An Epic Scooter Tale

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).

But as we recently learned, I’m not so keen on that style of traveling.

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.”

Koh Phangan Scooter

photo credit:

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.

Koh Phangan Scooter

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…

Koh Phangan Scooter

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:

Koh Phangan Scooter

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.

Koh Phangan Scooter
We paid 40 Baht for a basket of bananas…

Koh Phangan Scooter

And I made a new friend!

Koh Phangan Scooter

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…

Koh Phangan Scooter - Koh Ma Beach

On Koh Ma you can get a Thai massage…

Koh Phangan Scooter - Koh Ma Beach

Or just bask in the sun…

Koh Phangan Scooter - Koh Ma Beach

I finally made it to my sand bar!

Koh Phangan Scooter - Koh Ma Beach

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.

Koh Phangan Scooter

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…

Koh Phangan Scooter - Koh Ma Beach

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!


5 responses to “An Epic Scooter Tale

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more—a scooter IS the best way to see an island. I rented one for a day on the Micronesian island of Kosrae and had a great adventure splashing through water-filled potholes and fending off a pack of dogs nipping at my feet. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Thank you for following my blog. I think, aside from the generation gap, we have a lot in common.

    • Exactly…you totally get it. The whole experience wouldn’t be the same without getting lost, rained on, attacked by wild dogs, etc. That’s what makes it an adventure! :-)

  2. Pingback: Sandy Buckles and Selective Memory « Mango Mornings·

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