Lonely Beach, Koh Chang
2020 – 21 Update
✔ Excellent beach but can get crowded
✔ Cheap and cheerful but gradually going more upmarket
✔ If you don’t have a tattoo when you arrive, you will when you leave. But please, no more geckos or dolphins.
For Western visitors, Lonely Beach has long been regarded as the best beach to stay on Koh Chang if you’re a true party loving, backpacker. For Thais, Lonely Beach has long been regarded as the best beach to visit on Koh Chang if you want to see western girls topless.
Lonely beach backpackers
In the mid 1990s, Koh Chang was beginning to get on the map for adventurous backpackers. They congregated on a small, almost deserted coconut lined bay with a beautiful sandy beach. There were also a couple of laid back places to stay. The beach could only be reached by boat or by following a trail over the hill from Kai Bae, where the dirt road ended.
One budget bungalow outfit, at the far southern end of the beach – The Tree House, became well-known among the backpacker fraternity and the success of this ramshackle resort led to a whole host of imitators being set up nearby.
This also led to the beginning of the end for ‘Lonely’ beach. Nowadays, old time travellers would shake their heads in disbelief at the sight of novelty inflatables for sale on the beach which was once a stoner’s paradise.
Lonely Beach is steadily moving away from it’s low budget image. Increasingly, the old chipboard fan huts with a torn mozzie net, rock hard bed and single lightbulb are being torn down and replaced with air-conditioned bungalows with luxuries such as hot water, wifi and a bead that won’t damage your spine. Today’s generation of backpackers have more money in their bank account than ever before and are happy to spend it in order to have a safe place to leave their Macbook whilst they are out partying.
It’s a far cry from when I was a lad and lived of $10 a day whilst travelling for a year in South East Asia. (I was riding a bicycle and ended up sleeping in all sorts of places from disused National Park offices, to temples and the cells in a few police stations in Burma. In mid-1997, I found myself in Bangkok with a $100 travellers cheque, 7kg of luggage and a bicycle. But that’s another story for another time.)
But the one thing Lonely beach isn’t nowadays is lonely. But there again if it was deserted who could you loudly tell your backpacking tales to? How could you enjoy a different party every day of the week? Where could you update your Facebook status whilst enjoying a cappuccino & banana pancake? And who would you get to reconfirm your bus ticket to Koh Pa-Ngan or help you report your stolen iPhone?
It’s also a little known fact that Lonely Beach actually has a Thai name ‘Hat Tha Nam’ . . . .but it’s unlikely that anyone staying there really cares or is interested, just so long as a resort on Hat Tha Nam can do a good wholewheat gluten free toast, fruit and organic granola smoothie bowl breakfast. Plus has free wi-fi and plenty of plug sockets.
The gentrification of Lonely Beach is now well underway with a swish 3* package tourist hotel – the Bhumiyama Resort occupying a prime location at the southern end of the beach. At the northern end, the quiet end, is Siam Beach Resort which has successfully transformed from a backpacker place to semi-luxury resort within the space of a few short years. It now boasts luxury good value hotel rooms and luxury pool villas for around 7,000 Baht / night, a far cry from the 500 Baht /night huts that stood in the same spot until a decade ago.
Lonely Beach Accommodation
The actual beach is only home to four resorts – the aforementioned Bhumiyama & Siam Beach for anyone wanting hotel comforts. Nature Beach Resort, which has also undergone a renaissance in recent years. The transformation is now complete and all the fan huts have now been replaced with very smart, new, but tightly packed, air-conditioned bungalows. It even has a pool. This is probably the best place to stay in the area as it ticks all the boxes – beachfront / value for money / restaurant / quiet but easy to walk to party area
Finally, Siam Hut – the hut resort where time stood still. Or at least it did until 2020. Siam Hut was one of the few places on the beach that anyone who visited 15 years ago would still recognise immediately. No rebuilding or renovations in that time. But at the time of writing, April 2020, the majority of the old huts have been demolished as apparently the landlord hasn’t renewed the lease. I don’t know what will be built on the site, but can only assume it will be a large resort, rather than more basic huts.
If you’re planning on staying any further south than Siam Hut then remember that the beach runs out here and bungalows to the south will either be roadside, among coconut trees or be a stone’s throw from a stony shoreline devoid of sand.
Down in the traditional tattoo & banana pancake enclave, you will find that the old Treehouse is now long gone. The site of the bungalows is now ‘Seaflower Resort‘. Pink, concrete fan & AC bungalows in a garden setting. If the colour doesn’t put you off then it’s a nice spot to stay, although the sea front rooms are way nicer than those at the back which have been packed in like sardines.
Another major change is that this stretch of shoreline is now being developed. The land has been cleared and split into plots. People can rent the plots to run a business. Several have been rented. Unsurprisingly these are the beachfront plots and so new beach bars and restaurants have sprung up. Try Cancun bar for DJs, fireshows, late night parties. And a rustic, ‘no name’ bar with a handful of chairs for a sunset drink.
Sunset Huts and Blue Sky Resort, follow on from Seaflower and have pretty bland concrete bungalows on offer. Certainly no ‘Wow factor’ at either place, any emotion is more of a “Uh, Yeah, OK is cheap and it’ll do “. At the far south of the shore, ‘Paradise Cottages’ also offer rather nice, quieter mid-range bungalows. The pool area and seafront have been tidied up and it’s a very nice spot to chill out. But it is ”Casa Beach Resort’ ( formerly ‘Warapura’) by the sea, midway between Blue Sky & Paradise, that offers the most comfortable accommodation in the area. Bungalows aren’t aimed at gap year students but more at older travellers who still like to party but who appreciate a clean, comfortable place to sleep with some comfort.
Casa Beach Resort’s individually furnished and decorated bungalows, with luxuries such as AC, LCD TV, wi-fi, hot water and priced from around 2,500 Baht/night up in High season. They also have a pool and laid back restaurant right by the water. Nearby the KLKL Hostel, has an interesting design – ‘prison camp chic’ for backpackers. A lot of brick, bare metal, high wire fences but also a pool.
One new, upmarket option is Nest Sense, located at the far southern end of the rocky shoreline. This is a boutique resort aimed at those who like a night out but have also got $100 / night to splash on a very nice bungalow with sea views. Providing the lack of sandy beach isn’t a turn off, it’s one of the top boutique resorts on the island.
It’s the roadside areas to the south of the sandy beach, where all of the commercial growth has been – simply because this is the only area where land is available to rent. All manner of small bars, tattooists, small restaurants, dive schools etc abound.
Tattooing seems to be a prime business to be involved in, as Lonely beach has it’s own ‘tattoists row’ a small area with half a dozen or so tattoo artists side by side. Most do bamboo tattoos if you want a more traditional & less painful experience. Try ‘Green Tattoo’, run by a guy called Kieow he does some very good, unique bamboo tattoos.
Alongside all the small businesses are budget accommodation options of varying standards, from ‘Magic Garden’ and Lonely Beach Resort for ensuite bungalows and large roadside restaurants, to ‘Oasis‘ and ‘Little Eden’ for well run, good value bungalows a short walk away from the madness on a hillside overlooking the beach. A word of warning though, if you choose to stay in the roadside area of Lonely Beach amidst all the bars and clubs, don’t plan on having too many early nights.
Many bars often have free buffets, you could feasibly eat for free pretty much every evening during high season. But you will be expected to keep your drinks topped up and not nurse a single Coke for three solid hours. For food you recognise, try Ploy Talay Inn which often has cheapo deals on evening buffets and is a good place to hang out roadside and people watch. Nearby Lonely Beach Resort also has a good reputation for western food. As does Yummy Fusion Kitchen, which sells what the name implies and is a step up in quality from most restaurants in the area.
You don’t get the range of good cheap Thai eateries that you get in areas of the island that have local communities, The Kitchen, on the main road at the south of the built up area, is consistently good.
If you can’t stomach dodgy foreign food after a night out, and hanker for the taste of home, then there’s a large kebab & burger stand just off the main road on the way to Sunflower & Seaflower resorts.
As the area gradually moves upmarket and businesses change hands the aim of catering to people looking for the cheapest booze and food is disappearing and the emphasis is more on providing a better value, better quality rooms, drinks and meals for visitors who aren’t trying to scrimp and save every last Baht.
Nearby, ‘BB World of Tapas’ is an example of this. Nice laid back ambiance plus imported beers, cocktails and , as the name suggests, a range of tapas. Or the recently opened ‘Beach Jungle‘ Plus the restaurant at Lonely Beach Resort always seems to be busy and has a reputation for serving up large portions of tasty, recognisable Western food at sensible prices.
Nearby, just off the main road, Sleepy Owl is the area’s coolest coffeeshop. A lovely little place. Years ago their first business venture on the island was a small coffeeshop on White Sand beach, after that they set up Warapura ( now Casa Beach Resort ) , Kachapura, KLKL Hostel and now this small bakery and cafe. A great spot for a flat white, a muffin and some people watching whilst you update your travel blog and Instagram that cute latte foam pattern to your awestruck followers.
Other local landmarks for backpackers are Ting Tong Bar and Himmel which regularly have ear splitting music playing late into the night for your ‘enjoyment’. An all night party at one or both of these is mandatory for any visitor to Lonely beach. If you want a place to kick back, drink cheap vodka/redbull shots and listen to the latest dance tunes, plus the ubiquitous ‘Bob Marley’s Greatest Hits’ CD, and watch a fire show, then these places are for you.
For music that’s actually played by musicians, and not a guy with a computer, ‘Stone Free‘ and their Sticky Rice Blues band is a guaranteed good night out. They also have a full restaurant menu and a new guesthouse which, whilst cheap, is also a cut above a lot of the nearby huts. It’s a throwback to the old backpacking days.
After a night out you might want to treat your body to a little bit of exercise, in which case BB Gym is the place to go. A multitude of fitness machines plus daily Yoga classes. And once you’ve got your fitness fix, treat yourself to a cocktail next door at the Swedish owned, Margaritaville. You deserve it.
Finally, if you’re female and want a holiday romance with a Thai bar-boy then there are all manner of dreadlocked, fire juggling, rastaboys loitering in this area who will do their utmost to convince you that you are the most beautiful, perfect, fair skinned, large breasted creation since Eve. ( And the most gullible too.)
Just Say No . . .or at least be careful
Another thing worth mentioning is that the success of a small bar on Lonely Beach is often directly proportional to how tolerant, or at least allowing, of drug use & sale, the bar owners are. Let’s be honest, a large number of backpackers don’t want to stay somewhere where they might get busted the moment they light up a joint, regardless of the fact that lighting up is illegal or not.
You may notice Thai guys rolling their spliffs quietly, but you’ll notice they aren’t doing it in broad daylight in extremely public locations. You’ll also notice they don’t go around shouting if anyone wants to buy a joint. Therefore, if you’re a wannabe weed supplier beach dude – be discreet about it. People who upset the status quo and who try to take a piece of the action for themselves usually find themselves in trouble with the authorities and leaving the island much quicker than planned, minus the contents of their & their family’s bank accounts.
Also, obvious newbies are an easy target for a set up. Once in a while the police will need to arrest someone on a drugs charge, as if you have zero drug arrests on a holiday island it appears as though the police may be involved in something illicit, which of course they aren’t (* Ahem *). Situations such as someone being sold a joint by bar staff and then 5 minutes later the police appear out of nowhere and head straight for them, do occur. When they do, the bewildered backpacker is in a whole shit load of trouble that the Lonely Planet Thailand Tips app on their Iphone doesn’t even begin to prepare them for.
Take a scooter cam tour through Lonely beach and the sidestreets and check out where you will be partying and hanging out if you stay in this part of the island. And as an added bonus you also get to see the hairpin bends at the north end of the beach where some of you reading this will have an accident. Make sure your scooter has good brakes and tyres.
Hotels on Lonely beach
These resorts and bungalows are mostly a few minutes walk from the actual beach. They are all bookable 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.
Nature Beach Resort – Was a backpacker place but now redeveloped into an excellent mid-range bungalow beach resort with popular bar & restaurant – 1,600 Baht
Bhumiyama Resort – The most upmarket resort on the beach. Great pool and comfortable 3* hotel rooms – 3,800 Baht
Infinity Sweet House – Small, flashpacker hotel rooms in the bar area – 800 Baht
Sunflower Resort – Fan and Aircon bungalows in longstanding Lonely beach favourite – 550 Baht
Sea Flower Resort – On the site of the original Treehouse. Good value AC bungalows by the sea – 1,200 Baht.
Blue Sky Resort – Older AC bungalows by the sea plus fan huts inland – 1,250 Baht
Exotic Bungalows – Handful of AC bungalows and a small pool by the main road – 1,200 Baht
My Hostel – Some of the cheapest dormitory beds in the area. But 8 people in the room – 250 Baht
Lonely Beach Resort – Large backpacker hut resort with pool in the busy bar area – 1,200 Baht
Nest Sense – Best small resort in the area. By the sea just south of the bar area, cosy boutique resort – 3,000 Baht
KLKL Hostel – Dorm beds and private rooms plus a pool at this prison camp themed backpacker resort – 450 Baht
Warapura Resort – Comfortable, well appointed rooms by the sea plus pool and chill out deck – 1,500 Baht
Next: South to Bailan Bay