We got to the resort and were immediately greeted by Andy, the owner of the resort. Andy is a British expat (although his accent seems closer to an Australian, think Crocodile Hunter), who probably came to Koh Phangan as a backpacker and never left. He is now there with his wife, kid, and dog. He hands us a list of rules and prices for broken items in the hotel room (I am guessing he has been burned in the past by drunk idiots) and then explains to us that he needs our passports because he needs to enter in our information in case our government needs to track us. He further explains that we can have the passport back at any time, but he recommends us keeping it in his safe.
After his spiel, he motions for one of his employees to show us to our room. Up walks a guy from Burma (I don't remember his name, so let’s call him Mr. Salad) who asks where we are from, and after we answer exclaims "Aww, that’s cool mate, cheers mate" (in a very similar Australian accent to Andy). I guess he has been working there a long time. We are shown to our room and the first thing we notice are 2 twin beds. I ask Mr. Salad if we can change this for a double bed, to which he says “No worries mate” and proceeds to push the beds together. I then turn around and notice no tv, with a fan. This is when I explain that we paid for an aircon room (if you know me, you know I need aircon at all times).
Mr. Salad went back to Andy and we were moved to the proper room. The room was a wooden bungalow, just big enough for a double bed and tv. Mr. Salad drops off our bags, turns the aircon on for us, and points to the door for the bathroom. Amy decides to check out the bathroom and finds out it is outdoors (we had an outdoor bathroom in the South African bush, but this one wasn’t as nice). She comes back in and tells me “this is rustic.” I actually thought it was cool to have an outdoor bathroom; at least the exhaust would be good. At least we’re right on the beach with great views.
We dropped off our bags, grabbed lunch in the restaurant, and relaxed on the beach for the rest of the afternoon. While on the beach, I was reading a guide of the island to see what there was to do. I found out that there is a market every Saturday night, which was today, so I guess we had plans for this evening. The market was a run down version of many markets we have been to in the past. We were able to enjoy some street food, mostly items on a stick (potato chips on a stick, sausage on a stick, and steamed pork bun).
We made it to the end of the market and decided to have a proper dinner, so we went to a restaurant that specializes in fish bbq (bbq means grilled, not the bbq that we think of in the states). The restaurant is right on the water, so we have a fantastic sunset view for the evening. We each order a whole fish grilled, with our choice of sauce. It certainly hit the spot. We were very tired, so we decided to take one more lap through the market before catching a songthaew back to our resort.
We slept in till 11 this next morning, and although we were right on the beach, I could see in Amy’s eyes that she wasn’t that happy with the resort. We had just come from our 2 nicest hotels of the trip and this one didn’t compare since there was no pool, there was only internet in the lobby (we were getting used to having it in our room), the beach was fairly rocky (from the floods that occurred a few weeks ago), and the water was a little grimy. Over breakfast we started to have a conversation about forgetting about the money we had spent for the other 3 nights at this resort and finding alternate accommodations.
Right at this moment, I see out of the corner of my eye, Dale and Carla (from Chiang Mai) are walking into the resort with their bags. Amy jumps up to say hi (perhaps she was getting tired of only talking to me for so many weeks), and all of a sudden was playing tour guide to the two. Dale and Carla dropped off their bags and then came back to have lunch with us. The rest of the day we spent as a foursome by the beach, at dinner at the resort, then late into the night at the resort bar talking about what we have done the last week and about Mr. Salad (at one point a stray dog came and joined us, we named him Salad the dog). This worked out as we’d given Andy our laundry to take care of and in addition to overcharging us for it he wanted over 24 hours to give it back to us so it was just as well we stayed in our bathers all day and night.
The next morning was more of the same. Just relaxing on the beach with absolutely nothing to do, talking to Dale and Carla. Amy was also continuing her beach reading. This went on straight through until nighttime when we made plans for the evening, as tonight was the Black Moon Party. As I mentioned earlier, the Full Moon Party happens once a month and gets upwards of 30,000 people to the island to party. There are also 2 Half Moon parties a month, which get 20,000 people.
Next there is a jungle party, which is also once a month. The black moon party is the fifth biggest party each month, and here we were, just coincidentally on the island when it was occurring. We just had to go to check it out. From what we are told, these parties typically start around 10pm and go till around 9am the next morning. It is an all-night rave with house, trance, electronica, and other forms of music that I can’t tell the difference between (Nate, can you please tell us the difference in the comments section). No one knows how these parties started, but it is rumored that a bunch of hippie backpackers threw a party for someone’s birthday, and the rest is history.
The four of us decided to head to a restaurant named Fisherman’s before going to the party. Fisherman’s is rated as the second best restaurant on tripadvisor and is another fish bbq restaurant. I must agree that the restaurant was good, and as the reviews say, Amanda’s customer service is fantastic as well. Since we did nothing all day, our budget was able to handle the nice restaurant. It was almost 11, so we continued to walk towards the party. You could hear the music from a few hundred meters away as well as see all of the taxis turning down the gravel street. As we got close a local pointed and told us the party was this way. The first thing we noticed was the large body painting area (we decided to pass as I didn’t want to spend 500 baht to have fluorescent paint on me).
We finally reached the front gates, paid our 100 baht entry fee, then proceeded right to the bar to get a bucket. Buckets are very popular at these parties. They consist of a bucket (the kind you had when you were a kid at the beach to play in the sand) filled with ice, half a bottle of alcohol, some red bull, then a carbonated drink of your choice. Some alcohol called SamSong (thai rice whiskey) was the cheapest bucket, but I decided to pay up for generic vodka. The bar tender asked what I wanted in it, to which I replied “surprise me.” I am handed a strong concoction of just red bull and vodka, with 12 straws (for Amy and I to share). Dale is just behind me and gets the same.
We walk around to scope out the area. There are a lot of people, but not the staggering numbers that we had heard about. There were perhaps 2,000 people, which is small for Black Moon Party, but this is the low season. There was an area to the left consisting street food stalls, the beach to the right which had a lot of people sitting around, and then another bar and the dance floor straight ahead (playing what I call nst nst music). We found a small picnic bench by the back bar and parked ourselves in order to people watch. There were lots of people wearing glow stick glasses, so after a few minutes, I was sent on a mission to find out how to get a pair (along with finding the bathroom).
Too bad for us, the guy selling the neon glasses had already left for the night. And here we were thinking we would be at the party too early. I was able to find the bathrooms, 4 stalls, costing 10 baht for a session. Once back, Dale went out on a mission of his own and met 3 blokes from a city close to where he used to live. Our foursome now became 7 as we spent the rest of the night talking to these 3 guys from England. They were very cool guys and one of them gave us some good pointers for when we get to Australia and New Zealand.
Another hour went by and our 7 turned to 8 when we found another guy from England wandering around as if he didn’t know where he was. I started to speak to the newbie and he tells me he is traveling for 4 months. I start to ask more questions when he turns to me and asks “What language are you speaking?” I don’t recommend teasing people on mind altering drugs, but I couldn’t resist and told him I was Japanese. He spent the rest of the conversation thinking he all of a sudden was fluent in Japanese (as Rick James used to say “Shrooms are a hell of a drug”). I asked him what he did to earn money to travel for 4 months and he told me he worked for a company that bets on football (that’s soccer to us). He has bet up to 25,000 pounds on a single match. I asked who his favorite epl team was, to which he tells me he doesn’t have a team because he doesn’t watch football (interesting).
This is the point where even I had enough, so I decide to stop baby sitting and start to have a conversation with someone who knew their own name. Having a surprisingly good time so far, Dale gets a bucket of the SamSong for us to split. I can’t say it was the best drink I ever had, but it went down. We finished the bucket and decided it was late enough so we walked out to find a songthaew back to our hotel. There were about 20 drivers around. I ask how much it would cost to get to our hotel and the first driver tells me 100 baht a person. I respond with 50 to which he laughs. Apparently they can charge whatever they want as most people are drunk and don’t know where they are. I then scream to the rest of the drivers that I would like a ride to our hotel for 50 baht. Nothing. So we start to walk back, when finally I get a taker, and we make it home for the evening.
Skip this paragraph if you are a member of PETA. The next morning was our last full day in Koh Phangan (Dale and Carla still had another 4 days). We managed to sleep in till quite late (for obvious reasons). We thought about renting a moto today to explore the island, but decided the beach was better. We grabbed lunch at the resort and then Amy went right to the beach to relax. I needed to go back to the room in order to apply sun tan lotion and right when I got to the bungalow, I noticed a black and green snake staring at me in the face. It was hanging out on our steps.
I slowly backed away, asked our neighbors (who were hanging out on their porch) if I was seeing things (you never know what is in the SamSong), and ran back to get Mr. Salad. Mr. Salad said he had experience wrestling snakes, so he grabs the other Burmese employee and follow me to our bungalow. The snake sees us and dives back into a hole in the stairs. I notice at this point that Mr. Salad is all talk as he is holding a stick standing behind the other employee. Luckily the other guy came to the rescue. He had a bottle of raid that he used to smoke the snake out of the hole (didn’t know snakes hated bug spray) and then used a stick to give the snake a shortened life.
The excitement was done for the day. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing. Getting cabin fever, the four of us walked down the road to a pizza place, then back to the resort’s beach bar to close out the evening. Amy and I woke up the next morning and packed up our belongings. We got breakfast at which time I asked for our passports back. Andy tells me I can get them after he checks the room and settles the bill (I guess I can’t get my passport back at any time like he said, instead it is collateral in case of damage).
Since we are great guests, we finally do settle up and wait for the 11:30 taxi to the pier for the 12pm ferry to Koh Samui. Starting to get nervous, our driver finally comes at 11:40, stops along the way to say hi to a friend, makes another stop for gas, and we finally get to the pier at 11:58. And thus ends an interesting stay on Koh Phangan and Phangan Beach Resort (the hotel is the third ranked hotel on tripadvisor, but you get the feeling that the owners might add their own reviews to bump up its rating. We certainly were nickel and dimed to death, but that is what we expected when we decided to vacation in this part of the world).
We woke up early on Saturday in order to take the first ferry from Koh Tao to Koh Phangan. There are three major islands in the Gulf of Thailand, on the south east side of the country. Koh Tao is popular with the divers (and is the quietest/most relaxing), Koh Phangan is the party island (home to the world famous Full Moon Party), and Koh Samui is the busiest (mostly because it has an airport). The ferry ride was quite uneventful, except for the fact that Amy figured out that she has motion sickness on boats. We arrived at the pier in Koh Phangan to a sign greeting us with our name on it. We wrote to our hotel, The Phangan Beach Resort, the night before since they provide a free ride from the pier. It was nice to be able to bypass all of the songthaew drivers looking to rip us off and go right into an air conditioned car.