Just across the bay from Mae Nam beach lies the island of Koh Pha-Ngan. It is a quieter island than Koh Samui – less developed, less roads and less expensive. It’s famous for the full moon parties held on the main beach at Haad Rin – tens of thousands of backpackers flock there for the all-night party held every month. Although it’s something institutionalised now, with much more organisation to it, there’s still a wild side to it – every month the hospital on the island has a flood of psychiatric cases caused by drug use, and this month’s party ended with three shot and two dead. Hmm, maybe not a family party!
Fortunately, away from Haad Rin, the island is just a laid back, peaceful, tropical paradise. Which is why we thought we should make a short trip over. Mind you, it didn’t seem short, after we’d spent two hours on a small boat, bumping up and down on a mildly choppy sea. As the ferry went up the east coast of the island, we passed bay after bay, with crescent-shaped white beaches and rustic bungalows on the shore. We finally pulled in to Ao Thang Nai Pan, a small bay with two beaches extending out either side of the rocks in the middle. As it was low tide, we had to wade to shore in thigh-deep water, carrying Emily and Rachel, and up onto the powdery sand beach. We’d bought an overnight bag, so while the children had a drink and lunch, Peter and I wandered along the beach to find some accommodation.
Behind the beach there are a number of bungalow operators, from rustic bamboo shacks to brand-new concrete bungalows, spread out on small plots leading back from the sand. In the end we chose Ao Thang Nai Pan Resort & Spa (well, it will be a ‘spa’ once the pool is finished – today it’s a concrete patch in the ground!). For 12 Pounds we got a brand new three-bedded bungalow without air-con, while Peter and Caroline splashed out the full 20 Pounds to get the air-con version in the photo (the one on the left – the right hand building is the ‘rustic’ restaurant). And there was nothing more to do than sit on the beach and build sandcastles.