Learn all about Koh Phangan’s history with these fun facts, figures and the story of how Koh Phangan is the way it is today.
Do you know the meaning of “Koh Phangan”?
Let’s start with the basics, one cannot learn the history of an Island without knowing why it is named this way…
KOH = island
PHA = meet or find
NGAN = beach visible at low tide
Koh Phangan is Thailand’s firth biggest island
Koh Phangan is an island paradise in the gulf of Thailand, located 70km from the mainland and just 12km from Koh Samui, Phangan does not have an airport (yet) and relies heavily on ferries from the mainland and Koh Samui.
AREA: 125 km²
POPULATION: 11,846 (2004)
PROVINCE: Surat Thani Province
What is Koh Phangan known for?
Parties – It is world-famous for its monthly Full Moon Party. This boisterous night-long celebration, which is tied to the lunar calendar, draws revelers to its southeastern peninsula, Haad Rin.
Beaches – We have some of the best in the world! And we are not being biased. To see a description of all 35 beaches – click here.
Culture – More than 95% of the population are Buddhist, but there are a few mosques and churches that can be found around the island. One Buddhist holidays you can see many locals go to the temples and celebrate. To visit the temples – click here.
Lifestyle – Apart from tourism, another prominent industry for the island is fishing. You can find many lovely restaurants selling the freshest fish – what is the catch of the day?
Each month Koh Phangan and Koh Samui produce and export 1 million coconuts to Bangkok!
History of Koh Phangan
A hundred years ago, Koh Phangan was not just some unknown island. On the contrary, every Siamese at the time knew that Koh Phangan was a favoured destination of Thai Royalty, most notably King Rama the Fifth, also known as Chulalongkorn, who lived from 1868 until 1910.
Chulalongkorn is reported to have visited the island at least 14 times between the years of 1888 to 1909 after he purchased a steamship which allowed him to cruise the Gulf of Thailand. His imprint can be found carved into in the rocks of the waterfall at Than Sadet.
Prior to this, was the Bronze Drum of the Dongson Culture (100-500BC), that was found on neighboring Koh Samui in 1977, identified that there were settlements of people on Koh Samui and Koh Phangan more than 2000 years ago.
Other reports state that some archeologists and historians believe the first group of people who migrated to the island were Muslim Sea Gypies (Pigmy, semung and Proto-Malay) who traveled by boat from the Malaysian Peninsula.
Then after the Hainan Chinese migrants were among the first permanent settlers in the area approximately 200 years ago.
Koh Phangan has always been a melting pot of various cultures, with: Malay, Thai and Chinese influences, all living peacefully together.
Modern Koh Phangan
The big change on Ko Phangan started after the first bungalows were built for foreign tourists to come and visit around 20 years ago. From there the island has rapidly developed with roads, infrastructure and internet access everywhere on the island.
The islanders changed their ways of life to grow with the expanding tourist industry.