Oh Thailand, you many headed beast. Anyone who has been to Thailand and has actually explored its majesty rather than spending two weeks on an alcohol binge that results in rehabilitation and family members that can’t stop crying, knows that if you think it you can probably do it. Of course that can be a double-edged sword because there’s probably an equal split of people wanting passion and adventure and others wanting to pet dosed up tigers.
Luckily for you kind readers I am of the former, hence my position as an Adventure Writer (I’m quite enjoying being an official writer as opposed to being just some guy that writes his inner feelings). So when I found myself on staying in Koh Phangan and had a desire to swing, bounce, climb, fall and laugh, I went to… a seedy bar…I’m just kidding! I hopped onto my rented moped and drove to (previously named Phangan Wipeout) The Challenge Phangan.
Take the Challenge in Koh Phangan
The Challenge Phangan is a floating obstacle course consisting of stepping stones, monkey bars, rolling barrels, climbing walls and an obstacle facing the Big Red Balls Of Satan. All floating atop a lake surrounded by a green forest and a peeking sun. The staff are super friendly and always game for a chat and open to questions. There is a bar and restaurant area where you can eat and drink to replenish all that lost energy and lockers are on site too for all your possessions.
Read: What to Eat in Thailand
What You Need for The Challenge Phangan
- 500 Baht for the admission price which covers you for the entire day.
- Swimsuit, bather, trunks, boardies
- A bulk of energy.
- Your “Oh crap I’m going to land face first” expression.
- Sun cream and will power to apply it. If you lose three hours on the course you are destined to need a lake full of aloe vera aftersun afterward to soothe that pink skin.
Insider Tip: Leave your pride at home. Bring it with you and you will fail because you will fall. Many times. It’s very fun however so embrace it
Get A Feel For The Course Before Attempting The Time Trial
I’m talking to the men with an over abundance of machismo (not to be confused with masochism – whole different adventure) that want to blaze through the safety Q&A at the beginning and jump straight into beating the course. Try all the obstacles and then try them again, have fun with it and then maybe, just maybe you should start a time trial to see where you rank on The Challenge’s leaderboards. If you have seen the TV show Total Wipeout then that is what to expect here but it’s a lot more challenging than it looks from your couch in your living room.
When not actively taking part on the course you can try The Blob – a huge, multicolored inflatable…blob? It looks like a flamboyant giant’s favorite beanbag. You lay at one end on your back preparing yourself to be propelled skyward from the force of the staff jumping off a ledge and landing at the opposite end. It works because of physics. It is pretty scary initially, especially as you probably would have just been laughing at someone who just tried it and looked like they were break dancing in mid-air twenty foot from the water that’s ready to accept their flailing body with a slap. Anyone who did land a little roughly was catered to and looked after by the caring staff. There’s a lifeguard always on duty so fear not if you aren’t a great swimmer. So waiting for the countdown I was nervous and wondering if Koh Phangan has a hospital or even a chiropractor.
My Challenge Phangan Experience
THROOM. Next thing I knew I had taken off as if a NASA controller had bellowed “LIFT OFF”. Strangely, I did not get slung forward to go from laying on my back to standing vertical in the air. Somehow my legs went above me as if that aforementioned giant had a string tied round my ankles and tugged hard to get me off his beanbag. You know how it hurts when you belly flop from the pool’s edge into the pool from a grand old height of two and a half foot? Well I was around twenty-something foot high and my shoulders and upper-back were going to take the brunt of it. So my Kung-Fu trained brain kicked in telling me I should amend this situation before I end up with a broken back. I wriggled and writhed my legs and arms looking like a glitching character in a videogame, before I got the leverage I needed to change my centre of gravity around. SPLOOSH. I nailed the dive just as my fingers penetrated the water’s surface and saved myself from being wheelchair bound. As I resurfaced the Olympic Judges all gave a perfect 10 and I knew then that I would go down as the greatest mid-air breakdancer/video game glitch diver the world had ever known.
Now whilst all of that took a grand total of maybe 22 seconds from getting myself onto the blob and the perfect 10 ending of my own TV movie, the day still vanishes from you. Time flies when you’re attempting the big red balls for the umpteenth time. When you have had a near death experience like I had, it is nice to relax a little and just observe from the center of the course, giving you a perfect view of each trial are. Chilling with your feet in the water is the perfect respite and watching others fail or succeed at the different obstacles brings joy. Everybody there seemed to be having just as much fun as myself, all willing to fail miserably and laugh at their pitiful attempts.
The Course Of Doom in Challenge Phangan
So I eventually attempted the time trial and did so badly that I genuinely can’t remember the time at which it took me. All I know is that it was nighttime and everybody had gone home.
- The rope swing from an elevated platform starts the clock ticking. This fulfills any fantasies one may have of swinging like Spider-Man.
- A brief swim takes you to the stepping stones which are deceptive. I skipped over them a few times previously but the pressure got to me and I fell right in with a plop.
- At the next float, you are presented with a pool of water splitting the island in two and only monkey bars as a viable way of crossing. Anyone who used to play in parks or has done a singular pull-up should be fine.
- Another swim takes you to the rolling barrels. Be quick or get wet. I skillfully hopped over these with the grace of a preying feline. Earlier, I had took one misjudged step and the barrel rolled and my foot and body had followed.
- The inflatable mountain is next. Its summit is maybe fifteen foot high and the mesh of ropes covering it are to pull yourself up. With the mountain being plastic though, your feet will slip when you use it for leverage. I thought I had a foothold until I didn’t. I made a splash and tried again. After the climb there is a nice slide down into the water to lull you into a false sense of security.
The final task is the hardest. The Big Red Balls Of Satan takes no prisoners. You have to climb another raised inflatable to stand at level with the balls. There are three balls which you have to bound across to make it to the final platform which you jump off to stop the clock. The third ball is dryer than the the Sahara as no one touches it. Normally the first ball takes all as it did with me. Sometimes, just the platform can be challenging as my girlfriend knows. She shuffled toward its edge to get closer to the first ball and actually slipped off before leaping. I tried to drown myself with shame. Had I not seen a young boy/panther hop, skip and jump the Big Red Balls Of Satan (Dear, The Challenge owners, feel free to take this name courtesy of a satisfied customer)-I’d have said they were impossible.
Since my time at Phangan Wipeout ,it has actually changed its name to The Challenge Phangan and has added a few extra obstacles which means I will have to go back someday to test it out. I’m assuming they have even more GoPro’s at the bottom of the lake now however, I managed to escape with my GoPro Hero +3 after it slipped off my head strap and my hands, fortunately, grasped it. Many people are left cursing however so be vigilant with yours should you take one. The staff take pictures and post them on Facebook so don’t worry too much as you’re bound to find a photo of yourself mid-air and upside down with a look of terror on your face.
The Challenge Phangan is a great day out for anyone who finds themselves in the wonderful Koh Phangan and wanting to try something a little different and a lot of fun. The staff are friendly and open to any questions and concerns you may have. The separate obstacles are challenging but keep you coming back for “one more try”. It’s busy so there’s every chance of meeting a new friend or someone just as scared as you of The Blob. I guarantee a trip here will have your adrenaline up, your willpower spiking and your face bearing a huge dumb grin of satisfaction of unadulterated fun.
Looking for other adventures in Thailand? Check out our other articles
- Scuba Diving with Bull Skarks in Koh Phangan
- Becoming PADI Certified in Koh Tao
- Trekking in Chiang Mai