Phangan Utopia and Utopia House Near Mae Haad

Although certain websites claim Phangan Utopia is in Mae Haad, the experience of staying at this resort is one of splendid isolation. The resort is reached via a main road that curves up to the crest of a hill. You turn left and make a sharp dropping turn into the resort. There is nothing else around.

For the benefit of pedants Phangan Utopia Resort is located at Haad Thong Lang. It is a hill between Chaloklum and Mae Haad. To get a sense of the location check out the YouTube video above and also the Google Map below.

The resort is a pleasant 3 star hotel that features, restaurant, communal pool, small shop and a series of cottages that have awesome unimpeded mountain views. It is a place far from the madding crowd.

There is a free transfer on arrival – they will pick you up from Thongsala ferry pier if you email in advance. However, the return journey costs 200 – 250 Thai Baht. For those wanting to escape the resort there are free shuttle buses twice a day to Chaloklum Beach and Mae Haad. The buses leave at 11.00 and 14.00 and return at 16.00 and 18.00. This gives guests the chance to have lunch and dinner outside the resort.

seaview-bungalow

The resort restaurant is only average. They charge more than other resort restaurants in Koh Phangan. They are no doubt taking advantage of the captive guests who haven’t rented out scooters. Phangan Utopia’s menu features Thai and Western standards as well as range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

All the accommodation options at Phangan Utopia come with air-con, hot water bathrooom and mini bar. More expensive rooms also feature Jacuzzi and cable TV and DVD player.

The cheapest rooms are in an accommodation block. Next up are bungalows with garden views. There are also a selection of ‘sea view’ cottages some feature Jacuzzi’s on private verandas. The rooms are nicely designed with hard woods, tiles and neutral tones.

seaview

The resort accommodation is spread out over the hill. As a result those cottages on the fringes tend to have the best sea views (you can see over to Koh Tao) but also the worst wifi connectivity. Such is life.

Facilities

pool

The star of the resort is undoubtedly the massive sea views and jungle views. It is a chance to really admire the pristine environment of Koh Phangan. The resort swimming pool is perched in an excellent location for the views. There is a line of deck chairs by the pool for guests to sit and enjoy.

As mentioned there is also a restaurant and bar. They serve Thai, Western and BBQ food. You can sit inside or out on a sea view terrace.

restaurant terrace

At reception the friendly staff can organise motorbike hire and ticket purchase. They also organise dive courses, snorkelling, island tours and fishing trips. There is also a laundry service (not free).

If you don’t have your own device there are a couple of public computers where you can check your email. If you have a device there is free wifi around the resort, although the outlying cottages have patchy connectivity.

Book Phangan Utopia
bookroom

Reviews

Generally Phangan Utopia gets very good reviews. It scores highly on Trip Advisor. The overwhelming reaction to the resort is to mention the stunning views. While most enjoy the isolated location and the peace and quiet a few find the location too remote and the resort hard to get to. Being a ‘captive guest’ is not to everyone’s taste.

A couple of people mention that some of the rooms are a bit tired and could do with a refurb. One person mentions all the old sinks, furniture and junk piled up under some of the cottages.

Utopia House

Utopia-House

Also for rent is a stand-alone villa called Utopia House. This features a living room, a fairly good kitchen and a double bedroom with en-suite bathroom with toilet and shower. It is not a deluxe bungalow but the living areas are pleasant and the large balcony has an awesome view.

Naturally, guests at Utopia House have full access to the pool, restaurant and other facilities at Phangan Utopia Resort.

Book Utopia House
bookroom

Location

Mae Haad View Resort and Wangsai Garden Resort Available for Online Booking

Koh Phangan business owners have been reluctant to fully embrace the digital age. Up until the early 2000s most resorts only dealt with island-based travel agents. They shunned online booking companies. Koh Phangan had a cash based economy. People wanted paying in cash at the point of delivery.

Even today most resorts in Mae Haad and Koh Phangan won’t accept credit cards. You won’t find an uber taxi and you will struggle to find a restaurant that has a credit card machine.

However, the times are changing. In 2016 two resorts in Mae Haad joined up to Agoda and so are now available for online booking.

Mae Haad View Resort

Mae-Haad-View-Resort
Mae Haad View Resort is located at the southern end of the beach, next to a small lagoon. It has a selection of wooden bungalows on stilts. The bungalows have a fan, bed, mosquito net, cold water shower and small private balcony. The bungalows are spread over a hill and on the beach. Prices for bungalows start at 500 Thai Baht a night.

The resort also features a beachfront restaurant with a menu of Thai and Western food items as well as a range of drinks. Next door is an attached bar made up of drift wood. It is a funky spot to have a few cheap drinks.

Mae Haad (Beach) View Resort is a friendly backpacker spot that harks back to the olden days of Koh Phangan tourism with the important difference that now you can book online. Although they still don’t offer free wifi!

book Mae Haad View Resort

Read our review

Wangsai Garden Resort

Wangsai-Garden-Bungalow
Just up from Mae Haad View Resort is Wangsai Garden Resort, named after the nearby waterfall. It is a mid-range resort that features well-maintained fan and air-con bungalows. The fan bungalows have cold water showers. The air-con bungalows have hot water showers as well as fridge.

The fan bungalows start at 850 Thai Baht a night and the air-con bungalows start at 1,300 Thai Baht a night. There are a few bungalows available for rent on the beach.

The resort covers quite a wide area. The restaurant is accessed via a small ridge over a river. It serves a selection of tasty Thai and Western dishes. The resort offers free wifi in public areas.

book Wangsai Garden Resort

Read our review

That only leaves a small handful of accommodation providers who have not signed up to a major booking engine. They are Why Not Bungalows and Mae Haad Cove Bungalows.

Koh Ma Picture

Koh-Ma

A friend recently did a few dives with H20 Scuba School in Thong Nai Pan Noi. One of the dives was at Koh Ma.

The picture above is one that he took while diving at Koh Ma. The picture above unfortunately doesn’t show any fish but does show the beauty of the corals at Koh Ma. The pinks and the greens are beautiful, as is the clear blue sea.

Koh Ma although the best dive spot around the coastal waters of Koh Phangan is often overlooked by dive shops who prefer to take customers to Sail Rock where there is a better chance of seeing marine life including the world’s largest fish, the whale shark. More often than not people snorkel Koh Ma rather than dive the site.

Anyway, enjoy the picture.

Beach Video

Here is a video I took a couple of years ago. I was staying at one of the bungalows at Island View Cabana. I walked out of my bungalow and filmed as I walked down the path to the main beach. Please excuse the slight bumpy nature to the movie.

The movie gives you a good idea about just how close Island View Cabana is to both beaches at Mae Haad. The first beach you see is the land bank that connects Mae Haad to Koh Ma. There is a bank of rocks by the exit to the beach. It is best to take the path to the right which leads to the main ‘south’ beach. From there you can double back to get onto to the sand bank.

As you can see from the video the south beach is preferred by visitors because it is less affected by the tidal variations. It is also a wide beach with plenty of room for everyone to get a bit of privacy. Not that this ever becomes a problem as Mae Haad is an idyllic place that never really fills up. The tour groups come for an hour to do some snorkelling round Koh Ma and then head off somewhere else for lunch such as Bottle Beach. However, they don’t really disturb the tranquillity of the beach.

Bungalows at Island View Cabana start at $13 a night. It is a bargain for Koh Phangan. To be this close to one of the best beaches on the island, and to not have to be a King’s ransom. Just perfect!

Live Music near Mae Haad

While Mae Haad itself is fairly quiet at night in terms of nightlife, there are, of course, plenty of party options farther afield in Koh Phangan – the island unofficially dubbed the party island of Thailand. However, not everyone is a fan of techno, trance and minimal. For those who like live music with musicians rather than DJs there are a few choices in the nearby vicinity.

The Jam – Hin Kong

The Jam is a beachfront bar south of Mae Haad in Hin Kong. It is the beach just after Srithanu. It takes about 20 minutes on a bike to get there. Since 2008 they have been running a live music night. Every Friday at 9pm they have a band that kicks off proceedings and then people from the audience that can handle a guitar or hold a tune are invited to join in. It is a lively event and usually well attended.

They have plenty of YouTube videos you can check out. During high seasons they often run a Wednesday jam session as well as the Friday one.


Click for The Jam’s Facebook Page

Rasta Home – Haad Yao

This is a slice of the old Koh Phangan. As the name suggests this place is unashamedly ‘rasta’. It is a small wooden bar built with love on the northern road going out of Haad Yao. Check out the video:

They don’t have any regular music nights but do get bands in occasionally. Koh Phangan’s biggest band – Job to Do – play here always to a lively crowd up for dancing.

Omega Bar – Chaloklum

Omega Bar has been holding live music events for a few years now. They feature whoever is around. And that can often be a few talented individuals. They have a drum kit, amplifier and other instruments as well as stage. Again you can find plenty of footage on YouTube. There is a strong hippy vibe. They sometimes combine live music with a kids’ event earlier in the day.

Things often happen on a Wednesday at Omega Bar. It is located in the centre of Chaloklum. You can take the northern road from Mae Haad and be there in 15 minutes.

Click here for Omega Bar’s Facebook Page

Best Party on West Coast

During a typical two week holiday on Mae Haad Beach it is normal to sample Koh Phangan’s famous (and infamous) nightlife at least once. Mae Haad is excellent for snorkelling and relaxing but it is a poor spot if you are looking for crowds, a hedonistic atmosphere and loud music.

For those wanting a big party vibe the only choice is the Full Moon Party on Haad Rin Sunrise Beach. The next best option are the Baan Tai parties. However, for those who don’t want a long journey in the back of a pick-up taxi, and for those who prefer smaller gatherings the best choice is the Moon Set Party at Haad Chao Phao on the West Coast of Koh Phangan.

Getting to Haad Chao Phao

Haad Chao Phao is a small beach to the south of Mae Haad on the west coast. It is not as busy or developed as Haad Yao. However, it does have fine white sand and beautiful rockery scenery. It is connected to the main western coastal road and takes about 10 minutes to reach from Mae Haad by either shared taxi or motorbike. The roads on this part of the island are mostly flat and mostly covered in concrete. This makes it a relatively safe journey to make at night.

In a shared taxi it should cost about 100 Thai Baht per person. If you hire a private taxi for you and your friends the total cost should be about 1,000 Baht. Scooter hire for 24 hours is about 250 Baht.

Pirates Bar

The Moon Set Party is held at the Pirates Bar. It is a funky little bar at the end of Chao Phao Beach. It is in a small cove that is empty except for the bar. This makes an ideal location for a party as it is away from accommodation. The bar is reached via a wooden walk way that goes around the headland at the southern end of the beach.

The bar itself is located in a wooden shaped bar. It is a ramshackle affair made partly from salvaged drift wood. It is set back against rocks. There is seating on the roof as well as at the bar. There is also a platform next to the sea with low tables and cushions great for chilling out.

Next to the bar is a stack of loudspeakers and a wooden stage. The wider area is decorated by white flags. During party nights numerous psychedelic decorations can be seen sporting the usual fluorescent colours and patterns. There is also a basic lightshow that adds to the party atmosphere. On big party nights like in December there is also a burning sign that reads ‘Moon Set Party’.

Moon Set Party

The Moon Set Parties occur mostly during the high seasons of January, July and August and the peak season at Christmas and New Year. The party dates are a little imprecise. They should be 2 days before the Full Moon Party and Half Moon Party. There is little to no effort made to use social media or a website to announce party nights. The net reveals the last party promoted through Facebook events was in December 2013.

However, not to worry: if you are staying anywhere along the west coast of Koh Phangan you will soon find out about the next party.

The party itself attracts about hundred people. It is a small cove and fills up with people. There is the usual Koh Phangan collection of trance and techno devotes who sway for hours on the dance floor while drinking buckets. There are also people just staying locally who have come to check out the party.

The atmosphere is relaxed. The music is loud (too loud if you don’t like trance and techno) but the event is not overwhelming like the Full Moon Party. You aren’t bothered by sex workers, police or those lost on magic mushrooms. In short the Moon Set Party at Haad Chao Phao is the best party on the West Coast – it is more than just a bar playing music and less than a large outdoor rave.

Ang Thong Marine Park


Ang Thong National Marine Park along with Sail Rock are the two most famous dive spots that are accessible from Mae Haad. What is less well known is that Ang Thong is a fascinating collection of islands to the West of Koh Phangan that is great for not only diving but also snorkelling and kayaking. If you are looking for an interesting day trip, a break from the relaxing sands of Mae Haad then Ang Thong Marine Park might be the ideal destination for you.

From the north of Koh Phangan it takes just over 2 hours to reach the northern tip of the Ang Thong island chain. The main island and where you find the park headquarters is Koh Wua Talap. Here you will find a restaurant, some bungalows and two beaches at either end of the island. You can trek between the two beaches via a 30-minute jungle trek. There aren’t any roads on the Ang Thong islands and this trek is through thick jungle. To make things easier for visitors there is a rope to guide you.

‘Ang Thong’ means ‘golden bowl’. It refers to the large inland lake in the archipelago. The lake is located on Koh Mae Ko. The saltwater lake is called Thale Noi. The turquoise water and rich bio-diversity make it a great place to snorkel or dive.

The islands are the peaks from a flooded limestone mountain range. Each of the islands have unusual shapes made by karst rocks. The names of the islands in translation reflect the shapes such as ‘Sleeping Cow Island’ and ‘Three Pillars Island’.

On Koh Paluay is a semi-permanent settlement of Sea Gypsies or Moken. They follow an animistic religion and migrated to the Gulf from farther south in Malaysia. Other than the park rangers and the Thais working at the restaurant and bungalows these are the only people on the islands.

Because the islands are mostly uninhabited they are full of fascinating flora and fauna. These include Leopard cats, long tail macaques, sea otters and the dusky langur.

Activities on Ang Thong Marine Park include trekking, exploring hidden coves in sea kayaks, snorkelling, and of course, diving. The depth ranges from shallow to 25 meters. The best dive spots in Ang Thong Marine Park are Hin Yippon, Koh Yippon and Koh Luuk Lek. There are plenty of coral gardens as well as swim-throughs. You can spot the famous whale shark as well as common fish such as trigger fish and parrot fish. For those looking to spot rarer species there is the also the chance to see sea snakes and turtles.

From a diving point of view the other great thing about the Ang Thong Marine Park is that it is seldom visited by the large Koh Tao diver groups as it is too far away. Too many dive boats tend to scare off the wildlife and make the water crowded. This is not the case at Ang Thong.

All the dive shops in Mae Haad, Haad Salad, Haad Yao and Chaloklum have regular day trips to the islands. Snorkelers are welcome to join too. Trips usually include transfers and free lunch on the boat. It is also possible to find boat tours to the islands. You can asked to be left on the islands and be picked up the following day. For those looking for the ultimate remote and Robinson Crusoe experience it is hard to beat. Indeed this is where the film ‘The Beach’ is supposed to be set.

Private Villa Rental

lord-jim-retreat

For those looking for privacy as well as luxury the solution is a private villa rental. For family groups as well as groups of two or more couples a villa can often represent excellent value for money, as one villa rental fee can be less than 3 or more double rooms in a hotel.

Balanced against the advantages of villa rental are a few disadvantages. Private villas are never on the beach either in Mae Haad or elsewhere in Koh Phangan. It is an unreasonable expectation to imagine you can rent a luxury private villa in Koh Phangan and be a stone throw away from your own beach. Many such as Lord Jim’s Retreat are up a steep hill.

The other main disadvantage of villa rental from the visitors’ viewpoint is that they don’t include the same facilities and amenities as a hotel. In particular they don’t have a restaurant next door, and don’t offer room service. Mums on their luxury holiday are often very keen to not cook. Self-catering is perhaps more attractive for those on a budget. And perhaps these type of people don’t rent private villas.

In Mae Haad area the most impressive villa for rent is Lord Jim’s Retreat. It is perched on the hill overlooking the sea. You have a great view of Koh. It is a fantastic spot to see the sunset.

Lord Jim’s Retreat consists of 3 connected villas lined up around two edges of a rectangular swimming pool. There are 4 bedrooms and capacity to accommodate 9 people.

The roadside entrance to the villa takes you into a spacious living and dining area. There is a kitchen, large TV and large outdoor terrace.

The master villa and the Conrad Suite have large rooms with their own living areas.

Extra facilities include Wi-Fi, CD player and free pick up. There are staff for gardening and pool maintenance but not for on-site cooking.

Low season costs 18,000 to 23,000 THB per night; high season is 25,000 THB per night and peak season is 30,000 THB per night. Check the minimum stay requirements as it is more than usual – between 5 and 10 nights. No doubt that is because of the large running costs of such a big villa.

Although the view is of Koh Ma, the nearest beach is Haad Thong Lang. It is a very quiet beach with only one resort and no adjoining village.

If you look at the pictures you can see you get a lot seclusion and luxury when you stay in a villa like Lord Jim’s Retreat. However, you will need a hire car and you will also need to do a bit of your own cooking. There are logistics involved.

Click here to view Lord Jim Retreat  website (Haad Thong Lang)

Click here to view Sunrise Villa website (Thong Nai Pan)

Best Sport for Monsoon Months

The monsoon is not just one big storm that engulfs November in rain. Rather it is a season of higher than average rainfall and stronger winds. The monsoon builds as it were. You start to notice the higher tides from April on. As summer turns to autumn the leaves don’t change colour but the sea goes from calm to more choppy conditions.

By October the winds and the heavy rain showers are apparent. By the middle of November it is starting to lash it down with rain. In a bad monsoon villages along the coast get flooded. Suddenly the bungalows on stilts make more sense as they keep your bed far from the sodden ground. The rains start to ease up by mid-December. By Christmas the weather is great again but the sea sometimes has a few waves.

During this time there are moments when the conditions are perfect to kiteboard close to Mae Haad at the famous sand spit off the coast of Chaloklum called Malibu beach. Other than during the storm season the sea at Chaloklum is calm with little wind, but when the winds start up adrenalin junkies from all over the island appear at Malibu beach to zip up and down the coastal waters propelled by air-filled kites. For those good at the sport, there is the chance of lots of air time.

The waters off Malibu beach offer a shallow reef and a sandy bed. The bay catches the best wind. These two factors make this the best kiteboard surfing spot in Koh Phangan for a brief time.

Kiteboarding is a great sport. It is quicker than surfing and quicker to learn. Once you have mastered the basics it is very addictive. You can get up and being pulled by the wind in about 3 days tuition.

There are 3 kiteboard schools in Koh Phangan – Kiteboarding Asia in Ban Tai, One2Kite at Phangan Beach Resort (Bantai) and Cuttlebone Kiteboarding Centre in Thongsala. You can easily find their websites and Facebook pages (if they aren’t ‘down’). Another good place to look is on Wind Guru. It is the best site for following weather conditions.

To get from Mae Haad to Chaloklum takes about 10 minutes in a car or on a motorbike. Just take the road that heads east. It is a main road and impossible to miss.

A word of caution – cheaper travel insurance policies won’t cover sports like kiteboarding; although, the chances of getting injured are minimal.

Finally, the video above is interesting as it is filmed at Malibu beach, Ban Tai and Mae Haad. Near the beginning of the Youtube clip you see him fly over the sandbar that connected Koh Ma to the mainland.

Taxi Prices for Mae Haad

It is slightly pointless giving a list of taxi prices for Mae Haad since it will be out of date in 2 or 3 months’ time. It is hard to tell whether this is really to do with rising gas prices or the fact that the prices are fixed for taxis in Koh Phangan, and once a price rise is agreed all the drivers fall in line. Competition has not produced better value for the consumer as regards taxis in Koh Phangan.

The typical taxi in Koh Phangan is actually more like a pick-up truck than a taxi. They are also called Songthaew which means ‘2 rows’. The description is apt as the seating is composed of two benches in the back that seat about 8 people. The luggage is tied to the roof or put in the middle. Most of the taxis have a cover but some are still open top. If you are pregnant or elderly you can ask to go in the front with the driver. Otherwise forget it as the passenger seat is for the driver’s mate.

You can try to negotiate prices for a shared taxi. I have seen plenty of young backpackers insist they want a group discount. These attempts at haggling invariably fall on deaf ears. The drivers will say ‘no’ and ‘up to you’ and drive off.

The only time when you can negotiate a discount is when you want to take an empty taxi, or to put it another way, a private taxi. The drivers will start high and given enough pressure will lower their prices.

The standard price to get a taxi from Mae Haad down to Thongsala is 200 Thai Baht per person. As I said before this is not open to discussion.

The longest journey from Mae Haad is to Thong Nai Pan on the east coast. There is no road running along the north of the island to this beach, so the drivers have to go south to Thongsala, east to Ban Tai and then north up to Thong Nai Pan. It takes at least 40 minutes.

The price for a private taxi from Mae Haad to Thong Nai Pan is 1,200 Thai Baht. However, I have heard of people managing to get the price down to 700 Thai Baht. A lot will depend on how much the driver is making on the initial leg of the journey from Mae Haad to Thongsala. If it is a full taxi they might give you a cheap deal as they will have a good chance of picking up other customers on the way. It is worth mentioning that a ‘private taxi’ means the driver cannot pick up other people up. That way, when he invariably does you are in a strong position to ask for the driver to discount or refuse the fares.

Taxi drivers in Koh Phangan are better than in Koh Samui. That is the best that can be said for them. They are, however, light years behind Bangkok taxis that use their meters. Best not to let taxi drivers make you irritated as it puts you in a bad mood before you have arrived at your paradise destination.