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What it’s REALLY like to live on Koh Phangan - Part Six ‘People who have Done It!'

24 May

Our final part of what it’s REALLY LIKE to live on Koh Phangan brings you first-hand experience from people who have done it!

These people have chosen to spend all year round on this beautiful island, so don’t just listen to us, listen to them as well.

If you need a re-cap then here's what we have covered before about what it's REALLY LIKE to live on Koh Phangan:

The Fun Stuff

Sustaining Yourself and Your Life

The Correct Visa

Lifestyle and Where to Live

Hometruths and Culture Shocks

We have asked each individual the positives of living here but also the negatives and things they wish they would have known, with the negatives we have come up with a solution in case this is something you face or have to deal with.

Firstly we speak to Natu who has lived on Phangan for one year so far, she works as a receptionist for Phanganist Hostel and originally just came for 4 days but ended up getting a job and staying.

As well as working full-time, Natu enjoys the Latin dances on the island and also the Psy-trance, “quite an interesting combination”.

What are the best things about living here?
I think the best thing is that even though it is an island, it is such an interesting one that you can never get bored here.

No matter what are you interests, you have it here, and if you are like me, that you have an interest in a lot of different things, this is paradise.

You can one day just focus on meditation, yoga, ecstatic dance, tantra, whatever you want. Next day, party like crazy. Next day just go for a hike/beach day quiet and relax.
There’s such a nice mix of activities and people make you feel refreshed.

Well, for me one really negative side of the island is that I don't ride a motorbike... and living on an island without this can be quite a challenge sometimes.

The solution:
We must agree that the best way to get around is by motorbike/scooter, especially if you live here full time, you will want to go shopping, go to see friends and visit different parts of the island in your spare time. However, there are other ways…

You can be like Natu herself and get yourself a bicycle! This will at least enable you to get to work, any longer distance however would mean to get a lift from a friend or get a taxi (which could be expensive).

What you should do is find a trusted friend or the person you work for to teach you how to ride a scooter. This can be done over time so there is no need to panic. A lot of jobs actually provide you with a scooter so it would be in the businesses best interests to teach you and do this in a safe way.

Why is it a great place to live?
People here are very open minded, and we are looking for the same and feeling the same for this place, so I think you get to connect to people in an easier and deeper way.

And we all know that it is the people that actually make a place so special.

You can also include all the amazing beaches, viewpoints, incredible parties, peaceful sunsets, and yes, you have paradise!

We go from someone living here for one year to someone who has lived here for 14 years! Sabrina in fact very first came to visit in 1994 and would come and go until 2005 when she made it her permanent home. She has a well-established and beautiful business making homemade and healthy vegan and vegetarian foods which she has recently extended to Koh Samui. With all her free time she also does a lot to help the island’s animals.

What are the best things about living here?
It’s warm and we have beautiful sunsets.

Heavy Monsoon Rain and Storms, especially when you have to do things outdoors in the Nature or have to drive a bike.

Dealing with the humidity when everything get mouldy. Animal cruelty, and that you always will be a Farang (a foreigner not a Thai).

The solution:
With the heavy monsoons and storms during the rainy season and also at random points of the year we don’t really have a solution for this! As we mentioned in a previous article (see here) this is something you will just have to deal with. Try to check the weather satellites and get into the habit of planning your days and outdoor activities as best you can.

The humidity can of course cause problems as Sabrina mentioned, again this is another thing you will just have to deal with and try to fix as best you can. There are ways in which you can protect your house from mould or try to prevent it by researching.

The culture is different here, you may see things in regards to animals that shock you, try to get involved with the island’s many organisations that try to help such as PACS or Adopt a Furry Friend. Sabrina also helps with her organisation Koh Phangan Animal Lovers.

Always being a Farang...yes, you will. No matter how long you live on Koh Phangan or in Thailand, that’s just the way it is here, you will always be an outsider. Take your time, be patient, have good intentions and slowly but surely you will make some good honest Thai friends in the community.

Why is it a great place to live?
I used to enjoy my freedom here because there were less rules than in Germany but things are changing because too many foreigners are thinking the same and go over the limits.
The Thai’s can’t deal with it anymore. Now we get the same rules as in Europe....but it’s still better than Germany and I hate freezing. Apart from this, Phangan is just special…

Next up we speak to Linda who has lived here for 12 years. She went with the option of studying Southeast Asia culture and Thai Language through Danish University, this allows her to be in education but to enjoy the cheaper cost of living (which is good for a student) and more relaxed life-style Koh Phangan has to offer.

When she is not working on her degree studies she helps the team here with Phanganist Magazine and has five dogs as her ‘real-life’ project to keep her busy and entertained.

What are the best things about living here?
The best thing here is the feeling of freedom. Everyone has time to smile, there are swimming pools and beaches all around me, there is yoga and party, there is like minded friends and freaks. It is like we’ve made a small little bubble away from the real world and the troubles there ...we know we are hiding away but we like it like that .. for now at least.

No times are the exact time, no plan is absolutely set in stone.

The solution:
This is called ‘Thai Time’ or could just be island life time… it is something that could frustrate you, especially if you are working and have commitments. It is however something you will get used to and you will learn how each individual works to their particular time-frame.

If you’re working or running a business then you will either get used to this or not encounter it as the people you will be around will be doing the same thing and so will be able to stick to times but you should be aware that a lot of people DO have a lot of free time and so plans can change, times can change and things can be a bit less prompt than what you are used to. Read our article on island time.

Why is it a great place to live?
It is my favorite place to live right now because most people here are like me. We are hiding a bit away from the tough and rough real world. We created a space among the locals where we can feel free and alive, not just live to survive.

Any idea you have, you have space and time to create here. It is only up to you, there’s no one to tell you if you can or not, you do and then you see.

The sun is always shining and your small bike is easy to ride all around the island, what's not to love?

Next we speak to Andrea who is married to a Thai National, she has lived on Koh Phangan for 20 years and together with her husband, owns and runs a jewelry shop business in Thong Sala.

Like many others she enjoys the “personal freedom I have, to do and live the way I want and not have to follow too many rules which are forced on you.

I love the very special energy of the island here, probably because of the many stones you can find in the rocks like clear quartz, Amethyst, Black Tourmaline, granite and many more. I also love the nature here and the wildlife”.

Money or Visa issues and getting ‘too big for your boots’.

The solution:
With regards to Visa issues, you need to know that things are always changing as we addressed here. You also need to be prepared for money problems that may arise, such as preparing for low season when you may not be making as much as high season, see info here. Just remember that when you permanently live somewhere you will encounter the same problems as when you lived back home, life is life.

Getting too big for your boots - keep your ego in tact and stay humble. Things change quickly here so don’t go showing off if you have had a good month in business, it can annoy the community who are not doing so well and you could lose it all the next month, things can change a lot.
Most people who have managed to sustain themselves and create good business and a good life here on Koh Phangan have stayed quiet, humble and authentically thankful to the Thai community in which they live, take note.

One photographer who has been living here for nearly 3 years tells us her experience…

What are the best things about living here?
WOW where to start? Being completely immersed in nature is my favourite thing about the island. It is my version of paradise, the island has a really nice blend of party scene and spiritual scene which means I can dip in and out depending on my mood. The people living here are happy, the food is amazing and although it feels like I really know the island I am always discovering new places.

The only 2 points I can think of is the Thai visa process is a bit annoying and secondly the plastic problem. However this is apparent around the world and especially across Asia so I wouldn't say it is island specific!
However I hate seeing plastic in nature and the ocean around here because the island is so beautiful and needs to be protected from human destruction.

The solution:
Yes the Visa situation can be annoying, things change a lot. The best way to deal with this is to remember you are a guest of Thailand and this is the small price you pay to have your dream life. We talk about visa changes here.

The plastic, ‘be the change you want to see’, do your small bit to help and others will follow. You can have a look at ways to reduce your plastic consumption and other means of helping the island here in our Environment section of

So there you have it, the good, the bad, the ugly and the excellent things about what it is REALLY LIKE to live on Koh Phangan! We hope this series of articles has been a good practical help and also a creative inspiration to help you decide if you want to live permanently here.

One of the best pieces of advice we can give is to ‘do things the right way’. No matter if you see people doing things the easy wrong way, be respectful for the Country you are in. If you’re working, then do it legal, pay your Thai taxes like the Thai people do. Be kind to the Thai people and be patient, it will take years for them to wholey accept you but it will be worth it.

And remember to take care of each other, the other expats who are trying to live out their dream life here on Koh Phangan.

There will be ups and downs but if you work hard, do things in the right way, then it really can be living the dream.

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