From the west coast I diverted over to the east. A few buses and a night ferry later, which strangely takes six hours longer than the regular one, I arrived on Koh Phan gan. I wanted to arrive early before the monthly movement of people onto the island that can rival any refugee crisis around the world for the full moon party.
Koh Phan gan is not as picture postcard as Koh Phi Phi. It doesn’t have the same knock out views but it benefits from being far more low key. It is a backpacker island, suiting all levels of budgets. I stayed over on Hat Yao beach. In slight contradiction to what I have just said it is probably the second best beach I have visited. A clear ocean, lots of white sand and surrounded by hills covered in trees. It was quiet, with only the birds to be heard signing when sat on the beach. No trance or techno here.
The first couple of days represented the feeling I had when first setting foot in Goa. There was no incentive to do much other than lay in a hammock that looked over the palm trees through to the ocean. Prime sunset real estate. I of course ventured down to the beach but not much further. It’s a strange thought that travelling gets tiring but it does and those couple of days were much needed.
On the third day I wandered over to the main port to meet Paul who is joining me for a month or so. Five Kilometers my lonely planet said. My hostel owner told me half an hour (much to her embarrassment later). It took me just shy of two hours. I got there eventually and took Paul over to Hat Yao. It was great to talk to someone again which does not require the traditional, where are you from? What do you do? Where have you been travelling? Etc questions.
The following day we visited Koh Mai an island on the tip of the North East corner. It’s supposed to have the best snorkeling on the island but visibility was not great when we were there. Instead it will be remembered as the place when I developed a fear that has continued throughout the rest of Thailand. With snorkels and masks all set we ventured into the water to where the sign pointed. A reef runs close off the shore and a sandy path helps you to get out to it. The problems came when the waves kicked in and the water did not get any deeper than knee height. It’s been a problem in Thailand at this time of year that the water is just not deep enough to swim in.
With the current pulling me away from the path through the coral I became disorientated and found myself trapped on the reef with no idea where the way back in was. Standing up I was at times in ankle deep water but the waves would not relent in throwing me forward and pulling me back out. Reefs are sharp things.
I was quite concerned when I caught Paul part swimming, part walking out towards me. He stopped and we both asked at exactly the same time where the path back in was. On finally finding it we shared cuts and went to nurse the wounds in the café. It was surprising at just how the farcical could be so punishing.
When I arrived on Koh Phan gan I was the only guest staying at my accommodation. A number of days later and the place was booked out, most paying close to double the price. Why? Well the full moon was up and ready setting off the catalyst for one of the worlds premier parties. The full moon parties on Koh Phan gan are legendary. It was certainly a sight with thousands of people partying on the beach to tons of bars pumping out music. Fire limbo and skipping ropes provided entertainment as everyone danced away the night. I met by chance various people who I had met on Koh Phi Phi which was good fun. All in all the night turned out to be much more a spectacle in terms of numbers than a great night but was well worth going to.
Getting off Koh Phan gan was a slight chore as thousands of others had the same idea. We succeeded the day after we intended and headed with many others to the tiny island of Ko Tao.