Month: June 2014

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.

Diving at Koh Ma

I have my PADI Open Water Certificate. I got it when I visited Koh Tao many years ago. I enjoyed the diving but not the conveyor belt nature of the dive operator my wife and I chose. They also charged her more because she was Japanese! I had heard about the dual pricing system in Thailand but to discover that there was another even higher price band for Japanese nationals left an unpleasant taste in my mouth.

I wish I had decided to learn how to dive in Koh Phangan instead. I might have chosen to do one of my practice dives at Koh Ma. The travel time is minimal to get to the dive site and it is fairly shallow so there is no danger of getting too deep.

I stumbled upon This page holds some useful information about Koh Ma:

The average depth is 8 to12 meters
Maximum depth is 20 meters
Visibility is 8 to 12 meters
Current is mild to none
Level of experience – good for all levels
PADI Rating – 3½ stars

The dive map above provides a good idea of the dive site. The larger corals are to the east of Koh Ma Island. The deepest spots are on to the west and north of the island.

The corals are hard and soft. There are also whip corals at the deeper sections.

The map also reveals the heart shape of Koh Ma Island. It also shows a tiny beach on the southern coast. The information about a restaurant, cottages and dive centre are out-of-date as the business closed down several years ago. If you like a high risk investment you can probably lease the land and re-open the Dive Resort.

For more about Koh Ma check out our list of marine life you can see at Koh Ma when diving or snorkelling.

Contrasting Opinions about Mae Haad

Opinions from other travellers have become too important to people. Word of mouth recommendations have always been an integral part of the backpacking experience but since the ubiquity of the internet, corporations have taken it upon themselves to encourage comments which they collect and publish along with advertising and hotel booking engines. Comments are free content and create a successful business. Why? Because people want to know about a place before they go. They want to book in advance. They want to know where to eat. They want to know what activities they should be trying.

Perhaps I am old fashioned, but this obsession with researching everything at home and booking everything before leaving is taking the adventure out of travelling. Finding a cheap bungalow on a gorgeous beach is more special if it is unexpected. Indeed, it is bad value to book budget accommodation online, as you cannot negotiate a price. Try explaining to Agoda that you plan to stay for a week and would like a discount.

The advice invariably falls on deaf ears. People always book in advance, fearing everywhere will be fully booked. Let me state this simply – except for New Year’s Eve there are always vacancies at any hotel or bungalow resort in Mae Haad.

To return to the topic at hand, I thought I would survey some of the opinions about Mae Haad found on the various review sites. I won’t bother quoting directly as information about name and place of reviewer is generally ignored by the reader anyway.

The Beach

Most people find Mae Haad beach something special. While most think the sand fine, a few consider it coarse-grained.

It is nearly 50-50 between those who believe the local businesses are doing a good job cleaning the beach and those who thought the beach is dirty. Most agree that Koh Ma Island is full of rubbish. Since the closure of Koh Ma Dive Resort the small island has become a dumping ground for trash. Moreover, the sea washes up rubbish on the island. I t can only be hoped that the right eyes read these comments and feel compelled to do something about the discarded atmosphere of Koh Ma.


It is an easy 80% of people who positively rate snorkelling at Koh Ma. Comments are more about the caveat of the tidal variations. In the lower tidal months from May to October you have to negotiate rocks to get to the best snorkelling. It is signposted and not really a problem. The lower tidal months affect all the west coast beaches in Koh Phangan.

On the same topic, most people comment on the good visibility under the water. However, under windy conditions the visibility can quickly deteriorate as the sea gets churned up.


It is not a bad idea to dip into reviews about accommodation on the internet, and to check the date. More recent comments have greater relevance. If criticism of surly service, unclean sheets or poor value keeps appearing in a reviews it is worth taking note. We also review every hotel and resort in Mae Haad and give Trip Advisor and Agoda ratings.

However reviews of accommodation like of restaurants are perhaps the most subjective. Many people just looking for a clean bed and a fan at a cheap price don’t expect much. Others pay lots of money and expect a ‘5 star’ experience like in a European hotel. Moreover, staff can change quickly in Thailand where lots of places use cheap migrant labour.


One man’s superlative Thai food is another man’s inedible trash. If you are staying in Mae Haad you might as well try a few places for dinner. The change of scenery and the small variations in menus keep a holiday interesting. Ma Haad is a small area and easy to get around on foot. There is enough light coming from the various places along the beach to make it fine to see where you are going.

Naturally, the more expensive resorts charge more for the same food as you can get in the small local restaurants in the village. Moreover, beachfront restaurants generally charge a bit more than inland places.


As stated at the beginning of this post, put a little adventure into your holiday with a bit of spontaneity. Take a chance with a room or a meal. The money to do so is normally not a lot. Saying that, Mae Haad is currently the 8th best attraction according to Trip Advisor. It is worth teasing out themes in reviews as they often hold valuable information about a place or activity.

How to Get to Wangsai Waterfall

Along with snorkelling around the corals at Koh Ma, the other ‘must do’ activity when staying at Mae Haad is to take the short trek to Wangsai Waterfall.

Unlike other waterfalls in Koh Phangan, Wangsai is a year-round waterfall. Moreover, it has a large basin at the bottom of the waterfall run that provides an excellent spot to spend a few hours relaxing and swimming in the cool waters.

Visiting the waterfall near Mae Haad beach also gives you the opportunity to take a short walk through the tropical jungle. It is a chance to admire the fecund countryside, the colourful flowers, the bird noise and the numerous fluttering butterflies.

It is free to visit Wangsai Waterfall. First walk along the southern beach until you get to Wangsai Resort. Take the road inland. 100 meters along this road you will see a small footpath on the right heading south. Follow this footpath for 10 minutes and you will find the waterfall. It is signposted to help you.

Use the map below to help you. Remember not to leave any litter at the waterfall. Enjoy!