I first came to Koh Phangan in 1995 as a young, naïve backpacker looking for somewhere special. Like most of us back then I’d heard about the island in whispered conversations from people I had met on my travel.
This was before Alex Garland’s book ‘The Beach’ had come out and a long time before the film created an explosion of interest. As I arrived on that fateful first day, off a ferry from Koh Samui, I stumbled into one of the world’s most magical places. I had no idea at that point just how much this place would impact my life, the friends I would meet, the parties I would experience and the chance to actually live the dream of staying long term on a paradise island where the main preoccupation is fun and total relaxation. It is a place that reminds you of the good in the world and the incredible beauty we are surrounded by.
In those days the roads were dirt where there were roads and a lot of the northern part of the island was inaccessible by car or bike so the long tail boats were an essential form of transport. Almost all the accommodation was bamboo huts right on the beaches, shared bathrooms and showers and limited electric supplied by generators that would hum away in the background in the morning and evening.
You could stay cheap and long term, food was incredibly good and a meal was always less than $1, accommodation right on a beach would set you back maybe $5 a night and the weed used to come in carrier bags!!!! It was full of seeded buds that had been grown locally for about $15 for a full carrier bag and the first purchase I made came with the offer of a local bong!! I happily accepted and my new friend ran off and chopped a 50cm length of bamboo trunk then quickly and deftly cut a notch about 15 cms up the tube and stuffed a premade hardwood chillum at an angle into the new opening. Hey presto, you had a perfectly functional organic biodegradable bong!
There was so much seed that in those days that the best way to deal with it was to crush the buds over a newspaper on your lap and let the seeds roll off onto the floor. The de-seeded weed was piled onto the Frisbee and everyone tucked in.
Everything was very relaxed, there was little to no police activity on the island in those days and the Famous Full moon part was just a small gathering of people with 1 Dj and some decks so didn’t bring the attention that it does now.
The Island has changed since my early days but it’s still incredible and most of the development that happens remains close to the coastline and is low impact. There are still only a small number of larger hotels on the island. Most of the accommodation is in the form of bungalows and small villas if you have the budget.
As I’ve said in earlier blogs, sadly it isn’t safe to smoke in Thailand currently, even on the islands and with the changing legal situation. Koh Phagnan has a very large, active, and experienced police force who are very good at their jobs. When and if things change this island could become one of the top cannabis tourism destinations on the planet.
These are not police officers, these are private security guards….. don’t be fooled into confusing the two groups, police will not be amused if you roll up a spliff….