Bottle Beach – A Review and a Retrospective

Bottle Beach or Haad Khom is a beautiful, small beach tucked away in the jungle in the north of Koh Phangan Island. Until a few years ago it was inaccessible by road. That made the place when I first went there in the mid 1990s. It was so remote, so cut off, so peaceful. It was the perfect place to recuperate and have fun swimming, lying around, playing Frisbee and just generally have a mellow time. Back then all the accommodation was simple bamboo and coconut thatch bungalows and just one business called Cookies, if my memory serves me right.The sea was always calm, clear and warm. The beach was always nearly deserted and the night stars shone loudly; and that was the only thing that was loud – there were no late night raves because the generator couldn’t take that type of workload.The only way in was by a long tail boat from either Thong Nai Pan or Chaloklum. It cost $3 and when the sailor took the short cut between the cliff face and an islet of rocks on a stormy day I was happy to get there and not washed up against the rocks demanding a refund.Now in 2010 things have moved on. Bottle Beach is still one of the most remote and perfect beaches on Koh Phangan but it is finally and sadly connected to the world via a dirt track which only a 4 by 4 can attempt that goes to Thong Nai Pan beach. It is a small improvement, but a massive symbolic change.And with symbolic change comes material change. Now Cookies is BFKA or bungalows formerly known as, and the inspired name of Bottle Beach 1 is preferred. Bottle Beach 1 is in competition with Bottle Beach 2 and 3. The accommodation on Bottle Beach has also gone up-market. Bathrooms, constant electricity, concrete reception and restaurant areas are all signs of better business. Prices have gone up and more people are showing up.For all of these detractors (from my point of view), I went back recently and found that I still loved the place. It was still an adventure in itself getting there, and the nature was still pristine and thriving. Some of the same people were still working and living on the beach. It was still relaxed and thankfully free of that Thailand phenomenon called ‘The All Night Party’. And best of all, the dog called ‘Cookie’ was still alive and getting into trouble with the kitchen staff. Bottle Beach is no longer Robinson Crusoe Beach but it is still one of the preeminent places to be in the world, in my humble opinion.

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