Dec 12 2011
Thinking of a tropical Thai island getaway for the holidays? Worried about the hordes of peak season tourists and ridiculously inflated prices on the more popular islands? If so, dreamy little Ko Bulon Lae may be the gift you’ve been wishing for.
Nestled off Thailand’s far southwest coast near Ko Lipe and Ko Tarutao, Ko Bulon Lae is an island like no other. Aesthetically, it has a fine white sand beach, some relatively clear blue-green water, good views of the mainland, and a colourful landscape filled with tropical flowers and butterflies. Sound like a typical Andaman Sea island? Well, it’s not.
Bulon possesses a tranquility unlike anywhere else in Asia, and it’s on my shortlist of Thailand’s must-see destinations. Besides being a beautiful island, Bulon is home to a charming Chao Lae (“People of the Sea”) fishing and rubber tapping community that retains its old ways alongside the handful of tourists who come each year. While on Bulon, it almost feels like you’ve been transported back to a less complicated time and place. This is about as far from the craziness of New Year’s in the big city as you can get.
Ko Bulon is not a luxury spa resort island — electricity only runs from 18:00 to around 23:00 each night, and none of the resorts offer air-con. Compared to other islands there’s not a whole lot to do here either: relax on the beach, swim, relax in a hammock, read, relax on a porch, eat, relax with a cold drink. You can always grab a snorkel or head out on a fishing trip if you’re feeling adventurous, but for a relaxing island holiday Ko Bulon delivers.
Bulon has quite a few resorts for an island this small, and it’s one of the cheapest places in Thailand to enjoy paradise. The island’s best beach lies along the southeast coast, and if you want to stay right on the beach Bulone Resort offers a range of options from simple but spacious wood bungalows for 1,000B to family cottages with multiple bedrooms for 2,000B. It’s a great place for families, and even if staying elsewhere Bulone Resort has a lovely restaurant by the ocean that’s perfect for a romantic holiday dinner. It’s also Bulon’s best option for tours and ferry tickets.
Just a short walk from the beach you’ll find my top pick for accommodation on Ko Bulon — Marina Resort — which resembles a charming island village from some forgotten time and place in history. The grounds are filled with lush tropical flowers and trees, and the tasteful thatched bungalows for 800B are perched on stilts along the hillside, each with its own big front porch decorated with sea shells and coral. Inside the rooms are rustic but comfortable, and they possess a definite romantic quality.
On Ko Bulon’s northeast you’ll find some cheap bungalows mixed in with picturesque local homes and gardens. Both Jungle Huts and Chao Le Homestay offer simple but adequate bamboo huts at around the 500B price point, and while these are a good 10-minute walk from the southern beach, Panka Bay and its small beach are close by. Panka may not be fabulous for swimming but it’s a very relaxing spot, and it’s the best place I’ve ever found for collecting sea treasures like colourful dry coral, polished sea glass, and sea shells of all colours, shapes and sizes.
Ko Bulon Lae is reached by a daily longtail from Pakbara that departs at 12:00 and costs 300B per person. Compared to the jam-packed speedboats that run tourists to Ko Lipe it’s a pleasurable 45-minute cruise to Ko Bulon in calm seas, so just sit back, relax, and let Bulon Lae cast its spell on you.
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