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It is slightly pointless giving a list of taxi prices for Mae Haad since it will be out of date in 2 or 3 months’ time.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

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 http://www.goholidaygo.com/diving/samui/koh_ma.php. 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.

Snorkelling

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.

Accommodation

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.

Restaurants

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.

Conclusion

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!
wangsai-waterfall-map

Massage in Mae Haad

Mamas massage
Mama’s Massage

There are two Thai massage houses in Mae Haad. They are Mamas Massage and Suchada Massage. Both of them are small and friendly places with qualified masseuses. They don’t have a website or anything as complicated as online booking. You simply have to go and visit and book and appointment.

Mama’s Massage

Mama’s Massage is located on the longer south beach. It is a basic covered area with a platform facing the sand and the sea. There are berths for up to 6 people to have a treatment at the same time. It is a sociable and informal setting for a massage and a great way to wind down after a day on the beach.

Here is the price list for Mama’s Massage:

Back & Shoulder massage – 250 THB
Thai massage – 200 THB
Jasmine/Coconut massage – 250 THB
Aloe Vera massage – 300 THB
Aloe Vera massage – 250 THB

Suchada Massage

Suchada Massage is on the concrete road in the village behind the beach. It is a small air-con spa that offers more privacy than Mama’s on the beach. It is also cooler.

The Thai massages are excellent and really hit the spot. They also give facials – something not available at Mama’s Massage. Otherwise the prices at Suchada Massage are virtually the same as at Mama’s Massage.

Here is the price list at Suchada Massage:

Thai massage – 200 THB
Aloe Vera massage – 300 THB
Foot massage – 300 THB
Facial – 300 THB
Thai massage with oil – 250 THB
Oil massage – 250 THB
Foot scrub – 300 THB
Manicure – 150 THB
Pedicure – 150 THB

Fish You Can See At Koh Ma

Since the main attraction for Mae Haad is the Marine Park it is worth compiling a list of fish and other marine life you can see at Koh Ma. If you are like me, then you enjoy putting names to things you take pleasure in.

Ko Ma is the best place to snorkel in Koh Phangan because it contains the biggest variety of fish, and because it is very close to the shore and therefore easily accessible. When you stay in accommodation at Mae Haad it would be a shame if you were simply too lazy to go snorkelling. The equipment is cheap to buy or hire. You also don’t have to be a strong swimmer. There are few excuses for not going snorkelling at least once.

The list below is not comprehensive. It is a combination of fish I have seen and information from dive shop websites. It is hoped that it will be a good starting place for someone trying to figure out what they have seen while exploring the corals at Koh Ma.

Fish and Marine Life  at Koh Ma
Copperband butterfly fish
Schooling fish
Bannerfish
Big grouper
Barracuda
Butterfly fish
Grouper
Shrimp
Clownfish
Blue spotted stingray
Hermit Crabs
Razor fish
Seahorse
Cuttlefish (rare)
Rabbit fish
Anemone fish
Goby fish
Turtles
Reef sharks