Travel log: I fell in love with the little island of Ko Phangan
My original plan was to spend 2 weeks on Ko Phangan. I left early to go to Bangkok for various reasons, like spending too much money, wanting to spend time with friends, and cook my own food again. I have a little regret about that decision because it is such a wonderful little island I could probably spend 6 months on. There’s a good chance I’ll be visiting again!
It took quite a bit of travel to get to this beautiful island off the east coast of Thailand. My journey started with a flight from Bali to Phuket (at 6am!) with a stopover in Singapore. You can read all about the expensive mistake I made with booking my flight right here. Then I had to take another flight to Ko Samui, which is the bigger island next to Ko Phangan. After arriving there I took a bus to the pier and took a 50 minute ferry to my destination. It was an exhausting full day of travel! We watched the sunset and arrived to the island after dark.
I chose Srithanu to plant my roots based on the many recommendations from vegans and HappyCow. Two of my favorite travel bloggers, EatAway and Mostly Amelie, said it was a vegan heaven. They were correct! I didn’t have enough time to try all the vegan food that this great island has, but I’ll tell you about my favorites shortly.
For the first night or two I decided I would stay at one of the nicest places on the island then look for another, more affordable option after getting familiar with the area. Phangan Akuna is a very new hotel with super nice bungalows on special during off season. For $38-50 USD you can have a swanky bungalow that is double or triple the size of any others I found on the island. Each one has comfortable beds, ample storage space, mini fridge, flat screen tv (which I never used), very cold air con, wonderful hot water and toiletries, and the long pool is great for swimming laps. A place like this would surely cost upwards of $200 or more a night in the US or Europe so I felt like I was living in luxury!
I honestly didn’t want to leave Akuna. I chatted up two ladies that were staying there and one was leaving to go back home the next day. I bravely asked the other if she wouldn’t mind having me as a roommate (after talking with her for a bit and learning about her interests) and got to stay put for half the cost. This was an ultimate score because I would have been in a hot shack on the beach or a dingy room for around that price. I was able to set up a daily budget of $45 (all expenses including my room) and had extra money to do yoga classes and eat amazing food. I know you can do Ko Phangan cheaper than that but I’m beyond my backpacker days. I appreciate a little more comfort in my travels and for a slightly higher budget you get so much more for your money in Thailand.
Now let’s talk about the food! There are many amazing choices but I’ll just share some of my favorites so this blog post isn’t too long. For an epic list see Mostly Amelie’s post too. I’ll start with the breakfast and coffee places since coffee is the most important meal of the day. I spent many mornings at Art Cafe because it was one of the only places I could get a soy latte that opened early (8am), it had such a great vibe, fast wifi, abundant fans to keep cool, and vegan pastries. Lek Organic Shop opened at 9am with coffee drinks, an extensive tea menu, a few vegan pastries, vegan yogurt and ice cream, along with beauty and health products. They have a pretty taste apple cranberry cake (pictured above) and I made my own fruit bowl in my hotel with their yogurt and cheap produce I bought on the street.
Art of Juice is next on my list of favorite spots for breakfast and lunch. Amazing juices, a wonderful coconut milk latte, comfy couch to lounge on, and a delicious granola bowl that includes their own homemade coconut yogurt. They have a wonderful lunch buffet each day for only 150 baht ($4.25 USD) with rotating dishes that’s mostly or fully vegan. The day I ate lunch they had the best papaya salad on the island, green curry with noodles, dahl & rice, hummus & raw veggies, another dish I can’t remember and filtered water is included. Just take a look at their Facebook page and prepare to drool!
Big Mountain is not a vegan restaurant, but they have clearly marked their menu with “vegan” and understand what that means. I find it hard to trust curries in Thailand because most curry paste has shrimp flakes or paste inside. The owner understood me when I asked about it so I went with the Massaman curry (seen above). It was full of my favorite veggies (including pumpkin!), tofu, and peanuts with the perfect amount of spice and a huge plate of red rice. If I had stayed longer I definitely would have had more meals at Big Mountain.
Eat.co is the most expensive vegan place I went to next to Orion Cafe, but I went with one of the cheaper things on the menu to stay in my daily budget. The tofu scramble was pretty good but my friend had the beet burger and it was amazing. Splurge for that! I didn’t actually eat at Orion because I thought it was way overpriced for what you got, but I did do an awesome yoga class with Ben.
Most yoga classes are 300 baht for drop-ins and many offer 5 or 10 class passes if you are staying longer. Agama and Gaia offer your first class free so be sure to check them out. My favorite yoga classes by far are at Ananda Wellness Resort with Johnny. He is an incredible teacher. They are offering week long retreats in June and July and I highly recommend it! Their cafe happens to be the BEST place to watch the sunset and the food is delish and affordable. I also enjoyed the 2 hour class at Samma Karuna because their yoga shala overlooks the ocean (pictured above). They do a daily lunch buffet that’s pretty tasty.
Next up is the vegan shawarma at Green Gallery. This meal blew my mind and made my belly happy! It was one of the most tasty things I had on the island next to the falafel seen next. Green Gallery has mixed reviews online but the food is great, atmosphere cozy, and they have CocoMama vegan ice cream (essential on hot days!). The prices are average for veg cafes in the area. You can definitely get cheaper meals at the all Thai non-vegan cafes along the road (I recommend Sunshine for the best $4 meal), but the more expensive places do have cleaner kitchens. I will say that my stomach was in general messed up the whole time I was in Thailand no matter where I ate, even though I tried to be very careful. Thailand doesn’t like me too much. The last time I was here I ended up in the hospital with severe food poisoning. At least that didn’t happen this time!
Last but not least, I found the best falafel and hummus in the world at the Panthip food court in Thongsala. I’m not exaggerating; it was that good. This place whose name I can’t remember is not in Srithanu but it’s a 15 minute scooter ride away so totally worth a visit. You’ll also find a smoothie cart in front of the food court that has 30 baht smoothies to live for, so grab one on your way out!
Have you been to Ko Phangan before? What were your favorite vegan meals there? Share with us in the comments!
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