White powdery sand. Ocean breeze and palm leaf swaying in a tropical sun, whispering shhhhhhh! It was a place my eyes have never seen before. A paradise. Time didn’t matter, mornings were for sleeping and nights for wildness.
“Come, I will introduce to the island life” – said Edi, my American friend whom I met in Bangkok when we were both at the beginning of our journeys.
So I came.
An unexpected home base
In a place where I least expected a homely atmosphere began to grow in me. Not only that I got an island home beneath the starry sky, but I learned how to drive a scooter. I swam among the fishes in turquoise water. I ate dozen of mangoes, met real hippies and practiced yoga. After a week I could recognize smiling faces on the streets. I adopted an island cat and gave her Croatian name.
Situated in the Southern Gulf of Thailand, Koh Phangan is part of the group of islands that make up the Samui Archipelagos. Tourists have started to discover the island in the 1980’s. It is close to Koh Samui and Koh Tao. It’s a home to 20 temples and only one KFC.
Edi barely got me off his couch… Finally I left after one month, seduced by the lure of this magical tropical paradise.
But, let’s go from the beginning.
Full Moon Party madness
I admit it. I came with a prejudice. I knew Koh Phangan only for its crazy Full Moon parties with endless streams of alcohol and drugs, which happen once a month around the full moon. The party is located in Haat Rin so if you want to escape the madness, head to the northern or eastern beaches.
I would have never chosen Koh Phangan if it wasn’t for Edi. Now I’m glad I did because as every traveler’s heart, which is like a portable fire, needs to settle down a bit, it was time for mine to take a rest from constant wandering. The island became one of my greatest teachers and a reminder of what is really important.
To stop and breath. And so I did while meditating with my yoga instructor Kate during our morning yoga classes. She showed me how to release body pain and fuel it with energy . I call myself a yoga lover yet I forgot how to breath! After our classes I biked through the jungle roads feeling as if I was made of feather, taking a sneak peek through the windows of the most popular yoga school on the island – Agama. I wanted to join them but they are a bit pricey for my backpacker’s budget. The island is a home to a few yoga schools where you can go for a single lesson or stay up to six months if you want to become a yoga instructor. Spirituality and calming energy of the island unknowingly seduced me as many of those who come to seek spiritual growth. Even monks couldn’t resist it 600 years ago when they discovered the island.
To take time for the stars. I promise you, if you search for a sky full of stars, you will find it on Koh Phangan. The first time I saw them I had to shake my head in disbelief. The stars were so close and inviting as if they wanted me to reach for them! Staring at hundreds and hundreds of blinking golden beads sprinkled above the ocean is one of the calmest things to do. Edi and I would buy Changs, parked the scooter uphill overlooking the Haad Yao resort and admire this absolutely free show. If you see a falling star, make a wish. I did!
For someone who had never tried snorkeling, to swim among the fish and corals is an unforgettable experience and Koh Phangan has some amazing spots for snorkeling and diving on north west side of the island. I swam through amazing underwater world with hundreds of colorful fishes. Attract fish with bread and enjoy the show ! I was spinning in the sea like a ballerina, soaking up their colors and graceful motions while trying to touch them. I think I found my hobby for years to come.
Living on the island in a house that is almost hidden in a tropical forest required a lot of patience and less screaming. At home I would freak out if insects paid a visit but the jungle „beasts“ had the same right to the house as I. First of self invites was someone’s cat. I began to feed her and although she wore a collar, that fury hunter ball spend most of the day in Edi’s house. Grateful for the given attention she brought me three gifts in total – two mice and a rat. As if it wasn’t enough that Edi had 20-centimeter long lizard living in a house. Peppe knew how to make some really strange noises at night. There were also bugs of all shapes and sizes. The beetles. Mosquitos. Flying ants. Dragonflies. Fireflies. Geckos. Spiders. Bats… Soon I got used to all of them, recognizing them for their movements and sounds and respecting their presence as much as they didn’t respect mine. I will never forget the moment in the shower when beetles ended up in my hair! Then there were dogs sleeping in the middle of the road, dogs chasing scooters or jumping on a scooter to get a free ride… It’s Ko Phangan’s charm!
„Don’t miss the sunsets“, Edi told me when I first arrived. Sunsets on paradise beaches of Ko Phangan moved my heart and soul. The whole families would jump on their scooters and drive to different spots around to enjoy it. Slowly the sun would start descending beneath the horizon while threads of light mingled with the clouds, painting them in orange, yellow and red, allowing the sun to turn into a powerful fireball. The sky would get illuminated by the shiny rays and clouds woulds slowly start to move from each other. As I sat down on a sand, all I could hear was the sound of the waves as they kept returning to the shore. Besides watching the stars, this is the second most calming thing you can do on the island.
My favorite spots were Hin Kong beach which is across from Organic chocolate house, Happy beach in Srithanu bay and Amsterdam bar, located on a mountain with amazing sea and sunset view. Find your perfect seat. Let the wind whisper to your ears. Feel the soft sand beneath your feet that later you will soak into the ocean, and forget the rest.. Can you smell freedom already?
And when you think it can’t get any better, you find out there is one bar open every night. One love (Jam) bar, Freeway bar, Rasta bar and „7/11 bar“, which is not an official bar but it has grown into a cult. What’s your option when everything else closes? 7/11 bar! You buy some Changs and sit in front of the store with bunch of other locals and „farangs“ who are still in the mood for hanging.
Island life is a happy life
I had a Thai barbecue next to a bonfire. I ate with my bare hands. I walked barefoot and enjoyed the feeling of being connected to the Earth. I laughed without a drop of alcohol. I smiled at strangers, ate and drank with them. I also learned from them. I burned candles and scents (good for keeping mosquitoes away). I chased fireflies and photographed clouds. I’ve seen sunsets to cry for. I ate pancakes late and night and had my ass burned by the sun (put some sunscreen on your back while snorkeling). I lyed in bed full of sand. I was writing. A lot. I collected sea shells and made a necklace of one. I was singing while riding a bicycle. I got wet from the rain and freckled from the sun. I walked braless and with no make up on. I lied down on the sand with music in my ears. I meditated. I watched dogs playing in the sea. I heard chants coming out of the woods. I took cold showers, hunted big bugs and fed homeless animals. I slept with the windows open and got up with the first rays of tropical sun.
I gazed through every moment to its fullest, creating my own mantra:
To be present and to breath. To shine as a star and smile until it hurts. To be patient. To ease the pain. To leave the past behind. To be curious. To create magic and good times. To embrace fear and walk away from it. To take risks and be weird. To learn other languages. To cook. To walk together with love and to let love go. To believe in signs and follow the intuition. To be ready when the opportunity comes. To be a fighter. To be happy and sad and figure things out. To seek for help and to serve others. To discover what matters. To be humble and kind. To heal yourself. To roam every corner of your mind. To have late night talks. To forget about the time. To be angry. And a rebel. To be silly again. To see everyone as a teacher and deeply bow in gratitude. Not to worry. To forgive yourself and be happy again. To laugh at the confusion. To count the stars and raise your head all the way to the coconuts. To begin again. To rise.
Let’s fly now.
Khob Khun Ka Koh Phangan. Thank you for the magic.