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

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.