The rugged roads of Ko Pha Ngan beg to be explored, and interior routes connect bays and small towns across unspoiled countryside -- a window into a laid-back island lifestyle that's now slowly disappearing. Wat Khao Tham is a well-known international meditation center and temple compound just north of Ban Tai; visit for info. Since 1988, Steve and Rosemary Weissmann (from the U.S. and Australia, respectively) have been offering intensive Theravada Buddhism-based meditation retreats. Introductory 10- to 20-day courses, as well as 3-month work retreats, are open to anyone over 20 years of age, and prices start at 4,500B. As with any retreat, conditions governing behavior apply. The temple is also open to day visitors and overlooks one of the best views on the island. For more details, check the Web or write to Wat Kow Tahm, P.O. Box 18, Ko Pha Ngan, Surat Thani 84280.

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