The south west of Koh Pha Ngan is the island's biggest lowland area and was the earliest settled with the first main town in Wok Tum, not far from Thong Sala where it is now. The inland areas are a melting point of rivers and streams that spring from the surrounding mountains and the fertile plains are home to many small villages and hamlets, some unchanged in centuries. There are paddy fields guarded by wise looking water buffalos; temples to visit, including Wat Khao Noy with its ancient Chedis set on the only mountains in the region, and some good accommodation options.
Thong Sala became the island's capital around a hundred years ago and serves as Koh Pha Ngan's main communication, services and transport centre. The port is expanding with two new jetties under construction to handle the increasing amounts of visitors to the island, and the town is also changing with better banking services, a greater variety of Thai and European restaurants and some good bars. The shopping in Thong Sala tends to be better value than Samui, nearly all shops have low fixed prices, and there are some good boutiques with interesting and unique clothes. Internet and telephone services are cheap, the main Post Office and Police Station are there and it now has no less than two markets and three ATM machines!
The road network of the island meets in Thong Sala, thus it provides easy access to virtually any point on Koh Pha Ngan, by land or sea. It is the main taxi pick-up point and it has numerous guesthouses and two hotels, useful for overnight stays to meet travel connections. The road from Thong Sala to Ban Tai has recently become the islands "beer bar" strip, with a fast growing community of karaoke Bars and small girlie bars dotted along either side, right the way up to the hills of Had Rin, the Day and Night Bar coming highly recommended.
The coastline takes on two different personas either side of Koh Tae Nok and Koh Tae Nai, the islands in front of Thong Sala. Up the coast, starting at the northern end of Ao Nai Wok, there are steep hills and rounded volcanic boulders around the south west's only mountain, Khao Hin Nok. The coast is broken up by rocky outcrops and the odd cluster of mangroves, with small coves and idyllic views over Anthong National Marine Park. South of Thong Sala, the coastline is a lot straighter with an unbroken stretch of sand all the way up to the start of the Had Rin hills. The surrounding flat land has all been used for coconut farming and long stretches of beach allow for a decent amount of space between the resorts, many offering high standards of accommodation in well-maintained surroundings.