With laid-back vibes and one of the more imaginative designs we’ve seen in a bungalow operation, Independent Bo keeps the backpacker flag flying high above northern Haad Sai Khao.
Beach walkers pause and stare when first spotting the intricate paintings of dragons, monkeys and abstract faces—just a few of the subjects you’ll see on Independent Bo’s walls. The art looks to have been inspired by traditions ranging from Thailand to Tibet, and Africa to Europe. Throw in the flags, fishing nets, pinwheels, painted slabs of driftwood and plenty more bits of curio, and Independent Bo is a sight to behold.
This makes it easy to think of Bo as a big work of art rather than a place to stay, but the property has more than 20 individually designed rooms set above seaside rocks and stretching up into the steep, forested hill. A few rooms sit close to the cafe with more found in a three-floor structure near the sand. Others come in wooden bungalows built up on the hillside and accessed by stairs. Shrouded in vines and greenery, some of these are barely visible from the beach.
We were told that each room is “totally different” from the next in both design and decoration. They’re all made of unvarnished wood and equipped with, at a minimum, firm double bed, mosquito net, fan, windows and artwork. Some are cramped and rely on a few shared cold-water bathrooms, while others stand high atop stilts and have private bathrooms with hot water. Some feature hammocks on balconies with sunset views, and at least one larger room bags you multiple seats and Tibetan prayer flags on a wide beachside terrace.
Still functioning away from booking sites, Independent Bo does not generally accept reservations by phone either. Potential guests should show up and inquire in person. There is a three-night minimum stay in high season, and children are not allowed to stay. WiFi is free and the owners have always been welcoming to us.
The place has been here for decades and still draws its share of old-time backpackers, often with a bohemian bent and occasionally embodying Independent Bo’s slogan: “Idiots welcome”. Only non-fussy travellers should stay here.
Also keep in mind that Bo does not have parking or road access—expect a 15-minute walk south along the beach to the main drag. Much of the property is built above low-lying boulders and the surf splashes right up to the entrance at high tide. Walk north past (or through) neighbouring Rock Sand Resort to find what is arguably the finest stretch of beach on Ko Chang.
If Independent Bo is not your scene, nearby Maylamean, Pen’s and Star Beach are all fine alternatives for a cheap family-owned bungalow.
What we were quoted as a walk-in.
|Bungalow fan share bathroom||300 baht||300 baht|
|Bungalow fan private bathroom|
700 for hot water, 900 for larger bungalow.
|500 baht||600 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.
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Our top 10 places to stay in and around Ko Chang