Visitor guide to Bang Bao Village
2023 – 24 Update
✔ 90% tourist shopping mall & 10% fishing village
✔ If you’re a Chinese or Russian package tourist with a penchant for souvenir junk you’ll love it.
✔ Some good restaurants & great views from the end of the pier. A departure point for most dive trips and snorkelling tours
So you’ve read the glossy tour brochure and your out of date Lonely Planet and come to Bang Bao to expecting to see ‘ Ye Traditional Olde Fashioned Fishing Village’ . . . Boy, are you are in for a shock.
The Development of Bang Bao
Bangbao fishing village undeniably has some great views and is in a beautiful location at the southern tip of Koh Chang. However, the main pier has now jumped the shark and is basically a claustrophobic alleyway lined with all manner of tourist related shops. Most of which sell the same crap you can buy anywhere, yet, for some reason feel you should buy when you are in Bangbao. I presume that’s how people feel as it’s the only way to account for the number of places selling the same t-shirts, ornamental shells and brightly coloured flip flops.
Until mid-2013 the walkway between the houses was open to the elements. Sure it got a bit hot at times and visitors got a bit wet when it rained. But it had some character.
However, apparently tourists being exposed to rain and sunshine isn’t a good thing and so the inhabitants of Bang Bao decided to build a roof over the entire 350 metre length of the original pier. Thus making it resemble an indoor market – which it now is. As virtually all traces of it ever having been a fishing village have been eliminated from view hidden behind dive schools, tacky souvenir shops, seafood restaurants and a 7-eleven minimart, plus a couple of rows of ugly shophouses.
All this has pretty much destroyed any original, authentic charm the village once had.
Bang Bao Pier
Tourism has long since replaced fishing as the main source of employment and income for the locals who haven’t yet sold up and moved on. And with expats willing to pay several million Baht for a rickety house here the temptation for locals to sell and therefore turn Bangbao into a tourist ghetto is pretty high. But having turned the place into a market, it looked like businesses were suffering well before covid-19 happened. Many of the houses and businesses have had ‘For Sale’ signs on them for a few years.
Several dive schools have their main offices near the entrance to the pier and along the pier itself, so if you are interested in diving and want to talk to a few schools before making a choice then head to Bangbao. Well established dive companies such as BB Divers have their main office on the pier.
However, there is competition between dive schools, so walk in & haggle and you should get a discount at all but the busiest times of year, especially for multiple dive trips. Many dive operators also throw in basic, free accommodation for anyone taking a PADI Open Water course or similar. The PADI O/W is a 3 or 4 days, entry level course that will allow you to dive pretty much anywhere in the world.
There are still a few fishing boats that are actually used for fishing and not for taking visitors snorkelling. And you can sometimes still see small catches of prawns & squid being sorted at a couple of small seafood shops near the end of the pier. However, as the quality of their catch is pretty high, virtually all the seafood caught off Koh Chang goes for export. Very little is sold in Bangbao, many restaurants here will buy food from wholesalers elsewhere on the island or even order from the mainland where prices are cheaper.
You can catch fish yourself, off the end of the pier. There are usually a couple of fishing boats moored in the area and when they are cleaning their decks this attracts a lot of larger fish. You’ll often see some of locals casting their rods down by the lighthouse.
What you will find is that most visitors don’t stay very long in Bangbao village. A quick drink or maybe lunch and that’s it. Once you have walked along the 350 metre long, metre and a half wide walkway that connects the houses built over the sea there’s not a great deal to do other than continue walking another 350 metres to the end of the extension to the pier, which was completed in early 2007.
In 2013 the piers received a facelift with the original pier being roofed in, to create a tunnel – which I’ve already mentioned – and the newer pier being far more tastefully refurbished with several open sided gazebos for people to sit; safety barriers along the sides, moorings for boats and new lights lining its length. The new section of the pier actually looks very nice and is well maintained.
Towards the end of covid the new section of the pier and lighthouse were renovated and repainted and currently look great.
Map of Bangbao
Just some of the highlights to help familiarize yourself with the area.
Awesome Views from Bang Bao Pier
The views from the top of the lighthouse at the end of the pier are impressive, with a 360 degree panoramic view of the village, mountains, bay and outlying islands. But, for the past year or two the doors at the base of the lighthouse have often been locked. Or open but filled with garbage. As with most government projects there is a budget to build it but not to maintain it.
But if it is unlocked ( or the door is broken ) and you do venture inside, past the broken bottles and garbage at the entrance and up the spiral staircase to the viewing platform – don’t lean on the rails – they’re falling apart.
If you stand in front of the lighthouse and look over the top of the houses on the pier and to your right you’ll see another tower peering out from above the trees on a hillside. This is a new viewing platform that is being built at Bangbao temple on the main road. You can check the progress by heading into the temple and following the paved road inland 200 metres, past various monks buildings, to where it ends. As of mid-2023 the main tower structure has been built but no platforms or stairs are in place.
Having done that, it’s time to browse the shelves of ‘Made in China’ seashell souvenirs, wooden trinkets and t-shirts that are for sale. (The best t-shirt I saw there had the words ‘Koh Chang, Thailand’ beneath the picture of a panda. There probably are still some mammals hiding undiscovered in the jungle . . . but pandas are pushing it a bit.)
Probably the best of these souvenir shops is Bangbao Shop, located on the right about 10 metres from the start of the pier, they have some unique Koh Chang t-shirts, unlike other vendors that sell the same stuff as each other.
If you’re on a budget grab a fruit shake or snack at one of the rather nice cafes that are beginning to sprout up along the pier. There’s a little booth selling home made gelato near the 7-eleven, before you start to walk down the pier. Or if you’re travelling as part of an organised tour, who’s sole purpose for visiting the island is to spend as much as possible in the guide’s choice of seafood restaurant, you’ll be tucking into a seafood buffet.
Try to avoid wandering along the pier around 9am and 4pm when all the dive and snorkelling tour boats are leaving and arriving and also lunchtime at weekends when minivans of weekending Thai visitors arrive for lunch. It can be hectic. But outside those times it can also be deathly quiet and is a good time to visit. As the pier is much easier to walk down when you aren’t surrounded by hundreds of people rushing to or from boats.
Where to Eat in Bang Bao?
Nok Noi and Chowlay Seafood are long established, seafood eateries – the latter being very popular with Thai tour groups. And ‘Ruen Thai Seafood’ was rated by many who know their fresh sea crab, prawns and fish as the best place to eat in Bangbao. However, it seems to have sold out and started making blander, package tourist food for some reason. So is now off my ‘Best of ‘ list. I don’t think there is one place that stands out for having the best seafood now but when we eat in Bangbao it’s usually at Chowlay.
In the past Buddha View was a longstanding favourite of visitors. However, it has now reverted to the original owners and changed name to Jerpordee Residence and Cafe. However, it still has a couple of rooms for rent and the menu is very similar to that of Buddha View. So is still a great sport for lunch or a sunset cocktail.
At the other end of the spectrum are the places that attract almost exclusively foreign visitors in need of fruit shakes, nice decor and snacks you recognise from home. At the end of the old pier, on the left hand side is the View Talay cafe. This is a very good coffeeshop with airconditioned indoor seating and covered open air deck. It has great views across the bay and to the open sea.
Accommodation in Bang Bao
There are a handful of places to stay on the pier itself. Eg Koi Sea House, Chilli House and Good View Bangbao Homestay – all of which have budget AC rooms. My pick would be a new place called Televill. The owners have done an excellent job renovating an old house and it has brand new rooms, a spacious open deck over the sea and great views. Check out their Facebook for some photos:
Most visitors will choose to stay away from the pier itself. On the main road just past the turning for the village is Tranquility Bay Residence. An upmarket condominium development with some of the best views on the island. If you’re looking for a holiday apartment with peace, quiet, views, private beach and within easy walking distance of shops and restaurants then this is an ideal choice.
Also just off the main road are large Alysia Springs Resort, which is a large old hotel with a pool and Hippie Hut, a long time favourite of backpackers which relocated from it’s previous home, adjacent to Tranquility Bay, in 2021.
Wild Hippie is the new name for an old bungalow resort that seems to change owners every 3 or 4 years. Located opposite the access road to the peninsula. Pretty good views and suitable for those with a tight budget. The new owners seem to be getting things right and recent reviews are all very positive.
Adjacent to Tranquility Bay you’ll find the lovely little Pipin cafe (on the original site of the previously mentioned Hippie Hut) and the larger, funkier Rasta View. Both are good for a quick snack or drink. But Rasta View has the best views.
There is more to the Bangbao area than the pier. The nearby peninsula, which shelters the fishing village from the wind and waves during the rainy season, is also worth exploring.
Before you reach the turning for Bangbao, you can take the side road that is signposted towards ‘Nirvana’ (the previously luxury but now run down resort whose tiled roof bungalows can be seen from Bangbao pier) and ‘Cliff Cottages‘ (the huts hugging the hillside) plus a couple of newer resorts. Head along here and you’ll first come to Orchid Garden Resort, a small place with a handful of glass fronted bungalows surrounding a small garden by the roadside. A pleasant, inexpensive stay if all you need is a convenient located room and aircon.
A few hundred metres further, Aquarius Residences, is a huge new housing development, which as of mid 2023 has yet to get underway properly. It’s owned by a Hong Kong based venture capital company so expect pricey villas aimed at wealthy Chinese guests. (On the plus side, I think it’s unlikely to ever get built. So far two show homes have been constructed and the updates to their Facebook and website stopped in mid 2022.)
Next up, and a bit easier on the wallet, is the mundane Cliff View Resort, with regimented bungalows on the hillside overlooking the bay. Nothing wrong with the bungalows themselves, but it lacks a bit of soul and character.
The same can’t be said for the adjacent Cliff Cottages, which for years has been providing budget travellers with a laid back place to rest. No fireshows, guest DJ’s or vodka/redbull buckets here – just peace and quiet. Cliff Cottage have their restaurant hidden away on the western side of the peninsula overlooking a cove that’s one of the best places for fishing and snorkelling on the island. You can rent a kayak here and paddle along the western side of the peninsula to see monkeys that often come down on to the rocks by the sea.
The basic fan bungalows were replaced in late 2014 with Mongolian style ‘yurts’ – these are furnished tents with fan, wardrobe , rugs and a bed. Some can sleep up to four people. There are also some new AC bungalows with great sunset sea views. If you are staying in one of the tents, be wary of the monkeys than can cause havoc if they get inside. In late 2020 Cliff Cottages was taken over by BB Divers and is now be their base on Koh Chang.
The road appears to end next door at ‘Nirvana’. In it’s prime this was a luxury boutique resort with walkways through the jungle, pool, beautiful wooden restaurant overlooking the bay and cliffside walkway. However, it’s now closed and rundown. Killed by covid and currently for sale. Continue through the resort and you can follow the road onto the hillside to the end of the peninsula.
The road climbs up onto the hillside and heads past the rear of a couple of resorts Bhuvarin and Resolution Resort. There are stunning views looking down onto the bay from this stretch of road. The swimming pool at Bhuvarin Resort has probably the best views of any hotel pool on the island. Non-guests can use it. Just stop by and have lunch or a few drinks there and you can use the pool. Finally the road drops down to another small bungalow resort , Khao Nok Homestay, run by a family who has lived in the area for generations.
Walk out onto the pier here for great views across the bay. You’ll also see a signposted footpath leading along the shore. Follow this and you’ll come to a shrine at the mouth of the bay. This was built by the Thai navy to commemorate sailors who died in the WW2 Naval Battle of Koh Chang.
How to Get to Bang Bao
Getting to and from Bang Bao can be a hassle outside High Season unless you have your own transport, as pick up truck taxis can be few and far between at quieter times of year. The alternatives are to catch one of the irregular pick-up taxis or hoof it from Lonely Beach – a 4km walk away. 4km isn’t too far but throw in a few steep climbs and the Thai sun and 4km quickly feels like 40km.
In fact, it’s only the prospect of having to get sweat stains out of my car’s upholstery that has so far prevented me from offering a lift to any of the puffy red-faced, young travelers I’ve seen plodding along the road. (I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking this, so a tip for anyone attempting the walk – try not to perspire too much and you may get a lift.)
So, you may find that, outside high season, you have to negotiate a fare to & from Bangbao. And if you fancy a night out on one of the main beaches, then you’ll find that it usually takes at least an offer of 300 Baht to persuade the driver to take a couple of people up to Kai Bae or Klong Prao. But in the high season you’ll be able to get there and back without too much difficulty. The increasing popularity of the neighbouring Klong Kloi beach has now also helped make getting to Bang Bao much easier.
Hotels in Bang Bao
These resorts and bungalows are all on the peninsula or the fishing village itself. You’ll find all of these listed on booking.com. The price shown is a typical high season nightly rate. It may well vary and expect it to be higher at holiday weekends and during peak season.
Bhuvarin Resort – Friendly small resort with pool overlooking the bay – 2,100 Baht
Resolution Resort – Modern resort at the head of the bay with pool – 2,700 Baht
Nirvana Resort – * 2023 – closed * Spacious AC bungalows with pool in a quiet location – 1,900 Baht
Cliff Cottage – Aircon bungalows with views across the bay. Plus glamping yurts – 1,300 Baht
Homestay Beach – Wooden huts on a small beach on the peninsula – 600 Baht
Ocean Blue Guesthouse – Basic rooms at the end of the pier – 600 Baht
Cliff View – Fan Bungalows – 500 Baht