First it is necessary to give some background information about Koh Phangan. It is the sister island of Koh Samui and today it is a mecca for party goers. There is not only the famous Full Moon Party, but also the Half Moon Party, Shiva Moon Party, Backyard Party, Black Moon Party and a motley array of smaller bashes. It’s not exactly as full blown in its development as Koh Samui but Tesco Lotus has arrived and many of the old basic coconut wood bungalows have been replaced with concrete blocks with air-con and hot water. And the most telling sign of the times – swimming pools are becoming more and more evident. Only the rich will go for a beach holiday and swim in a pool every day.
I first went to Koh Phangan in 1997. I didn’t know what to expect; I just wanted a refuge from the claustrophobic bizarreness of living and teaching in China. I was instantly impressed – the main port town was not much more than a one horse town that had recently upgraded to five horses but still had a one horse mentality. The taxi was a fixed price and within 15 minutes of driving the concrete road had turned into a dusty rutted track through a jungle that soared above our heads. The beach only had a couple of bungalow operations at either end. Where the white sands of the beach ended the coconut trees and granite boulders began. In every direction you had lengthy vistas. The accommodation was a basic 100 Thai Baht bungalow furnished with a mosquito net and fan which sporadically worked when they switched on the generator. There were no mobile phones or internet shops just one quaint phone box, which made me wonder if Dr Who was visiting. And best of all the place was nearly deserted – just a few hippies and backpackers hanging out.
At this point some of you will be thinking, “Well what the hell is there to do?” And that was the genius of the place for me and my girlfriend. Nothing really except smoke weed, go for a swim, lie in a hammock, listen to cassette tapes, play cards and read books. The highlight of the week would be watching a ripped off DVD of the latest rubbish Hollywood movie. In 10 days we went on one walk to a view point. To some of you readers this might sound like tedium verging on the suicidal and to others the inevitable lethargy of the pothead. Each to his own opinion; however, in the words of Wordsworth: “Bliss was it that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heavenly.” It was just me my babe, my hammock, my stash, the technicolour jungle, blue skies and warm water.