We’re on the search for the best places in the world to live the digital nomad life, and one of the top choices on our list is Koh Phangan in Thailand. An island most known for its Full Moon Party. This island gets a bad rap in being known as a party island, yet there is so much more to it than that. Although all islands in Thailand are beautiful, Koh Phangan is one of the most picturesque. The lush greenery, and rural ruggedness keeps its beauty raw and with a small island town feel. You won’t find your neighboring Starbucks or Mcdonalds on this island, yet explore a bit more and you will find Muay thai camps, yoga retreats, and coworking communities to make this into your own individually unique tropical paradise home away from home.
An island within the Gulf of Thailand, in the southeast region of the country, best known for its Full Moon Party in the Haad Rin beach, it has grown famous after being the location of Alex Garland’s ode to the backpacking-hippie-life in the 1996 novel The Beach.
To get to Koh Phangan, you must get into any of the adjacent airports (Koh Samui and Surat Thani are the nearest ones). Alternately, you can also fly in through the other airports in Thailand, and catch a stress-free bus / train and ferry packaged trip via 12go (https://12go.asia/en) or, through FerrySamui.com (http://www.ferrysamui.com/koh-phangan.html).
Koh Phangan boasts of a mostly tropical climate, with dry season from mid-December to April, hot season with occasional showers from May to September, and Wet/Rainy season from October to mid-December. Visit anytime but make sure you catch any one of the scheduled Full Moon Parties (http://www.fullmoonparty-thailand.com/schedules.html).
Island Living and Working
* Dollar ($) to Baht (฿) exchange rate is currently at 1 USD = 35 Baht.
If your are looking to establish a longer term home base here. The cheapest ones are priced around ฿ 5,000 per month with the most basic comforts of a private room / hut with fan, or a shared dorm room with air conditioning in a backpacker’s hostel. For those with a little bit more to spend, you can get a full house with basic amenities and some comforts like air conditioning, a kitchen and dining area, a living room, and even a beach view for around ฿12,000.
Internet connectivity is the lifeline for running your business while traveling. Internet subscription / mobile data is at around ฿ 700 per month for 10 MBPS with unlimited data; else, you can go to a café that offers Wi-Fi connectivity with a cup of coffee at ฿ 75 per day, at this rate it will end at roughly ฿ 2,000 a month – but you get to have good coffee too, so it’s pretty fair.
Of course, there’s also the option to get into a Coworking Space. These places ensure you of fast internet and the comforts of an office. Koh Space (http://kohspace.com/) and Beach Hub (http://beachub.org/) are available in the island of Koh Phangan. Prices range from ฿ 400 a day to ฿ 5,500 a month.
Going around Koh Phangan for food and adventure can be done by foot, but it you want to go farther, then renting a scooter is the way to go. Motorbikes are being rented at ฿ 150 per day or around ฿ 3,000 a month.
Photo credit: www.webmd.com
Koh Phangan provides many options to fit your budget and dietary needs. Local street food can be found at the food market at the Thongsala pier where a meal can be bought at ฿ 50, or about ฿ 4,500 a month.
You can also get pricier meals from western and mid-range restaurants at ฿ 150 to ฿ 300.
For a list of healthy restaurants and cafes in Koh Phangan, Happy Cow (https://www.happycow.net/asia/thailand/koh_phangan/). For places to grab some drinks and party, here’s a resource from KoSamui.com (http://www.kosamui.com/ko-phangan/nightlife/).
Some of my personal favorites include:
Milky Bay Resort— Great seafood and meat dishes. Delicious food that is right by the beach and perfect for group gatherings.
Fishermans Cafe–Great ambience, service and amazing food.
Orion Cafe –Healthy, plant based food on the pricier side but get all your hippy and healthy eating needs met, You can even find Kombucha!
Who would have thought there would be a chocolate factory on the island. Not exactly your Willy Wonka but this little chocolate factory is full of tea ceremonies, delicious home-made chocolate bars (try the espress one) and home made hot chocolate to meet all your sweet tooth needs. Be careful of really random hours mainly at night and and the new-age crowds if it’s not your scene.
Activities and Adventure
Koh Phangan is home to lots of yoga studios and academies, whether you came for an intensive teacher training, a yoga retreat, or just dropped by for a sunrise or sunset practice, there will be an ashram to welcome you. Drop-in rate is at ฿ 300, retreats start at ฿ 9,000 and full teacher trainings from ฿ 60,000 up. TripAdvisor provides a directory of yoga studios (https://www.tripadvisor.com.ph/Attractions-g303907-Activities-c40-t260-Ko_Pha_Ngan_Surat_Thani_Province.html), while BookYogaRetreats (https://www.bookyogaretreats.com/all/d/asia-and-oceania/thailand/koh-phangan) lists yoga retreats in the area
photo credit: diamondmuathai.com
You can’t leave Thailand without training in Muay Thai. Muay Thai is a martial art is referred to as the “Art of Eight Limbs” because it makes use of punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes, thus using eight “points of contact”, as opposed to “two points” (fists) in boxing and “four points” (hands and feet) used in other more regulated combat sports, Muay Thai training gyms in Koh Phangan charge ฿ 300-400 per drop in to first timers, while a one-month membership is at ฿ 7,000. They also provide meal plans, and train and stay schemes for a more immersive experience. There are many gyms throughout the island, however my top choice is Diamond Muay Thai. Find out why here
After a long day of training sessions, make sure to relax and grab a Thai massage at Dang and Kiki Massage at around ฿ 300. . Strong massages, and they really know what they are doing. If looking for a massage spot slightly fancier with air-conditioning then make sure to check out Pure Relax Spa. Or, even better, learn the art of Thai Massage, or Chakra healing and balancing, and stash an additional trade into your digital nomad life skills vault.
Living in an island, one cannot run out of water activities to do. Snorkeling, diving, boat / kayak island tours, kitesurfing / kiteboarding are some activities that you can do in Koh Phangan. These water activities start at ฿ 700, and could go up as much as ฿ 50,000 dependent on the length (hours/days) or how advanced the activities you want to do. Of course, you’ll always have the option to just frolic in the sands of the beaches without any cost and work on that tan.
Here are some options for you:
Kitesurfing–Try out a 3-day intro for 11,000 baht. If you end up being a natural, you can rent on your own after.
A random, but fun thing to check out on your day off from kiting, yoga, wakeboarding and muay thai is Wipe out –the islands only obstacle course on the water.
Nature and safari tours are available starting at ฿ 700. Trek to the highest peak, Khao Ra or the Phaeng Waterfalls are adventures you can do to commune with nature.
Full Moon Party/Safety
However, the most notable event in Koh Phangan is the Full Moon Party, which brings swarms of tourists to the Haad Rin beach for a party that runs from dusk to sunrise. Overflowing booze fuels everyone, as fire dancers and party-goers keep the island awake, while music fills the salty air in different beats and genres.
Koh Phangan having been famous for its party scene has gotten bad publicity as an unsafe place for women to travel to. News of danger and violence in the island broke world news in the past. But just to debunk this, it is an outlier incident – just a matter of being in the wrong place and the wrong time. Koh Pangan is safe and secure as any city in the world as long as you can control your alcohol, veer away from drugs (which can get pretty out of hand during the rave parties), and stay aware of yourself and your surroundings. Come for the fun, respect the culture and the locals, and the odds of you getting into any trouble is zero to low; whilst the odds of you enjoying yourself and the island life are HIGH.
* For other details on cost of living in Thailand, Numbeo provides (https://www.happycow.net/asia/thailand/koh_phangan/) a list.
Overall Koh Phangan is a great island for sports, beautiful scenery, co-working, amazing food, friendly people. Overshadowed by the Full-moon party and jungle parties, this paradise is full of amazing restaurants, yoga academies, outdoor sports, lush nature, and co-working. If looking to kick some ass in Muay thai then stay around the Thongsala pier area, more into the Yoga crowd then head up north to explore the more new-age crowd or if party is more your scene head out east to Haad Rin. Koh Phangan has many sides of its personality so pick one or all to meet your digital nomad needs. No go get out there!