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The Sanctuary, Koh Phangan: There's more to Koh Phangan than the full moon party

May 2004
Updated July 2006

The Sanctuary in Koh Phangan
The author, a Bangkok expat, skips the full moon party and goes instead to "The Sanctuary", an alternative resort on Had Tien Beach, Koh Phangan.

I had regrets about not going to the full moon party. But those regrets didn't last long. I had already been to the party twice already and I was older now, the novelty had worn off.

I did go to Koh Phangan, however, but stayed in my bungalow relaxing on a secluded beach. My beach, Hat Tien, was ensconced with choppy turbulent ocean waves and the long tail boats that navigate between the beaches only come every few hours (there are no roads).

The morning after the party I had to pass through Had Rin to catch the ferry back to the main island. Waiting for the ferry, I met the human remnants of the full moon party and my any residual doubts about not attending were quickly obliterated.

Like refuse being washed out to sea by a powerful riptide, the ferry carried the bizarre and pathetic human trash of the full moon party back out to sea.

The ferry left at 9.30 am and many of the revelers clearly had not bathed nor slept the entire night. This is the cast of characters that offended the early morning sunlight on the night after. There were Israelis stumbling drunkenly, fresh from army service, their bodies covered with fluorescent paint. One had a black eye and was visibly bleeding in several spots. There was a spaced-out looking girl accompanied by a Thai nurse in a white uniform and with a portable IV unit. There were some British skinheads with gold chains hanging on bull-like necks, their thick arms covered with tribal tattoos. There were assorted junkies and alcoholics. One guy kept beating his friend with a stick, encouraging him to wake up. The friend sleeping on the floor seemed oblivious to the blows and continues his drunken slumber.

Although Thailand is famous for some of the most beautiful transvestites in the world, none made an appearance on the ferry leaving Had Rin. There were instead several extremely un-passable Thai ladyboys who looked as if they made the conversion last week and in their previous lives, they were either prizefighters or truck drivers or perhaps boxers before the change. Right in front of me was a woman vomiting copiously into a plastic bag.

A Secluded Hat Tien

Had Tien is a secluded cove with a rocky beach whose main fame to claim is the alternative Spa and Resort with a sort of eastern mysticism theme called the "Sanctuary". Many people have strong reactions to the Sanctuary; it's the kind of place you either hate or you love. What I like about it is a great open-air lobby with hammocks facing the beach, a free library, a good restaurant and most importantly, a healthy music mix focused on jazz and blues. I get really sick of techno monotony so this is refreshing. Some of the other good aspects of the Sanctuary are (1) the dorm was only 70 baht and they clean the sheets every day; (2) They have a meditation hall and a yoga hall that you can use if there are no classes (I worked out in the yoga hall); and (3) The herbal steam is superb, if you like that kind of thing.

More about the herbal steam: This is the best herbal steam I have found in Thailand. The room is constructed of boulders and concrete and looks like a Flintstones wigwam. There is stained glass on the ceiling that allows natural light to shine in. The place is asymmetrical with natural curves and large boulders so it feels like some aboriginal ceremonial ground and the steam is quite nice. The precise mixture of herbs to be combined and the temperature at which they best vaporize is a subject of intense debate, but this combination was better than many others I have encountered.