As is so often the case in Thailand major decisions are not so much announced as allowed to escape into the public domain. For most of the residents of Koh Phangan it was when they saw the following sign dotted around the island that they began to think that the rumors about Koh Phangan getting an airport were not just empty rumors.
For those who don’t read Thai, the sign basically indicates Kan Air’s sincere thanks for being given permission to build a runway on Koh Phangan.
The announcement surprised lots of people. Those who are familiar with the island know that it is an island covered in mountains in the center and along the east and west coasts. There are, of course, flat areas suitable for an airport but for years it seemed that nearby Koh Samui Airport would suffice to service Koh Phangan. The island was somewhat defined as Koh Samui’s ‘little brother’ that was not as developed and that drew many backpackers and low-end tourists looking for more pristine nature as well as cheaper prices.
This perception has changed over the last 10 years with the boom in the Full Moon Party industry. The Full Moon Party in Haad Rin as well as the other parties in Haad Rin and Ban Tai draw thousands of visitors to Koh Phangan every month.
Another change is the creation of an up-market enclave in Thong Nai Pan Noi that has 4 luxury hotels to choose from.
It seemed time that Koh Phangan stepped out of the shadow of its big brother and demanded its own independence. Kan Air with its successful bid to gain permission to build Koh Phangan Airport has judged the situation carefully.
Moreover, at the same time the government has identified 100 tourist locations in Thailand that should be developed. Koh Phangan is among the first 29 locations to receive funding. The projects for Koh Phangan include building a reservoir near Thong Nai Pan , further improving the roads on the island and laying underwater electric and telecommunication wires between Koh Phangan and the mainland. This will greatly improve the electricity supply and internet speeds as currently both are routed through Koh Samui.
It really is time for Koh Phangan to come out from Koh Samui’s shadow. The announcement of an airport for Koh Phangan should be seen in such a context. Whether the consequences of this action prove good or bad for the inhabitants of the island we will have to wait and see.