Ko Kradan T: (089) 587 2409 , (081) 676 6391
Update: In February 2015, legendary founder of Paradise Lost, Wally Sanger, died of natural causes on Ko Kradan. He will be missed.
Paradise Lost is more than just a quality bungalow joint. Legendary among sailors and backpackers, it’s also a compelling story. The mini-resort was carved out of Ko Kradan’s jungle-clad interior, said to be infested by cobras and spirits. Now immensely popular thanks to its relaxing vibe, outstanding food, good-value accommodation and creators who really care, the place is one of a kind.
Onlookers thought Hawaiian-born Wally Sanger and Thai partner Nok were nuts when they made Paradise Lost materialise out of the jungle just after the year 2000. Set back 400 metres from Kradan’s magnificent beach, the resort has no website and is not on any of the booking sites. And yet, loyal customers find a way — usually an international phone call or SMS — to book the bungalows solid for much of high season. Is Wally nuts? He’d be the first to say so. But he’s certainly not stupid.
A handful of dark-crimson, thatch-roofed wood bungalows are clustered around a slope of Bermuda grass punctuated by flower and herb gardens, bamboo, coconut and papaya trees. Outfitted with soft mattresses and fuzzy blankets raised off the floor and draped in mosquito nets, the simple yet clean rooms have a few swing-open windows and wall-mounted fans to keep you cool. A generator stowed in a corner of the resort keeps the dim lamps and electrical outlets powered 24 hours a day.
Beads are strung to a line on the attached porches, encouraging you to count the days spent here as though you were really lost on a tropical island. The cheapest rooms rely on three shared cold-water bathrooms that require a quick stroll across the grounds. A couple of larger bungalows, including one suitable for families, bag you more space and private bathrooms for a bit more cash.
After closing the old dorm several years ago, Paradise Lost built a new mixed dorm in a longhouse-type structure for the 2014-15 season. A blessing for backpackers hoping to enjoy Kradan on the cheap, it includes five firm single beds (no bunks) spaced around a spacious fan-cooled room. Lamps and outlets are shared. No personal lockers are supplied, but valuables can be deposited with Nok for safekeeping.
Anchoring the resort at its centre, a spacious open-sided dining area attracts a constant stream of customers, including guests of other resorts and daytrippers. In addition to delicious Thai food, the do-it-all staffers churn out exceptional burgers, sandwiches and barbecued ribs in portions fit for two. You’ll also find cold beer and a few mixed drinks to go with gelato so good that guests have been known to extend their stays for it.
Tabs for food, rooms and anything else are settled when checking out, the good faith system contributing to a communal vibe. You would have to be one unfriendly person to not befriend other travellers here, which is perpetuated by WiFi that scarcely works and a location just beyond cell range. If you tire of chatting or reading, pull up a chair with Wally as he catches up with nightly news on a satellite TV.
While the accommodation and restaurant represent good value, it’s the people who make Paradise Lost so special. Accompanied by a good-natured staff and half-dozen dogs that receive regular baths and flea/tick treatments, Wally and Nok effortlessly create a laidback atmosphere that pulls you in and doesn’t easily let go. They’re also exceptionally friendly and attentive, but not in a way that seems forced or insincere.
Ask Wally about the most obscure Pacific or Asian island that you can think of, or practically anywhere in Australia, Europe or North America, and sit back while he describes what it was like when he was there. Don’t be surprised if he throws in a history lesson along with his own personal stories to colour the picture.
The first question out of Wally’s mouth when anyone new walks up to the restaurant is, “Where are you from?” No matter the answer, the response is usually something along the lines of, “Ahh yes (insert the name of any place here), brings back memories.” Wally might be a bit slower on his feet than he used to be, but his sailor wisdom remains as intriguing as ever.
Paradise Lost is the only resort on Kradan that’s not on the beachfront. To get here, look for the sign just south of Kradan Beach Resort and follow the sandy track inland. While the lack of sea views will dissuade some from staying here, the location does put you within an easy hop of Sunset Beach, and the main beach is a leisurely five-minute stroll away. Do pack a torch and mosquito repellent.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 1st March, 2015.