Renting and driving a bike around Koh Phangan is probably the most efficient way to get around the island, but it can also be infamously treacherous. If you’ve heard of the phrase “Koh Phangan tattoo” before, be aware that we’re not referring to the body art that can be done in the plethora of shops around here, but rather limbs wrapped up in white bandages - an all-too-common sight around the island. Take heed of these few tips to ensure you avoid injuries and make the most out of your holiday in paradise.
1) Sand, for Shore
The sand that blows on the roads some days almost make us believe that somebody gets up every morning to sweep the sand from the beach to the side of the road! This is probably not something you have come across before if you drive a bike regularly in your home country, so approach with caution. When you see sand on the road, slow down and try and keep your bike wheels as straight as possible. Don’t speed through - life may be a beach but so are the roads when you’re on island mode.
2) It’s Not Leg Day; Avoid the Burn
When driving around for a prolonged period of time, the exhaust pipe on your bike gets white hot! Unfortunately, on many bikes on the island, the exhaust is not protected. Save yourself a burn by getting off your bike on the opposite side of the exhaust. The only place your leg should be burning is after you've spent a day at The Challenge obstacle course (that's the good kind of burn!).
3) What's that doing there?
It goes without saying really to not drive into anything… but sometimes the craziest objects happen to be strategically placed on the side of roads, such as gasoline bottles (yeah, don't ride into those)... a reminiscence of the frequently thrown-around phase ‘TIT’ (This is Thailand). Be aware of what’s on either side of you (this includes pedestrians or other bike users reading maps!) to ensure you won’t be leaving the island with a bang.
4) Silly Puppy, Get Off the Road!
Our much-loved island dogs are surprisingly road-savvy, but even still, they do like to fall asleep in odd places, especially at night. Also watch out for dogs meandering onto the middle of the road. They mean well but perhaps they don’t quite understand the concept of roads quite the same way that we do. Stay aware!
5) Sharing is Caring (and Not Optional)
Remember - you are sharing the road with other drivers. While the community takes initiatives to educate and inform people on road safety, there is no 100% security that all the drivers are as safe as you. Responding with road rage doesn’t do anyone good either, so accept it and remember different nations have different common practices. If a car is approaching and flashes their lights at you, hold back because that man is on a mission and is coming through 555.
6) Beep-beep peek-a-boo
The above point particularly applies to some taxi drivers who tend to drive a little faster in order to make an extra buck, especially around the Full Moon period. It’s not quite as bad as India here but be warned: for no apparent reason people will pass you from behind while you are driving nice and straight... then just as they are about to pass you, they will suddenly beep, alerting you of their presence and scaring the hell out of you, eliciting you to respond with a swerve. What can we say - it’s a learning curve!
7) Drink, Don't Drive (or Vice Versa)
This one goes without saying - if you’re planning on drinking alcohol, leave your bike behind and take a taxi - not only your sake, but for others on the road too. No excuses.
8) Use Protection
Thankfully helmets are being increasingly enforced by the local police nowadays. That being said, it’s bizarre to see so many people riding without one. Yes - you might look cool with the wind in your hair but remember, safety first! Make sure your rental shop provides you with one and then put it on everytime you ride (same applies for your passengers). As they say, don't be a fool, vulcanize your tool.
We don’t know about you but we extend our gratitude everyday for the simple things, like mobility. We rejoice in this the fact everyday whilst challenging ourselves in Thailand's most thrilling water park.
So take our advice, follow these safety tips and enjoy your time on the island! Don’t forget to visit us at The Challenge Phangan; we have ample parking space if you’ll be driving here… but all the taxi drivers know where we are too so just be a passenger some days, bro (we do have an all-day happy hour, after all).