Our Digital Nomad Life on Koh Phangan

November 30, 2017 - Comment

The One Bag Traveler recommends Gear, Destinations and Adventures. Living by the beach is a dream for many digital nomads, but it’s not always easy to find a suitable place. WiFi can be too slow, accommodation too expensive, or small islands just too remote for longer stays. In SE Asia the best beach destination we’d

The One Bag Traveler recommends Gear, Destinations and Adventures.

Digital nomad life on Koh Phangan in Thailand - sunset at Hin Kong Beach

Living by the beach is a dream for many digital nomads, but it’s not always easy to find a suitable place. WiFi can be too slow, accommodation too expensive, or small islands just too remote for longer stays.

In SE Asia the best beach destination we’d previously found for working was Koh Lanta in Thailand, which was the perfect mix of convenience without too much development. Finding affordable rentals with a kitchen isn’t easy, though, and on our latest trip we wanted to try a different island.

My first choice was Koh Tao which is popular for long-term stays with many bloggers like Alex in Wanderland. As we were initially only planning a four-week stay (after entering the country on a one-month visa exemption), to make things easier I wanted to rent a house or apartment on Airbnb, even though I knew it would be more expensive than finding a place once we arrived.

Unfortunately, Airbnbs on Koh Tao were limited and expensive so I broadened my search to other islands in the Gulf of Thailand. Koh Samui seemed too developed, so I looked at Koh Phangan instead—the medium sized island that’s just a 30-minute ferry ride from Samui so convenient for the airport there. Koh Phangan had a lot more choice on Airbnb from cheap and basic to fancy beach houses.

We ended up booking a Thai-style wooden house across the road from Hin Kong beach and that’s where we’ve been living for the last month or so. It’s not cheap (about £600/ $800 a month) but it’s much nicer than the standard Thai rentals. Our landlords actually lived here so the house is well-equipped and there are lots of homely details like cushions and throws. The WiFi is the fastest we’ve ever had in Thailand (30 Mbps down/ 11 Mbps up) and most restaurants have good WiFi too (plus there are some co-working spaces if that’s your thing).

Best of all is the huge terrace where I’m writing this now from the comfy sofa (another rarity in Thailand). I’m surrounded by trees and have a view of the sea. There’s plenty of space for yoga, a hammock and cushion chairs for relaxing, and a table for meals.

Our Airbnb house on Koh Phangan

Our Airbnb house on Koh Phangan

Our Airbnb house on Koh Phangan

Our terrace

Unfortunately, the beach across the road is too shallow for swimming, but it’s perfect for morning runs and spectacular sunset walks out on the sandbar. Just being by the sea feels calming.

Hin Kong Beach, Koh Phangan

Hin Kong Beach

The calm water of Hin Kong beach on Koh Phangan on my morning run

The calm water of Hin Kong on my morning run

Dogs on Hin Kong beach at sunset on Koh Phangan

Dogs on Hin Kong beach at sunset

There are plenty of other lovely beaches to explore. We love heading out on our motorbike (which you really need to get around as the shared taxis are infrequent and overpriced) and driving along the quiet, green west coast with hills on one side and sea on the other.

Our nearest place for a swim is Zen Beach where we relax under a palm tree on the powdery sand and float in the blue-green water. We’re slowly working our way around the beaches on the island, but work and rain (it’s rainy season in this part of Thailand) have meant we haven’t explored as much as we’d like.

Zen Beach on Koh Phangan

Zen Beach 

Zen Beach on Koh Phangan

The other end of Zen Beach

Haad Salad beach on Koh Phangan

Haad Salad beach

Koh Phangan is an island I had previously avoided because it’s famous for its full moon parties where 20-something backpackers get wasted on the beach, and that’s really not our thing. But the parties only happen once a month on Haad Rin beach and they are easy to avoid. We’re on the opposite side of the island, about a 30-minute drive away near the quiet village Sri Thanu which is known for yoga studios and vegetarian restaurants. It’s very chilled and we’ve been living a blissfully quiet life.

Mason's Arms pub on Koh Phangan

For Simon’s birthday we went to this weirdly out of place English pub

Minigolf on Koh Phangan

And played minigolf!

Like Koh Lanta, Koh Phangan has the ideal mix of convenience without being too developed. There are supermarkets in the main town Thong Sala, good WiFi, and houses for rent, but no shopping malls or massive hotels like on Samui.

The island has been a great place to catch up on work (I’ve been writing about Japan and Simon has been redesigning this website) with beach breaks when needed. We decided to extend our stay to seven weeks and were easily able to get a one-month visa extension on Koh Samui, a trip we combined with a cinema visit and delicious Italian meal at Duomo in Chaweng. 

Sunset on Hon Kong beach, Koh Phangan

Sunset on Hin Kong beach. There are a few restaurants on the sand where you can enjoy the view.

The one downside (other than the rain at this time of year) is that we’ve found the food a bit meh once we got over the initial novelty of Thai food again. Perhaps we’ve been spoilt by our recent stays in Japan and Ubud, though.

There are some good places (in Sri Thanu Bee’s for Thai, Taboon for Middle Eastern, and Crave for veggie burgers are our favourites), but we’ve also had a lot of average meals, especially at the vegetarian and vegan restaurants. At least it’s easy to avoid meat here as most restaurants have vegetarian options. There’s a produce shop in Sri Thanu so we’ve…

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