Less than two decades ago, Bang Bao was a simple fisherman village built on stilts around a pier off the southern tip of Ko Chang Island in Thailand. After tourists started arriving in 2000, the pier slowly converted into a vacation destination, far off the beaten path in Thailand.
Extending nearly half a mile out to sea, the pier is now full of souvenir shops, restaurants, guest houses and boat tour operators. It’s long-since lost the “fisherman village” look. Here are some of the things you can find at Bang Bao.
There are several guesthouses all along the pier, ranging from 400-2000 baht for a night. Many of them aren’t listed on booking websites, so simply arrive and find a room available. It’s pretty rare that they are full booked, except over holidays such as New Year’s.
Personally, I stayed at the Ocean Blue Guesthouse at the end of the pier. For 600 baht a night, I had a private room with a fan, an en-suite bathroom and a door leading directly into the water. The back of the hostel had chairs to lay on with a view directly out to sea.
I’m not the biggest fan of seafood, so I passed over the popular Nok Noi and Chowlay restaurants and tried out several of the other Thai and western food options. If you do like seafood, feel free to check out the Nok Noi and Chowlay restaurants and let me know how they are!
My first meal (and several after that) was at Chill House, a small restaurant serving both Thai and western dishes and great smoothies too. I was hooked on their bacon and egg sandwiches. I also had one of their mint and ginger lemonades, which I thought was delicious, although the ginger was a bit strong. My friend had the chicken satay more than once, which she said was excellent. The prices are decent, a little more than street food but less than fancy restaurants. Chill House also has rooms available to rent.
Another restaurant I visited more than once was the Bang Bao Delight Cafe and Bakery. They also serve Thai and western food, but a larger selection of both for about the same price as Chill House. I’d recommend them if you want to pick up some pastries to bring on a boat tour. They also have rooms for rent.
Finally, there was Buddha View. The prices here were closer to those of a fancy restaurant. That’s probably because they were really fancy. The tables were over holes in the pier, where you hang your legs over the water for a truly unique eating experience. Unfortunately it was out of my price range, so we only stayed for drinks. I’m not recommending it, but if you go, you can always drop your food down and watch the fish swarm beneath you.
The main activities from Bang Bao are the boat and diving tours to the Ko Chang archipelago. The main company offering diving tours is BB Divers. Dive packages range from 3,000-10,000 baht, and PADI (license) training starts at 7,500 baht.
There are several boat tours to choose from, mostly going to 3-5 islands in half a day or a full day. Most of them include lunch and a snack, snorkeling gear and a little bit of information about the islands. The tour I took was the basic 5-day Bang Bao Boat Tour for 700 baht, plus a mandatory 200 baht fee to land on the “national park” reservations, i.e.: other islands. The boat leaves at 9 AM and lasts until around 4 PM. You can get your tickets from the booth at the end of the pier, or nearly every hotel, hostel and tourist center on Ko Chang. However, if you purchase directly from the company, you can haggle down 50 baht.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any sandy beaches at the pier itself. If you want to lie down and relax, I’d recommend heading less than a mile east along the main road to Hat Sai Noi beach, where you’ll find beach-side bars, massage huts and paddle-board rentals. This beach is nowhere near as crowded as the more popular White Sands Beach on the north end of Ko Chang.
Getting to Bang Bao
Bang Bao is at the bottom tip of Ko Chang, over 20 miles away from where the main ferry lands. You could rent a motorcycle, but prices are expensive and gas is even more so. I also had my bike hit while it was parked at night, and the man at Honey Tour Rentals charged me a crazy 2500 baht for the damage! Not only are the roads crazy and dangerous with blind curves and steep rises and drops, many tourists drive when they are drunk. They pose the true hazards on the road.
Instead, just jump on one of the Tuk Tuk taxis which traverse the island every couple minutes. The price from the ferry landing or White Sand Beach to Bang Bao is usually 150 baht each way. You can also try hitchhiking on the island, which I found highly successful. I had to wait less than two minutes each time I attempted it.
Bang Bao is one of those unique spots most people don’t have on their radar. It’s not necessarily where you would want to spend your whole vacation. However, my original two-day plan turned into a week, and I still didn’t want to leave. During the day you can see the water at high tide, and at night the water virtually disappears under the pier.
My recommendation would be to plan for a week on Ko Chang, and spend at least a couple days down at Bang Bao. Take the boat tour down to the southern islands for snorkeling, or even go diving if it’s in your budget.
When I was telling friends that I planned to go to Ko Chang, one-for-one they said it was their favorite island in Thailand, and many also called it the honeymoon island. While I have yet to make it to the other islands in Thailand, I can say they will have a hard time topping Ko Chang. Come solo, bring your significant other or join a whole group. However you come, I’m willing to bet you’ll love it as much as I did.