Finding a place to recharge isn’t easy in Thailand. This beautiful country offers a lot of sights, smells and sounds, but we needed some peace to reconnect with ourselves after our life-changing year.
Finding the right place to unwind
We looked for a place to enjoy for a few weeks, like a home away from home. Somewhere with sun, soft sand, refreshing blue waters and a peaceful place to work comfortably on our website. We also wanted to experience some friendly Thai local flavors and culture, away from the busy, fast-paced popular tourist destinations.
We found it all on the north side of the island at Bang Por Beach, a piece of heaven not often written about in travel reviews. (The ‘r ‘ in ‘Por’ is a soft sound, and the location is known in many travel books as Bang Po.)[smart-grid captions=”false” title=”false”]
The further north you travel up the island, the more neighborhoods there are, peppered with various options for long- and short-term vacation rentals. Bang Po offers something radically different than the popular Chaweng, Lamai and Big Buddha beach areas. There are no built-up, large-scale hotels, western-style restaurants, busy crowds or hundreds of sunbathers. Bang Po is a place to take your energy level down a big notch. Like this little video of our peaceful mornings on the beach.
Bang Po doesn’t disappoint with its stunning view of blue waters, and views of neighboring Koh Tao and Koh Phangan off in the distance. A pleasantly quiet beach, (especially in the morning) with a few local fishermen emptying their nets of small crabs and fish, a kayaker or two on the waters, and just a handful of vacationing couples and kids enjoying the beach. Much to our surprise, no one is selling you jewelry, knickknacks, nothing at all, even during high season!
The perfect home away from home
Bang Po offers ample options for short-term or long-term stays. Cabins, small beach huts and larger family-style homes go from US$30/night to as much as US$1500/night, with a personal Thai chef.
Our find was from Airbnb, a small house in a row of rental homes, 50 meters from the beach. The view was spectacular, with a set of communal tables and benches steps away from the Gulf of Thailand, perfect for enjoying sunrise and sunset.
The house was equipped with Wi-Fi, a small kitchen and appliances, and a front yard patio, all tucked away on a safe, secluded private road. Details for excursions, rentals and transport were all carefully laid out by the friendly home owner.[smart-grid captions=”false” title=”false”]
A taste of local living
The local flavor is a community of neighborhood life, with residents, businesses, and markets. Friendly shop owners greeted us knowingly, after our first visit. We felt like special guests when we bought our fresh eggs and juicy pineapples every few days. Ladies pushed their food carts of spicy meat kebabs, trailed by a whiff of smoke, and trucks bounced down the road full of coconuts on the way to the local markets in neighboring towns Nathon and Mae Nam.
Thai food heaven
The local dining options are great. The Thai is the best, although there are options for western fare if you really can’t live without it. Quaint little open-air shacks line the beachside ready to offer their freshly made Thai delicacies and cold beer at happy hour.
Our criteria for our favorites included friendly staff, delicious food and reasonable prices for Thailand. Every location has a great view, that is a given. The options are mostly locally owned. Even spots owned by foreigners have the personal touch as they operate their own businesses day to day.[smart-grid captions=”false” title=”false”]
Some of our favorites:
(Average prices based on entrée/drinks/tip per person unless otherwise specified; prices in U.S. dollars)
Siraphoca – Popular with locals and visitors, it’s just a roof covering the sand with tables and chairs. Incredibly low-priced, excellent food. Only open for breakfast and lunch. Prices between $1 to $6 for lunch.
Bang Por Seafood – Popular with locals and visitors, seafood only, excellent food and service, and a great spot for tables on the sand shore at night. Average meal $10 to $15.
Krua Bang Por –Always busy with locals and visitors, great Thai favorites and unique offerings. Average meal $5 to $10.
Local food stalls – Always a good choice. Just one mama cooking her great food with a few tables and chairs, like the one just south of the 7-11 store on the other side of the highway. Prices $1 to $3 for entrée only.
SOM – A lovely Thai family runs this place. Excellent food and incredibly welcoming staff who say hello when you walk around town. Curries, fried snapper, everything is good, and if you like it spicy, they have no trouble making it flaming hot! Average meal $6 to $10.
Armando’s Swiss/Thai food – Stunning nighttime ambiance with palm/wood furnishings. Food is cooked right at an outdoor bar, and the best Pad Thai in the area. Friendly Swiss owner and operator. Average meal $8 to $12.
4 Monkeys Café – Great viewing spot, great coffee, smoothies, Wi-Fi, all in a funky coffee bar setting. Coffees/smoothies $5 to $6.
Entertainment and drinks:
Velo Lounge – By day, it’s a sunbathing patio and bar. By night, it’s lighted palm trees and a bar that offers wonderful cocktails, tapas and Thai food. Run by a friendly British couple.
Other tips to make your trip worthwhile
Watch the highways
Don’t let any weather app fool you. Ko Samui is a big island. If it says sunny in Koh Samui, that doesn’t mean it’s sunny all over the island. In many cases, it was raining in Chaweng but sunny up on Bang Po!
Take morning trips out to the many waterfalls and temples or markets around the island for a little more action. There are lots of options to rent a car, motorbike or get on a tour. Best to do this in the morning or before 4pm rush hour![smart-grid captions=”false” title=”false”]
How to make a more meaningful travel experience
• Have fun with the language, give it a try. We’ve had lots of laughs at local convenience stores, markets and restaurants on how to pronounce words properly, laughing at yourself is part of travel!
• Thai food has so many flavors and variety, ask the locals for their favorites, if you don’t like it, it’s such a small expense to try something else.
• We had fun trying some of the local snacks from the convenience store or food stalls many we liked, many we didn’t. We did get a new appreciation for local snacks! (BBQ banana chips are the best)
For more information about Bang Po, our Airbnb stay or areas of Koh Samui, please get in touch with us and we would be happy to share more!
Dorene is a marketing consultant and freelance writer. She quit her 20-year career in marketing to redesign her career and lifestyle on her own terms by living location independent. Now with her husband Troy, she helps people who want to redefine their midlife and make conscious changes at TravelLifeX. She also trains & coaches travel and hospitality clients to improve their marketing at TravelLifeMedia.com