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Koh Phangan – a planning failure

The trials of getting to Koh Phangan Thailand

Koh Phangan. A tropical island in the Gulf of Thailand. The home of the Full Moon Party.

30,000 revelers descend upon it at New Years Eve. Demand for places is high.

This makes it a bastard to organise.

Particularly when you leave it to the very last minute.

Booking

I’d planned on going to Koh Phangan for ages. I knew it would be super busy.

Despite this, I stubbornly refused to book accommodation.

In my distorted mind, booking went against the backpacker-psyche of arriving at a destination and finding a room.

A month before the party, a friend asked where I was staying on the island. She said that she’d just booked and most of the places were full.

Panic struck me.

I was sickened by the idea of travelling all the way to Koh Phangan and not getting a room. I decided to bite the bullet and book.

The minimum stay

My aversion to booking wasn’t motivated purely by a lame ideal. Money was at stake.

Booking on Koh Phangan incurs the wrath of a “minimum stay” to secure a room. Over New Years Eve, this is around 6 nights. When you consider that room prices are about three times more than usual over New Years, it becomes very pricey.

I ended up booking a room for myself and two friends for $150 a night. For Thailand, this is hideously expensive. However, it was relatively cheap compared to the dorms that were $50 a night.

Prices on Koh Phangan over the New Years period are fucking insane. It’s enough to make you question the whole idea of going.

Getting there

Transportation to Koh Phangan was the next hurdle.

It’s easiest to fly to neighbouring Koh Samui, and then ferry to Koh Phangan. This is quick but also fiendishly expensive.

Alternatively, you can bus. Long bus rides are to be avoided in my opinion. I wanted to catch a train.

Figuring out which train to take was easy. Buying the ticket was the hard part. You can book online, but everything was sold out when I tried.

Luckily, I’d read that extra carriages are often added to the train on the day in response to demand. I figured it was worth trying to buy tickets at the station in Bangkok. This worked.

Our itinerary was train to Chumphon, bus to the ferry, then ferry to Koh Phangan.

Painless.

Or so I thought.

Overland

The train left Bangkok at 2300. It had carriages with beds. Unfortunately, the sleeper carriages were sold out. We had to sleep in seats.

Too bad I had no valium.

Sleeping was difficult. I got off the train at Chumphon station feeling weary. The dawn air though had the unmistakable feel of the tropics, and it revitalized me.

Everyone crowded into the open-air bus and set-off through the Thai countryside.

The mist slowly lifted on the sleeping jungle as we penetrated the morning calm. It was serene. The sea appeared and I saw the waiting ferry.

This leg of the trip had been very pleasant.

The next part was the exact opposite.

Oversea

The Gulf of Thailand was calm as the ferry set off for Koh Phangan.

We sat outside on the bow as the seats inside were full. The sun warmed me as it rose. I relaxed and fell asleep on the deck.

I had no idea that a six-hour long voyage awaited us.

Next thing I was rudely awoken by a faceful of saltwater. The wind had become vicious and was throwing the sea about.

The sun had disappeared and the wind made me shiver in my wet clothes. Fantastic. Grey seawater continued lashing the deck for the next three hours.

Trying to shelter from the elements, I huddled against a wall. As I was no longer looking to the horizon, the ship’s plunging motion made me nauseous.

I couldn’t stand being seasick as well as wet and cold. I stood up and looked over the bow.

More water hit me. But I no longer cared.

An island lay directly in front of us.

Relief.

Koh Tao

Well, it should have been relief.

We had only come to the wrong island.

The ferry did not go directly to Koh Phangan. It first stopped at Koh Tao. This was a morale blow.

Koh Tao looked beautiful from the ferry’s confines. Cold and hungry, I momentarily considered abandoning my plans for Koh Phangan and jumping ship.

The ferry set off again before I could. As I looked back at Koh Tao, I envied the swimmers basking in the shallows. I also tried to ignore the diesel plumes that spewed in our wake.

Koh Phangan

It took another two hours to reach Koh Phangan. I’m no landlubber, but solid ground felt great.

Feeling jaded, we got in the first taxi we could find and didn’t bother haggling. The taxi hooned along the wrong side of the mountain road as it took us to our accommodation in Haad Rin.

For a tropical island, the weather was shit. Clouds hung ominously in the sky. The taxi slowed and a muay thai boxer hopped in. He said it had been raining constantly for the past week.

Haad Rin appeared and our vehicle stopped. I jumped from the taxi, and landed in some vomit. Next to me, a sign read “Welcome to Koh Phangan”.

We had definitely arrived.

Do you want to visit Koh Phangan? What’s the worst travel journey you’ve experienced? Leave a comment below

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