Ko Pha Ngan
We are on a bus now heading back to Bangkok after just under 2 weeks of island life. We had planned to do the big three.. Ko Tao, KoPha Ngan and Ko Samui.. but we learned that the latter is a giant island full of luxury resorts, retired expats and lady bars.. a hotspot for the sex industry. We decided to skip Ko Samui… we did enjoy staring at it though from our island.. it’s huge!
First thing we noticed on Ko Pha Ngan was that everything was cheaper .. more bang for your buck for sure.. We rented a scooter rather than a dirt bike as it is the more practical option.. all the roads are well paved and they are in way better condition than Cochrane or Timmins roads. The Honda 125i has some very nice quiet power to it and made for a nice relaxing cruising machine for this place. The only annoyance/danger was the lack of a low gear to help with some of the long steep hills.. ever heard of brake fade? yikes..
With our scooter we were able to explore most of the island easily.. a nice change from haggling with cabs or testing my riding skills on crazy dirt roads. We found a few elephant “ranches”just off the side of the road… got to pick where we wanted to eat in whichever village we wanted.. and got to choose our beaches to hang out at. This was the most convenient backpacking ever ! We stayed at two different places.. one was called Hut Sun ( a play on words, or … ) and it was about mid way up the east coast. We had an awesome second story room with a balcony overlooking the rest of the property and of course the ocean. We also stayed in an awesome bungalow at Ko Ma… a small island attached to Pha Ngan by a nice sandbar. Some decent snorkelling and beach bumming.. loved it.
This island is famous for the full moon party.. which I am sure most people have heard of. 30,000 partiers descend on this island every full moon. From what we have learned it’s like a giant rave and people just get crazy on booze and drugs.. fair enough.. but 30,000people on a short strip of sand .. yikes. We were told that last month there were 27 deaths.. mostly scooter accidents.. head on collisions with frantic taxi drivers trying to reap the monthly moneymaking prime time.. or kids driving off the top of hills and cliffs in a drunken haze. We were told that if we wanted to avoid this mess we best leave the island before the 10th, as August is the largest full moon party of the year. If we stayed till the 11th we would be stranded on the island waiting in crazy queues to get on ferries. We were told that every month it takes 3 days to “get the shit off the island”. So we left well before this.
On our first night, we met a crusty old man from Austria who liked to talk… he worked as a security officer in Sudan and retired here on Pha Ngan. He acted very tough and “soldier” like when he described how he deals with locals that give him a problem… or how he trained his Thai girlfriend by “boxing” her one night when she tried to block his way out of the house.. or how he disciplined “insert N word here” in Sudan. One night of his stories was enough.. we avoided him the rest of our stay.
He told us all sorts of stories but the most interesting was his version of the history of Pha Ngan. We tried googling this stuff but found only vague references to what he said.. however the way things seemed to work on the island supported his story. He says:
The island is known as the last slave island in the world.. and apparently there is a book with the similar title.. again we did not find this on Google. He says around 200 years ago pirates got stranded on the island and became the first to develop it… by starting coconut plantations.. they got rich like this and of course passed on the business’ to their sons. The daughters were given the worthless land on the beach so that they could marry fishermen and have homes by the sea. At some point in the 1970’s the price for coconuts tumbled and the plantations were going bankrupt.. This was about the time when the first backpackers starting arriving to the island. The daughters that owned all the beach coastal areas were smart and started building huts to accommodate the new travellers..which brings us to the Pha Ngan of today, which we can confirm, is run by women.
Every (successful) hotel and restaurant we saw was owned and run by some boss lady.. and all of them were very strict and had men working for them doing all the crap jobs. It was common to see them yelling orders and disciplining the boys and men around them. In most places the employees had to go to the boss with every monetary transaction.. a 30 baht ice tea had to be passed by the boss.. change and all.. was weird.. we already knew the change owed to us before handing out the money .. yet these poor guys had to run to the boss lady to have her do the math and dispense them with the change. An island run by women and their subordinate males.. pretty cool place:)
Gerald (the Austrian ) had much to say about many subjects .. he was also a day trader so he had lots to say about investments .. Here I listened attentively. He had opinions on elephant riding stating that he doesn’t misuse animals to carry him .. kind of makes sense. But on the other hand, he had cruel ideas about humans … He was dating the cook at our hotel. A pleasant woman who spoke no English.. she was larger than him which made the “boxing” story a bit ..more believable. She had blocked his way when he wanted to leave one night to go have drinks at the bar ..she told him “no!”( remember the women rule here ) and blocked his way out the door. He ended up fighting her to “show her who was boss” .. our jaws dropped listening to all of this.. All the while she is walking around us doing her job at the restaurant. He also told us that he came here to find the “ugliest and fattest” Thai woman to be his girlfriend so that he wouldn’t have troubles with her sleeping with other men. He called her a “bull” and laughed about it.. again, as she walked by doing this and that in the hotel restaurant. We couldn’t believe it .. he had a habit of shaking his fists about in anger, so I wasn’t about to lecture him about ..anything .. We just waited for the night to end.. the more he talked,the more stories we would have .. so go on ..
We left this hotel to stay up at Ko Ma on the north end of the island. We rented a beautiful bungalow with a porch and chairs .. for those of you back home who have this already, we envy you .. to us, this was paradise. We sat on our porch at night just enjoying the outdoors and fresh air. We snorkelled some more .. we ate .. we roamed the island .. we tanned .. we ate some more .. There is not much to report about our time on Ko Pha Ngan .. which was exactly the point. I would return there in a heart beat .. It was a tough decision to finally leave and head back up to the mainland .. a sad trip off the islands. Another year perhaps before we see the ocean again 😦