One scenic bay
Covering Ko Chang’s far southwestern corner, Bang Bao is best known for its pier that reaches for 700 metres to a three-storey lighthouse. Throw in the calm teal water, stilted houses and green mountains rising up behind, and you have one scenic bay. It’s also one of our favourite parts of Ko Chang.
Like all of Ko Chang’s old villages, fisher families first settled Bang Bao and until the 1990s it was just another fishing village. A gradual shift to tourism eventually left the bay with no fishing boats apart from those running fishing trips for tourists. Nowadays you’ll find plenty of dive boats, slow boats and speedboats shooting travellers off on “five-island tours” of the archipelago. This is also where high-season ferries depart for Ko Wai, Ko Maak and Ko Kut.
Though tourism is now entrenched as the main industry, Bang Bao has somehow remained sedate and we still think it’s one of the prettiest parts of Ko Chang. Families that have been here for generations continue to live and work around the bay, even if most now serve drinks or rent out rooms rather than catching fish and farming coconuts. Of course, some local families retain deep-rooted connections to Trat province’s fishing industry and fresh seafood is not hard to find, though you will pay a premium for it at the pier restaurants.
Apart from the boat trips launched from the pier, Bang Bao’s main draw for many travellers is Haad Khlong Kloi, a narrow yet beautiful khaki-sand beach covering part of the bay’s eastern shore. Offering a strong choice of budget bungalows and a few comfier resorts, the beach draws backpackers who have outgrown the scene at Lonely Beach. On Khlong Kloi Beach you’ll find kayaks and SUP boards for rent, and the sheltered bay keeps the water calm—great for swimming and paddling—for much of the year.
When visiting Khlong Kloi, don’t be surprised to find a quite a few bearded backpackers and Thai Rastas draped in smoke while listening to reggae tunes in bars like Rasta View and How High. Both of these are actually located on Haad Sai Noi, a pint-size beach just beyond some rocks from Khlong Kloi Beach. You’ll find plenty more reggae-inspired spots among the cheap bungalows and eateries in the dirt-road village that backs Khlong Kloi.
Before you get bogged down in the stoner scene, go east past Khlong Kloi and at the dead end of a narrow, jungle-piercing lane you’ll find a gate where a man at a booth will charge you 100 baht per person to enter, or tell you to turn around. Those who cough up the fee will find a bizarre yet strangely spectacular setting: a fine off white-sand beach backed by coconut palms and a giant boat-themed resort that was closed—and falling apart—at time of writing.
A Thai billionaire established this “Grand Lagoona Resort” in the 2000s, destroying reef and forest to see his vision realised. The rooms set around murky ponds in “rice barge chalets,” which do not float but rather sit stationary in shallow water, were at one point counted among Ko Chang’s most luxurious suites. The defunct resort’s most noticeable room block, a six-storey “ship,” now sits like a dead whale beside the beach.
Despite the ghost boats and empty “floating swimming pool” that hint at a billionaire perhaps not quite in his right mind, the beach is special with its thin crowds, outlook to Ko Wai and often clear aquamarine water that deepens close to shore no matter the tide. Joining the mix of quirkiness and breathtaking scenery is a nature trail ending at the small Prao Talay Waterfall. A couple of women were serving basic food and drinks out of the old resort restaurant when we last visited.
Now that we’ve done our spin through the Khlong Kloi (east) side of the bay, lets head back west towards the centrally located village temple, Wat Bang Bao, across from the turnoff for the pier. Along the lane leading to the pier you’ll find coffee shops, travel offices, fruit stands, ATMs and a 7-eleven. The pier itself hits with a swirl of souvenir shops, seafood restaurants and wiry guys pushing carts full of nitrox tanks to or from the dive shops.
Much of the narrow concrete pier stands beneath a metal roof and it does get steamy in there—thankfully places like Buddha View, Bang Bao Paradise and El Greco provide meals with a sea breeze, or even a room with the sound of water gushing beneath your bed. Do stroll all the way out to the lighthouse and climb to the top floor for a 360-degree vantage from slap bang in the centre of the bay.
Heading back inland from the pier, take a left (west) and you’ll soon come to an easily missed lane cutting west and marked by signs for Bhuvarin Resort. This lane takes you through a village on the way to Cliff Cottage, Nirvana Resort and a few homestays found along the bay’s quiet western shore. Follow the lane to the end for the best views, and then look on a map to see yourself on a jungle-clad peninsula that looks like a thumb pointing straight south. This is the landmass that makes Bang Bao a bay.
Out on this western shore you’ll find some small patches of sand fronting a pebble coast and mangroves. At the entrancing Nirvana Resort, the terrain narrows to an isthmus making two coasts visible at once—the east side affords a view spanning the entire bay while the rocky western shore hides a snorkeling site and sunset-viewing benches.
In the Khlong Kloi and West Bang Bao areas, be aware that the many monkeys have no qualms about snatching food and drinks—and sometimes cameras and phones—from unsuspecting travellers.
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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