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Ko Pha Gnan

May 21, 2012

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Ko Pha Gnan is widely known as party central. The Full Moon Party in the beach town of Haad Rin draws in hordes of backpackers every month. I easily could have gone. Every form of accommodation on the island requires a five-night booking. When I was in Krabi, most every backpacker in town took off on May 2nd for the party on the 5th. I could have joined, but I didn’t. While I’m alright with hanging out with college-aged kids, I don’t really want to hang out with 15,000 of them in any situation that doesn’t directly involve Kansas Basketball. Anyway, the word on the street was that Haad Rin is a pretty solid party every day of the year, regardless of the moon phase.

The word on the street was wrong. Haad Rin was dead.

I had an easy route between hotels this time around. I left the Shangrilah in Samui at noon, walked to the pier (a brutal, sweltering 15 minute walk across the sand with my bag), caught the 12:30 fast boat, got into the port at Pha Gnan by 1, found a tout with a decent sounding hotel, caught a ride to Haad Rin, and was checked in and done carrying my pack by 2. My hotel (the Drop In) was a classier joint than I usually stay, with a/c, a minibar, the whole 9, and I was paying a quarter of the price listed in Lonely Planet. Walking around town told me why.

Like in Ko Lanta, I wasn’t just eating alone. I was eating in completely empty restaurants. It got to the point that I started ordering room service. I was in a business class hotel, so why not? However, unlike Ko Lanta and it’s subtle graces, Haad Rin is essentially built to be a party factory. With no party, it’s dustiness and utility had all the appeal of an abandoned amusement park, and not in a Scooby Doo kind of way.

Don’t get me wrong, I still made the scene, what little of it there was. I ate falafel and watched Family Guy and Friends and The Simpsons reruns in restaurants. The beach is quite beautiful and I spent time there reading by day and drinking by night. I watched people interact. I wrote long, rambling emails in my room. I realized that If I go mad during the course of this trip and end up like Kurtz, then Haad Rin will be where the madness began to take hold.

I went out at 9 or so my first night and was barraged with fire shows for hours until the real “club” thing started happening at the beach bars. After that, I took to hanging out in my room and going out at midnight. Since I’m now five Thai islands into this trip, I’m pretty much over the fire show specifically and shirtless tattooed guys in general.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures in Ko Pha Gnan, but here are the best of the bunch.

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Party central? Not exactly. This is the road near central Haad Rin at maybe 10 pm.

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Here’s the party scene at Cactus Bar , as it were.

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A longer view of the Cactus Bar, where you can see that it, um, really is alone on the island.

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7 Eleven is so wildly popular in Thailand that fake ones have spawned. Haad Rin had only one real 7 Eleven but several fake ones like this. I understand the appeal, of course. I can hardly walk by a 7 Eleven without stopping in. They have everything you need. Cheap beer, cheap water , toasties, arctic cold air conditioning, and cell phone minutes. The fake ones, of course, offer none of this goodness.

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I’m always a sucker for buildings that look like boats

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This is the headland at the tip of the Haad Rin peninsula, and it’s where my Ko Pha Gnan post ends.

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