The small rectangular flyer for the Coast Resort looks like a mail-in subscription card for Dwell magazine. It shows modernist buildings – all straight lines and muted colours – with no people in the pictures to mar the perfection. The caption says, “join us on the peaceful island of Ko Phangan”.
Bloody liars, I think to myself.
Ko Phangan is way more party, way less peaceful than the flyer suggests. Sure, the island’s (in)famous Full Moon party had modest beginnings as a small beach gathering for some guy’s birthday back in the 1980s. But that was then, and now full moon on Ko Phangan is eight connected parties covering an entire beach, and 10,000+ Redbull-fueled revelers in fluorescent body paint looking for an unforgettable experience but often ending up with a string of foggy “did I really?” moments the next day.
I know, you’re thinking, no big deal, just go at a different time of the month. Full moon is just one night, right?
These days, the party doesn’t end when the moon starts to wane. There are half moon parties and dark moon parties and pre-moon parties and jungle parties and waterfall parties and boat parties and foam parties and parties at a place called Guy’s Bar where just two people, dancing like zombies, is enough to keep the DJ dropping beats until 10am the next day.
Basically, Ko Phangan is an island sponsored by house music. And Haad Rin, the “town” at the southern tip of the island, is a collection of tattoo and piercing shops, massage parlours, open air stores selling knock off Ray-Bans, and bar-restaurants serving the same three kinds of pizza, and a dumbed-down version of pad thai.
But here’s the thing: I’m a sucker for good design at the best of times. After almost a month living in an “atmospheric” jungle bungalow where the walls didn’t meet the roof so the bugs and the lizards didn’t knock before entering, I was almost desperate to feel some cool, clean, brushed concrete under my feet. So I booked a few days at the Coast and hoped that while their marketing department lied about the island, it told the truth about the hotel.
I was not disappointed. The Coast Resort is a beautiful bubble of modernist calm that feels a world away from Haad Rin’s moony monotony just 800 metres down the beach. The resort was designed and developed by a group of friends interested in architecture and design, and it shows. The two storey grey and glass buildings are sited to take advantage of views and breeze corridors, and the subtle palm and bamboo landscaping is punctuated by mature trees that were retained during construction.
The resort’s ground floor deluxe rooms have outdoor seating areas while the superior rooms on the second floor do not. Otherwise, the rooms are very similar on the inside – good light, strong A/C, spacious bathrooms, bathrobes and soft mattresses with high thread count sheets. The resort also offers deluxe sea view rooms with outdoor bathtubs looking out to the ocean, and larger suites and villas with living areas and kitchenettes. All rooms have flat screen TVs and wifi that was fast enough to download pirated Game of Thrones episodes and Skype to North America.
Outside, resort life happens by the water. The infinity swimming pool looks out over the resort’s private beach, to shallow ocean flats beyond. You can lounge by the pool or on the beach, sink into one of the large beanbags under a leafy acacia tree, or take up residence on an underwater stool at the swim up bar. The pool is open 24 hours so you can swim after dark and hang on the edge, looking at the stars and the twinkling lights of Ko Samui across the water.
The Resort’s open air restaurant, a few steps from the pool, serves buffet and a la carte breakfast, and a mix of Thai and western cuisine for lunch and dinner. Prices are a bit higher than surrounding restaurants but quality is too – the green curry with chicken was so good I had it two days in a row.
We were two of about twenty guests staying at the Coast in low season and at dark moon (sounds so pagan) so the staff to guest ratio was high and service was excellent. Food service and housekeeping were prompt, no one blinked an eye when I asked to check out two hours late, and the concierge arranged my ferry ticket and transfers to and from the pier. Pool staff were always ready with sunscreen and mosquito repellent, but the latter was unnecessary thanks to consistent ocean breezes.
The Coast has an Aloft or W Hotel vibe and a similar clientele – mostly 25 to 40 year olds who are willing to pay more for good design. A few days before full moon each month, a DJ spins chill house Sunset Sessions by the pool.
When I left just two days later I was a different person from the damaged, flea-bitten jungle escapee I had been when I arrived. The Coast gets my rave review, along with similar props from other guests, and is justifiably top of the pile on TripAdvisor, right after luxury brand Anantara’s local offering.
Low season rates in June 2014 were an amazing CAD$75 per night, including breakfast and ferry transfers. Some photos courtesy of Bridget Broomfield.