Published/Last edited or updated: 12th February, 2018
Known as Haad Tha Nam to the Thais, Lonely Beach was a secluded backpacker hideaway before a road cut over the headland from Kai Bae brought the concrete-mixing trucks and techno parties. It now draws droves of mostly young, party-minded backpackers, while neighbouring Ao Bailan has a quieter, more mature atmosphere.
Though not particularly long or wide, Lonely Beach itself is a fine stripe of white sand with good swimming opportunities and a jungle backdrop. The minimal space and maximum popularity conspire to make it the most crowded beach on Ko Chang—head to the far northern end for a chance of finding a quiet patch. The southern end of the beach, at Siam Hut Resort, hosts some of the loudest beach parties found this side of Ko Pha Ngan.
Apart from Siam Hut’s shacks that put you on top of the noise at night, budget accommodation has disappeared on Lonely Beach itself. Nearly all backpackers now head further south to Lonely Beach village, an atmospheric tangle of banyan trees and simple wooden houses, including many anchoring cheap guesthouses, cafes, bars, massage shops and tattoo parlours. Expect a free-flowing scene with no shortage of dreadlocks and loud music at night.
Things get a little quieter towards the south end of Lonely Beach village, home to the long-running Magic Garden restaurant and bar, the newish Beach Jungle Hostel and the largest of BB Divers’ many bases. Along with a dive shop, BB Lonely Beach offers a fitness centre and yoga to go with the diver scene.
On the west side of the village, the narrow lanes run into a rocky coast that begins where the sand of Lonely Beach ends. Here you’ll find Seaflower’s shockingly pink bungalows on a property that once hosted the Treehouse, a long-defunct hippie hideaway that was popular back when Lonely Beach could only be reached by boat or a jungle trail. Not far from that sits the stylish Warapura Resort, but we’re partial to the bungalows at Oasis, which has a treehouse of its own affording sunset views from atop the high ground.
Just a kilometre south of Lonely Beach is Ao Bailan, a bay with only small patches of sand at either end—one in front of The Mangrove and another that was artificially produced by a resort now called Mercure Hideaway. In between it’s a rocky coast backed by a village with a handful of restaurants to go with the small and often very good resorts, including several owned by foreign expats.
Despite the lack of good swimming or beach-lounging spots, Bailan has a laid-back atmosphere that makes it a favourite of middle-aged couples, a few families and solo travellers who can appreciate the wily vibe of Lonely Beach but don’t want to stay there. It also has a close-knit community of expats from France, Germany, Austria and South Africa, among others, and this can make short-stay travellers feeling a bit left out of the clique at times.
Still, we like Bailan as an alternative to Lonely Beach that’s not quite as far-flung as Bang Bao and Khlong Kloi. Highlights include the food at the Happy Turtle, the Treetop Adventure Park, Bailan Herbal Spa, Lisca Beach Bar and Ko Chang’s best-equipped muay Thai training facility.
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.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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