Koh Pha Ngan exceeded every expectation we had before arriving. From landing at the Pier and immediately being offered a ride to a beautiful, and cheap, bungalow on the beach to elephants to great food and parties. After 1 day we knew we would not want to leave, and that is why we stayed for over a week.
The people running the resort we stayed on were very friendly, and very happy that we payed for the week on the first day and didn't bother them again. On our first day we met a very nice taxi driver who gave us alot of information about the island and, shockingly, didn't try to sell us anything in the process. For that reason the next day we tracked him down and got him to take us to a place offering elephant trecking. It turns out there are 5 places on the island, and we made sure we were going to the one that treated the animals the best.
When we got to the property they had monkey to welcome us, and 3 elephants for us to choose from. We chose the largest one and our guide took us into the jungle. The ride was very slow, and the elephant decided half way to take a break for a snack (our guide was not impressed). Touching the elephant was very different than we expected, it was quite rough, and it didnt mind us doing so at all. We saw alot of different plants and the largest spider either of us have ever seen. After the ride we fed the elephants bananas and watched them interacting with one another before heading back to our beach.
Everyone on the island, residents and tourists, ride on motor bikes or scooters unless they are driving a taxi. We found out that a scooter for 24 hours costs less that a taxi for 1 person to get across the island. That being said after our last experience, which my foot has only just healed and has a pretty ugly scar, we were a bit hesitant. The taxi driver offered to give us a lesson first thing in the morning, and we rented 2 scooters for the day. Dean took to it like a natural, surprising after the last time, and we were off. I was so scared of falling again, not to mention they drive on the wrong side of the road here, so we headed back to our bungalow for a break right away. It became apparent on that short ride that having 2 bikes to explore the island would mean not speaking the entire day, so I parked mine (fine with me) and hopped on the back of Deans.
We spent that entire first day riding through the mountains and exploring every beach we could. Amazingly each section of beach around the island was very different. From soft sand and clear water to coarse sand and rocky coral filled water it was very fun to choose our favorite for the next day. We rented the scooter for 2 more days and spent alot of time at a beach on the opposite side of the island from us. This one had crystal clear water and very soft sand, as well as alot of tiny fish swimming around us as we swam. The best thing about this beach is hard to decide, but it might actually be the ride through the hills to get there.
The food on the island was delicious and very cheap and we immediately found our favorites. The first day we wandered the streets looking for cheap street food and ended up stopping at a soup stall on the main street. It was something in between street food and a restaurant, they cook the food out side but seat you in a small airconditioned room, and charge street food prices. From the looks of the pictures on the walls they must have had a large menu, however none of the employees spoke english aside from the word "soup". Their noodle soup was fantastic and they served it with all of the condiments to make it as spicy as we liked (perfect). 7 days in a row we had our first meal of the day here, and they just laughed and sent us inside when we walked up. Neither of us would have guessed that "melt your face" spicy soup would be a favorite breakfast but we will be looking for a place when we get home.
In the evenings we usually grabbed a few drinks and sat on our beach or our patio. Every night a few different dogs from surrounding resorts would come and hang out with us, even protecting us from any other dogs and visitors. One night we were sitting out side and it started to pour with rain. With in minutes we were watching a huge lightening storm like nothing we have ever seen. It was almost like sitting in the day light at some points because the sky was so lit up. Against Deans better judgement I went out to the beach to get a better look and it was amazing (and scary). The sky was lit up, but the lightening bolts were hitting the island accross from us as well as ours. Some of them were a little to close for comfort so I wasn't out there for long.
The islands main source of tourism is a monthly party called the "Full moon party". Basically its a party on the beach that starts when the sun is going down and doesnt stop until lunch time the next day. At the beach there are stages, multiple DJ's, fire shows, and everyone selling buckets of alcohol. Everyone attending wears neon clothing and covers them selves in colourful body paint. We have heard that on its busiest days there can be up to 47,000 people there, although the one we went to was probably under 20,000. The full moon was on our last night on the island and we spent the day getting ready. By the time 11pm came around we were painted from head to toe and ready to go.
By the time we got to the party it became apparent why we were recomended not to start drinking until around midnight, but a beer with lunch seemed like such a great idea. We only stayed for a couple hours, dancing, watching fire shows and having a bite to eat, before it was time to go home. Needless to say the next day was not very enjoyable and our soup place was closed for the day. =( We hung out on the beach for the day before taking a night boat followed by a bus to Khao Sok National Park, to see the rainforest.