Before going to Thailand I'd read myself stupid on Tripadvisor trying as best I could to ensure that paradise would be as heavenly as possible. The problem is obviously that paradise is a subjective idea, and so this review speaks for two young men of 26 and 36 who aren't particularly bothered by insects or by the dark. I'd read a lot of reviews of resorts on the islands of Thailand that bemoan the proximity of 'jungle', the presence of insects, of low lighting at night (in the jungle), etc etc etc. These reviews seem terribly ill judged; let me begin by affirming that at Dolphin Bungalows you are in the jungle, which is to say that your bungalow will be surrounded by trees and plants and protected from the sun and the rain by the forest canopy, connected to the rest of the resort not by concrete walkways, but by the natural floor covering of sand and grasses (so nice!). This means also that you are in the company (you are the guests) of the various creatures that live in this environment, the lizards, ants, flying insects, semi-wild dogs. Some of which may enter your room at some point during your stay (not the dogs, but they may sleep outside and make noises at night). And at night, yes, its dark, but then, we can hardly expect flood lighting in the jungle on a small tropical island in the gulf of Thailand can we? This is what you get.
All of that said, Dolphin Bungalows is almost shamefully comfortable. It looks and feels authentic, like an island settlement, nestled amidst the trees just beyond the beach. There is no concrete, sandy paths connect the bungalows and the bar/reception. Outside each bungalow is a little water container so that you can rinse your feet before you retire. Gentle lighting is hidden amongst the vegetation, I had the impression that this was to avoid interfering too much with the natural habitat, but it also created a wonderfully dreamy atmosphere too, when swinging on one's personal hammock on the bungalow porch before bed. And the room was comfortable, the bathroom was big, it was clean, we had everything we needed.
At the bar there is wifi and a seriously great menu. If you order the thai beef salad make sure you ask for less chilli, unless you are a fan, because it was seriously hot. I felt terribly western dashing for the toilet before I was even half way through. The breakfast is comprehensive and it is thoughtful. It isn't just a series of western dishes warmed up, there are interpretations. Everything is though about. Cocktails aren't half bad either. And the ambience is so nice. It made me think about the lounge/trip hop era of the late nineties. I seemed to have found the source of all that posturing. But I couldn't tell if this was based on that, or vice versa. There were certainly several chilled ibiza style playlists in the air, and the oriental decor wasn't exclusively thai nor authentic. But it all worked. The various tables, seating areas were all raised off the ground, they encouraged you to remove your shoes, running water was audible around you... The cliché brought to its logical conclusion but in an environment where it can't fail to seem natural. I can be a culture snob of the worst proportions, but I was totally happy, stretched out on the floor with a coconut shake by my side, afloat a haze of cicadas and, i don't know, nightmares on wax or Talvin Singh, glimpsing the play of fire on the beach beyond the trees..
We were here for the full moon. For those who are interested, the taxi to and from the full moon is fine, it isn't long. But the routes vary, and you may be lucky or you may be unlucky, it might be smooth or it might be hellish. On the way back from the full moon, if you're of a delicate constitution, you might get a bit queasy. But its worth it to be able to chill out in the luxury and calm of thong nai pan yai, as opposed to the filth and rancour of haad rin. to each their own though.
There were quite a lot of boats (the traditional pretty kind don't worry) moored on Dolphin's side of the beach. So when swimming we tended to walk up the beach a little way, or often to the other side near Candle Hut /White Wind. Not a problem for us, but something to bare in mind for someone who wants the minimum of transition between bed and beach. Oh and there is no swimming pool. Which was one of my favourite things about the place.
Thong Nai Pan Yai is what it is all about. It is quiet, oh so quiet. Yet there are myriad places to drink, eat, and the Pharmacy Bar a little down the beach from Dolphin can sort you out for something to smoke if you are that way inclined. Just be sensible and don't make too much noise about it. In the little village on the road behind the beach there were young Thai guys openly smoking outside a tattoo parlour all night one evening. The place is eminently chilled.
At the end of the beach there's this big traditional house built into the cliff. Its a massage parlour/restaurant called White Wind, with a high end feel (but still completely affordable for those wielding western currencies). Book yourself a massage here, it was seriously the best we had. Best i'll ever have I'm sure. The food is nice too. Not special, but nice. It is raised a little way off the beach, so you dine overlooking the bay which is nice. However, the place is next to Candle Hut Resort, one of the most commercial on the beach, which is noisy and panders to the kinds of holiday makers that really ought to stay in the Costa del Sol, producing the occasional whiff of sewage/stagnant water to boot too. The only negative on the whole beach.
And did i mention how beautiful this bay is?
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- To all our friends the new Dolphin Bar % Cafe is soon to be launched at its new location in Thong Nai Pan Yai.Find us in the heart of the village close to Thai Terrace Bungalows..Another creative space for travellers and friends to enjoy. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- Dolphin Bungalows Hotel Koh Phangan