Monday, 13 February 2012
Buddhas and Mermaids at Koh Chang
My feet are dangling a metre above the water, twinkling with darting fish and a mermaid. She’s a little weathered from years submerged, but the Khmer Apsana dancer staring up at me is still an intriguing companion.
This is the last place I expected to be having such a cool dining experience – the Thai island of Koh Chang, in the north-east corner of the Gulf of Thailand near the Cambodian border. But the Buddha View Restaurant has raised the bar for fabulousness in the region, combining European chic with relaxed Thai charm, great food and a seductive ambience.
(the entrance to Buddha View. Pic: Julie Miller)
Owned by three Belgian friends, Buddha View perches on stilts above the waters of Bang Bao Bay, in the south of Thailand’s second largest island. Bang Bao is a working pier, trawlers docked alongside and women pounding shrimp heads into paste. Seafaring cats wander along the planks squeaking for handouts, and there’s always a fishy whiff in the air.
In the past few years, however, Bang Bao has also become a tourist mecca, with the narrow half-kilometre pier jammed with souvenir sellers, dive shops and restaurants. Guesthouses and private homes have also sprung up, with real estate prices exploding as society folk from Bangkok establish weekender accommodation.
Originally a sprawling Thai restaurant, the Belgians took over Buddha View five years ago, determined to upgrade, modernise and attract a different clientele – namely Europeans. First on the agenda was to convert half of the space to guest accommodation – there are now eight rooms available, simple yet stylish, all with king beds and four with spacious en suite bathrooms.
During the day, guests are welcome to soak up the sun on day beds strategically positioned on the pier; in the evening, these are the perfect place to sip on cocktails (the strawberry margaritas are to die for!), soaking up sunset views and watching the twinkling lights on the bay.
The coolest place to dine, however, is on colourful cushions alongside two large glass-top tables, hovering over holes cut into the original decking. The addition of the mermaid sculptures below, visible only at low tide, make for a mesmerising dining experience.
Matching the chill-out lounge ambience at the Buddha View is the quality of the food – exceptional flavours and presentation, with seafood barbecues and delicious jungle curries a specialty. And of course, you couldn’t get much fresher seafood, straight off the boat and direct to your plate.
(glass-top table at Buddha View. Pic: Julie Miller)
Buddha View: 28 Moo 1 Bang Bao Pier, Koh Chang.
Rooms with ensuite bathroom cost from 1400 baht per night in peak season (Dec-Jan), less at other times of the year.