Why I’ll Return to Koh Pha Ngan

An Island Guide for Digital Nomads

Photo by Emma Balmforth

Karen Blixen once said, ”I know the cure for everything: salt water… in one form or another. Sweat, tears, or the salt sea.” This evaluation pretty much sums up Ko Pha Ngan for me. I was incredibly stressed there for a variety of reasons, but I felt a kind of peace I haven’t known anywhere else — or since. Must have been the salt water, I reckon, as sweating, crying, and swimming in the sea were all part of my routine for the month.

More tangibly what I want to remember about Ko Pha Ngan — and what will definitely bring me back to this special island — are a variety of experiences, meals, cafes, and events. I’ve only been gone a few months, and I already miss them all. Here are just a few…

BEE’S KITCHEN

Bee’s is a small, unassuming roadside restaurant where the incomparable Bee does everything herself (while her sons nap in the back?!), and the results are so very delicious. I dream of her curries!

Bee’s Kitchen, Ko Pha Ngan District, Surat Thani 84280, Thailand

L’ALCOVE

When imagining the amazing food we’d have in Thailand, it didn’t occur to me that one of my favorite restaurants would be French. Of course, I love all things French so the fact that there is a great spot here — right on the beach — run by two French women, it’s no wonder it was one of my go-to destinations. Beautiful and exquisite… I could spend hours here.

L’Alcove, 15/1 Moo 6, Hinkong Beach, Ko Pha Ngan, Surat Thani 84280, Thailand

TABOON

Taboon was the nearest restaurant to our bungalows and a stellar place for breakfast (and lunch and dinner — there were a couple of days when I might have had all three here).

Taboon, 49/18 Moo 8, Srithanu, Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand

THE CAFES

There were many great cafes on Ko Pha Ngan that served as my office. Some were closer to home than others, but I enjoyed the mix of places.

HUNDRED ISLANDS

Hundred Islands is an excellent cafe with a super chill vibe, delicious food (+big menu), and very good coffee. Plus the wifi is strong, and they have numerous power outlets available. This is where I had amazing black sesame waffles with green chicken curry — get it.

Hundred Islands, 113/21 Moo 1, Baan Tai, Ko Pha Ngan 84280

BUBBA’S

Bubba’s has good coffee, a terrific bagel with cream cheese and lox, and avocado toast. Enough said. Some power outlets + wifi too.

Bubba’s Coffee Bar, 59/4 moo 1, Ko Pha Ngan 84280

DOTS COFFEE + SHOP

Dots in Thong Sala is a sweet cafe and store with a very nice atmosphere and yummy coffee and pastries. The food options are a bit limited, but the cakes are terrific.

Dots Coffee+Shop, Ko Pha Ngan District, Surat Thani 84280, Thailand

ART CAFE

Art Cafe was the one closest to home and a group favorite. Really nice food and coffee with a pleasant, yogi-rich vibe. I actually wish I was writing this entry from there right now.

Art Cafe, 78/9 Moo 8 Haad Chao Phao Beach, Ko Pha Ngan 84280

SECRET BEACH

Just up the road from Bovy is this magical beach, restaurant, bar, and wonderland. We spent days here frolicking, swinging around, eating, drinking, celebrating, hamocking, and even working. Also, “margarita spoken here…” has my name written all over of it.

Secret Beach, 111 Moo 1, Ko Pha Ngan 84260, Thailand

THE SUNSETS

No words needed other than to say that the photo below is untouched, and I’m not sure what that guy is doing out there — but with such beauty around him, it’s all good. The only real question is whether or not he’s wearing any clothes or a bathing suit. You see, we live next to a naked beach (have I mentioned this before? Probably not.).

RIDING A SCOOTER

Before arriving in Ko Pha Ngan we were warned about the risk of scooter injuries on the island. Much like driver’s ed class, we were shown pictures of the injuries past Remotes had endured… that was all I needed, no thank you. But once we were on the island and I saw how fun it looked (plus it made getting around so much easier), I thought (skeptically) that I’d try it. Thanks to my extraordinary and fearless friends for teaching me.

The first few days I went VERY slowly, but I eventually got to a normal-ish pace and was scooting all over the island (well, not up the big hills or deep into the jungle, but anyway). While several of my cohorts did sustain injuries, some more serious than others, I was accident free until literally one hour before I returned my bike. It was me and scoot vs. a massive puddle. The puddle won. For better or for worse, there are no photos of the event. If you’re looking to rent a scooter in Srithanu, be sure to visit the wonderful family at Andoo… they’re the best.

THE ANIMALS

I’ve never really been much of a cat person, but the feline family that took up temporary residence on my porch stole my heart, as did MaiMai, our oft-napping canine neighbor. So much love here.

OUR SWEET LAUNDRESS

Due to the extreme heat and my almost daily yoga, I was dropping off laundry a lot. This lovely lady had her shop at the end of the dirt road that led to Bovy Beach, so she was incredibly convenient. In fact she was at the corner where we turned off the “main” road… when I’d make the turn on my scooter, she’d wave but she’d often look concerned as well, perhaps worried that I’d topple over mid-turn (which, truth be told, I might have nearly done a few times). She was so kind, always looking out for me — she and her strawberry detergent couldn’t have been sweeter.

MOONLIGHT CINEMA

Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of this intimate cinema and garden dining spot, but believe me when I say it’s charming and very comfortable with Bluetooth headsets and big cushions for your movie viewing pleasure. And the scheduling is really good, especially with throwback marathons. I saw the Raiders of the Lost Ark trilogy, two out of three of the Back to the Future movies (or maybe it was all three — it’s a bit of a blur), and my favorite movie in recent years, Sing Street. Super fun.

Moonlight Cinema, 46 Moo 1, Chaloklum Rd, Thong Sala, Ko Pha Ngan 84280

And there is even MEXICAN FOOD!

I mean, is this heaven or what? ANDO LOCO was a bit of a scoot from our bungalows but well worth the journey. It’s not exactly like being in California or Texas (or Mexico for that matter), but it’s damn good. And on one particularly intense Sunday (Evacuation Day! Don’t ask), their margaritas tasted especially good.

Ando Loco, 90/15, Taladkao Road Thongsala, Ko Pha Ngan, Surat Thani 84280, Thailand


Originally published at lifeinmiles.com.