Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Walking from Thong Nai Pan Yai to Than Sadet

I have never met anyone who has walked from Thong Nai Pan Yai to the beach at Than Sadet. It’s something I am always meaning to get around to. I was greatly impressed by Tezza’s blog. He not only does this walk but does all the hikes along the mountainous east coast of Koh Phangan.

http://tezzasthaiinfo.blogspot.co.uk/2006/12/ko-phangan.html Gives a detailed account of these hikes and is an invaluable resource for those visitors to Koh Phangan who want to get off the beaten track and experience the natural beauty of the island. Although the east coast holds the leading luxury resorts on the island as well as the construction site for the new airport, it is an area that remains mostly untouched by the development sweeping Koh Phangan. Beaches like Haad Thong Reng, Haad Yao East and Haad Wai Nam are places that time seems to have forgotten, places that feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the Full Moon Party.

Haad Sadet to Thong Nai Pan Yai

The trail to Thong Nai Pan Yai starts on the main access road, near the Rangers Station. Follow the signs for viewpoint bungalows. After 5 minutes the track divides. The right turning goes to Viewpoint Bungalows. Take the left turn. Follow this path and you get to Thong Nai Pan Yai. The path goes up and down and at parts is no more than a narrow path through the jungle. The journey cannot be done on a motorbike.

The trail comes out on the road where the Funky Buddha is located. It takes about 55 minutes to walk the trail. Considering it would take about 40 minutes to drive a motorbike between Thong Nai Pan and Than Sadet this is a good route.

You are unlikely to meet anyone while on the trail. Be sure to wear boots, carry water and use sunscreen. Also don’t set out late in the afternoon as the sun goes down quickly in the evening.

Future Roads

The local government plan to connect all the beaches up by concrete roads in the future so now is the time to enjoy this adventure before the trail is made redundant.


Respect to Tezza for his independent researches. We recommend checking out his blog for information about other walking trails in Koh Phangan. I can think of few better things in life than exploring the stunning beaches on the east coast of Koh Phangan.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

The Ring Road

The Koh Phangan authorities set themselves an ambitious goal in 2013. That was to build a circular road around the island, similar to the one that circumscribes Koh Samui. The idea is to create a better transport system on the island. The proposed island circular road will have implications for the Thong Nai Pan area.

No doubt the idea behind the proposed ring road for the island is to reduce travel times between key spots on the island. At present those wishing to travel from Thong Nai Pan to the west coast beaches have no choice but to drive south to Thongsala and then take a road north up the west coast. It is a circuitous route that takes over 40 minutes. The road system as it currently stands divides the east and west coasts, and means that visitors tend to choose one side or the other for their holiday experience.

The plan is for the rough road between Thong Nai Pan Noi and Bottle Beach to be concreted. It looks like they are going to improve the road that goes over the back of the beach that starts near the beginning of the village and that goes past the turning for Sunrise Villa. The idea will be to push this road on through the jungle and mountainous terrain and join Bottle Beach with Chaloklum. Once that is done the east coast will be joined with the north coast and to the good roads that link the north with the west.

Once this is done it will be a much quicker journey to go from Thong Nai Pan to Chaloklum with its fisherman architecture, seafood restaurants and piers. It will also be a much shorter trip over to Koh Ma in the north-west, Koh Phangan’s only protected marine park.

Once the Thong Nai Pan to Chaloklum is completed it will be easy to get to many of the best spots on the island for snorkeling, diving and site seeing. People can check out the chilled feel of the pirate beach in Koh Phangan, better known as Salad Beach, the trendy Haad Yao and can make it to waterfalls such as Wangsai, Paradise and Phaeng. Groups will also be able to make it over to Laem Son Lake to enjoy aquatic fun on the Wipeout obstacle course.

The proposed Koh Phangan circular road will be a great draw for families staying at Thong Nai Pan, especially those renting private villas and renting jeeps and 4x4 vehicles.

However, for every winner there is invariably a loser. In this case it will be the numerous people running boat tours around the island. These will be made slightly redundant by the faster journey times by road. It might also be the case that cheap songthaews plying the route around the island offering cheap stop and ride services will appear. This will be dependent on the taxi mafia allowing competition on the island.

The proposed circular road seems to have many positives, but it is not an exclusively positive plan. Koh Samui has suffered environmentally from its circular road, as it opens up more areas for development and invariably leads to deforestation, littering, pollution and a long line of tin shack businesses.

As with most development projects in Koh Phangan, time will tell, and it will be later rather than sooner as things rarely get done on time. Moreover, local politics always play a hidden role in decision making. For example the Bottle Beach family are resisting offers from developers to turn the secluded beach into a luxury resort enclave. The plans to make a circular road is partly apart providing better infrastructure for '5 star guests'. The hippies can obviously make do with rough roads and longtail boats! For updates on Bottle Beach see http://www.kohphanganhotelreviews.com/bottlebeach/

Note: In the map above the road joining Thong Nai Pan to Chaloklum (Haad Khom) is in blue. This is only a ‘rough’ map and not an official route plan. Also it is unknown whether the east coast will have a coastal road, especially since this is the most mountainous and difficult area to build roads in.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Flora and Fauna in Thong Nai Pan

I was aimlessly surfing the net today and discovered the official website for the Department of National Parks and Plant Conservation – www.dnp.go.th. It’s a really clunky website; typical of government websites in Thailand, but it does contain some interesting information.

I have always been curious about what flora and fauna you can expect to see in Thong Nai Pan. I have seen large birds, snakes, lizards and a plethora of insects. I have also spotted lots of different types of tree and flower. But beyond personal experience and anecdotal accounts of huge snakes etc., I have been unable to get a definitive list of what you might hope to see in the Thong Nai Pan area. That is until now. The national parks website has a page about Than Sadet, just a few kilometers down the coast. It is a safe bet to say that most of what Than Sadet has got Thong Nai Pan also has.

Here is what the website lists for Than Sadet:

Flora and Geography

Interior: lush primary forests filled with evergreen trees. The forest floor is important as it contains such flora as hopea odorata.

Hillside: dry primary forest with stone channels where important plants such as chukrasia velutina are found. It is a limestone mountain containing Portia tree and hibiscus.


Mammals: cervus unicolour (deer), monkey, spectacled langur, slow Loris and Javan mongoose

Birds: brahminy kite, white-bellied sea eagle, hill myna

Snakes: both venomous and non-venomous such as cobra, king cobra, green cat snake, python.

Amphibians: frogs, Blyth’s mountain frog

Other aquatic life: striped sea catfish, striped snake-head fish, crab, shrimp, land tortoise, splendid squid, rainbow cuttle fish.

Shell: oyster, scaly giant clam, abalone.

Sea turtle: green turtle and hawksbill turtle.


1) The deer, as legend has it, were released under the orders of King Rama V around Than Sadet. I’ve never met anyone who has seen one of these deer. They are protected by royal edict but who knows if they established themselves into the island’s eco-system.
2) To this list I would add monitor lizards, geckos and numerous birds (see bird’s of Thong Nai Pan post) and water buffalo (domesticated), dogs (domesticated) and cats (domesticated)

Sunday, 12 May 2013

King Rama V in Thong Nai Pan

King Chulalongkorn was the fifth monarch of Siam in the Chakri Dynasty, also known as King Rama V. The present King Bhumibol is of the same dynasty and is called Rama IX.

King Rama V was the monarch that saved the Kingdom from partition under colonial powers. He also attempted to reduce corruption in the administration, abolished slavery and did what he could to modernize the Kingdom while preserving the religious traditions of the country.

He was the first monarch of Thailand to properly tour his Kingdom. He bought a steam ship and spent time visiting the islands in both the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea.

One of the islands that he frequently visited during his reign (1868 – 1910) was Koh Phangan. As several websites about the island mention, King Rama V was particularly smitten with Than Sadet. He went to the waterfall and the beach in this area a number of times. He even carved his initials into a rock by the waterfall. This started a trend: both King Rama VII and the present King Rama IX have also carved their initials into giant rocks by the river bed.

What is less well known is that King Rama V also spent time in the Thong Nai Pan area. He visited Than Prawes waterfall and spent time in the villages of Noi and Yai. As with Than Sadet, he commemorated his fondness for Thong Nai Pan by carving his initials into a large rock in what is now Thong Nai Pan Noi village.

If you are walking from the beach through the village it is on the right. You go past Rasta Baby and over the bridge. The famous rock is next to the building that is at present an ice cream shop. Sadly there is construction work going on at the moment obscuring the rock from the road.

Perhaps if more people expressed an interest in seeing the rock with King Rama V’s initials on the local community would make more of an effort to preserve the area around the rock and make it a tourist attraction.

Friday, 26 April 2013

The Path

When tourists first visited Koh Phangan in the 1970s there was no road to Thong Nai Pan. The last part of the journey from Thongsala had to be done on foot or by boat. Footpaths were important travel routes. One route that has sadly disappeared in Thong Nai Pan is the path over the rocky headland that divides the northern Thong Nai Pan Noi from its larger southern sister, Thong Nai Pan Yai. It is a path that saves a lot of time. The alternative is to take the main road up the hill and down the other side. The present journey on foot between the two beaches takes about 30 minutes.

Panviman has occupied the Noi side of the peninsula for over 15 years and has had an impact on the accessibility of the peninsula. They have also recently secured a spot on yai beach at the bottom of the rocks. Previously they have built walk ways partly around the peninsula for guests to access villas and take in the scenery.

There used to be a very faint track that if you slipped quietly along let you take the short cut from one beach to the other. This path is now mostly used by Panviman staff. The development of this great spot straddling the two beaches seems to have closed the rock-route between the beaches.

On the rocks around Panviman there used to be a colony of giant lizards that you could spot sunning themselves most days. There numbers have dwindled.

The future surely for Panviman is to make the hotel one that offers its guests easy access to not one, but two fantastic beaches. It is a unique selling point.

Friday, 22 March 2013

The End Bar and Restaurant

The End is a stylish looking bar and restaurant on Thong Nai Pan Yai beach in front of Candlehut Resort. The publicity photos showing this long ellipsis of wooden decking on the beach with orange bean bags make the bar / restaurant look impressive. Sadly, looks can be deceptive. Early reports suggest both the food and the service are lousy.

Candlehut Resort in Yai has some better quality bungalows on the beach. They have moved away from the original backpacker style of Koh Phangan and offer a more boutique experience. However, over the years the accommodation has started to look somewhat shabby. The difference between the stunning publicity photos of the bungalows and the reality is marked.

The same point could be made of The End Beach Bar and Restaurant: the sales photos of the place make it look better than it really is. The main complaints about The End concern the staff that are inattentive and unfriendly, and the food which is not very good for the money.

The food takes a long time to come out and when it does it is disappointing. The calamari is too rubbery; the Caesar salad has far too much cream and not enough chicken or lettuce; and the Thai chicken with cashew nuts has no real Thai spicy taste to it.

All this is a shame because The End has a great location with the sea in front and the mountains behind. The bean bag seating is cool and there is a water feature with blue lighting that has a funky effect at night.

The End Beach Bar and Restaurant could be so much better than it actually is. No doubt its cool appearance and prime location will pull in plenty of first time punters. It is also not to be doubted that few will return.

I suspect that when TA (that over-rated corporate site) eventually pulls in reviews about The End the management might start to care a bit more about the service and food at the new Candlehut bar. Until then stay away.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Dolphin Bar and Café Opening

Last year Dolphin Bungalows on Yai shut down their restaurant. When they did so the people who had been running the place decided to branch off and start their own restaurant. After a hectic few months of building Giat and Kim opened the new Dolphin Bar and Café.

The restaurant / bar is located by Thai Terrace on one of the roads leading down to the beach. It is a 2 story building using local and natural materials. There are plenty of interesting Asian artifacts to look at and several inviting eating and drinking areas. Upstairs there are jungle views and outside there are views over a pond.

The official opening party was held on February 15th, 2013. Despite missing the hoped-for Christmas opening the party was a great success. Lots of people turned out and the festivities went on to the wee hours of the morning.

For the party chicken cooked in large earthen ware dragon pots was served along with many other Dolphin faves.

Dolphin Bar and Café is now fully open. It won’t be long before all their friends from their Dolphin Bungalows days find the new restaurant. They won’t be disappointed: the new menu has fresh salads, pasta, homemade bread sandwiches, tapas, real coffee and healthy breakfasts. It is a beautiful spot with a cool building and landscaped garden. The Dolphin Bar and Café makes a great spot to enjoy a few drinks.

Future planned events include a ‘chilled’ party night and food nights such as baked pork rib specials.

It won’t be very long before the new Dolphin Bar and Café becomes an entity in itself. At present people are apt to get confused with a Dolphin Bar on the beach and a Dolphin Bar just off the beach. The names are the similar but not the experience.

Dolphin Bar and Cafe will soon have its own website

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Game Bar

Game Bar has long been known amongst travelers to Thong Nai Pan Yai as a late night haven for those looking to party the night away. Situated on the main street, just past the 7-11, Game Bar is now the only destination away from the beach that hosts since Funky Buddha went 'dormant'.

Recently, the establishment overhauled its look and feel, making it more family-friendly by day and expanding its menu. The new Game Bar has comfortable booths, pillow-covered mat seating, plush couches, and picnic tables on a street-side area where diners can enjoy their food in the sun.  The owner Keio has made the effort to make the Western food more as it is 'back home' for a lot of people. Ranging from savory ham and eggs on toast and a variety of pastas, such as the indulgent blue cheese penne (xxx baht), and standard Thai fare, the extensive new Game Bar menu will take time to navigate.

Management has put some time and thought into changing the feel of this place and they’ve been successful in creating a bright, welcoming day-time space, while retaining the evening party trade by night. At lunchtime, you’d never know that come sundown, it’s also the place to party.
Game Bar still stands as a night-time haven for those looking to cut loose without the worry of closing times or disturbing the peace. It’s the regular parties that make this place a must on your Thong Nai Pan checklist if you enjoy a fun night out. On a busy night, the small dance floor spills across the bar, tempting even the most timid of dancers into the fold while listening to the wonderfully quirky DJ Lye,and sometimes, a lucky DJ from afar, spinning mostly dance beats. Expect to have a lot of fun with a lot of happy people.

Game Bar opens bright and early for breakfast and remains open until the last customer standing.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

End of an Era

It was always going to happen. Well ever since Santhiya was finished in 2006. That was the second hotel on Thong Nai Pan Noi. When it was discovered that Santhiya was filling its expensive rooms and pool villas the writing was on the wall for the budget backpacker places in Thong Nai Pan Noi.

It should be considered a good thing that the urge to ‘up-grade’ Tapan Noi bungalows was resisted until 2013. They haven’t been upgraded yet, but they have been shut down; meaning that there aren’t any bungalows for less than 1,000 Thai Baht a night left on the beachfront. That is a bit sad.

Tapan Noi or Baan Tapan Noi attracted lots of people, including many loyal customers who came back year after year. The bungalows on the rocks were simple wooden structures. The ones at the back didn’t have a bathroom. None had air-con. Instead they had a lot of character. The bungalow on the headline point was a gem – with lots of pointed plants outside and access to two beaches. Another bungalow had a bedroom and an entrance area big enough to install a basic kitchen. There were also a couple of bigger bungalows directly on the sand that were highly coveted and usually only let by the month.

The people running Tapan Noi are a friendly bunch. They got to know their long-stay customers and were always ready for a joke and a smile.

The northern end of the beach was ideal – it was free of the nasty early morning drone coming from the Jungle Bar and Hideaway Bar. Instead there was the relaxed I Sea Bar for a drink. Until 2011 there was the excellent Krua Tapan restaurant to enjoy authentic Thai food as well as the Tapan Noi restaurant.

Now that idyllic set up has gone. The Tapan Noi restaurant is still there as is the I Sea Bar but the cheap bungalows – the life blood of that part of the beach – have been taken out of the equation.

At the moment they are just standing there rotting. No doubt in the low season they will be pulled down and will be slowly replaced with air-con bungalows that will make their way onto the Thong Tapan website. It makes business sense I suppose but in terms of culture and pluralism the beach is a poorer place for their closure.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Thong Nai Pan Room Prices for 2013

Now that the peak season is over the hotels and resorts in Thong Nai Pan Noi and Thong Nai Pan Yai are revealing their prices for 2013 up to the rainy season. Naturally, the Christmas and New Year prices change as the year goes on and a number of factors are considered.

The thing to remember about prices in Thong Nai Pan as with many resort areas in Thailand is that they are not governed by inflation. The currency exchange rates don’t fluctuate very much. The resorts go on the principle of charging as much as the market will stand. They are apt to raise prices if they had high occupancy rates the previous year, and to lower rates if occupancy was down the previous year.

The notion of competition driving down prices often doesn’t apply in Thailand. Rather the resorts have an unspoken agreement to keep to their price niche. Thus, the cheapest place remains the same and the hotels don’t get into price wars.

The fact that most of the hotel rooms, bungalows and villas in both Thong Nai Pan Noi and Thong Nai Pan Yai have gone up in price this year reflects the growing popularity of TNP, and that business has never been better.

In Thong Nai Pan Noi Phuwadee Resort and Spa has raised its prices by 200 Thai Baht; Thong Tapan by about 300 Thai Baht; Sandee Bungalow and Tapan Noi by 100 Thai Baht and both Santhiya and Panviman by a massive 2,000 Thai Baht.

The exceptions are Buri Rasa which is offering discounts of 1,000 Thai Baht and Rasananda that has frozen its prices. Buri Rasa has been open for less than a year and is still trying to establish itself in the hotel market. Rasananda started out massively over-priced and has no need to further raise prices.

In Thong Nai Pan Yai Central Cottage has made small increases (about 50 Thai Baht); Nice Beach Resort is 100 Thai Baht more; Dreamland Resort costs 300 Thai Baht more; and Candlehut Resort 400 Thai Baht more.

The surprises are that Baan Panburi prices are unchanged. Also Starlight Resort prices are mostly unchanged. Havana Resort has also kept the same prices. Longtail Resort doesn’t use booking engines but it looks like it has increased prices by a modest 100 Thai Baht. Indeed I suspect the popularity of Longtail Beach Resort is forcing the neighboring resorts of Baan Panburi and Starlight Resort to refrain from big price hikes. Baan Panburi is part of a bigger chain of resorts and so there is less pressure to squeeze every last Baht out of the place. It still seeks to become the main budget option in Yai.

Private villas in Thong Nai Pan are outside the pricing rubric guiding prices in Thong Nai Pan. The prices remain unchanged in general. Sunrise Villa is offering a discounted week every month for 4,000 Thai Baht a day instead of 6,000 Thai Baht. Due to high running costs a couple of private villas have stopped opening their doors.

Current Promotions

At present Thong Tapan is offering a 5% discount for bookings more than 40 days in advance. Santhiya has hiked up its prices but is offering 4 nights for the price of 3 to soften the blow. Buri Rasa is also offering promotions.

Use the links below to check promotions:

Thong Tapan
Buri Rasa
Sunrise Villa