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Koh Phangan used to be known as Samui’s little sister, the island that was much less developed and a place for chilled out hippies and enthusiastic backpackers in search of peace. Now however, with more development on the island and a changing face in its visitors, the island has sort of ‘grown up’ in its perception from the outside world.
Although Koh Phangan has a long way to go to before it is known for anything other than the Full Moon Party to most people outside of the Asian bubble, those that ‘are’ in the know, know that this beautiful island is a hub of yoga, spirituality, dreamlike beaches, jungle, adventure sports and friendly vibes. It has also kept its roots and laid back hippy vibe in a way that most places cannot in this day and age.
But how will Koh Phangan look in ten years from now we wonder? This question may of been asked amongst the ‘original much less neon crowd’ of the first Full Moon parties back thirty years ago, did they have any idea how it would change?!
The precious gift about Phangan compared to say Samui is that much of the island is protected, meaning that it cannot be built on or cut down. Building height is also restricted here so at least we can feel safe knowing that there won’t be any tower block holiday apartments any time soon.
In the last five years the island has really felt a jump in development with more high end hotels opening, the first luxury resort in Baan Tai just last year and even more hostels and budget accommodation as visitors to the island continue to increase.
We have also seen more considerate businesses make Phangan their home such as Moonlight Cinema which gives visitors a touch of style with conscious and commercial films in a beautiful environment and also caters to the Thai community which is something that western business owners should remember to do.
What we have seen over the last ten years is that there are two main pulling factors to the island in terms of growth which are incidentally opposite themes; The Full Moon party in Haad Rin and the luxury and destination of Thong Nai Pan Noi.
The Full Moon party started its humble beginnings over thirty years ago and has grown ever since but Thong Nai Pan used to be just a traveler's secret until people started to realise the potential for this location to bring in a different kind of visitor and so the 5 star resort market came to the area.
Now Thong Nai Pan has a range of different luxury resorts which welcome couples, families and people with a larger budget than our traditional backpacker, in a place where they can enjoy somewhat unspoilt beauty with a jungle backdrop, soft white sand and bright blue waters.
Because of this kind of development the roads have improved on the island making everywhere accessible, supermarkets and more designer businesses have opened and the people of Koh Phangan can enjoy a slightly bigger economy that comes with this tourism.
Even hostels have upped their game with Infinity Beach Club adding dorm rooms to their location, this pushes up the standards and gives modest travellers a little bit of luxury. Our very own Phanganist Hostel is completely brand new and we know that travellers are not just happy with the usual bunk bed anymore and so we offer their own enclosed space, power points, more room and a pool amongst other delights.
Details aside, this is a key moment for Koh Phangan, it can either go one way or another. It could continue to develop in the way that it is now or it could come to a bit of a halt.
Either way, the island is hopefully gaining strength in reputation for its yoga schools and diving centres as well as becoming more accessible for families with children and this seems the way it will go.
The blessing is that most of the nature is protected and we as visitors or residents should help to preserve this and whatever else we can. So of course there will be more houses, hotels, shops and attractions but hopefully the look of the island won’t change too much from now, who knows?!
The most important thing is that Koh Phangan still ‘feels’ the same in 10 years time....