Koh Phangan’s Top Five Must-See Beaches

Koh Phangan, Thailand

Some of the best beaches in the world are located on the island of Koh Phangan, Thailand

Thailand is known for its world-class beaches and travel options. The beautiful beaches of Koh Phangan are world renowned for a reason and here is a list of my top five must-see beaches on the gulf island.

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No. 5: Ao Thong Nai Pan Noi

Koh Phangan
Great views & Great atmosphere

Ao Thong Nai Pan Noi is one of Koh Phangan’s smaller and underrated beaches. Great views, plenty of small and chilled beach-front restaurants to grab drinks and snacks from and a cool vibe give this little piece of sand a cool vibe not found many other places in the hustle and bustle of the Thai islands. If you’re in the mood for some sun, a few sodas and some cool views, check out Ao Thong Nai Pan Noi.

Koh Phangan
Food & Drinks & Chill at Ao Thong Nai Pan Noi

No. 4: Haad Salad

Koh Phangan
Nearly empty beach on a crescent-shaped cove

Koh Phangan

Haad Salad is the place to go for beachfront traditional Thai massages, nightly seafood BBQs and last but not least, a lovely and quiet crescent-shaped beach. Haad Salad has two resorts located at each crescent tip and most restaurants and massage parlors rely on them for the majority of their business. As these resorts are generally smaller than others and packed with luxury, the majority of the beach remains empty most of the time. A terrific and quiet find.

Koh Phangan
The thick, dense jungle hides a beautiful crescent-shaped beach

No. 3: Haad Than Sadet

Koh Phangan

A beach cove on the eastern edge of the island of Koh Phangan, Haad Than Sadet is a small beach book-ended by a pair of small resorts and in the middle, a view into infinity. This beach is the entrance into the Gulf of Thailand and the mesmerizing view coupled with quiet surroundings is a great place for relaxing after a night of partying or just unwinding from the world for a bit.

Koh Phangan
The sound of waves… and occasional lovebirds

Koh Phangan

No. 2: Haad Thian Beach

 

Koh Phangan

A sandbar beach in paradise? Sign me up! The Haad Thian Beach is pretty much your average cool island beach – small shack-bars with cold drinks, a couple lounge chairs strewn about and random passersby sticking around for indeterminate periods of time – except for one amazing feature – a giant sandbar located some 20 yards from the beach itself! The massive sandbar feels like its own separate island and has the cleanest sand you’ll find.

Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan

The haze that sets upon the tall hills of Koh Phangan adds a fairytale-like feel to this tiny sand oasis in the bay of Haad Thian. Haad Thain is located on the western coast of Koh Phangan.

Koh Phangan
The view from the edge of the sandbar is immense… almost as if the sand is melting back into the sea

Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan

No. 1: Haad Rin

Koh Phangan

It had to be #1, right? “The Full Moon Party” Beach of Haad Rin is the most famous beach on the entire island of Koh Phangan, let alone its neighbors Samui or Tao. The monthly festivities last all night long and in the morning give way to a freshly-cleaned cleaned canvas of sand and hungover/still sleeping partygoers. Known as a backpackers beach, you’ll want to enjoy the cheap food and drinks that dot the area along with taking a tuk tuk to and from the beach during the party season.

Koh Phangan
When the beach isn’t hosting all night parties, there are beach football/soccer tournaments put on by the local pubs
Koh Phangan
Catching some sun

Koh Phangan

I hope you enjoyed my top 5 beaches on Koh Phangan! Stay tuned for my rundown of Koh Tao coming up next and as always…

For all my blog entries in Thailand, check out the blog: Click Here

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Honeymoon in Style in Koh Phangan, Thailand

Koh Phangan, Thailand

If you’re looking for an unforgettable honeymoon or vacation with a partner, look no further than Koh Phangan, Thailand

The islands of Thailand may no longer be secret getaways, however they are just as romantic and luxurious as ever! And even if you are looking to travel in style but want to save a bit of cash, Koh Phangan, Thailand, has all that you could ever dream of and more at a reasonable cost!

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Koh Phangan, Thailand

Everyone wants “The Most Romantic Honeymoon Evaaaaa” and I have to say we probably nailed it. Thailand’s many islands are world famous for their pristine beaches, crystal clear waters and incredible luxury spas and resorts. Sure you can backpack it up (like I’ve done for the most part of this blog) but when you shouldn’t shlep  you can roll in style for reasonable prices in remote places with some of the best service on earth!

Koh Phangan, Thailand
The view from our luxury villa at Salad Buri Resort and Spa

We had a 2-part honeymoon with a week in Koh Phangan (also spelled Ko Pha Ngan) and a week in Koh Tao. Koh Phangan  is located in the Thai Gulf just north of Koh Samui and just south of Koh Tao. Famous among backpackers and travelers alike for its Full Moon Party, Koh Phangan has so much to offer in the way of hiking, temples, beaches, scuba, charming villages and more. One of the things to keep in mind about this brilliant island is that it is only reachable by boat from neighboring Koh Samui or land-based ports such as Surat Thani or Chumphon. Flights from Bangkok are available to all of those destinations. There are ferries that travel between many destinations in the Gulf and destinations like Koh Phi Phi, Phuket or Krabi. We used Lomprayah with VIP Shuttle Service.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Our high-speed ferry from Surat Thani Laem Thuat Pier

Koh Phangan, Thailand

So now that we’ve established how to get to Koh Phangan, check out our luxury honeymoon suite on Haad Salad at the Salad Buri Resort & Spa. Talking a private villa with an infinity pool, sunbed, wood deck, fridge, living room, king-sized bed and more. To be honest, the flat screen was a bit small but who needs TV in paradise? The view out of the window is significantly better.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Our private infinity pool

Koh Phangan, Thailand

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Not a shabby view

Koh Phangan, Thailand

The rest of the resort featured a three-tiered freshwater swimming pool, a tad overpriced but decent nightly seafood BBQ dinner on the beach, great breakfast buffet and near practical private beach. The cove, named Haad Salad, has several massage parlors located right on the beach, a few restaurants and scuba lessons plus boats willing to ferry you around the island. More after a photo break:

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Three-tiered swimming pool with our private villa in the background

Koh Phangan, Thailand

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Open-air breakfast buffet…
Koh Phangan, Thailand
And our perfect view from breakfast
Koh Phangan, Thailand
The resort is located on a pretty steep hill. Not to worry, as chauffeurs in golf carts can whisk you anywhere

From there we rented a jeep and tooled around the island for the week. You can easily get by with a motorbike but for the two of us planning excursions every day, it was well worth it. And since we arrived in October/November, rain was a real concern and we had two days of rain during our stay on the island. Though the rain is cumbersome, it isn’t a deterrent from driving all around and checking out all the local markets, shops and restaurants. The best part of a jeep is how much time it saves you, allowing maximization of time on the island. I mean, if you come to paradise, you gotta explore it all, right?

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Right-hand drive and driving on the left side of the road… like a boss
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Like exploring the Saampan/Deog Waterfalls

Koh Phangan, Thailand

Koh Phangan, Thailand
We drove the entire island and found a great spot on the other side
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Finding hidden beaches

Another travel tip for luxury/high-end travelers is to stop off at Baan Srithanu Village. There you’ll find a lovely beach and some fantastic food options. Taboon, a middle eastern restaurant, has some delectable malawach and one of the best shakshukas I’ve ever had outside of Tel Aviv. Highly recommended and a definite for your travel itinerary.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Taboon restaurant, highly recommended

Koh Phangan, Thailand

Koh Phangan, Thailand

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Stopping off at the top of the mountain… and behind a Buddhist monastery was the most amazing view

Koh Phangan, Thailand

Koh Phangan, Thailand

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Koh Phangan, Thailand

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Best. Pad. Thai. Ever.
Koh Phangan, Thailand
One of Koh Phangan’s amazing Buddhist Temples
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Head to Haad Than Sadet Beach and on the way stop off at this incredible lookout
Koh Phangan, Thailand
And… off to Koh Tao!

For all my blog entries in Thailand, check out the blog: Click Here

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Walking with Elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Asian Elephants are some of the most amazing, graceful and gigantic creatures on Planet Earth.

On a misty morning and up in the high mountains of northern Thailand, I found a herd of formerly-abused Asian Elephants at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. The ensuing shenanigans made for possibly the most fun day of my two week-long northern Thailand/Laos trip.

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Elephants
After a hard trip up the mountain… the view

The ride up to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary was miserable. About 2 hours in the cold and rain in the back of a truck bed with benches on both sides. A small tarp didn’t break the wind or rain nearly as much as it should have and the 8 of us crammed in there was just tough. We ended up laughing about the whole thing which brings you closer as a group but you know, I’m cool with distance if I’m not freezing. Anywho… the ride up the mountain about 60 km north of Chiang Mai was pretty steep but the views are impressive.

Elephants
Mud + constant drizzle = plastic rain coat fashion accessories
Elephants
Nom nom

Those who know me are aware of the obligation I feel towards responsible tourism, especially when it comes to impoverished or indigenous tribes and native wildlife. Too often in undeveloped parts of the world you can find tiger “temples” and basically “photobooths” with locals – both of which are usually accessible for only a few dollars and terribly abusive for the animals and people involved. So with that being said, during my brilliant but short stay in northern Thailand’s largest city of Chiang Mai, I decided to check out the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary where both of my concerns were alleviated instantly.

Elephants

Elephants

The sanctuary was started as an experiment in eco-tourism through ethical and sustainable business practices in 2014. The joint-initiative combines international travelers with the Karen Hill-Tribes which dot this part of Asia. As I’m currently living in Myanmar I’ve become very familiar with the Karen as they live in the jungles between Shan State, Myanmar, and the northern provinces of Thailand, it’s great to see this effort in action. The no-riding experience began with a quick overview of what’s up in the valley and the plan for the day. We had about 20 participants in our group and as it was roughly 7:45am and most of us had been enjoying ourselves the night before, not many were paying close attention. I just wanted a coffee.

Elephants

Elephants

We meandered down in to the valley were the elephants were hanging out and munching on some bamboo. The thing about these elephants is that you can tell they’d been abused, could easily see the scars and holes in their ears, yet they didn’t seem to care. The quality of their lives is readily apparent as their days consist of eating bamboo, getting fed treats by travelers, playing the mud, hanging out on the hillsides and washing off in a pristine natural stream.

Elephants
It was her idea…
Elephants
The world’s largest land animal and an elephant
Elephants
Wearing a traditional Karen shirt over my wind jacket

The elephants are very friendly (you are feeding them, after all) and aren’t shy in the slightest – which is both good and bad. You have to constantly keep your head on a swivel as they move about without much regard to who’s around them. The last thing you’d want is to have your foot be stepped on by on of these gigantic creatures. I grew up around Belgium draft horses and there is really no comparison as to how incredibly tall and wide – these animals are easily as wide as a U-Haul truck.

Elephants

Elephants

Elephants

Elephants

After a short time of feeding the elephants, off they went to the mountainside for a bit of graze. The steep muddy slopes make for tricky terrain but their flat feet somehow hold. We were slipping and sliding all over the place. Next was off to the stream at the end of the valley to play in the water with the elephants. Elephants really do engage in an incredible amount of social activity with each other and watching them play about from only feet away was such a uniquely-awesome experience.

Elephants
Paradise in the dense Thai jungle

Elephants

Elephants

Elephants
Baby always climbing on mama

Elephants

Elephants

Elephants

We spent about 6 hours with the elephants in total and it was worth every minute. The whole tour plus travel costs runs about 1,500 baht (give or take $40 USD) but for the experience, interaction with the animals and for the cause, it really is worth the expense. I’d do it again in a heartbeat and have recommended the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary to many friends and fellow travelers. I mean, the weather was atrocious and it was my favorite day in Thailand.

Elephants
Elephant paradise

For all my blog entries in Thailand, check out the blog: Click Here

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Living “Large” ‘in Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, Laos

There are few places as beautiful as Luang Prabang, Laos

The flight from Chiang Mai, Thailand, to Luang Prabang, Laos, is a short but sketchy one… and well worth the trip.

For High-Resolution Photos of my journey to Luang Prabang: Click Here

For High-Resolution Photos of my journey to Vang Vieng: Click Here

To check out my crazy trip to the Kuang Si Falls, click here. For the crazy part life of Vang Vieng, click here. For my photo essay on the Luang Prabang-Vang Vieng trip, click here.

Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang International Airport

So are you Chinese or Japanese? As a guy from Ohio that clip from “King of the Hill” was pretty much the only time I had every heard of Laos and you can bet after spending some time in Myanmar and Thailand I was pretty stoked to continue making my way East. Having just finished up a week in stunning Chiang Mai, Thailand, a quick 2-hour, super-choppy plane ride brought me over the jungles and mountains of Southeast Asia to the quaint Luang Prabang International Airport.

Luang Prabang, Laos
Headphones and view after view
Luang Prabang, Laos
The infamous Mekong River
Luang Prabang, Laos
Touchdown, Laos

 I had no idea what to expect upon arrival nor did I have any idea about what Laos would be like. Having been in Asia for some time, I assumed hot, jungle-y, but that really was it. On the plane, our route started trailing the Mekong River and when you notice the only signs of civilization are little fishing villages lining the wide-then-skinny-then-wide murky and muddy water of the Mekong, well, you realize pretty quickly that you’re about to be in the thick of it. Touchdown saw an unbelievable sight from the tarmac of rolling hills and mountains. A 20-minute or so wait for a visa-on-arrival and I was on my way via airport shuttle to a hostel in ‘downtown’ Luang Prabang. The 30-minute or so drive saw the sun set on me and at the last moment I got to catch the sunset just over the Mekong from the waterfront. Immediately my favorite shot of the trip so far.

Luang Prabang, Laos
Mekong River waterfront sunset
Luang Prabang, Laos
Utopia Bar off Aphay Street. Your experience will directly be affected by the people in town. The bar is super-chilled
Luang Prabang, Laos
Hostel found – time for Laotian street food
Luang Prabang, Laos
The crew
Luang Prabang, Laos
Post-drinks bowling
Luang Prabang, Laos
Our Laotian tuk tuk driver around 3am

The photos from this trip are a bit ‘below-par’ so to speak as I was shooting from my mobile – a Samsung Galaxy A8 – which turned out to be a good idea as my Canon would have been destroyed, like my watch, sunglasses and other affections that didn’t survive the trip. Laos is a helluva place! So hostel found, street food devoured (basically half a Euro for a chicken and avocado sandwich) and whiskey poured (1 Euro for 1 bottle!), we headed to a local pub popular with backpackers. Late-night bowling is all the rage in Luang Prabang so we ventured out there as well.

Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, Laos
Not bad for $10/night for two people
Luang Prabang, Laos
The beautiful views of Luang Prabang, Laos

The next morning we woke up a bit late, hit up a breakfast and grabbed some motorbikes to head about 30km away to the Kaung Si Waterfall. I’ll cover that in the next post as this one will stick to just Luang Prabang. There’s so much to do in this little city up north in the jungle. The layout of the city is based on the side of the Mekong River with a large mountain in the middle of the city. Mount Phousi serves as a religious point in the heart of the city and has some of the best lookouts on offer.

Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, Laos
Mount Phousi in the distance

Luang Prabang, Laos
Buddhas on Mount Phousi

Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang, Laos

The Luang Prabang night market was also a big hit and well worth a visit in the late hours of the evening. In any case, I’ll be back with a trip to Kaung Si Falls about 30km outside Luang Prabang, Laos.

For High-Resolution Photos of my journey to Luang Prabang: Click Here

For High-Resolution Photos of my journey to Vang Vieng: Click Here

To check out my crazy trip to the Kuang Si Falls, click here. For the crazy part life of Vang Vieng, click here. For my photo essay on the Luang Prabang-Vang Vieng trip, click here.

Wat Arun and Roll

Wat Arun Temple, Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok’s history comes alive at Wat Arun

The Wat Arun “Temple of Dawn” is a brilliant spot to take in some Thai Buddhism near downtown Bangkok.

For all the high-resolution photos from Wat Arun: Click Here

Wat Arun

Caked in sunscreen on an atypically blistering day during Thailand’s rainy season, it’s easy to see why the locals are complaining of a heat wave… and why white boys from southwestern Ohio have a hard go of it traveling in Southeast Asia. Bangkok is only 45 minutes away by flight from Yangon, Myanmar, so a weekend in BKK it was! Our second day in Bangkok saw us travel to the outskirts of Bangkok proper to the Bangkok Yai district located on the Thonburi west bank of the Chao Phraya River. The lovely Wat Arun brought us out of the Sukhumvit district in downtown and while unfortunately for us it was in the middle of a reconstruction period it was still worth the hour or so trek.
Wat Arun

Wat Arun, or to call it by its full name Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan, is a Buddhist temple named for the Hindu god Aruna. Meaning “Temple of Dawn,” the Wat Arun is one of Thailand’s best known and most ancient landmarks. Originally built around the beginning of the seventeenth century, it’s distinctive spires were built in the early nineteenth century during the reign of King Rama II.

Wat Arun

The compound itself is quite large, with several different temples all in a typically Thailand/Khmer-ish architecture. Something I’ve found quite interesting around Southeast Asia is that the Buddhist statues are all very similar while the architecture of each pagoda varies depending on the country you’re in. For example, Myanmar’s pagodas all have a very distinct gold-domed appearance while Thailand’s are covered in statues and intricate carvings and are colored primarily in a white-ish hue. This was particularly noticeable at Wat Phrae Kaew, but more on that in the next post.

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

The main feature of Wat Arun is its central prang (Khmer-style tower) which is encrusted with colorful porcelain. The height is measured between 66.8 meters (219 feet) and 86 meters (282 feet) tall. Very steep and narrow steps lead to a balcony high on the central tower. The circumference of the base of the structure is 234 meters. The corners are surrounded by four smaller satellite prang. The prang are decorated by seashells and bits of porcelain which had previously been used as ballast by boats coming to Bangkok from China. The presiding Buddha image, cast in the reign of Rama II, is said to have been molded by the king himself. The ashes of King Rama II are interred in the base of the image.

Wat Arun  Wat Arun Wat Arun

Next to the prang is the Ordination Hall with a Niramitr Buddha image supposedly designed by King Rama II. The front entrance of the Ordination Hall has a roof with a central spire, decorated in colored ceramic and stucco work “sheathed in colored china.” Basically, it’s incredibly colorful and detailed intricately. It is also a much welcome respite from the searing heat.

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun  Wat Arun  Wat Arun

In addition to the towering stupas, a market, several shrines and monastery are all located in the compound. After taking in the incredible sights of the Wat Arun, we took a quick walk around the area (it’s a photographer’s dream) and then stopped off for a fresh coconut and on to the next stop on our journey… the awe-inspiring Wat Phrae Kaew.

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun Wat Arun  Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

For all the high-resolution photos from Wat Arun: Click Here