Many travelers in Southeast Asia flock to Koh Pha Ngan for its famous (or is it infamous?) Full Moon Party, a night of fire-spinning, loud music, dance circles, and general debauchery. What many people don’t know, however, is that up and over the jungle-laden hills and roads filling Koh Pha Ngan’s lush island landscape, rests one of the most relaxing spots in the world: Bottle Beach. On that beach, a world away from the wildness of the Full Moon Party, the vibe is calm, the surf is slow, the sands are smooth, and the smiles are plentiful. For a beachfront stay that is nothing short of magical, Smile Bungalows on Bottle Beach is waiting with open arms.
An unbeatable location
It’s hard to find a more tranquil spot than Bottle Beach, on the northeast shore of Koh Phangan. On that quiet beach, four small hotels sit side by side, each comprised of a cluster of bungalows and a central dining area. Smile Bungalows is on the north end of the beach, nestled in a rocky, grassy cove that looks out across the length of the coastline, to the jungle-covered mountain on the far end. There are only two ways to get to Bottle Beach. The first is by boat, traveling from one of Koh Pha Ngan’s southern piers; boat tours bring in a number of daytime visitors to the beach every day. The other way to reach Bottle Beach is via an off-road capable vehicle, which the beach’s hotels send into town to fetch guests. Because of Bottle Beach’s blessed inaccessibility, the sands and waves are never crowded. (Before and after the daytime tour boats arrive, it truly feels like a private island.)
Smile Bungalows embraces the quiet atmosphere of this remote beach, offering minimalist accommodations that allow travelers to connect with their serene surroundings. The accommodations at Smile are decidedly rustic; the beachfront bungalows feature simple beds with mosquito netting and a bare bones bathroom with a shower that is lukewarm at best. However, with a porch that overlooks the Gulf of Thailand and a wooden floor that’s bound to be covered in soft Koh Phangan sand through the duration of your beach-side stay, you’ll soon forget that you ever needed Egyptian cotton sheets and a functioning air-conditioner (the nightly sea breeze and crashing waves ensure you’ll sleep soundly, regardless).
Amazing food for every meal
Visitors to Bottle Beach don’t come and go during their stay. Given the beach’s remoteness, it’s the kind of place to spend a few days; getting to other parts of the island is more hassle than it’s worth, and besides, the views and atmosphere at Bottle Beach are unrivaled. Luckily, Smile offers plenty to keep you satisfied and satiated during your stay. From a full English breakfast to authentic Thai seafood dishes, the options at Smile Bungalows are plentiful. The cocktails are great and well-priced, too, and the owner, Mr. Jay, will be quick to recommend his signature Smile Bungalow rum bucket. With an expansive menu, a stay at Smile Bungalows is as delicious as it is relaxing.
A stay full of smiles
A man named Mr. Jay runs the operations at Smile Bungalow, and fittingly, he always has a warm smile plastered to his face. From the moment we stepped ashore on Koh Phangan to our boat’s sad departure at the adventure’s end, Jay made sure everything was smooth sailing. He arranges a 4x4 pickup from Koh Pha Ngan’s main port, Thongsala, greets guests upon arrival (with a smile!), and coordinates his guests’ return trips to work with the Gulf of Thailand ferry’s schedule. Throughout the entirety of a stay at Smile Bungalow, Jay ensures that his guests are smiling, whether it is upon the first bite of a spicy Thai curry or with the clinking of a shared round of Chang beers.
Smile Bungalow’s clientele tend to be a friendly, inviting bunch. The cushioned seating plan at Smile Bungalow’s central dining area lends itself to open conversation between guests, and beach dwellers from Bottle Beach’s other bungalow hotels sometimes swing by for a drink or dish, adding to Smile’s convivial atmosphere. It doesn’t matter if you’re sharing a rum bucket with a group of new friends, slurping a coconut soup while curled up with a book on a corner cushion, or tucking into a steaming plate of Western comfort food, at Smile Bungalow, you’ll be happy doing it.
The sweetest escape
Bottle Beach is a perfect place, and Smile Bungalow is a perfect accommodation for the low-maintenance traveler looking to relax. It’s far from luxurious, but Smile Bungalows’ rustic simplicity and surrounding natural beauty ensure a relaxing and rejuvenating vacation.