It’s Not You It’s Me, Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan, we need to talk. No, things have been going great, but I’m not in a good place right now and I think maybe–

No it’s not that. You’re one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever met. I mean your coconuts…WOW. Your beaches are stunning, and I love that thing you do with the breeze in my hair as we ride a motorcycle up and down the gentle hills, but–

Well for one, we can’t just lie around naked all the time. I have work to–okay okay you’re right, that’s not fair. I do make my own decisions. I’m just not ready for–

That’s not true Koh Phangan, I have tried. We got an apartment, I mean, I moved in. I’m totally willing to stay until the lease is up–

I don’t introduce anyone to my parents, you know that. It was different with Luxembourg! Okay, and South Africa, but we’d been together for two years and–now you’re crying. Koh Phangan, anyone would be lucky to have you. You’re going to make a lot of people very happy–every weekend, at those beach parties you like.

I didn’t mean it like that, Koh Phangan, I’m just trying to be honest–

That’s below the belt. I didn’t see those kids standing there and it’s hard to keep my clothes on around you. No I’m not just trying to make you feel better, I–

Okay, you want honesty? To be honest, you’re all over the place. One minute you’re bowling me over with grand romantic gestures, and the next you’re slapping me with 20 mosquito bites. That hurts, Koh Phangan. And there’s the animals.  Yes, they’re beautiful, but the lizards in the house are a little much, I mean, do they have to crap on the couch?

No, it’s not just that. It’s hard for me to focus when you’re around. You’re too hot. It’s too much. I hate being exhausted and sweaty all the time, and–I did have a headache. Yeah I do have a lot of them lately. I’m not 23 anymore, I don’t have as much energy as you do.

But about that, why do you make me use all this protection, I mean, sunscreen, bug lotion, rubbing alcohol, should I be worried about catching something? I’m just asking. I know you’re popular, I said I didn’t care about that and I don’t, but I’ve met three people who had to go to the hospital after being with you. They all swam at the same beach with open cuts if you know what I mean…

I deserved that. You’re right. Maybe I’m not the same person I used to be. So I’ve gained a little weight, so I’m breaking out. Maybe I’m not as motivated as I used to be. That’s what happens to me when I’m in a place like this. We can’t all be beach-ready all the time. Ok, you can. Don’t you understand, that’s why I think we should take a break. We’re just not right for each other–you like guys with tattoos, girls with dreads, I don’t even know what you see in me, to be honest.

Look, I’m not sure this is helping. Koh Phangan, you are so awesome. You have everything going for you. You’re healthy, with all the fruits you like, and the yoga all the time, you’re incredibly spiritual, and friendly and outgoing and gorgeous…we’re just not right for each other.

I know I’m still here for two months, but it doesn’t have to be awkward. We can hang out, and be friends, I just need to spend some time getting my head right. In a dark room. With air-conditioning.

I’m sorry you feel that way. But I’ll never forget you, Koh Phangan.


  • Ron says:

    It’s true, and probably true of most Asian islands. The novelty wears off very quickly after a few months, whether you are a party type or a yoga type. There is very little to see or do after you’ve done it all, and while it is still cheaper than most of Europe, it is now quite expensive, more expensive than it used to be. However having said that, if you have a busy online job and limited leisure time, there are worse places to be. Internet is pretty good and a nice air conditioned house is around $500 / month. I have been here every winter for the last 5 years – I’m always happy to arrive, and always happy to leave! But I can honestly recommend it to anybody who has never been, or has little or no experience of exotic islands. There is a decent Expat community here, but most people are just passing through, ticking their bucket list.

  • Sarah B says:

    Thanks for the read, couldn’t agree more. We’re part of that remote working set, so we’ve definitely enjoyed the low cost, available wifi, and general change-up from where we were staying before. That said, we can’t wait to get on a plane at the end of the month. There is some blessed cloud cover and rain waiting for us in Eastern Europe! “Always happy to arrive, and always happy to leave!” Well put.

  • Richard says:

    That was a fun read. Your article contains countless insider references, some of which I got, some I didn’t. What’s the deal with the rubbing alcohol?
    On my last 4 week trip to Koh Phangan pretty much I managed to steer clear of mosquito bites, however, on one side of my torso my skin changed… it got back to normal now. But maybe the rubbing alcohol would help?

    • Sarah B says:

      HA! The skin change sounds like one of those weird unexplainable Koh Phangan things. I have a rash below my knee; hoping it’ll go away when we leave here. I just meant that whenever we get a little cut, or scratch a mosquito bite too hard, we bathe it in rubbing alcohol, afraid it’ll get infected otherwise. When we first got here, we met three people in three days, and I’m not kidding you, who had to go to the hospital for cuts that got infected. Freaked us out a little. Thanks for the read!

  • I love this Sarah! The conversation…I was giggling so much my boss must think I’ve lost my mind (if he didn’t already). To be honest, I wish I didn’t have to work and could lay around naked all day too. But then the reality of adulthood and responsibility chime in (such nags). We were taught growing up would be fun. I mean it is, I just miss naps and not getting bills in the mail.

    • Sarah B says:

      Right, but imagine lying around naked all day when your only sitting surfaces are all upholstered in imitation leather. This is alarmingly painful. I think this material should be banned in the tropics. We did have a beautiful starlit dinner tonight at a local restaurant owned by people we’ve befriended over the last few months, however, and despite our incompatibility with Koh Phangan, can’t help but admit we’re incredibly lucky to be here. 🙂

      • Islander says:

        None of the nude beaches I know of there have seated areas, was this a private residence?

        • Sarah B says:

          We laid around naked in our house because of the heat, though plenty of the beaches (not necessarily nude beaches) had seated areas and people topless. i.e. Happy Beach – Thanks for reading Islander!

  • Such a good read! Thanks for your lively and creative pen(wo)manship <3

  • Suez says:

    Wow! I really love your convo.

  • Sara Hamdar says:

    This is such a beautiful article to read! Your words are touching! I just left koh phangan and my heart is still there! I wish u all the best in paradise ❤️

    • Sarah B says:

      Thanks Sara! We’re leaving soon, and there are definitely a lot of things to miss. Trying to eat all the coconuts we can before we leave!

  • Patrick says:

    Great read Sarah! It’s been 8 years since my last trek to Koh Phangan, but if feels like yesterday.
    We are travelling with a 2 year old now, heading to Koh Phangan in a couple of months. Any recommendations on locations to drop our bags for 3-4 weeks?

    • Sarah B says:

      Hi Patrick, so glad you get to go back! I wonder if you’ll think it has changed much, or if it’s largely stayed the same. We’re going back hopefully at the end of the year, and will try to get a place in Chaloklum, both because it’s nice for families, and because it seems to catch more of a breeze than other parts of the island. I can’t personally recommend any specific places there because we happened to sublet a house for someone who was on vacation (we found that through a Koh Phangan Facebook forum), but if we hadn’t found that, we would have booked an Airbnb for a week, and used that time to go around on our motorbikes. There are a lot of little complexes that don’t look like they’d be advertised online and might have better prices if you talk to them in person. I’m sorry this isn’t more helpful, I hope you have a great trip 🙂

      • Patrick says:

        Hi Sarah,
        Couldn’t agree more that hitting the pavement is the best way to find a place. We will most likely do the same, just as we did here in Chiang Mai.

        I’m sure it will have changed hugely, just like every part of Thailand I have revisited. It’s quite crazy to see the changes that can happen in 8 years. Either way, I’m very excited! I’ll check out Cholaklum area though, bumping into other families with kids is always the goal.

        Thanks for the advice!


  • Tom says:

    Hahaa love your writing style! I found your website in my search to become a digital nomad. My wife and I have a 1.5 year old so before we take the plunge we are doing our research. I’m glad to have found similar people like you guys! It gives us the motivation to continue to pursue this dream of ours. In the countless of other travel blogs, yours have been my favorite. It’s entertaining, informative, and relatable. Keep up the good work… I’ll be reading for sure!

    • Sarah B says:

      Hi Tom, what kinds words–you made my day 🙂 And, reminded me that I really have to write another post. Since we had our second baby here in Mexico, we’ve been strapped for time but I keep meaning to write again. I’m excited for your family–if you have the passion for travel and adventure, a nomadic life is entirely possible, and so rewarding. Hope you guys get out there and have fun soon! There’s a facebook group called Location Independent Families if you haven’t already heard of it, a lot of helpful advice and like-minded people there. Cheers! Sarah

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