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Haad Rin is in the Party Zone

Official news came this week that Haad Rin as well as half of the East coast of Koh Phangan is in the newly designated ‘Full Moon Party’ zone on the island. This is part of a plan to divide the island into 5 spheres of activity. Officials have been making noises about managing the development of Koh Phangan for over a year. This announcement is a restatement of that intent.

For those diehard fans of the big parties on Koh Phangan there is little to worry about: Haad Rin’s Full Moon Party will continue uninterrupted. Although Baan Tai is in the ‘Lifestyle Centre’ such parties as the Half Moon and the Jungle Experience will be allowed to continue cranking up the volume all night long.

The zones are laid out in the graphic below. They are Zone 1 – Lifestyle Centre (Thongsala and Baan Tai); Zone 2 – Full Moon Party (Haad Rin and half of east coast); Zone 3 – Heritage and Nature (Than Sadet and Thong Nai Pan); Zone 4 – Into the Sea (all of north coast); Zone 5 – Health and Wellness Tourism (west coast).

spheres-of-activity-in-Koh-Phangan

Much of this coincides with the present state of Koh Phangan. Zone 4 with its emphasis on the sea has Chaloklum with its dive shops, squid fishing industry and Koh Ma National Marine Park. Many of the yoga, New Age therapy and spa places are on the west coast in the ‘Health and Wellness Tourism’ area. And Than Sadet (Heritage and Nature zone) is in a national park famous for its popularity with several Kings of Thailand.

There are a few anomalies: Thong Nai Pan Noi has three 5 star hotels and one 4 star hotel. The beach land has already been sold to ‘outside’ investors for development. These zoning laws have come too late to protect the ‘Heritage and Nature’ of this beach. While it means that Bottle Beach won’t become Thong Nai Pan Noi mark 2.

Another anomaly is the Sanctuary on Haad Thian East beach. It is the leading detox and wellness centre in Koh Phangan, and yet it is in the official ‘Full Moon Party’ zone. Indeed, to do Pilates, yoga etc. just requires a mat. Wellness Centres in general don’t generate much development in terms of concrete buildings. Moreover, every hotel geared towards higher paying guests in Koh Phangan will build a spa. Will they be in breach of zoning laws in Koh Phangan?

The editorial comments of the Bangkok Post reveal a certain amount of xenophobia:

“Hotel operators and local people on Koh Phangan have agreed to use their own tourism zoning laws to control existing activities and screen new developments, especially those by foreign investors, in the future.”

Who are these foreign investors that they are worried about? The biggest outside investors in Koh Phangan are Thai – the Thais behind Rasananda and Santhiya hotels and the Thais behind Koh Phangan Airport. As the Bangkok Post article states further on:

“The island has 9,000 hotel rooms and 90% of them are run by local operators.”

Where are the foreigners ready to pounce on Koh Phangan assets? Thanyah Phoolsawad, president of Koh Phangan Hotels Association, is quoted as saying that foreign investors had approached some local people to buy their land plots. That is pretty weak evidence for a feared foreign invasion. The real concern should be that wealthy Thai investors will continue to buy up prime beach land in Koh Phangan.

Anyway, the zone regulations are an attempt to re-brand the island as well as to formalise and fix the current state of affairs on Koh Phangan. The good news for Haad Rin is that it is now officially party central.

Source: Bangkok Post