Friday, June 1, 2012

Trip Reports - Ko Phangan

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Beach Blogger's Had Yuan Trip Report - visited May 2012


Had Yuan is the closest beach with accommodation north of Had Rin. As such it tends to get busy around Full Moon Party time and in peak-peak season, but otherwise it is a pretty relaxed beach with a good choice of accommodation. And it has quick access by foot to two even more relaxed beaches just north - Had Thian and Had Way Nam.

The 3 beaches. Because Google Earth's ancient image doesn't show the relatively new roads I've had to guestimate their position.

I came down from Than Sadet on the beach-hopping east coast ferry which goes thru to Samui. 250baht is a bit rich for the distance but way cheaper than any longtail. Some nice beach and cliff scenery on the way - these places were at Laem Bo Prang just south of Sadet.
Interestingly the ferry does not put in at Had Yuan (looks like the longtail mafia there have the beach tied up) - I had to jump out at Had Thian. The short but steep climb over to Yuan with bag was a good work-out.

Fortunately my destination was Bamboo Hut which begins half way down the northern headland of 
Had Yuan. That's the rockside restaurant above. I think those bungalows closer the water are part of the resort. Most of Bamboo's bungalows are in a nice garden setting above the restaurant. The accommodation area is quite spacious, extending out of the top left of shot.
The track from Had Thian comes over near the communications aerial top right. 10 minutes between beaches.

Bamboo's restaurant at right had tree filtered views of the beach. Way better was that rockside cabana - or the sitting platform in the foreground, my favourite place around sunset with the usual bottle of rum.

After sunset this platform became a magnet for travellers from around the 3 beach areas - the restaurant does a reallly good trade bringing meals and drinks up to this section.



The restaurant itself was a nice place to spend time. Excellent food taste-wise with presentation seeming to be a step up too. Prices slightly higher than average bungalow restaurants but well worth it - shown by plenty of people walking up from flasher resorts down on the beach to dine. Excellent friendly service - Bamboo is run by a Burmese family who prove the old adage - migrants try harder.

For some reason I didn't get a shot of my bungalow - so I swiped this image of an identical hut off travelfish, which is where I originally got the drum on Bamboo Hut and other Had Yuan places.
I went for the 400baht job (I didn't bargain), which made the 500baht tents in the wetter Andaman same trip look pathetic. The only difference with Bamboo's 350baht huts seemed to be distance from the restaurant/beach.
My hut was showing a bit of wear around the edges, had plenty of room for 2 and gear but not for a 3rd mattress. Comfy double bed with separate foam base, nice pillows, good net, okay fan - 24 hour electricity. Spacious bathroom, cold water, western toilet with bucket flush. Towel supplied but byo toilet paper. Good deck with hammock, drying rack, lotsa lines, broom. Nice garden setting manicured intensively by staff.

NOISE - a note of caution. On my first night around 0000 some pretty loud music kicked in. Went right thru to daybreak. Turns out this was a nearby bar down on the waterside rocks of the north headland. Second night all was quiet - long term visitors told me the parties are Tuesdays and Saturdays. I asked some guests down at the high end Pariya which is towards the far southern end of the beach if the music disturbed them - they said no. But sensitive people staying those nights at Bamboo, adjacent Eden or maybe those places on the northern end of the sand like Big Blue or Dream Bungalow should maybe take this into account.

There is a nice boardwalk along the southern headland - maybe 300m long. This has a bunch of budget joints leading off it. This is the restaurant-bar of Ocean Rock resort. I had to have a beer here - good views of beach and far headland (the 3rd shot from the opening of Bamboo Hut was shot from here). Other joints along the boardwalk include Good Hope and nearer the beach, Had Yuan Bungalows.
UPDATE MARCH 2017 - Ocean Rock has been taken over by Good Hope, which is now calling itself Club Bar Engage. However the affable Dutch owner is considering another name change. I stayed a few nights there on my 2017 visit to the area.

Dude taking it easy at the end of the boardwalk.

TREKKING AROUND HAD YUAN
10 minutes walk up over the northern headland gets you to laid back Had Thian. The Sanctuary was as atmospheric as usual - and I went back to my digs of June 2010, Beam Bungalows, for a meal. Good as before and I noticed that restaurant prices now seem at average budget bungalow levels instead of slightly over. I also noticed the 150 baht bungalow offered me was gone but there is still a very good array of bungalows at lower than normal prices. Nice place. Quite a few of the long termers who gravitated to Bamboo's rock sitting platform each night seemed to be staying at Beam.
There is no shortage of yoga places on Had Thian, not to mention all of the self improvement and healthful courses at The Sanctuary.
5 minutes over Had Yuan's northern headland gets you to even more laid back Had Why Nam - nothing had changed, still the one rustic budget bungalow joint with the yoga platform etc
I have pix and more info on Had Thian and Had Why Nam on the PHANGAN PART 2 PAGE.

THE HAD RIN TREK eluded me for years. After hopelessly miss-leading directions from the people at Bamboo Hut, I spent several hours looking for the START of the track from Had Yuan - following several false leads which ended in good old sessions of bush bashing. I HATE BUSH BASHING!
Finally I found the start of the track. You need to head out of Had Yuan on the new road which runs along the back of the beach and then turns west to climb over the high mountain divide to eventually meet one of the short roads up from the coast at Ban Kai. If you come up the Bamboo Hut access driveway you need to head right for maybe 200-300m. If you come up Big Blue's driveway, add 150-200m. See map below.
Thing is I lost so much time finding the track that 20 minutes up the slope I realised I had no chance of getting even to the Viewpoint above Had Yuan and back before sunset. Having no torch, I turned around.
No worries - next trip. I'm told the trek thru to Had Rin is 90-120 minutes.

SUCCESS! Yep, next trip I walked across from HAD RIN to see if SANCTUARY had a vacancy (I'm an old fashioned dude - don't carry a 'phone overseas - besides which I wanted to find out about the trek) and then walked back. 2 hours each way at my slow but steady pace was pretty right. The track was fairly easy to follow on account of markers, but pretty steep in some sections, particularly on the HAD RIN side. At the summit is a short side track which leads to an okay viewpoint over HAD YUAN. However nowhere could I find an unobstructed overview of HAD RIN.

Google Earth's image of this area is real old - it doesn't have the main road across to Ban Kai which I reckon has been there at least 4 years, plus lots of the joints on Had Yuan. So my placement of roads and trekking tack are maybe not absolutely correct. 
The start of the trek across to Had Rin must be south of where Had Thian's  access road hits the main road - I haven't walked this access road so I didn't try to include it. It would come in somewhere just out of shot top left.

The 3 bottles which marked the start of the track on the HAD YUAN side - they were clearer than appears in this pic. The first 20 m or so is a steep narrow scramble up the hillside from the road but from there the track widens and is well defined most places.

This shows the approximate route of the track across to Had Rin. I have also got the shorter track to Had Khonthi from Had Rin. Plus the newish road access into Hads Yuan/Thian from near Ban Kai. I haven't travelled this road but it crosses a pretty awesome divide - sure to have some rough killer slopes. 
UPDATE 2017 - a lady staying in my dorm at SANCTUARY did come in on this road. She told me it was horrendously steep, rough and treacherously muddy (it had rained a fair bit) and took 2 hours from BAN TAI. No wonder the dude with the ute quoted me 500baht (final destination is HAD RIN). A longtail from HAD RIN was costing 300 (still too high IMHO seeing boats rarely take off without 10 or so customers) and takes 10 minutea.

For people wanting to go from the Had Rin end I have the approximate starts of both trekking tracks'  

SERVICES - there is no village at Had Yuan. Big Blue has a small shop plus an internet cafe. I reckon the higher end places like Pariya and Barcelona might have similar. Over on Had Thian The Sanctuary has a shop, and bakes yummy goodies. It's not too far to Had Rin but a longtail aint cheap.

Whoa! sunset approaching.

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Beach Blogger's Than Sadet Trip Report - visited April 2012

Fabulous view from Plaas resort's restaurant.

I was so impressed with the view above when I climbed up from my Mai Pen Rai bungalow just over the beach below in 2009 that I decided to stay a few days at Plaas on my latest Phangan beach-hop. The fact that Than Sadet is a pretty nice location wherever you stay was significant too.

Transferring from Thong Nai Pan was pretty painless - I jumped on the small coastal ferry which beach hops down Phangan's east coast and then goes across to Samui each morning. Than Sadet is first stop - 150 baht.

My 450 baht bungalow. I didn't bargain, all these Phangan places seemed good value after the Andaman. Huge place with glass sliding doors, polished timber interior, super-comfy double bed with proper foam base, good net, lots of storage and hooks. Quiet fan. Big tiled bathroom with a BATH. Cold water, western flush toilet, huge mirror. Towel, toilet paper, supplied. Quiet fan. Very quiet location. Electricity 1600- 2400. 

Veranda deck faces east unlike restaurant's northerly aspect over the beach. Nice ocean views - good sunrises and dozens of squid boat lights at night. Deck huge - hammock, chairs, drying rack. lines, broom.

All Plaas' bungalows have an eastern orientation. Note some are family size; the place below had a 15m roof-line.

To reach Plaas take that hole under the rock at the north end of the beach (might be better seen by clicking image to expand) then one of the two stairways up the very steep hillside. The second is more direct. That hole is lit at night.
Note the majority of Mai Pen Rai resort's Rockside Bungalows are stretched above the rocks for a good 300m past that hole. Mai Pen Rai also has Beachfront Bunglows and Riverside Bungalows.

The Than part of Than Sadet refers to the small stream you can see flowing into the bay far right side of shot. Both times I've stayed there was enough volume of water to discolour the sea off the beach into a light slate hue. But swimming around was delicious because the fresh water takes some time to mix and forms cooler patches.
You may be able to see the timber stairway out of the water onto that big rock around mid-frame - great for people with the emotional development of a 9 year old to climb up and jump into the water from a suprisingly high take-off. I had a ball.
Those bungalows at right some of Mai Pen Rai's riverside dwellings.
The next bay south is Had Thong Reng. Nice little beach and much clearer water. I found the snorkelling in both areas was not very good  coral and fish wise.

 
Empty bungalows of Treehouse resort on Had Thong Reng - operators lost lease; presumably a new development is planned. 

 
Than Sadet was a favourite with one of the earlier Thai kings - it seems he liked the waterfalls here. Most Thai waterfalls are undewhelming in their verticality - the 3 along the small river here markedly so. This is falls#1 which is a few minutes inland from the beach. A short track leads down from the access road into Than Sadet.

The second falls area is accessed by a similar short track from about 10 minutes further up the main road into Than Sadet. Each falls area is well signposted.
This is the most rewarding of the 3 in that there is a nice pool upstream in background good for swimming plus a slippery slide into a cave beneath a big rock (which still looked like it could be blocked this trip). Got a pic and more details on the Phangan Part 2 page.

The third falls area is much further upstream - I'd say a 40 minute walk from the beach, not all that far from the intersection with the main road up from the south. Look for the signs near a little roadside restaurant a friendly old guy runs - he can do meals and has 40b small Changs. Another short track leads from his place down to the river area - the falls are in 3 sections over about 200m of stream.

THE ROAD INTO THAN SADET.
It took me about 50 minutes to walk right up to the new roundabout intersection with the main north south mountain road. All except the last 800m or so of this wallk is dirt - some rough, steep sections which will still need motorcyclists not used to such surfaces to take care on the descents. The last 800m to the main road is good concrete - hopefully this will be extended by the time you visit. The steep sections are not lengthy and not in the heart-breaking to walk up category unless you are unfit.

Thais are monarchy-mad. This is a statue of the king who was nuts for Than Sadet, roadside on the new concrete section. There are signs all over the place closer the beach showing where his initials have been scratched on rocks etc. I don't think I'd be going out of my way to check a rock etched by Liz or Phi - might dob them in to Friends of the Earth though.

High Viewpoint - way up the hill north-west of the beach is the Viewpoint restaurant and bungalows. Adjacent the restaurant is a big rock - timber ladders help you climb to the top to get this outlook. Disappointingly you can't see the beach. 
The restaurant has no views but is a nice place to spend time with good food and competitively priced beer. The bungalows from memory have tree filtered views similar to my Plaas' joint but 3 times the height. Hey for those of you who want an out of the way laid back place, this is your joint. Although Plaas did the same for me much closer the beach.

A little closer to the coast you will see a track leading off to the left with a HIDE ON HIGH BAR AND JEWELRY SHOP sign. 30m leads you to the above - a real laid back place with friendl host Porn playing some good music when I called in. There is a similar high rock with almost identical views as Viewpoint's.

To get to Viewpoint and Hide on High I took the main Sadet access road inland from the beach and turned right up the dirt side road at "junction" at left above - just past the National Park buildings - there are signs to Viewpoint there. A little further on go straight ahead (there are more Viewpoint signs) - don't turn left onto the trekking track to Thong Nai Pan (I have details of this on the Phangan Part 2 page) - past here it gets real steep and rough to just short of Viewpoint's driveway to the right.
If you push on a short distance on the main path past the driveway entrance you will see the side track to the left for Hide on High.
To get back to the beach go back out of the side track and keep going east - the track drops steeply particularly once it hits a concrete driveway. Stay on this driveway for maybe 300m but where it curves left to some rich dude's villa, keep going directly ahead down the super steep-rough track which leads down thru Plaas to the beach. Maybe 10 minutes walk from Viewpoint.
Coming from the beach, continue up the path past Plaas' restaurant entrance and turn right.

Swanking it out on the bow of Phangan's east coast ferry. This is the best way to swap beaches here or head to Samui. I was on my way to Had Yuan just to the north of Had Rin.
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Beach Blogger's Thong Nai Pan Trip Report - visited April 2012

Santhiya's separate beach just north of Thong Nai Pan Noi - this beach did not exist 10 years ago. It was a boulder beach - the luxury resort either dredged/pumped sand from offshore or barged it in from elsewhere.

After staying at Mae Had in the north-west I headed for Thong Nai Pan on account I'd heard Thong Nai Pan Noi beach is now completely dominated by one luxury resort. Gotta see that.

The twin beaches (plus Santhiya's) of Thong Nai Pan. My abode for this trip, Longtail Bungalow, is bottom right of this modified Google Earth image.

The trip from Mae Had was interesting. I could have come around by longtail providing I took out a mortgage on my house. So I planned to take a songthaew down to the pier at Thong Sala and jump on one of the waiting pickups to Thong Nai Pan when a ferry came in. I figured 400b or so if there were enough people to share - maybe 3 hours if connections worked without too much delay.
Fortunately a songthaew with a bunch of people was leaving Mae Had for the ferry (200b for them) and I managed to talk the driver into taking me all the way to Thong Nai Pan for 700 total (he wanted 1200). Gets better - after the pier we shot across to his nearby house and swapped into a newish aricon 4wd Toyota Hi-lux, leaving the songthaew to be driven by his missus. The total trip took maybe 50 minutes and I was dropped at the entrance to my resort.

The road to Thong Nai Pan over the mountains from the south coast used to be a shocker - super rough and incredibly steep in parts, not recommended for unskilled motorcyclists. Now many sections have been paved - there are still a few rough parts but if people take care and go slow, no worries. The above section is at the just north of the roundabout where the road to Than Sadet leaves to the left - this newly paved section looks less than 3 years old and goes from about 800m the far side of the roundabout right down to Thong Nai Pan and Noi beaches, maybe 6km behind camera. The road was in way better condition than the average Australian country paved road. Brilliant.
Heading left in shot to Than Sadet the pavement goes for less than 1km - past there the road still needs fairly high caution in parts - say 3km.

I read good reports about Longtail Bungalow at the far southern end of Thong Nai Pan Yai beach so I decided to stay there. The joint has a beachfront restaurant with most of the bungalows laid out in a nice garden section behind. On arrival take your transport as far as the normal paved road goes - jump out where it narrows to a single lane uphill (to some hill resort further south) and walk down the path in shot. If approaching via the beach, walk to the far southern end.

Longtail's restaurant was a nice place to spend time. Very good food with prices at the lower end of the budget bungalow restaurant scale. Use of laptop for 2 baht/minute plus free wireless. Friendly efficient staff.

My fan bungalow - 490 baht (went to 390 low season 2 days after I left). Clean and in good condition. Just big enough for 2 plus gear. Firm but comfy queen bed with excellent mozzie net (windows also well screened). Low pillows. Big tiled bathroom with HOT WATER, huge mirror, western flush toilet. Towels and toilet paper. No soap, no bottled water. Nice veranda with hammock. Grounds neat and spotless. Quiet when I visited (I remember the distant thump of bass from a beach bar when I stayed at White Wind at the opposite end long ago).
Hey, pretty nice place - which probably accounted for the 90% occupancy in what was the very end of shoulder season. This joint has aircon bungalows, plus some bigger family places up the back.

Thong Nai Pan Yai's shopping area runs along the main road behind the beach - starts maybe 300m from Longtail's driveway. This area seems to have developed significantly since I hiked over from Than Sadet in 2009. There seems to be a fairly full range of shops and services except no bank - but 3 ATMs - look for one outside the 7/11.

Ther main changes to Thong Nai Pan Yai I noticed:
*My old favourite accommodation White Wind high on the southern headland has closed down. The land has been bought by Panviman high end resort - at the time of my visit the old bungalows were still there but Panviman was creeping around the headland with some new villas less than 100m away.
White Wind's rather nice beach bar perched just above beach level was still operating.
*The path up through White Wind and Panviman to Thong Nai Pan Noi has been blocked thoroughly, not partially as when I last visited.
*All the old budget favourites seem to have pushed upmarket - places like Candle Hut, Dreamland and Central Cottages now have pools and aircon/hot water - although most can still do less expensive huts.

THONG NAI PAN NOI
So has the midrange and better Anantara Rasanada completely taken over the beachfront? Well not quite - it dominates the place and there is not much evidence of the old budget joints we used to love.

Thong Nai Pan Noi from the departing east coast ferry to Samui. 
Panviman stretches across the headland at left almost to TNP Yai now. At beach level starting at left (the southern end), the first 20% is taken by a new high end joint under construction.
Anantara Rasanada takes the next 55-60%, then there is a restaurant, a small section with flashpacker-lower midrange Phuwadee and the final 15% or so with the more budget Baan Tapan which has a popular beach restaurant. 
If you click the shot to expand you will see the small rocky headland separating TNP Noi from Santhiya's separate small beach far right. There are budget bungalows on the headland - I couldn't confirm if they were run by Baan Tapan or had a similar name.
There is now a good path thru this resort joining Santhiya's beach to TNP Noi - just as well: the water off Santhiya seemed to have a plume and the original access road loops way around the back to the far south-west of town which made the restaurants and shops a bit of a stretch for Santhiya's guests.

I modified this Google Earth imange to try to show the extent of the main TNP Noi beachfront properties. Panviman isn't beachfront execpt for a small section in the southern corner, but now goes nearly all the way around the big southern headland area to TNP Yai - a distance equal to about two/thirds the above beach. Once Panviman builds on White Wind ground it WILL go the full distance.

New joint under construction at the south part of TNP Noi. Part in shot seems to be a shopping/restaurant mall with beach access - about 20% along the beach. That is Anantara Rasanada's wall to the left. There was no indication of the new joint's name but I don't think it is an extention of A R - the architecture was markedly different.

Thong Nai Pan's shopping/restaurant/bar area behind southern part of the beach. With so many budget bungalows gone I expected this business area to be doing it real tough - but apart from a couple of closed joints things looked reasonably good. Perhaps the new breed of high end visitors are big spenders. Note there are still a few budget accommodation places across on the inland side of this street and on the access road coming in from TNP Yai and the south. 

Trekking Thong Nai Pan to Bottle Beach - and further.
I've never walked across to the north coast so this trip I decided to give it a go. I lucked-in when leaving Longtail resort because a songthaew was departing with people for the ferry at Thongsala so I got the driver to drop me at the Bottle Beach road turnoff for 40baht - this not only saved 20 minutes but also cut out the steepest climb. I was so fresh when I hit Bottle Beach about 40 minutes later that I decided to keep going to Coral Beach. Maybe not such a good idea - that super steep rough jungle track climb over the mountains takes 60+ minutes one way. When I finally got back to Thong Nai Pan I felt like I'd had a pretty good workout. Gave the beer section of the fridge in the Seven 11 a pretty good workout too.

Trek map. I've also put the route to Bottle Beach's fabulously scenic viewpoint in (see shot down page) although I gave that very steep climb a miss this visit. 

The turn for Bottle Beach (dirt road left foreground) is unsignposted but easy to find - come up the main road hill - about 700m past the junction of the Yai and Noi roads take the dirt road to your right - just past the second of the two communications towers in shot. Those billboards were promoting TNP resorts not Bottle Beach ones.

The first 500m of the dirt road falls and climbs moderately steeply and then begins a slight uphill climb for 10 minutes or so. A few minutes along here a similar road (also with power lines branches to the left - I was told to follow the power lines) - keep going straight ahead......


....until you reach this junction. Take the turn left - the Bottle Beach billboards help.

The next 10 minutes or so is a steep downhill section. Take care if you are an unskilled motorcycists - dead easy to lock your brakes, slide into a rut and come down. A bloke wisely unloaded his girlfriend to walk with me while he slowly made his way down - we actually got ahead of him at one stage.

The focal length of my camera adds depth - this slope is actually nearly twice as steep as it looks.

At the bottom of the hill the track flattens out for the final 10 minutes. I reckon time from beginning of dirt road near towers was abt 40 minutes. From the TNP beaches - 60 minutes.

Bottle Beach was as gorgeous as usual - the only significant change I noticed since my 2010 stay was that Bottle Beach One had added some beachfront aircon bungalows alongside their budget fan jobs.
As a matter of interest, adjacent Haad Khuad Resort was handing out brochures at the ferry with 3 person fan bungalows at 380b, 2 stories 2 bedroom beachfront fans at 850 and Hotel Sea View rooms with the works for 1200 and discounted transport. Dunno if this place has a pool yet - BB One has (see down page).
Oh yeah, Bottle Beach 2 down the far eastern end of the beach had recently refurbished the bungalows. This budget place looked pretty attractive unlike my previous visit.

The one hour jungle track from Bottle Beach to Coral Beach dumps out here just east of the end of the concrete road from Chaloklum in background - click image to expand to better see the marker plastic bottle at the start/end of the jungle track. Walk along concrete road for a couple hundred meters and take the driveway with the first bungalow sign down to the beach.
Note it would not be a real good idea to come fanging over the hill in background at warp speed on your hire Honda. This trip  I noticed someone had rigged up some makeshift barriers just before the top. Last trip I noticed some pretty good skid marks.

Whoa - hoover 'em up Porky! Coral Beach Bungalow had a pet pig who spent some time clearing the floor of insects. Very clean and non-smelly. This dude later curled up under my table in background and cut a few zzzzzzs while I downed a cheap Chang or 3 and checked the nice outlook towards Chaloklum. 
Resort had some simple fan bungalows with similar views for 300. From memory their same type shacks overlooking the beach were also 300. Gotta stay here one day!

Um, so after that pleasant interlude - back to Thong Nai Pan Yai (far end!) which included the super steep track to Bottle Beach and that steep rough road climb out of Bottle Beach. Probably 2.5 hours.

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Beach Blogger's Mae Had Trip Report - visited April 2012

Happiness is sunset, a beachfront bungalow, a hammock and a bottle of rum.

Mae Had (Had Mae, Haad Mae etc)  is at the very north end of the west coast. Most Phangan visitors call in on one of the around-island boat trips or motorcycle in for a visit because it has the best snorkelling at Phangan. However the  nice beach, a good variety of places to stay and a laid back atmosphere has resulted in it becoming a favoured destination for return visitors. Many of these are the backpackers of the 80s and 90s so family groups are common. But younger singles and couples also feature, although this beach is short on entertainment for ragers.

Modified Google Earth image showing most features mentioned in this report.

 
Mae Had's 3 main beach areas shot from Ko Ma - the small offshore island (you can see the sand spit joining Ma to the main beach area at low tide in the left of shot). Mae's Main Beach is at center, the Northern Beach background left and the Southern Beach background right. These will be clearer if you click to expand.

Main Beach looking north. That's Ko Ma in background - if you click to expand you will be able to see the snorkelling and dive boats working the reef fringing this side of the island. This is not too much of a swim from the land areas.
Like all west coast beaches Mae Had gets the low tide blues as in shot. At such times you need to wade out a fair distance to be able to swim - best in the middle where rock has been cleared to allow the daytrip longtails to get into the beach.

A nice feature is the trees in back of the beach for much of its length, giving good shade - one reason Mae Had is so popular with the daytrips  for some beachtime.
Bungalows belong to Island View Cabana - a nice flashpacker place with a scenic and reasonably priced restaurant overlooking the spit to Ko Ma. Has an internet cafe. Plus wireless of course - most bungalow joints do these days.

Mae Had North in background from Ko Ma - dead low tide which forms a kind of lagoon. The edge of the spit joining Ko Ma to the mainland is at right. This area is much prettier at high tide when it would also probably be an interesting snorkel (I was too lazy to find out). Behind the beach are several attractive bungalow joints. The nicest part of the main beach is only about 3 minutes walk to the right so don't hesitate staying here if you like the looks/reviews of the joints.

Mid-range comes to Mae Had - this is the Mae Had Bay resort which is on the access road down to Mae Had north beach. Not beachfront but close.  A few stores, restaurants and a dive shop from memory on this road.

Mae Had South - this is a few minutes scramble over the rocks from Main Beach at left. A travel thread recently suggested this is one of Phangang's nudie beaches and sure enough there was one farang sunning his bum when I passed by. I noticed quite a few snorkellers entering the water at the near end too. Some okay shade at this beach fer those wanna keep their bums pale.

Back at Main beach: outlook from Mae Had View's restaurant - I decided to stay at this joint about two-thirds the way along Main Beach heading south on account travelfish and others said is was pretty good.
Hey, nothing wrong with the restaurant - nice outlook and good food, drinks at lower rates than the average budget bungalow - try 70 baht for a LARGE Chang (lotsa places want that fer a small one in 2012).
Friendly staff, spent ages each morning manicuring not only the bungalow area but the extended beach in front. There is a creek runs between the restaurant and the water - you can see the access bridge at right. I came in after dark, no moon - glad I had my torch.

Nothing wrong with the bungalows either. That's mine at center - we are talking 500 baht for a front rower (800 high season) - that was the price quoted and having paid 570 for a leaky tent at the Similans just before, I didn't bother to bargain.
Remember there is a creek between camera and shot - nevertheless I regard mine as beachfront.
This place has 3 rows 0f bungalows - the third is elevated on the lower slopes of the hill, has some views.

My concrete walled - tiled roof place was just big enough for 2 + gear. No shelves but a neat storage alcove. Good window screens. Comfy king bed.Good lights, fan a bit noisy. In good condition - looked like they had been remodelled not too long ago. Clean. Very quiet at night (except for the thunderstorm!) Flush toilet, HOT water, towel and toilet paper, no soap or bottled water.

Big verandah. Nice hammock. Good views. KPG_MHVR@hotmail.com
Tel (66)8-004-4453-9

Attempt at arty sunset shot. Aesthetics kinda failed but maybe it captures the mood.

Around Mae Had

The access road into Mae Had View resort is separate from the main beach entrance. It is super steep and rough - I can see why my songthaew-taxi guy pretended not to know where the joint was. No way would a 2-wheel drive vehicle get back up this track.
If you climb the track to within 200m of the main road (maybe 10 minutes), you will see a sign to the left: WATERFALL. Take the steep path down the hill - veer left at the houses until you hit the creek and you will end up at the falls above. I'm thinking this is a 10m drop. The pool looks enticing  for a dip - but climbing down would have been difficult. There are smaller pools upriver - plus a small set of rapids.
This is the stream that ends up in front of Mae Had View, but no way would it be easy to follow it down from here.

It's a pleasant 30 minutes walk eastwards to Chalok Lum - the north coast fishing village. These ladies are busy cleaning the night's squid catch - there were drying racks with thousands of small quid to left of shot. The busy pier is immediately behind camera to right. Chalok Lum is a nice place to spend some time - seems to have mixed local culture with tourist needs nicely. Lotsa seafood restaurants and for some reason heaps of fruit stands. Plenty of Phangan long-termers make this their home.
Mae Had is behind lower saddle far background - I cut across to the beach from the main road as soon as possible. A couple of nice budget/flashpacker resorts beachfront far background - a lot more (closer) the other side of the pier behind camera.

This joint is actually halfway along the beach in the shot before this one. Looks sweet. I walked from further up the beach to the west, top right - this is a high tide shot and at low tide in dry season there is only a small shallow creek to cross..
This sign was very close to Mae Had - hence the 2km bit. Moderately steep walk for the first half - several turns to the left which lead down to small bays on the north coast before the extended Chalok Lum beach - I took a few but found signs blocking my access to the water. So don't turn left until you descend the hill on the main road to beach level - maybe 15 minutes walk from Mae Had.

Another okay walk from Mae Had is along the main road south to Had Salad which is a pretty nice beach. Turn right out of Mae Had towards Thongsala, go up the steep hill - pretty soon after you reach the top you will see a turn to the right - this road drops steeply to a 90degree left corner from where the short driveway down to Salad Beach takes off. Beach to beach maybe 40 minutes. The steep gradients make it a good workout.

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Beach Blogger's Bottle Beach Trip Report - visited June 2010

I took a 20 minute longtail ride to Bottle Beach (Had Khuad) from Had Thian on the lower east coast - saved at least 3 hours on alternative access routes. Cost 1000 bargained down from 2500. This was a Had Rin based long tail which came to pick me up - so theoretically you shouldn’t pay more than say 100 extra from there.

I jumped off the boat heading for oft praised SMILE BUNGALOWS at the western end of the beach but a guy offered me one of these beachfront fan jobs at BOTTLE BEACH ONE for 450. I knew this place has a pool so I countered at 400 which was accepted. I would normally offer at least 100 down from quote, but this was one nice bungalow, spacious, got the towel/soap/shampoo inclusions, great view. BB1 has big, scenic beachfront restaurant with budget priced food for what is mainly a midrange resort. Service mostly good, sometimes chaotic.

The western third of Bottle Beach. That’s SMILE’s funky restaurant in background closest beach. Pretty nice outfit with good looking hillside bungalows out of shot to left. Walking track to Coral Beach and Chalok Lum leaves from behind the furthest building, goes over the higher saddle behind. Swimming off the beach has no problem with rock underfoot - is shallowish lowest tide but not excessively so. Place is not known for snorkelling but there would be fringing coral and fishies along the headland. This is a nice shot to click to expand.

After weeks of basic backpacking, sinking a Chang by the pool is pretty sweet. Not real crowded in June low season - a couple of bikini babes sunning it out but I figure you guys are not all that interested. Place has dive-school which uses a section of the pool at times.

When you get sick of swimming/sunning at the beach/pool you can try trekking up to the eastern viewpoint. Leave from back of clearing behind eastern most resort. Climb is quite steep in parts, takes about 30m one way mainly thru nice rainforest.

The climb up the opposite headland also takes about 30m. Just over the summit you get this view of the western end of Chalok Lum beach. Keep going down to reach the short access tracks to nice Coral Beach (very similar to Bottle Beach but rock exposed at low tide) after 30m - another 15 or so will get you to the eastern end of Chalok Lum township.

Back to the Phangan part one and part two pages.

2 comments:

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  2. Thank you nice article.
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