The Road to Bottle Beach

Bottle Beach
Bottle Beach

Introduction

Bottle Beach is one of the most famous beaches on Koh Phangan. It is a place that evokes strong emotions from the many that have visited the beach at some point. Bottle Beach is the counterpoint to Haad Rin, as well as perhaps being the antidote to the excesses of the Full Moon Party beach.

About Bottle Beach

Haad Khuad (also spelt Haad Khuat) translates as ‘Bottle Beach’. The name was given to the beach not on account of bottles washed up on its shore, but because it is shaped like a bottle. The beach is located on the north east coast, nestled among rugged coastline, to the east Thong Nai Pan Noi, and to west Haad Khom.

The beach is about 500 meters long. At both ends it is flanked by mighty rocks. Behind the beach is thick jungle. Until the early 2000s Bottle Beach was unconnected to the island roads. It was isolated and remote. The only ways to get to Bottle Beach used to be a jungle trek for 2 miles or a short long tail boat ride from Chaloklum.


Between Thong Nai Pan and Bottle Beach
Between Thong Nai Pan and Bottle Beach

Back in the Day

In the 1990s Bottle Beach was a hippy haven and heaven. There were only 2 low-key resorts on the beach mostly composed of cheap wooden bungalows. People stayed for weeks at a time. These people came to chill out, play Frisbee, swim in the sea and enjoy leisure time that didn’t feature shopping, internet browsing, visiting tourist attractions or drinking buckets of Thai whisky; just hanging out high. You wore scruffy clothes or swimwear and walked around without any money. You simply wrote down in the book what you had had and paid when you left.

I stayed there with my partner on a couple of occasions during the 1990s and we loved the quiet; the fact that you started recognising all the other Bottle Beach devotees; the fact that it cost just a few dollars a day to stay in paradise.

Bottle Beach now
Bottle Beach now

Same or Different?

The question everyone who remembers that Bottle Beach asks is it still the same? The answer is yes and no. The beach is still chilled. It still doesn’t have electricity via the grid. The beach remains beautiful. However, the number of guests has increased but the beach is not over-run. It is still quiet but tour boats often dump dozens of tourists on the beach for a couple of hours. It is still relatively cheap but many of the basic wooden bungalows have been replaced with better and more expensive accommodation. The swimming pool at Bottle Beach 1 would not please many of the beach’s former enthusiasts. Who needs such things when the sea is warm, clear and calm? Who needs air-con or a fridge or a TV when these consumer items cause global warming and are the very twenty-first century trappings that you are longing to escape?

Haad Rin and Bottle Beach

When Bottle Beach is compared against Haad Rin rather than its former glory, the beach comes off a lot better in the comparison. Haad Rin is crowded, the beach has degraded, you have to watch your purse and your back during parties, and there’s lots of pick-up trucks, mopeds and jet skis polluting the area. Haad Rin is commercial, brash, bold, bad and loud. It is obvious. It caters for hedonism and rites of passage binges. Bottle Beach remains subtle, clean, quiet, uncrowded, unmodernised and un-motorised. Haad Rin is yang, Bottle Beach is ying. If the two beaches were forms of transport Haad Rin would be a Japanese truck and Bottle Beach would be walking.

Conclusion

It is a cliché of travel writing to end by saying don’t go there! Oops I just let the cat out of the bag. The cat got out of the bag a while ago. The beach is now connected by road. It is now no longer a hippy secret that Bottle Beach is a free and wonderful place. Everyone knows. The internet says it. The guide books say it. For the hard core this means moving on to other semi-discovered beaches. I could tell you some, but I won’t. For others the dream of Bottle Beach was a left over from 60s flower power, and nothing to get upset about. The bungalows are still fairly cheap, the sea and beach are still awesome and the road to Bottle Beach is still bumpy and uncomfortable.

Road to Bottle Beach
Road to Bottle Beach

Map

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