The Bottle Trail…

“The Bottle Trail”? Just what are you on about?

Fair question! Well to answer this question you really have to do this hike to understand why it is called the “Bottle Trail”.

Starting about 2.5km to the East of Chaloklum the Bottle Beach Trail takes you over a ridge and drops you down into one of the most beautiful and undiscovered beaches on Koh Phangan – Bottle Beach. What makes this track unique is the amount of water bottles that are used to mark the way – the trail is about 2.2km in total and I would estimate that there is a bottle every 10 meters. If you find yourself walking for more than 2 minutes without seeing a plastic bottle you’ve goneΒ off piste (!) and it’s time to turn around.

The “Bottle Trail” would appear to be the only trail where littering (albeit sophisticated littering) is allowed.

THE LOCATION:

Out of all the hikes described on this site the start of the Bottle Beach trail is the easiest to find. However I personally did manage to get lost when a friendly German by the name of Mirko gave me the wrong instructions. This lead to the discovery of the “Mirko Trail” that is detailed at the end of this blog – the trail has inherited the name “Mirko Trail” as I’ve failed to find mention of it anywhere so as the discover I’ve claimed naming rights πŸ™‚

So rather than trust a friendly, but clueless tourist, let’s use technology to ensure we find the right start point! The following GPS image shows the trail start (in Blue) and the Topography (from the Chaloklum end). The path marked in Red is the road that you take from the Chaloklum 7/11. It is worth noting that like the Haad Rin to Haad Yuan/Thian walk you can take a 20 minute long tail from Bottle Beach to Chaloklum, but unlike the Haad Rin walk this start point is about 2-3km away therefore if you long tail back you’ll need to walk/taxi back to the start point to collect your scooter. The other option is obviously just to walk back over the ridge (more on that later…).

bottle_beach_start

The Chaloklum 7/11 sits on a four way intersection. From here you head East (or if you’re standing outside the 7/11 the road slightly ahead of you on your left (not the road to the beach)). There are a few turn-offs on this road and a small portion is gravel – just remember that you are following the coast so don’t take any right hand turn-offs (even the ones that say “Look Out”). Go to the very end of this road where the track turns into gravel and at time of writing stops completely. Find yourself a nice spot in the shade to park your scooter to avoid the dreaded “Scooter Seat Bum Burn (SSBB)” and look for the bottles marking the start of the track.

To make things nice and simple here’s a photo for your benefit –

Taken with HTC One X

THE HIKE:

Out of all the four Koh Phangan walks detailed on this website this was the one I enjoyed most. It’s hard to say why as even though there is no view of sorts at the top it was probably the most challenging. The average gradient was roughly 30% and consistent. Plus out of all of the walks I encountered a number of monkeys (at a distance) and a variety of other wildlife.

Due to the gradient (making this a moderate to hard walk for someone of average fitness) shoes are recommended – however I did it in Jandals/Thongs as I had heard, incorrectly, that it was only a 20 minute hike without too much drama… Note the first half of the climb is partially exposed so sunscreen/hat/sunglasses are also a must.

As previously mentioned there is no view from the top of the ridge. There are however plenty of views on the way up (in both directions).

Bottle Bay, due to its location being the exact opposite corner of the island to Haad Rin, is sparsely populated. There are at least two bungalow resorts that serve food so apart from taking in the beauty of the beach and swimming in the luke warm water there is full lunch/bar facilities. Due to time constraints I only spent 30 minutes but would recommend an early start, to avoid the mid day heat on the walk, and spend the day there soaking up the sunshine. Note that the walk back West is harder than the walk to Bottle Beach as the Chaloklum start point is already elevated by 75m. I would expect the hike to take between 1-1.5 hours one way for a person of average fitness. Trust me it is worth it – Bottle Beach is spectacular – and if you’re after a more quiet place to enjoy Koh Phangan look up accommodation options on the beach as it has relaxation written all over it.

View of the "Bottle Beach" - Looking East

 

THE MIRKO TRAIL:

As previously mentioned I initially struggled finding the Bottle Beach Trail start point. Upon arrival at the beginning of the walk I got talking to a lovely German chap named Mirko. After telling him about my intentions he instructed me to follow a particular path. After about 45 minutes and an incline of well over 100 meters I turned back disillusioned that I had been conquered by the “Bottle Trail”. Upon finally making it back to my start point (by now half my water supply and well over an hour had passed) I did a quick reconnaissance around the area and found the start of the bottle trail was just a short 50 meters stroll further along the gravel trail on your right (East) clearly marked by a dozen bottles hanging in a tree.

So exactly where did I go for this hour journey? The following GPS shows you the trail (starting once again from the Chaloklum 7/11).

mirko_trail

Once again the red line marks the scooter portion of the trail with the blue the hike itself. As I turned back I’ve estimated via the grey dots the eventual conclusion of the trail. If anyone has done this track please post a comment as I’d love to know more about where this trail eventually terminates.

The trail itself follows a stream bed that was completely dry with a very steep gradient to boot. I’d rate the trek moderate to hard and after 40 minutes I gave up when it was clear that my very limited rock climbing skills would have to come into play.

My suspicion is that the trail which is partially visible through wear on rocks as you climb is due to hikers, like myself who have taken the wrong path, and locals who are checking their water supplies as I passed four mini dams on the accent with associated blue water supply hoses running parallel to the stream. I suspect that this would actually be quite a beautiful, albeit challenging, track in the wet season as I climbed over what would be a vast number of small water falls and only stopped when I reached what must have been a 10 meter water fall. Therefore I mention this trail as a legitimate option for you adventure seekers out there. However it comes with a caution – shoes are essential and I suggest doing the hike with a friend. I was solo, in Jandals/Thongs and recovering from a dislocated shoulder so the decent was not an overly fun experience!

The following image shows the sign that marks the start of the trail (just before the concrete road turns to gravel). The Mirko Trail is to the right; I also went left but that just looped me back onto the same trail.

mirkos_trail_start_SMALL

As previously mentioned the trail is tough but very enjoyable. Given you’re climbing a stream bed you are only semi covered so the view back North is stunning. The following image shows the stream and one of the many man made dams that you’ll pass on your journey.

Taken by my HTC One X

Although it was completely unplanned the “Mirko Trail” was a good challenge and a good example of how easy it is to make your own path in the Koh Phangan jungle (within reason). This blog talks about the more well known walks – I challenge you to find your own Mirko trail and get the information out there so others can enjoy the experience πŸ™‚

Related Links:

Haad Rin Radio Tower Walk
Khao Ra – Tallest Peak on Koh Phangan
Haad Rin to Haad Yuan and Thian Nature Walk

5 Comments

  1. Alison

    Thanks for the info – very helpful πŸ™‚

  2. the other Mirko

    Well if there is a trail that has got my name (but not named after me) I put it on my bucketlist of things to do.

  3. Ramkumar.E.V.

    You rock DG !!

  4. Hey there! I am at function surfing around your blog from my new iphone! Just wanted to say I adore studying your weblog and look forward to all of your posts! Carry on the fantastic work!

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