Koh Phangan is probably better known as an island of a full moon party where both young Thai and foreign tourists become quite inebriated and party on into the night in gay abandonment. The party is periodically held at Had Rin, a beach on the southern tip of the island.
However, Koh Phangan is not famous solely for its "Full Moon Party"; its unspoiled nature and clear waters, magnificent beaches, backed by dense jungles, give rise to a number of outdoor activities including skin diving, scuba diving, trekking, bird-watching and observing the lifestyles of local folk.
Long before the full moon party exists, the island has long been known among local tourists for its natural beauty. King Rama V, who ruled Thailand from the late 19th century to early 20th century, visited Koh Phangan on 14 separate occasions, graciously bestowing names on many places like Than Sadet Waterfall. The king also released deer on the island that nobody dared to hunt; today they roam in great numbers.
Located in the Gulf of Thailand about 100 kilometres east of Surat Thani coast, Koh Phangan is 20 kilometres north of the bigger island of Koh Samui.
Covering an area of 168 square kilometers, Koh Phangan is Thailand's third largest island in the Gulf of Thailand after Koh Chang and Koh Samui. Smaller islands, including Koh Tae Nok, Koh Tae Nai, Koh Ma and Koh Tao, are grouped around Koh Phangan some 40 kilometers distant. It is one of 48 islands in the archipelago that makes up Ang Thong National Marine Park and has been inhabited for a thousand years. Malays were the first group to settle on the island; hence some places carry Malay names like "Koh Ra Hum", which means "shadow" and is the former name for Koh Phangan. Then there's "Loh Da Lam" the former name for Ban Chaloke Lam.
Buddhism predominates on Koh Phangan, only 5% of the populace being Muslims. The main industry is agriculture, coconut farming and fishing. For some years, the travel industry has taken over as the most profitable pursuit on the island with many landlords selling their land to move on or invest in hotels and resorts.