Barefoot on the Sands

There’s a wonderful flip side to a hedonistic Koh Phangan of full moon parties fame, on an island that’s still only accessible by boat and conceals deliciously unspoilt corners

Until its much-anticipated airport opens – the latest forecast after years of delays is late 2017 – the only way to reach Koh Phangan is by speedboat or ferry. We opted for the former, a daily scheduled service to Anantara Rasananda Koh Phangan Villas, tucked away on the east coast of the island far from its more raucous elements. It was a deliberate choice, for although Koh Phangan is renowned for Full Moon parties and all their backpacking associations, we wanted to experience a quieter, more relaxing and ultimately more traditionally Thai island experience. On boarding the comfortable large speedboat at Anantara Rasananda’s dedicated small terminal on Koh Samui, just minutes by bus from the airport, we were puzzled to be asked to surrender our footwear. The reason became obvious just over half an hour later when our speedboat swept into the shallow blue waters some metres offshore the resort’s Thon Nai Pan beach and dropped anchor.

Helped out of the speedboat aft by crew members – who thoughtfully also helped roll up my trouser legs – we waded ashore to be welcomed by a smiling line of management and staff. This barefoot beach arrival ceremony – followed by a welcome drink, footwear and luggage collection – was a delightful introduction to the charms of idyllic Koh Phangan and this tranquil resort. It’s tucked discreetly at the base of a lush mountain, amongst towering coconut palms and just steps from the powdery sands of the beach, with 64 private pool suites and villas in seven layouts facing the sea. Each one is a sanctuary of character in natural harmony with the exotic surroundings: the wood and stone features giving striking backdrops to rich hand woven silks. This was base camp for our exploration of Koh Phangan, although in truth it was hard to venture anywhere outside when the relaxed vibes of its restaurants, spa and the beach were all so hypnotic. It’s easy to see why this hideaway resort has become popular as a wedding venue – if we hadn’t been already married we’d have been tempted to tie the knot again here.

However, we managed a leisurely exploration of this jewel of an island, which can be circumnavigated in about a day on a series of recently refurbished roads that traverse some serious gradients. We experienced local life in friendly markets and bars and visited Haad Rin Beach on the south-eastern cape, venue of the famous Full Moon parties and thankfully quiet during our visit, as the moon was small. There are other deserted beaches scattered around the island’s coasts, including Haad Chao Phao on the west, Haad Salad on the north-west and Haad Khuat or Bottle Beach on the north coast that’s so isolated it’s only accessible by boat. You can get there aboard Anantara Rasananda’s own 37-foot cruiser, available for sailing adventures around the island and day trips to Ang Thong National Marine Park. For those in more of a hurry than we were, the resort’s Tropical Rainforest Adventure showcases Koh Phangan’s distinctive cultural and natural attractions in just one day – in a rich combination of snorkelling, archery, elephant trekking and Thai boxing, finished off with a luscious herbal steam sauna.


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