When trying to figure out where to start our world trip, it quickly turned out to be a more difficult task than expected. We were in a state of excitement and anticipation but also in total respect for this trip and mostly: afraid as hell of our own courage. We discussed La Gomera for a while, but it felt like a foul compromise – it was too close to home and we realized, to really start our trip, we needed to leave Europe.
At the same time, we were worried stiff about this whole world trip adventure and needed to start somewhat close to our comfort zone.. Georgia, India, Sri Lanka… tempting, yes, too strange, also yes. Another issue we run into was that September is by far not the ideal season for any region that came up as a starting zone. To make it short, a bit of research revealed that the Islands Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao within the Gulf of Thailand are actually quite nice even during the rainy season and are pretty much in our comfort zone, as we’ve been to Thailand and also to those Islands! We were already familiar with many things you should know before traveling to Thailand.
Personally, I wasn’t too fond of Koh Samui. I found it a wee bit too crowded and too adapted to tourist needs, while when I was on Koh Tao, it was overcrowded with spring breakers .. Koh Phangan, on the other hand, was absolutely perfect for everything I ever wanted, so we decided, to spent the first 2 weeks of our adventure on Koh Phangan.
# How to get to Koh Phangan?
First of all, Koh Phangan has no airport, so the journey can be a bit adventurous but don’t worry, it’s far from complicated. You can take a plane either to the neighbour island Koh Samui or to Surat Thani on the mainland. Both are connected by ferry with Koh Phangan. Flights to Surat Thani are cheaper than to Koh Samui, but the Ferry to Koh Phangan takes a little bit longer than to Koh Samui.
The cheapest option though is to take a night train from Bangkok to Surat Thani and then the Ferry to Koh Phangan. That’s what we did and it was pretty cool. Especially the kids were excited about it.
Best to have a look at 12goasia.com and check all your options, rates and travel times!
Koh Phangan by Train and Ferry
You can’t book train tickets online in Thailand and only a certain amount of days in advance. After some research, we decided to go with 12goAsia.com. We simply placed a ticket order for our preferred itinerary and they purchased the tickets on the day they became available. When placing the order, you pay a standard price per ticket, but receive a refund, if the actual price was lower.
Once you’re in Bangkok, you simply go to the 12goAsia agency at the train station and pick up your tickets.
We had 2 upper and lower berth in the night train. When we entered the train, the seats where still in a normal configuration, but soon after departure, a train attendant transformed the seats into bunk beds, equipped with a mattress, bedsheets and a pillow. We could also choose breakfast and/or dinner, but we were advised to eat before as the food on the train is rather overpriced, however, you’re clearly not bankrupting yourself neither 😉
Tip: If you want to share your bed with your child in the night train, take a lower berth, they are way larger than the upper ones.
Koh Phangan by Plane and Ferry
If you have less time and/or a higher budget, you also can just board a plane in Bangkok and fly out to Koh Samui. 12goAsia offers tickets that comprise the flight, transfer to the pier and the ferry trip.
Cheaper and only a wee bit longer is it to fly to Surat Thani and board the Ferry from there. You can purchase your all in one ticket also with 12goAsia.com.
# Where to stay on Koh Phangan?
If you never heard of Koh Phangan, you surely have heard of the famous full moon parties that are happening in Thailand. Well, those are actually taking place on Koh Phangan. But no worries, Koh Phangan is not a crazy party drug and booze-soaked swamp, at least not in the majority of the places 🙂
Generally, the nightlife hot spot of Koh Phangan is Hat Rin in the southeast of the island. The north and the northwest are super laid back and chill. Personally we love Hat Yao. It’s a beautiful white bay with shallow waters, some resorts, and restaurants, a few huts on the beachfront and apart from that loads of palm trees and greenery.
Tip: Our all-time favorite resort is the High Life Resort on the left hand of Hat Yao. It’s located on a little hill and grants you a great view over the bay. Stairs are leading you directly to the beach but you can also relax by the infinity pool or in the jungle park-like common areas of the resort. Check here for availabilities and rates.
Many beaches on Koh Phangan are extremely family-friendly. The water is shallow and you can walk a good bit until the water is even reaching your knee. The white sand is perfect for building sandcastles and sand pastries and I haven’t seen a single beach without slings and hammocks (perfect for a little nap in the shadow btw :)) Click here to see all available rentals and rates
best family-friendly beaches on Koh Phangan:
Haad Yao – It’s our all-time favorite beach <3 I can recommend the High life Resort; the staff are super friendly and helpful, the bungalows are clean and the view over the bay is priceless! The resort also has access to the beach (to Haad Yao but also to a super tiny secret beach on the other side) and a wonderful pool. Good to know: it’s one of the few resorts that has 4 bed bungalows! Check here their availability for your travel dates.
Haad Salad – it’s the beach just north of Haad Yao. It has the same laid back spirit but is a bit more crowded and lively. Check here for available accommodations!
Haad Chao Pao – we haven’t been there but we know from other families, that they love the Seaflower resorts – It might be your best pick if you are interested in vegan cuisine or yoga courses, as there are plenty of options around. Check here for rates and availabilities
Chaloklum Bay – this beach is in the north of Koh Phangan and also very popular. It’s a bit far out but as the village along the beach has loads of stores, bars, restaurants, and food stalls, you should have everything you need close by. Click here for available hotels, resorts and bungalows.
Do you want to see more of Thailand? Check out this post: Best places to visit in Thailand!
# Top activities for kids and families on Koh Phangan
No matter how beautiful the place you’re at is and how much you would enjoy simply relax on the beach with a good book at hand, your kids probably love some activity, action, and entertainment. Koh Phangan is a rather small island, but there are loads of things to do to keep your family far from boredom.
Purina Sheep Farm
Not only a nice activity for small kids. On the Purina Sheep Farm, you can pet sheep and feed them with bottled milk (they charge you 50Baht). The outside area (before you pay the entrance fee) also has a slackline, a small playground and a few sheep in a compound. Click here for more information, opening times and rates.
The Phaeng Waterfall is rather a compilation of several falls than one single on. Depending on how much time you have, you can either walk the relatively uncomplicated route along the falls, visit the viewpoint and/or extend your hike by taking the Nature Trail. The latter will take around 2-3h and I strongly recommend that you bring enough water and wear at least sneakers. We didn’t know anything about this trail and some of us wore flip flops, it turned out a wee bit complicated at times. If you are lucky you will see monkeys on top of many butterflies, we did 😉
As we were absolutely unprepared, we had not enough water neither, however, luckily we carried our Lifestraw filter bottles with us and could simply refill them in the streams.
Visit Koh Ma
A little almost island In the very northwestern corner of Koh Phangan. It’s reachable by feet over a narrow sand strip. The sand is not so nice though, especially if you’re used to the superfine sand of Hat Yao. But either way, it’s worth a stop on every island tour.
Koh Phangan has a few operators that offer elephant trekking. We are not overly fond of this kind of activity but some (for example Ban Tai Elephant Trekking) offer as well “Elephant Feedings”. You simply by a little basket of bananas for 50 Baht and are allowed to feed the Elephants.
Don’t know what to do on rainy days? Climb some walls! Phangan Climbing offers also courses for kids from 7-12! You can either buy a card or just drop-in without engagement.
Visit a water park
If your family needs more action than an ordinary beach can offer, visit one of the water parks on Koh Phangan. Frankly, it’s nothing for small kids, but teenagers will love it! Check out here The Challenge, Wake Park Phangan and Slip N Fly
If you’re traveling with older kids, diving can be an excellent activity. Check here to find the best scuba diving spots in Thailand!
A two versus two football-style games with open practice from 9 am to 9 pm. You can either join alone or with your kids or friends. Check here for more information.
Visit a Thai Boxing Stadium
No matter if you want to watch a fight or if you fancy taking training lessons yourself, the Kobra Muay Thai Boxing Stadium has it all.
Phangan Jungle Tour
You can find tons of tours on Koh Phangan and probably most of them are probably quite nice. However, we picked this one and we had the most wonderful day! We saw so much of the island and liked a lot that we got driven around. We traveled as a family of 4 and we did not really dare at that time to rent a scooter. Our tour guide showed us some really great places, we had a nice breakfast on a viewpoint and a lovely (huge) lunch on the beach. The highlight, however, was certainly the tour through the jungle. The 4×4 ride was awesome. The kids took place on a seat over the driver’s cabin and it felt like a roller coaster!
I would not recommend this tour with too small children as the ride is indeed quite bumpy, but my youngest is 6 and had an absolute BLAST! You can get more information about this tour here.
Rent a Scooter
This probably requires some guts 🙂 It took us a week until we were ready to take this challenge and I can warmly recommend it if you want to see a lot of the island without paying tons for taxis (Taxis are REALLY expensive!) and if you want to have loads of fun 🙂
Beach clean up
You heard probably about all the trash that is polluting our oceans, which makes it hard for species to live and that is ending up as microplastic pieces in our daily food… Even though Koh Phangan is rather clean compared to other places, you still find trash all along the beach. We made it a habit just to pick up stuff as we go but you can also participate to organized beach clean-ups. Check the page of Trash Heroes Koh Phangan to get more information on dates, activities, and events.
# What could peaky eaters possibly feed on Koh Phangan???
Honestly, we tried to accustom our kids to Thai food within the first week of our stay in Thailand and the result was that they were constantly hungry (fun!) and fed basically on chips and cookies. That wasn’t great. They rejected everything remotely odd, and even basic fried rice or Pad Thai classified as such. With a bit of luck, they would eat a spring roll here and there but that was about it.
So we simply gave up and let them have Spaghetti and rice with Omelette. Every day. Yes. It is really not too easy to find local food for kids in Thailand. I read once, that even Thai kids feed mostly on junk food until they are about 6.
What else than junk food?
However, there are a few dishes of course that aren’t spicy and normal kids (not mine) can enjoy it. If you worry about the vitamin intake (as we did), you can buy fresh fruits all few meters along the streets (usually the typical tropical fruits such as bananas, mangos, pineapples, melons, dragon fruits…) and you get fruit shakes in most bars and restaurants. There are even stalls that sell only shakes and fresh juices.
Tip: “cook it, peel it, or forget it” is a basic rule in most Asian countries and if you wanna play super safe, it applies in Thailand as well. However, most people say you can use tap water for brushing your teeth (as we did) and many tourists eat also washed salads (we didn’t, exceptions prove the rule). There is probably no wrong and right. Being super stressed about everything you might eat is probably more harmful than healthy and eating everything without any precautions is equally problematic.
# Activities for some parent “me time” on Koh Phangan
Apart from relaxing on the pool or the beach, reading a good book or enjoying a cold Chang at the beach watching the sunset… there is quite a few options for you to enjoy some “me time”. As Koh Phangan is super laid back and relaxed, it’s not surprising that you find several yoga retreats on the island. You don’t need to sign yourself in for the multi-day course, most of the studios are offering drop-in courses for as less as 300 Bath. Just search for Yoga Koh Phangan on Google and you find plenty of options.
A one hour massage – usually 300 Bath for a Thai massage – is also a good way to relax!
# Packing list for your next trip to Koh Phangan
Sure, traveling to Koh Phangan is not extreme adventure traveling that requires tons of specialized equipment… however, a few items proved really useful, let me explain why:
Foldable Bag, Life Straw or Grayl filter bottle, and cutlery
If you are interested in a zero-waste or zero plastic lifestyles or generally determined to leave the smallest footprint possible on Koh Phangan, then those are your items!
Products from Amazon.com
Once you did a bit of grocery shopping in your local Seven Eleven, you soon realize that they pack everything in double plastic bags. Don’t hesitate to pull out your own shopping bag and refuse the offered plastic bag. We had a little foldable backpack that came in very handy as well when driving around by scooter. Ours was similar to this one, click here to see all available colors and promotions
Our favorites are our filter bottles though. You can’t really drink the tap water in Thailand and that’s leads normally to two situations: you have to buy a lot of plastic water bottles and 2nd, you have to think about buying those for not to wake up in the middle of the night without a drop to drink.
We are traveling with a few Life Straw Go filter bottles that are great for staying hydrated when you’re on the go. We also have one purifier bottle from Grayl that we are using mainly to filter water for brushing our teeth (although now we are doing it with tap water), making tea or coffee. Click here to get more info on shipping and rates for purifier bottles.
The difference between the Life Straw Go and the Grayl that the Life Straw Go filters the water once you drink it through the straw. The Grayl, on the other hand, lets you filter water for later usage and filters out viruses as well. At this very moment we are 3 weeks in our travels and only had to trash 2 plastic bottles so far – both were given to us at the train station and we automatically took them without further thinking.
We also are traveling with cutlery for the 4 of us, plus a cutting knife. .. or you simply get a few Sporks if you travel light 🙂 We love street food and even though we are handed out plastic cutlery at each food stall, we are usually having our own. It comes in handy as well if you grab something to eat and want to eat it later in the hotel room or to cut fruits that you got on the market.
Insect Repellent, Sunscreen and/or a UV shirt
That’s the total baseline, don’t forget any of those! We used the insect repellent “Off” from Johnson&Johnson and it worked pretty well. You can buy it in nearly every shop on Koh Phangan, or just order it here
We also had a UV shirt for the 4 of us, you can easily order them on Amazon (click here for more info) and I absolutely recommend them, especially if you like snorkeling.
No matter how laid back and peaceful Koh Phangan is, you can be sure if you leave your treasures laying openly around, they most likely will be gone (as anywhere else). For our own tranquility, we are traveling with a Pacsafe. It won’t stop a professional thief from taking our stuff, but it will prevent someone from easy nicking, we know that we don’t have to worry about our phones when our room is being cleaned or if someone will steal our purse when we’re taking a swim. If you are not familiar with the Pac Safe yet, check out our review we wrote a few months ago
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