Riding a scooter is the happiest form of transportation.
Now….riding a scooter, while on vacation, on a tropical island? It doesn’t get much better than that.
Although Koh Phangan is most famous for its Full Moon Party, there are plenty of other places on the island to explore. Yes, you can hop on a tour van and be safely guided along the designated route of temples, beaches, and island activities (archery, ziplining, etc).
So, we grabbed a free map from a Haad Rin travel agency, found a scooter rental place and got some guidance from some locals. See Koh Ma on the map? It’s on the northern tip and is connected to the island only by a thin sand bar.
I made it my mission to get there.
For 150 Baht – that’s about $5US – we were on our way.
You can trace our journey along this map. We started on the bottom right (where it says “Full Moon Party Area” in bold red). We followed the entire west coast, rode along the north side, and cut back down….sort of like a “P.”
One hour, two quick rainstorms, and about a dozen wrong turns into our trip, we pulled over for a bite to eat at JJ’s Restaurant.
Owned by a UK native, JJ’s Restaurant offers everything from authentic Thai, to vegan, to good ‘ole American burgers. His house is located just steps away from the restaurant and his bungalow-style resort sat across the street. Not a bad lifestyle!
All of the patrons were foreigners and they seemed to have been on the road for a long time. Thailand attracts an eclectic bunch of travelers. One man was meditating on the shore. Another swayed in a nearby hammock. I overheard a conversation about the zodiac and crystals.
It was time to move on…
After a few kilometers the terrain started to change. The roads got steeper and the curves got sharper. And then we got views like this:
We kept cruising…..something large and gray caught my eye.
“Oh my god – there are elephants on the side of the road!”
I honked like a madwoman to catch my husband’s attention.
And I made a new friend!
It’s pretty easy to get lost using a map from a travel agency. They highlight resorts and shops. Proper distance and direction? Not so much. Still, we finally managed to find Koh Ma.
Don’t you wish you were crossing this bridge right now? I do…
On Koh Ma you can get a Thai massage…
Or just bask in the sun…
I finally made it to my sand bar!
Knowing how long it took to reach Koh Ma…and knowing it was highly probable we’d get lost again, it was time to finish up the last leg of our trip and return home. We didn’t want to get caught in the dark in unfamiliar territory.
I’m kind of a-wannabe-photographer, so I hogged the camera the whole time. As a result, this is the only shot I got of me on the scooter…
Sadly, my camera battery died after taking this shot. So, I have no pictures of the temples that followed, or the amazing sunset.
Lesson learned – bring your extra camera battery.
More lessons for smart scooter travel:
1) Prior to your trip, investigate your scooter. Look – and point out – any visible damage. Tourist scams exist even on beautiful islands like this. You will be grossly overcharged for any damage, even it was there before you got the scooter.
2) If you’ve never ridden a scooter, buddy up with someone who has. The roads alone are bad enough. Factor in local drivers, pedestrian or animal crossings and fellow tourists….and it can be dangerous for a new rider.
3) The best time to rent a scooter on Koh Phagnan is the day after the Full Moon Party. While most people are hung over in their rooms, the roads are less crowded.
Sure, it can be scary leaving the security of a tour group; but armed with a little guts and some common sense, you will have a good time. I sure did!