Koh Phangan’s Chaloklum beach and village is the quintessential fishing community forgotten by time (and, to a large extent, tourists). While the southern tip of the island parties into the next day, life here continues in blissful ignorance.
The arrival of fishing boats around mid-morning hauling in the catch of the day is about the most exciting thing that happens in Chaloklum on a daily basis.
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But you don’t come to this side of the island to join the throngs of farang foreigners engaged in varying levels of debauchery. Oh no. Travelers come to Chaloklum seeking a very different kind of hedonism:
The pursuit of absolute tranquility.
Guide to Koh Phangan’s Chaloklum Beach
Getting to Koh Phangan (and Chaloklum Village)
There are a number of different ways to get from Bangkok to Koh Phangan, but only one way to approach the island — by boat.
Putting It Together Yourself
If you’re short on time and long on cash, you can fly directly into neighboring Koh Samui and take a short ferry to Koh Phangan.
Or you can do what we did and put the trip together yourself, journeying by train and ferry. We took a day train from Bangkok to Chumphon, then the overnight ferry to Koh Tao. A week later, we took the one-hour SeaTran ferry to Thong Sala, Koh Phangan.
Tickets for the train can be purchased at Bangkok Railway Station (Hua Lamphong) and online. We recommend purchasing train tickets well in advance in Thailand.
Ferry tickets can be purchased at the piers in Chumphon and Surat Thani (mainland), Mae Haad pier (Koh Tao), and the ferry piers on Koh Samui. Taking a ferry from the mainland to Koh Phangan may involve stops at Koh Tao or Koh Samui.
You can also do what the majority of backpackers in Thailand seem to do and purchase a joint ticket covering all transport from any number of travel agencies on and around Khao San Road.
The major advantages of these tickets are that they are very convenient and often include pickup from your guesthouse to the bus or train station in Bangkok.
The downsides of a joint ticket in Thailand are that they often cost more, allow limited flexibility, and may require waiting for long periods of time in transit centers owned by the tour agency. Plus, expect to get corralled together with dozens of other falang as you make your way from point to point.
If you like to plan ahead, you can also book your joint ticket online.
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How to Get from Thong Sala to Chaloklum Beach on Koh Phangan
Once you arrive at the Thong Sala pier in Koh Phangan, songthaews ( or, in our case, some guy’s pickup) will be waiting to take you where you need to go. Just tell the driver Ban Chaloklum, verify the price, and you should be on your way.
If you plan to head directly to the north shore of the island, make sure you get a ferry to Thong Sala, not one that goes to Haad Rin.
And yes, we did completely bypassed Haad Rin. I hear it’s very nice…just not our scene.
Lodging in Chaloklum
Visiting Koh Phangan? Check out our freshly updated Chaloklum lodging recommendations in the next section below.
For us, Chaloklum is proof that the universe has a funny way of getting you what you really need, even if you’re convinced you want something completely different — like that Rolling Stones song.
I wanted a resort. I wanted a big freakin’ resort with an infinity pool and waiters and fancy food and all of it.
After almost four months of hauling around a backpack, I was filthy, sleep-deprived, and exhausted. I wanted to feel “human” again.
At this point, I knew we had chosen the wrong island. If we wanted resorts, we should have gone straight to Koh Samui. But budget was also an issue.
For most backpackers, budget is ALWAYS the issue.
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Lori didn’t seem to care at this point where we stayed, and that drove me crazy, because that made ME the diva in the relationship.
Nonetheless, we hauled our bags off the pickup that brought us from the ferry and headed to the only resort in town.
I don’t even remember how we picked Chaloklum.
Koh Phangan is a sizable island with numerous villages dotted along its entire circumference. What led us to pick this tiny little fishing village, I’m not so sure.
A part of it had to do with its neighbor — Bottle Beach. We read somewhere or someone had suggested that it was an idyllic stretch of beach with a chilled out vibe and a good range of cheap accommodation. It sounded lovely, but I wanted the resort.
After walking for a while in the tropical midday heat, we finally reached the resort. But alas, the seemingly deserted place was completely booked. The manager suggested we walk up the beach, so we did.
We walked back through town, then made our way up the sand-fringed coastline. There wasn’t much of anything it seemed, but we kept the faith that there would be somewhere we could crash just for one night before heading on to Bottle.
And then, we came upon North Beach Bungalows.
The place immediately struck our fancy — picturesque thatch bungalows with private porch and hammock overlooking the bay. And best of all, the place was empty! Not another guest in sight.
We “checked-in” and claimed our bungalow. US$9.75 per night, private bath and a room with a view. Doesn’t get much better than that.
Sadly, we can no longer recommend North Beach Bungalows. While it appears they still exist, the current reviews are so terrifying and awful that we wouldn’t even opt to stay their again for just one night, even after the amazing experience we had there a few years back.
Check out our current Chaloklum lodging recommendations in the next section.
Spirit Houses like this one (above) are a common sight throughout Thailand. This spirit house sat on the North Beach Bungalow compound and the owners burned incense and lovingly maintained it throughout our time there.
Dogs, unfortunately, were a bit of an issue in Chaloklum Beach, as small packs would roam the area looking for scraps, harassing visitors, and picking fights with the odd straggler mutt.
The folks at our place had an interesting solution that seemed to do the trick for a day or two: Firecrackers.
If the pack became too cozy on the grounds, the owner would come outside, light a big long strip of fire crackers and throw it up in the air above the dogs, which sent them scattering in all directions. We generally didn’t see a single dog on the compound for another 24-48 hours.
Where to Stay in Chaloklum in 2020
So, if North Beach Bungalows is off the table, then where do we recommend visitors stay? Well, fortunately there are a handful of really good options, but for a bit more per night than the US$10/night we paid.
Our Top Pick on Chaloklum Beach! This vacation rental has a superb seaside location and all the amenities of home. Silan Residence is very popular so make sure you book early! Check rates & availability.
Malibu Beach Bungalows
An excellent resort option. If you’re looking for something with a resort feel, Malibu Beach Bungalows might be your best bet in town. Pool and private beach, and well-appointed bungalows at affordable rates. Check rates & availability.
Baan Moon Chan
Wooded setting close to town. Baan Moon Chan might be our #1 pick if it were right on the beach. However, if you don’t mind walking a minute or two to sand and sea, it’s hard to do better for the money in Chaloklum. Check rates & availability.
Shoestring Lodging Options
If you’d rather wing it, don’t want to book ahead, and/or are on a tighter budget (like we were), there are still a few of those options in town on the north beach, just before and after North Beach Bungalows (Fantasea Resort is a reliable bet, though we’ve heard they’ve hiked their rates up in recent years).
Just follow the path skirting the eastern edge of Chaloklum Bay until the path runs out. Make sure you follow the path closest to the water, or you may end up in Haad Khom.
Things to Do in Chaloklum Beach
Ahead of our arrival in Chaloklum, we read several negative reviews of the eastern stretch of beach (“north beach”). Most of these reviews claimed that the water was filled with trash and debris from fishing activities and the village itself.
Honestly, in early October, we couldn’t figure out what all the negativity was about.
The stretch of beach in question, just south of North Beach Bungalows, was about as pristine as it gets this close to civilization these days. With the exception of the occasional errant plastic cap or small baggie, we found the water to be clean and clear. The sand was white, soft, and extraordinarily clean, given that this was indeed a fishing village and not a resort beach.
Depending on the seasons and weather, your mileage may vary. But our experience was extremely positive.
So, what is there to do in Chaloklum? Honestly, not a whole lot except for whiling away the days on white sands, taking refreshing dips in azure water, and watching the long tail boats come and go.
In between beach bumming stints, we enjoyed taking long walks along the beach and exploring the village center, which offers a good variety of shops, restaurants, and a few points of interests like Buddhist temples.
Top Food Recommendations
One of the absolutely amazing aspects of Ban Chaloklum (and biggest surprises) was the food!
This tiny village is home to about a dozen excellent mom & pop eateries, mostly serving one thing: freshly caught seafood.
The grilled red snapper at Nong Nook on the village waterfront was phenomenal. We split a huge fish with sides and drinks for about US$8.00 (map).
We splurged a bit one evening for lasagna and wine (of all things) at the very good Caffe Della Moca, which also had outdoor seating facing the water (map).
Also scattered about the village are a number of good expat-oriented restaurants and cafes, in addition to numerous local [Thai] food places. Check out North Coast Bakery for breads and breakfast, The Worlds End and Suncafe for coffee and bites, and Chalok Bar for good food and live music.
All in all, we were very impressed by the variety and quality of the food we had in Chaloklum.
Side Trip to Haad Khom
Haad Khom is a small cove 2 km (30 minute walk) north of Chaloklum Village that’s said to have the best snorkeling on the island.
We made the trek up there, but may have caught it at an awkward time, as the seas were a bit rough for good snorkeling.
All of the guidebooks said that Haad Khom is a bit more relaxed than Chaloklum, but I don’t necessarily buy it.
True, there is only a handful of guesthouses, but they all were congregated along the narrow beach lining the tiny cove. Because of the small size of the beach and proximity of the guesthouses, the beach felt more like a busy tourist/farang colony than where we were staying.
In Chaloklum, we generally had long stretches of beach to ourselves:
A picture-perfect office in paradise — ok, I can’t really call it an office because, let’s be honest, I really didn’t have any real work to get done on this trip.
But for bouts of blogging and such — between meals, swims, and strolls around town — perfect.
Long after our visit, I still see this place in my dreams and find it hard to believe we made this peaceful and less-visited corner of Thailand’s Gulf Islands home for four nights.
That is, after all, the beauty of extended travel — if you stumble upon some place that speaks to you and you have enough flexibility built-in to your adventure, you can stay as long as you darn well please.
Southeast Asia makes that a bit easier with the low cost of food and lodging.
We never did make it up to Bottle Beach. We truly didn’t believe that place could offer anything that Chaloklum could not.
We stayed four nights in all in this sleepy little paradise before moving on to Railay. But nothing else in Thailand quite compared to our stay on Koh Phangan’s north shore, and Lori and I are already looking forward to our return.