, ends up being a long tiring journey when you factor in the long bus ride, long ferry ride, and long taxi ride. If you want to go this option and save money, you would fly Air Asia direct from Chiang Mai (CNX to URT) - Recommended ONLY if you are on a tight budget.

Chiang Mai to Koh Samui to Koh Phangan - Almost double the price as the cheapo Air Asia route but also about 1,000x nicer of a trip. Bangkok Air is a pleasant experience, the trip is about half the time when you factor in the bus and ferry transfers, and Koh Samui might just have the nicest airport in the world. Recommended if you favor your time and low stress levels more than money.


Office of the Day at Buri Beach on Koh Phangan

Where to Stay on Koh Phangan: 


If you are coming for the Full Moon Party, you'll want to stay on Haad Rin Beach, either on the sunrise beach where the party is, or on the sunset beach side if you value sleep more than being in the action. I stayed at Buri Beach Resort which is on the quiet side but is still only a 10 minute walk from the party. If you're not here for the party, the other beaches on the island are much quieter and still just as, if not even more beautiful.

Check out Agoda as it's where I book all of my hotels. If you want a deal that includes accommodation, pick up, and coworking space membership during the 3 weeks every month that the full moon isn't going on, email charlie@kohspace.com asking for a off peak package deal, you can get rooms for about half the price every month if you time it right and skip the full moon party.


Dinner at The Fisherman on Koh Phangan

Where to Eat on Koh Phangan:


By far the best seafood restaurant I've ever had anywhere in the world has been Fisherman's Restaurant  just up the street from Koh Space.

There's also Matt's Joint which an awesome all you can eat buffet featuring ribs and other Texas style BBQ foods right in the heart of the full moon beach at the Chicken Corner.

The night market in the main town is worth checking out as there is a great variety of food and is a fun way to experience some Thai culture while on the island

Aside from that the only other place on the island I really like is OM Ganesh which has good Indian food.





Scuba Diving on Koh Phangan:


There's only one good dive site near Koh Phangan but luckily it's a great one. It's terrible for beginners even though shops on the island take open water course students there anyways just because it's close by, but if you're a certified diver, especially if you're advanced, definitely check out Sail Rock. That and Chumphon Pinnacle on Koh Tao are the only two good dive sites on the east coast of Thailand.

There's also a smaller dive site called Green Rock which is decent and has cool swim throughs, but overall, the diving on the west coast of Thailand is superior.

I dove with Phangan Diver's based near the pier in Haad Rin beach and had a great experience. For taking your open water course, I would do it on Koh Tao with Scuba-Junction.


At the Phangan Challenge



Things to do on Koh Phangan:



If you've ever seen Ninja Warrior and wanted to give it a shot, there's a really fun water challenge course on the island. It's much harder than it looks but it's a fun half day out on the water with friends. Check out The Challenge Phangan if you're ever there and make sure you also do the thing where three Thai guys jump and launch you in the air...whatever that's called!
Also check out the herbal steam saunas, they're incredible. My favorite was called Anodash and was just a few doors down from KohSpace. 

If you're serious about managing your money brain, check out the 7 and 10 day silent meditations at Wat Koh Tahm, the mountain cave monastery. I did a similar vipassana which I wrote about in 12 Weeks in Thailand that I learned a ton through.

There's also the legendary Full Moon Party every month which I wrote about in the book above as well, the exact opposite of meditation but quite possibly the most epic party in the world. 

Lastly if you want to get away from it all and chill out for a few days, head over The Sanctuary Resort for some Yoga and mental detoxing.


Getting launched at the Challenge Phangan

Coworking on Koh Phangan:


Up until recently Koh Phangan was a terrible place for digital nomads was the internet was slow and spotty, and there was no community.

Luckily, there's a new coworking space KohSpace that has good internet and is super comfortable. As of 2015 there still isn't a big digital nomad community there, but if you can convince a group of friends to go with you down to the islands for a month or two, the island is a great place to be based and you can still get some work done.

Compared to places like Chiang Mai there still isn't a big digital nomad community most of the year but it's a great place to get away from burning season or to hang out on the beach and work.

Edit: A second coworking space just opened on Koh Phangan called beacHub.



Final Thoughts:

A few years ago when I was super into scuba diving, muay thai and partying Koh Phangan would have been my ideal place to be based. There are some decent Muay Thai gyms on the island, decent scuba diving, and great partying. 

As for being a digital nomad, I think it's a great place to check out for a month or two when you want to escape from Chiang Mai and is an alternative to Koh Lanta, especially during the "green season" when Lanta is pretty much shut down. 

If you want to know more about the life down on the islands, read my first book 12 Weeks in Thailand. I'm glad to have Koh Phangan as an escape and as an alternative and think there's potential in the future for it to be a thriving place. But for now, it's a great place to visit. 


Warm Regards,

Johnny


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  1. Hey Johnny, what are your thoughts of Kho Lanta and the Kohub co-working space? Thinking about hittin it up soon hence my question.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Alex, I loved Koh Lanta and KoHub. Check out my write up of it here: http://www.johnnyfd.com/2015/03/digital-nomads-guide-to-koh-lanta.html

      Delete
  2. I first went to ko pha ngan in 1998. Back then, there was limited electricity on the island and no sealed roads.To get to the Northern beaches like Bottle Beach, you had to ride a long-tail boat from Haad Rin. Bungalows right on Haad Rin beach were 200 baht/night. Even Chaweng in Ko Samui was just a dirt town back then. How the times have changed.The thai islands are now way too commercial for my liking.It used to be a backpacker's paradise. There's a great blog about Ko Pha Ngan in the 90's with awesome photos of what it looked like back before it became trendy.

    ReplyDelete

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