A Brief History of Koh Phangan

Manop from the Tourism Association of Koh Phangan teaches us about the history of Koh Phangan.

Manop believes that it may of been the Chinese people and Malaysian who came here first. He says they have this knowledge as Koh Phangan and Samui are names from the Malay language. It was these people along with people from the mainland, Surat Thani who would have come to Koh Phangan first.

For Koh Tao it would of been people from Chumphon on the mainland who settled there.

People came to Koh Phangan to start to plant coconut trees and harvest coconuts which we all know about today, this would of been around 2 or 300 years ago and King Rama V first visited Phangan in 1893.

During King Rama V’s reign Koh Phangan then gained support and a school was opened, before this there was no school. The island then gained support for its health care and many other things including infrastructure.

Manop remembers when he was age 17 and the island was without roads and electricity, this was about 40 years ago.

‘There was nothing, we had some cars here but it was all dirt roads. People made the roads by themselves, there were a few bicycles, no telecommunication, no TV, nothing’.

The community who began to live on Koh Phangan were in the agriculture trade, with some fishermen also.

Manop tells us that Thailand then became a more open country and around 30 years ago this is when tourists began to visit the island, coming at the beginning from Bangkok.

‘Probably people came here to Phangan as some people from here would go to party in Bangkok or would have family in Samui, and Samui is where tourists first started to go. After that they would come to Koh Phangan, at that time we had the Songserm express boat’.

When more and more tourists started to come to Phangan the Surat Thani administration then came to build the first pier on Koh Phangan and it was the Songserm company that started to build the transportation here.

Koh Phangan has 168 sq km and 36 beaches, small and big. 70% of the land is mountains and 30% is flat land and there are 11 rivers around the island.

The top of some hills are 635 metres from sea level, complete with the very big trees and large forests and jungle.

‘Koh Phangan is very good for the forest and environment and the Phangan people, they can live well here’.

Manop states that Phangan is also good for the insects and animal environment, the island is far away and the people who live here live with a very, very friendly good heart and are living so well here in Koh Phangan.

Even Thai Kings have loved visiting Phangan, it began with King Rama V who visited the island 14 times in 20 years and left his signature in a rock inscription in Than Sadet as he like it so much.

King Rama VI and King Rama VII along with his wife also visited the island and the late King Rama IX and his family visited Phangan in 2012 on the 23rd of April.

Another amazing thing about Koh Phangan is that we have got 9 temples, this is a lot for a small place. Manop informs us that the temples mean that the island belongs to Buddhism and Buddhists are kind and do good things and this means the people on
Phangan, through the generations are very gentle and have good hearts and like to belong to the Buddha and try to learn about how the buddha taught.

‘The main thing is we have to go to the temple. When a family has a son the son sometimes has to be a monk before marriage’.

King Rama VI gave the majesty fire to the Ampawan temple here for the burning of dead bodies, he gave it to the leader of the Chia state when we belonged to it and they brought the fire here.

The only people who can get the fire from the King are the most top and master people, if they are not then he won’t give it.

‘Koh Phangan also has lots of meaning, because Thai people believe in this, my name is Manop and has a meaning, if it’s not a good name then they will not put it, if it’s a good name then it’s ok and it has to have good meaning. All the beaches etc here have
good names’.