Tuesday, 9 August 2016

How Bizarre - Koh Phangan Hippy Markets Past and Present

Now and Then: Sunset Markets on Koh Phangan

Bizarre Bazaar at Seaboard Bungalows Haad Yao
Back in 1989, hippies were gathering at Koh Phangan bungalows near the beach for a social sunset market.  Time leaps forward to 2016 and here we are again - a community of alternative travellers, gathering at bungalows by the beach, for the Bizarre Bazaar!

So how much has changed in 27 years?  And how much have the farang who still gather here in the winter months changed as a community?  I caught up with long termer Eddy, who recently published old photos of Tommy's flea market in the late 1980s.

What do you remember about Tommy's flea market at that time, Eddy?

"The market of the hippies on the grass between Tommy's thatched huts and restaurant was the Haad Rin attraction in those days.  It took place every afternoon and you met people from every corner of the world there; it was usual to see someone you had met, maybe, a few months earlier in Manali."

Hippy Market at Tommy Resort in Haad Rin, late 1980's
Same Same But Different

As we still meet people from all over the world here today.  I arrived to Koh Phangan a few years after Eddy in 1993, but I do remember this early fleamarket, which had moved from Tommy Resort over the headland to Leela Beach, below the Back Yard, by then.

Eddy says, "I remember when they moved the market to Leela Beach, but not the reason why.  I seem to recall they held it only twice a week, on Friday and Sunday, I think. Leela Beach was paradise, I often went there.  There were many Israelis even then.  There was an Osho meditation centre and I believe that's why they called it Leela Beach.

The atmosphere was very relaxing.  Somebody played the guitar or bongos; we played cards or frisbee on the beach.  And there was certainly hoopla in those days, with loud music coming out of the bungalows."

The atmosphere at the Bizarre Bazaar is not so dissimilar.  Instead of guitar and bongos, DJs play the island soundtrack to the weekly gathering, but there are still hoopla and fire spinners, as well as henna tattooists and craft workshops - and cocktails! 

Same same but different?  Welcome to the Bizarre Bazaar 

Creative Koh Phangan

Back in 1989, Eddy particularly remembers an Irish guy who carved jewellery from 500 Italian Lire, which in some ways resembled Thai 10 baht coins. "I bought one myself, and who knows, maybe I still have it - there are still some boxes in my basement where I keep all the memories of that time!"

Koh Phangan still attracts the creative types who craft their own jewellery, weaving macrame and fashioning crystals.  It's natural for Phangan to still attract these types.  Working the European summer, they take time out in winter - and where better to release their creative energies than on the vibrant shores of Koh Phangan?

It has never been any different.  Maybe we are wearing slightly different clothes, maybe we have far too many possessions and are addicted to the internet.  But in an age where we are all becoming digital nomads, it's no surprise to find those who think outside of the box still sitting on the beach on Koh Phangan.

Bizarre Bazaar at Seaboard Bungalows, Haad Yao, 2016
Changing Times

"On the beach at most was a few dozen people, even in high season.  The casino of personal water craft and the constant coming and going of boats along the coast was a normal sight.  There were only a few hundred people at the first full moon."

Eddy continues, "I go back to Koh Phangan only during high season now, to follow closely my business, even if I do not manage it in person. I live beautifully in the months on Koh Phangan.  I have many old friends who still live on the island, although many of them are gone now.

I find that, with very few exceptions, there is no resemblance to the new generations of tourists and new residents on the island - who are often the children of those who discovered this beautiful paradise - and my son is a classic example of this.

We had the spirit of adventure, there was much fellowship and we were happy with anything - now everything has changed, they are all splattered and drink like sinks."

Lazy Tuesday afternoons at Seaboard Bungalows weekly gathering
The community that gathers at Bizarre Bazaar still owns the qualities Eddy holds dear - the spirit of adventure, the fellowship, the innate happiness - and don't we all get disillusioned with the next generation trashing beauty in its path?

But they are here today, gone after the next Full Moon Party.  While we remain... still seeking each other out, still feeling the Koh Phangan connection.  Still gathering at bungalows near the beach, three decades later, for a social sunset bazaar.

Long Live the creative Koh Phangan energy, still permeating our travelling souls - and big love to Eddy - for remembering how it wasn't so very different all those moons ago.