Changes March 2015
The biggest news is that the road between Baantai Beach and Thong Nai Pan is completely finished. They have completed the last unconreted section, just before Than Sadet. What was once possibly the worst stretch of rtoad on the island is now the best. Indeed the first bits of the road (such as the big hill with the steep winding climb) are beginning to age and need repair. This means the ride to Thongsala is quicker and not prone to difficulty because of bad weather. No longer need guests at Thong Nai Pan feel at the mercy of a sudden storm to leave them stranded.
To balance the positive news of the road is the underwheling news of Koh Phangan Airport, the site of which is just down the road. It is behind schedule by 2 years. The first picture is how the airport should look when finished and the YouTube clip below that is the current state of construction.
Thong Nai Pan Yai
Thong Nai Pan Yai contnues to be very popular with long term fans of Koh Phangan, backpackers, families on a budget and those looking for good mid-range accommodation.
The biggest news is the opening of the Great Escape Chalets behind Pen’s Bungalows. They are a row of 10 large bungalows to rent for 1,500 Thai Baht a night. Not cheap but large with air-con, TV, hot water and bath. They are in a garden setting. There is no restaurant or other facilities except for free wifi. No worries since they are only a short walk from the village or the beach.
Dolphin Bungalows have entered the Twenty-first Century and now can be booked online using Agoda. That is no doubt a very welcome development for its many fans.
Thong Nai Pan Noi
There are no real changes in Thong Nai Pan Noi accommodation. Tapan Noi closed its bungalows in 2014 and they were knocked down. The rebuilt bungalows are bigger, mote expensive and part of Thong Tapan. A deal seems to have been struck – Thong Tapan closed its restaurant and now Tapan Noi restaurant does very well as its the cheapest place to eat on the beach.
The best value beachfront accommodation are the Phuwadee concrete bungalows, some of which are no longer pink. Hurrah. Rumour has it that this place is going to change hands so expect a branding change.
Thong Nai Pan Noi Bars, Restaurants and Shops
The village in Thong Nai Pan Noi is expanding at quite a rate. The once empty road leading to the beach is totally full with bars, restaurants, shops and minimarts. The demand for commercial space is such that there is talk of enlarging the side road where Tanaporn is located to make a a dual main road. Have a look at the video below to see how Thong Nai Pan Noi has expanded.
Changes November 2013
Koh Phangan and Thong Nai Pan has benefited from administration decisions. The most concerted effort yet has been made on the Bantai to Thong Nai Pan. Now all but a short 3 or 4 km stretch has been concreted. It is now the best road on the island. Than Sadet has received a strange modernist sculpture and a roundabout. Even the road from Than Sadet to Haad Sadet has come under the road building remit.
Last year Prime Minster Yingluck Shinawatra briefly visited Thong Nai Pan Noi partly in recognition of the beach as a leading high-end destination in Thailand, and partly to discuss infrastructure improvements in the area. A new reservoir is being built in the mountains near Thong Nai Pan that will put an end to water shortages that regularly happen through the driest part of summer.
Work is behind schedule for Koh Phangan just down the road. However, the project is still progressing and late 2014 seems a reasonable estimated completion date.
Thong Nai Pan Yai
Dolphin Bungalows has undergone a re-vamp. The owners have also parted company with the couple who used to run the place. They have left and started up Dolphin Bar and Café on a side street leading down to the beach. The confusion of having 2 ‘dolphins’ is compounded by the fact that Dolphin Bungalows still haven’t got round to putting up a website. Plans are in the pipe line to change the name of the new Dolphin Bar and Café, which incidentally, is doing really well. It is a cool wooden structure with an unusual open plan design. They do all the old dolphin favourites as well as specials such as pork BBQ. It has been their first year open, and they look to become a firm favourite with those prepared to leave the beach to get food.
Panviman is now officially on Yai. They have gained control of the entire headland. So far they have only placed a small café on Yai beach but their villas stretch round both sides of the little peninsula. In the future Panviman guests will have the easiest access to both beaches making the 100 Thai Baht for the taxi between the two beaches look bad value.
Rumour has it that Baan Panburi Village is due to close soon. They never really captured the low end market like they did for a while on Noi. Expect a mid-range resort to be the replacement for the ailing Baan Panburi.
Thong Nai Pan Noi
The biggest and saddest news is that Tapan Noi has shut down its cheap hillside bungalows. Building is underway to redevelop the area with more expensive Thong Tapan bungalows. Thus, the last cheap bungalows on the beachfront have gone. This confirms Thong Nai Pan Noi as perhaps the first beach in Koh Phangan to abandon the traditional Thai beachfront bungalow resort set up.
For those interested the budget option in Thong Nai Pan Noi is now Sandee Bungalow. It is a shame that Otto Bungalows on the road leading to the village never got up and running as a business.
In the battle of the hotels, Buri Rasa is stealing the plaudits at the moment from Panviman, Santhiya and Rasananda: they are cheaper and beachfront, and appear to be what Baan Panburi used to be in 2007 – the best value beachfront accommodation option.
Restaurants and Bars
Thong Nai Pan Yai
As mentioned, Dolphin Bar and Café has set up next to Thai Terrace on a road leading down to the beach. Also, as referenced, Panviman now have a small bar and restaurant on the southern corner of the beach next to the rocks. They serve drinks and snacks.
Candle Hut Resort have built a new restaurant and called it ‘The End’. It is a swanky modern, open plan place with fluorescent lighting at night time.
In the village Pa Thong’s is doing swift business selling good quality and cheap Thai food. It is located on the right as you enter the village via the main road.
Father down the road is the similar sounding Pan Thong that serves Thai food and a decent chicken and chips.
The other addition to the eating scene in Yai is Living Room Café. They serve Sunday roasts and large Western breakfasts. The reports are good, but they open erratically.
Thong Nai Pan Noi
In the village a few new small restaurants have opened: Tandoori Kitchen and Red Chilli at the Luna end of the road. Next to Jungle Bar (which is virtually closed) a small restaurant has set up selling delicious Thai food at more reasonable prices than the beachfront places. Further news from TNP Noi village – Mango has re-opened.
On the beachfront, Panviman has opened Cool Sands Pub featuring live music and a lack of customers. Thong Tapan has closed its restaurant and now all those looking for beachfront eating other than at the luxury resorts now head for Krua Tapan Noi.
Luna has changed management but not menu. They do, however, have a larger range of expensive wines to choose from. The healthy competition with Better Than Sex just opposite continues.
Thong Nai Pan Noi continues down the path of its high-end re-invention. At the same time the village expands backwards. However, apart from Luna and BTS the businesses opening seem out-of-touch with the developments happening on the beach.
Yai is attracting all the backpacker trade. It has a good selection of accommodation and with the emergence of Panviman on this beach it looks like it could also get its first luxury hotel.
Both beaches are more popular than ever. And if the airport ever opens the fame of Thong Nai Pan will continue to spread
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.