Spanning part of the peninsula that forms Bang Bao’s western rim, Nirvana’s artistically designed villas place you amid the treetops or within steps of the bay. Personable service, two swimming pools, great food and a dramatic coastal walkway also help to make it one of our top midrange picks on Ko Chang for couples and families.
A memorable entrance entails passing through a village before the sparsely travelled lane leads to an isthmus with palm-fringed Bang Bao Bay on one side and a smaller sunset-view cove on the other. You then pass a Brahma shrine as the resort dogs chase some of the monkeys that live in the adjacent jungle. If you’re lucky, you’ll then likely meet the laid-back yet attentive Thai manager who has done a terrific job here for years.
A word on the monkeys: always keep your door locked, especially if staying in a room set closest to the jungle. As we found out, sacrificing two jars of Pringles in the process, the simians can and do open unlocked doors.
Designers preserved the existing trees in a jungle-meets-bay setting that will relax even the most tightly wound of people. Architecturally this is one of Ko Chang’s more interesting resorts: rooms and common structures have tall wooden ceilings supported by pillars and rafters. Thai temple-style ceramic shingles in ocher, dark crimson and olive green top the pointed roofs. Providing privacy without shutting out the views, floor-to-ceiling tinted windows open to broad decks.
The cheapest “jungle studios” come in a pair of longhouses on the hillside with sea views visible through the trees from large shared porches. Groups can rent out one of these whole buildings for around 6,000 baht, which bags you two rooms with queen beds on either end, two bathrooms and an office with daybed suitable for a child set in between, and doors connecting all of it. One lucky jungle studio winner will get the room closest to a tall stilted sala.
Also in a connected building are a string of “bay view” rooms which are larger and sit closer to the sea beside the narrow and not busy concrete lane that cuts through the resort. For a bit more cash you can grab a freestanding villa with private deck and hammock set within a jump of the sea, or one of two deluxe villas perched just beyond the lane. This writer’s favourite: Villa number six.
These pricier rooms come with 55 square metres of space along with very comfy daybeds. Yet even the cheapest rooms have at least 35 square metres and the same list of extras: LCD TV, DVD player, surround-sound speakers, minibar, safe, coffee/tea facilities, desk, dresser and ceiling fan in addition to air-con. Jungle studios also have notably deep bathtubs with moveable showerheads, while pricier rooms lack the tubs but do have rain showerheads.
Interior decoration includes traditional Thai tapestries, giant wooden masks, ceramic vases, Northern Thai hill-tribe fabrics and soft lights glowing above framed vintage record covers and posters from the likes of Janis Joplin, The Beatles, the Grateful Dead and many other 1970s rockers. Reminding us of Japanese gates, all of the heavy wood bed frames were carved by hand. The resort is a winner for grown-ups who are still backpackers, or hippies, at heart.
Nirvana’s delicately crafted structures face near daily storms for half of the year and are trampled on by monkeys all of the time—they’re clearly a challenge to maintain. Though we saw more scratched floorboards and chipped shingles than on our previous visit, room interiors have maintained their integrity over the years. Just bear in mind that Nirvana, as a whole, is always a work in progress.
On the resort’s east coast near the larger seaside swimming pool and bar, a narrow stripe of khaki sand stretches beneath coconut palms and is not a bad place for a wade. When the tide is out, you can join the crabs scampering among the mangrove roots offshore.
On the secluded west coast you’ll find a pebble seafront with benches to watch sunset and some snorkeling to be done offshore. Look to the corner to find a short nature trail and a long stilted walkway leading along the rocky coast to a wide “sun deck”—this is one of our favourite spots on Ko Chang. Though its surrounding decks are not as carefully maintained as those at the larger seaside pool with a bar, the deep freshwater pool at the top of the hill is a serene spot to listen to water trickling down the human-made stone waterfall.
The resort restaurant, Tantra, serves Thai and Western fare of a high standard along with made-to-order breakfasts in six variations—the “rosti” was great. The restaurant used to stand on stilts above the sea, but the Thai military ordered it dismantled in 2015. This surprised us since Nirvana has long been an environmentally responsible resort, sorting garbage for recyclables and burning only organic material while co-existing with, rather than destroying, the forest.
If Nirvana is full, a couple of similarly priced resorts found further up the same lane—Bhuvarin and Resolution—are decent alternatives. If you like the sound of Nirvana but want a proper beachfront and more eating and drinking options close by, check out Chivapuri Resort on the Khlong Kloi side of the bay.
Address: 12/4-5 Moo 5, West Bang Bao, Ko Chang
T: (039) 510 611 ; (084) 349 7003;
Coordinates (for GPS): 102º18'40.12" E, 11º57'56.24" N
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps
Room rates: 1,500B to 4,000B
What we were quoted as a walk-in.
|Standard double room||1,250 baht||2,000 baht|
|Superior double room||1,350 baht||2,250 baht|
|Deluxe double room||1,650 baht||2,800 baht|
|Family room||3,900 baht||4,500 baht|
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
Our top 10 places to stay in and around Ko Chang