Koh Phangan Airport
Lots of changes have occurred in the Thong Nai Pan area in the last year. It is hard to know where to begin. Probably the biggest news is that Koh Phangan Airport is being built. In typical island style work plans have not been widely disseminated. There are a few signs around the island announcing the airport in Thai. It seems they started building in an area near Thong Nai Pan and then moved to Chaloklum, and might have moved back to the original site on the road between Than Sadet and Thong Nai Pan. Obviously the hilly terrain on Koh Phangan presents a challenge to Kan Air. If it is a small airport it is likely that the flights will be to Suratthani Airport. Those who fear that an airport will ruin Koh Phangan might be over-making their case. The airport will deal with low volumes, and many of the passengers will no doubt go straight to Thong Nai Pan. It will be a while before mass air transport threatens to turn Koh Phangan into Koh Samui. And who wants that anyway? Koh Samui has overstretched itself and now runs at occupancy rates under 50%. For more about Thong Nai Pan Airport and the rumour mill of Koh Phangan check out Thong Nai Pan Life blog.
Thong Nai Pan Yai
Thong Nai Pan Yai appears to be going through much slower change than its neighbour, Thong Nai Pan Noi. Most of the old favorites are still going strong – Dolphin Bungalows, Pen Bungalows, Havana Resort, Central Cottage and Dreamland Resort. The three notable additions to Thong Nai Pan Yai accommodation are Nice Beach Resort, Longtail Resort and Starlight Resort. Nice Beach Resort is on the middle of the beach and the other two are down the far end of the beach (East, away from Thong Nai Pan Yai). Longtail Resort is part German-run and has bungalows set in a garden. It is aimed at the more budget end of the market. Whereas Starlight Resort is more upmarket – it has a large accommodation block and a swimming pool featuring black tiles and a dolphin mosaic. Nice Beach Resort is mid-range. It has a restaurant that claims to be able to serve over 70 different dishes. No doubt, like the old Star Huts, most of them are very similar.
For those who really liked staying at Baan Panburi Village and felt saddened when they left Thong Nai Pan Noi, do not despair. They have moved everything to Thong Nai Pan Yai. Baan Panburi Village is pretty much as it was only now it is next to Dolphin Bungalows on Yai. It is slightly smaller now, and does have a slight defeated air. It was sacrificed by the owner to make way for an extension of his upmarket Rasananda Resort.
The place on the headland between Yai and Noi has closed down and has been bought up by Panviman. The hotel now has all the headland and is in the process of building more luxury cottages on the Yai side. They will also provide a walk way for guests joining the two beaches. How they will stop ‘non guests’ using this handy short cut remains to be seen.
Thong Nai Pan Noi
At long last the private villa rental market is getting under way in Thong Nai Pan Noi. There are now a few villas for rent both in the hills behind Thong Tapan and on the northern headland of Laem Sapot. The pick of the bunch is Sunrise Villa. It is accessed via the road between Phuwadee and Thong Tapan Resort or from the road that goes left before you enter Thong Nai Pan Noi Village. Sunrise Villa has 3 double bedrooms, kitchen, dining area, a large garden and a spectacular wrap around balcony from which the view can be enjoyed. The master bedroom on the seco0nd floor has floor to ceiling windows to enjoy the view.
All 3 double bedrooms have air-con and are en-suite. The interior design is contemporary Asian and has plenty of hardwood. The villa is fully furnished. It has been open for business for all of 2012, and from the reviews onTrip Advisor has been greatly appreciated. Rental fees for Sunrise Villa are 5,000 Thai Baht a night except for the peak Christmas and New Year period where the price is 8,000 Thai Baht a night. Check out their website (www.sunrisevilla.info) for special promotional deals.
For those who cannot afford the high room prices at Panviman, Santhiya and Rasananda, or who want self catering accommodation for up to 6 people Sunrise Villa is the ideal alternative.
For those interested, Sunrise Villa is also known as Achala House. It is still officially for sale. Although with the lucrative rental market the property is being put to good use in the meantime.
The beachfront of Thong Nai Pan Noi has undergone rapid change. Only Tapan Resort and Tapan Noi hold out as local businesses that are beachfront. Phuwadee is a rental resort that varies in service depending on who is running the place. The pink bungalows now represent some of the cheapest beach side accommodation on Noi. Little has changed about the rooms except that they now have safety boxes.
Rasananda has become Anantara Rasananda. Not a major change – just the owner joining the resort to his hotel brand. Of more import is that the resort has now stretched itself the entire length from the beach entry road (where Star Huts used to be) to Phuwadee Resort. Sadly Star Huts is no more. They have moved to Thong Nai Pan Noi village (next to Tanaporn Massage House) and run a restaurant.
Otto Bungalows is still standing but looks dead as a business. Sandee Bungalow is still going but has orientated itself more with providing accommodation for Thais working in the area.
The space where Star Huts used to be is now under construction for a mid-range Buri Rasa Resort. This resort will incorporate arcade style units where the Star Huts restaurant and shop once stood. This part has been completed.
The Buri Rasa restaurant is currently open. The hotel will be 4 star and no doubt will be ready for the peak season in December 2012.
Bars and Restaurants
Thong Nai Pan Yai
It looks like the Tipi in Noi has opened up Tipi Cantina on the beach in Yai. It offers cold beers and cocktails with an early evening happy hour. They have a beach volleyball court set up and play loud music. It is located next to Dolphin Bungalows.
Thong Nai Pan Noi
A number of bars and restaurants have opened and closed in Thong Nai Pan Noi. The speed at which businesses fall and rise on the beach reflects how the big hotels are beginning to dominate this beach. The Hideaway was pulled down in 2011. The Jungle Bar is still standing but seems like it might as well as be knocked down. Pi Dee has gone; the Monday party nights are no longer the event of the week. DJ Ton has left to spin at the new Love:Is Haad Rin party and the current renters are just treading water.
The Luna Lounge is still going strong. They briefly took over the KP office to run the ‘Sala’. That is now closed. Luna is under stiff competition from Pong’s new restaurant called Better Than Sex. It is in the former Pong’s Republic – the glass and steel structure opposite Luna Lounge. These two restaurants are the future of the independent eateries on Noi as they are aimed at those with more money to spend who want swanky surroundings not traditional bamboo furniture, Chang beer and curry.
This is born out by the fact that Bamboo Restaurant and Again and Again are waning slightly in popularity.
For those with long memories Que Pasa became Easy Corner which in turn became a Mexican restaurant again called La Hacienda. They’ve put sand out the front to make it feel like you are sitting on the beach.
There’s a new bar next to La Hacienda called Sand Bar. It is somewhat in the mold of the Jungle Bar.
Jip Shop is just up from the Bamboo Restaurant. it serves quite good Thai food and is now the best place in Thong Nai Pan Noi to watch the footie – in fact it is the only place!
Great news for those people who want to fly to Koh Phangan but are put off by the high prices charged by Bangkok Airways to fly between Koh Samui and Bangkok. Bangkok Airways charges about 4,000 Thai Baht for a one way ticket. Now you can buy a combined boat/bus/plane ticket from Lomprayah/Nok Air that costs under 3,000 Thai Baht. The journey takes about 5 hours.
Itinerary for Lomprayah / Nok Air Combined Ticket – Koh Phangan to Bangkok
Thong Sala Pier 1200 (catamaran) to Suratthani Pier 1330
Suratthani Pier 1350 (bus) to Nakhon Si Thammarat Airport 1510
Nakhon Si Thammarat Airport 1555 (airplane) to Don Mueng Airport in Bangkok 1705
Itinerary for Lomprayah / Nok Air Combined Ticket – Bangkok to Koh Phangan
Don Mueng Airport Bangkok (airplane) 0600 to Nakhon Si Thammarat Airport 0710
Nakhon Si Thammarat Airport 0740 (bus) to Suratthani Pier 0905
Suratthani Pier 1010 (catamaran) to Thong Sala Pier
Nok Air do other flights between Nakhon Si Thammarat and Bangkok but this is the only combined ticket available. You can just arrive at Thong Sala pier 45 minutes for the boat departs and buy your ticket. No need for travel agents!
To find out more about Nok Air and their full flight schedule check out their website: www.nokair.com
Another new travel option is to fly out of Chumphon with Solar Air. You can buy a Lomprayah boat/bus ticket to Chumphon airport and then from there fly to Don Meung Airport in Bangkok. The cost for a one way flight ticket is about 3,000 Thai Baht. Solar Air use small 19 seat planes so it is important to book in advance.
Bangkok to Chumphon
Don Mueng Airport 0945 – Chumphon Airport 1100
Chumphon to Bangkok
Chumphon Airport 1400 – Don Mueng Airport 1515
The Solar Air website is: www.solarair.co.th
Thong Nai Pan Magazine travel pages have been updated to reflect these changes. Although Koh Phangan still doesn’t have an airport (and may never will) travel to and from the island has never been more convenient and good value.
However, saying that taxis from Thong Nai Pan to Thong Sala are up to 200 Thai Baht. Sometimes 300 Thai Baht if the taxi pick up is not full. To travel between Thong Nai Pan Yai and Thong Nai Pan Noi costs 100 Thai Baht.
The big storm to hit the Gulf of Thailand damaged the Santhiya speed boat and caused the bridge at the entrance to Panviman to fall down. It turned out that the bridge was built without steel reinforcement. Hopefully the re-built bridge will be of a higher standard. Another bridge between Thong Nai Pan and Bantai was also knocked out.
No other serious damage or injury to people occurred because of the storm. It was a most unseasonal storm because March is traditionally the driest month of the year in Koh Phangan.
New Restaurants and Bars
KP Property seems to have officially gone. Their office has now been taken over by Luna Lounge and the new restaurant is called ‘Sala Cafe’. The food and decor is very much following the Luna Lounge Brand.
Pong has re-emerged opposite the Luna Lounge. His new restaurant is called ‘Better Than Sex’. Although the location is inferior to Pong’s former restaurant on Thong Nai Pan Noi beachfront, it is presumed that the food will continue to be good quality, it not cheap.
Similarly, Flip Flop Pharmacy has moved. The bar is now on Thong Nai Pan Yai. It’s on the beach at the southern end.
At the moment things have stayed the same (other than prices going up). However, changes are in the pipe line. Star Huts have not been given a renewal of their lease. At the same time Rasananda is expanding. They are planning to take over Baan Panburi. This is bad news for those looking for cheaper accommodation on Thong Nai Pan Noi. Rumor has it that a Buri Rasa will be built where Star Huts used to be. Thong Nai Pan Noi seems to be in a hurry to go up market. Already wheelie suitcases seem to be more evident than backpacks. Tapan Noi at the end of Thong Nai Pan Noi is bravely holding on.
Otto Bungalows in the village never really got off the ground and they seemed to have even pretending to be open.
The excellent H20 Scuba School has now got a website to match the excellence of the service they provide:
H2o is now located next to Handsome Sandwich. All Star Diving took over the former reception area of H2o. This new diving outfit will no doubt undergo changes with the planned closure of Star Huts.
The independent and much acclaimed Tanaporn Massage House in Thong Nai Pan Noi also has website:
On the 11th November the Bangkok Post broke the story that Koh Phangan was going to receive major infrastructure investment by the Government. A total of 72 Kms of new road is going to be laid on the tropical island linking 7 major points on the island.
The notorious 13 km stretch between Ban Tai and Thong Nai Pan will be done in the second phase of road building. This will be done over the next 2 years. So it’s not going to be an immediate change to the muddy adventure to get to the beach. Thong Nai Pan is still going to feel remote and idyllic.
However, it looks that when the road is finished it will attract even more high paying customers. The visitor demographics continue to tip up the social scale.
For the full story go to the Bangkok Post
It’s been a busy time on Thong Nai Pan – many things have changed. Here is a summary of how your favourite beaches have been developing:
- Firstly, the biggest change is that Thong Nai Pan Yai now has a new road. Instead of trying to patch the old road they’ve completely torn it up and laid down a new concrete road with, bizarrely enough, street lights every few meters. The new road will be welcomed by people who stay at the end of the beach in Longtail Resort and Dolphin Bungalows.
- The Flip Flop Pharmacy and Baan Pong’s have been demolished from the center of the beach in Thong Nai Pan Noi. Both businesses have moved. Baan Pong’s is moving to opposite the Luna Lounge, and Flip Flop is moving to Thong Nai Pan Yai.
- There has been a move around of the dive shops in Thong Nai Pan Noi. H20 has moved to next to Handsome Sandwiches and in its old spot is the new “All Star Diving” – an off-shoot business from Star Huts. The Tropical Dive Club has had to move into the Phuwadee restaurant.
- The Hideaway Bar is now officially closed and demolished.
- Easy Corner bar has opened in Thong Nai Pan Noi. It is by the bridge on the way out of Thong Nai Pan Noi. For those people with a long memory, it is in the spot where Que Pasa used to be. Easy Corner has a party night on Wednesdays.
- The Doors Bar in Thong Nai Pan Noi is now closed.
- Otto Bungalows (never a great success) seems to be shut.
- Paradise Bungalows near the entrance to Thong Nai Pan Yai has upgraded its accommodation to A/C bungalows. A move motivated no doubt by a desire to make more money, but considering the location of the place, it seems unlikely to attract wealthy patrons.
- Thong Nai Pan’s very first commercial map has finally been produced. It follows the standard format of such things in that it is mostly a vehicle to generate advertising revenue, but it does also provide a good map to visitors to both Thong Nai Pan Noi and Thong Nai Pan Yai. Here are jpegs of the map.
As you can see advertisers are scarce from Thong Nai Pan Yai. Still I think the map is a good idea and just further evidence of how Thong Nai Pan is fast becoming the most important beach on Koh Phangan.
- Baan Pongs and Flip Flop Pharmacy closed on April 7th. A new bar and restaurant are planned for this ideal location in the middle of Thong Nai Pan Noi beach. Time will tell whether the new restaurant will hit on the winning formula of well cooked and interesting dishes in a stylish setting. However, the new bar is bound to be very similar to Flip Flop Pharmacy – you can’t wrong with cold draft beer on a beach.
- Sadly the Doors Bar has closed down in Thong Nai Pan Noi. This is a rumour and unconfirmed until I get to revisit Thong Nai Pan. Another rumour is that the KP Properties Office has been closed down and is due to be turned into a cafe.
- Green Island Leisure have re-vamped their website and are now offering the recently completed luxury Achala House for 10,000,000 Thai baht
- Thong Nai Pan gym in Thong Nai Pan Noi seems to have finally got its act a bit more together. They now have an official name – “Pechrungrueng Boxing Stadium” and along with a website www.thaiboxing-thongnaipan.com. The site includes prices for training in the martial art of Muay Thai and a sample of the famous Thong Nai Pan loudspeaker announcement that starts “Tonight, tonight…” If you are interested, the gym is on the way out of the village on the left next to the sadly closed down Que Pasa restaurant.
- On Thong Nai Pan Yai a new gym has opened up, the Living Well Gym. This is not a Muay Thai place, but rather a place to push and pull weights. A welcome edition to Thong Nai Pan Yai beach for all those dopamine exercise heads who need their fix even while relaxing on the beach.
- On February 4th The Ra Sa Nan Da had a fund raising dinner to help the victims of Haiti earthquake. The price was 2,500 Thai Baht per head. The price included food, wine and live music.
- The Luna Lounge is going from strength to strength. Natalie and Kunｇ are set to open a new cafe closer to the beach in Thong Nai Pan Noi. The location will be opposite the Jungle Bar in the building that used to be the KP Properties office, and before that the soccer bar.