After having my bungalow invaded by rabid monkeys in Khao Sok (see my review of Art's Riverview Lodge), I wanted a place to relax, unwind and start to enjoy my vacation again. Luckily, during the one 30 minute period in Khao Sok where there was power I had been able to scribble down BB1's phone number. I gave them a ring from the bus on my way to Surat Thani, and booked a beachfront bungalow (fan, cold water only) for 450 THB a night and car/boat pickup for 300 THB. It turned out to be the most relaxing part of my 2 month vacation in SE Asia.
GETTING THERE: There are technically 3 ways to get to BB:
1. 2+ hour hike from Chaklokum along a route marked by empty water bottles. NOT RECOMMENDED, since route markers are missing along some stretches of the path and it is easy to get lost if you don't have an experienced guide with you. There are thorny plants, so I ripped part of my shirt and got 5 cuts in my left leg, and TONS of mosquitos - I literally got 60+ mosquito bites when one morning I decided I want to try it out, and set off with a big bottle of water and very small knapsack. I followed the path for 1.5 hours before the route markers all of a sudden disappeared - I doubled back twice to make sure I was going on the right path but I think the markers had been washed away by the river in wet season and now there was nothing to tell me where to go in dry season. Since my phone didn't work (I had AIS but somehow the call didn't go through), I just did my best to forge a path for myself down to the nearest beach, where I had the luck of being able to wave down a nearby boat making its way to BB that came and picked me up (I wrapped my sarong around a stick and waved it around crazily).
2. 30+ minute trip off-roading in a 4-wheel drive pickup truck from BB1. Not highly recommended, since the "road" is extremely bumpy (tons of potholes) and narrow at points - not for the faint of heart at all. However, this is sometimes the only option when the weather on the sea makes the boat option not feasible
3. 30 minute ride by long-tail boat from Chaklokum town - by far the best option, costs 100 THB one way, very picturesque. However, only available when there is good weather
I paid 300 THB for both my transfers in and out of BB1, though I think the going rate is around 200 THB (even at BB1, or that's what the car driver who picked me up from the port implied). However, I was fine with paying 300 THB because 1) both times were really inconvenient (6AM in the morning and then 9PM at night - in both instances because I was taking the night ferry to/from Surat Thani) and 2) I doubt I could've negotiated anything better on my own (a taxi driver quoted me 150 THB just to Chaklokum when I first stepped off the night ferry) and it was very inconvenient.
Note that they first quoted me 500 THB (!!!) for the transfer out at 9PM since it was late, nobody else was going, and was not a regularly planned trip but I was able to negotiate it down to 300. So definitely negotiate with BB1!!!
ROOM: I had Garden room 3 on the beach, a simple, fan-only, cold shower bungalow with a flush toilet. The fan was right over the double bed, which had a nice big mosquito net. There was a sink, plenty of plastic bags and a clothesline out front for doing your own laundry. I paid 450 THB a night - I think the regular price is supposed to be 600 THB (which is way too high!) - because it was low season and I stayed 4 nights. 450 THB is probably still higher than a similar place down at BB3, but I was happy with my room and didn't really want to move. I didn't notice any cockroaches in my room, and the main bugs I saw were mosquitos and these tiny bugs that flocked to my iPad at night when I read. Generally quite clean and reasonable.
ACTIVITIES: The best thing to do here is to relax on the beach - read, sleep, tan, whatever. They have a pretty nice lending library, including the Alchemist and Balzac and the little Chinese seamstress. They have fantastic wood beach chairs as well as plastic lawn chairs - on my last night I dragged a lawn chair into the edge of the water and read while sitting down with my feet in the surf, it was wonderful. I slept 10+ hours every day and read 2-3 books a day.
They also have snorkeling (includes gear, boat ride, and water and 1-2 stops to snorkel) for 500 THB, massages for around 250 THB at a nice, dedicated hut at the edge of the ocean (I got 2 aloe vera massages while here, which were not as strong as I would've liked but still incredibly relaxing - I feel asleep both times), canoe rentals for 100 THB, a trip to the Ao Kang Marine Park for 1800 THB (whole day trip including snorkel gear, food, as well as canoeing), and a pool. OK Internet available for 100 THB an hour (was able to Skype so the connection was fine), and boat rides to Chaklokum every afternoon for 100 THB each way.
I brought my own snorkel gear but half of BB is very rocky and there generally isn't much marine life to see other than sea cucumbers.
FOOD: Pretty good - the fruit drinks (around 30-40THB) and cocktails (80-100 THB) were only OK and they couldn't get me any fresh coconuts the whole time I was there! But the seafood curries were delicious (though sometimes they didn't have shrimp or squid, etc.; around 70-100 THB) and one day they had fresh kingfish that the owner had just caught earlier that day (150 THB?).
Staff were really friendly and helpful, though not always the best informed (one waiter informed me that the kingfish was all gone, the next confirmed that this was NOT the case, etc.).
ADDITIONAL TIPS: YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST BRING 50%+ DDT MOSQUITO REPELLENT. I had 20% DDT spray that I brought from the US (OFF brand, the same brand that BB1 sells in their store coincidentally) but it was TOTALLY USELESS. I literally got 80+ mosquito bites all over, especially on my feet and left thigh. It was so disgusting that when I showed the lady at reception she was actually shocked and just gave me a bottle of calamine lotion to use. Another traveler then told me that you must have 50%+ DDT repellent otherwise it doesn't work - so I went to the pharmacy at Chaklokum town (across from the 7-11) and bought 95% DDT which was THE ONLY THING THAT WORKED and helped ensure I had only 3 mosquito bites the rest of the time I was on BB.
Also, beware of the wild rabid dogs that are sometimes on the beach! One of the resort owners has a domesticated dog but some are wild, rabid and WILL BITE! One of the guests at BB3 got bitten by one and had to be flown to the nearest hospital! They are extremely loud, had a huge litter when I was there and sometimes would fight and bark very loudly at night. One night one of them ran toward me and I ran into my bungalow just in time.
All in all, this was the most relaxing part of my vacation - and whenever I need a mental break now, I always think of BB.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Welcome to Bottle Beach, the most beautiful beach on Koh Phangan. Catch a long tail boat round from Chaloklum and prepare to relax. Beach front huts with fan for 550 baht to deluxe air conditioned bungalows for 1,500 baht. Restaurant, massage spa, white sand and blue sea. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Bottle Beach 1 Hotel Koh Phangan