The real Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan is (in)famous for its Full Moon Party – an event where thousands of beautifully tanned young English-speaking Europeans, Australians and Americans proudly display their six-packs and cleavages, drinking mixed alcohol from buckets, their feet cut with broken glass scattered in the beach sand, getting wasted (and hopefully laid) to an echoing cacophony of US Billboard top 10.

Many people say Koh Phangan is heart-shaped, but for the sake of this explanation, let’s simplify it into a square. In the lower-left corner is Thon Sala – the island’s town. The lower edge is an extension of the town with supermarkets, atmosphereless night clubs, steak bars and, most important – hostels. Important because this is the way to the lower-right corner, Haad Rin, the Full Moon Beach. A concrete skeleton of a peeling, abandoned unfinished hotel casting shade on faceless souvenir shops immediately makes you understand where you are. While most people come here with a simple and positive reason to have a good time, what they don’t realise is that the Thai people spend their childhood looking at falangs (whites) who are either drunk or hungover, and in the natural disrespect learning to extract cash from the ones who have less brains but more in their wallets.

Without this introduction I wouldn’t be able to say that the reason I’m writing this is as simple as that: the rest of Koh Phangan is completely different.

Water buffalo at Koh Phangan

The real Koh Phangan

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Lombok Backpackers

Thanks to our friends in Adventurous Sumbawa, we connected with another wonderful group on the neighbouring island of Lombok. Lombok Backpackers are a group of locals passionate about the natural beauty of their island home (click the link to their facebook). In the provincial capital Mataram they have their ‘Base Camp’. Base Camp is a open-house set up for travellers to stay as long as they need for free. There are just a few basic rule: no drugs or alcohol in the house, clean your room when you leave and help keep communal spaces clean. In the evenings, the travellers and locals gather in the outdoor area to swap their adventure stories of the day, share food and make music.

We asked the owner of the house, what made him want to create this place? He replied “I’ve always loved trekking and snorkelling and having my friends around. So I thought to make a place where this can all come together.”

Music and maps, Lombok Base Camp

Music and maps: Lombok Base Camp

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Adventurous Sumbawa

Panti Putih on a small island near Sape, Sumbawa's eastern gateway.

Pantai Putih on a Pulau Bajo (Sea Gypsy Island) near Sape, Sumbawa’s eastern gateway.

Sumbawa is the mysterious island between Flores and Lombok. Mysterious because it was very difficult for us to find any information about the place! The Lonely Planet made it sound like it was better to skip over and our usual go-to online sites, TravelFish and WikiVoyage, were also drawing blanks… Naturally, this made us even more determined to go to Sumbawa and find out for ourselves. Continue Reading →