In my opinion you can judge a good ‘chill bar’ in south-east Asia by a number of factors: Does it have comfy bean bags? Do they serve local beer/good cocktails? Is the structure of the building made predominantly from wood or bamboo? Is the bar full of other travellers playing game of cards whilst having a deep and meaningful conversation about life? …If so, then this IS a good chill bar!
When exploring a new country – alongside many other things – finding a good chill bar ranks high up on our list of things to do, as it’s always nice to sit and chill out after a day of activities. There have been many places that we have ‘chilled’ in over the years in south-east Asia and we’d like to share them with you for your own enjoyment (if you’re ever in any of the areas mentioned).
Here are our Top 5 ‘Chill’ bars in South East Asia:
5. Fizz Beach Lounge – Koh Tao – Thailand
Me and Sarah first came across this place on our Thailand trip of 2015 and have since been back to visit with some friends of ours. Located on the seafront of Sairee Beach, the setting makes for a perfect evening of both chill and entertainment. With bean bags strewn across the sand, organised around little tables no taller than thirty centimetres, it’s a great place to sit and enjoy a drink over a game of UNO. To complete the atmosphere, throughout the evening you are graced with the presence of a number of performers juggling fire before your eyes …and sometimes over your heads! Securing Fizz Lounge as being a strong ‘chill bar’ contender, there is also an impressive cocktail menu with notably one of the most interesting sounding cocktails known as ‘The Broken-Down Tuk-Tuk’ (which is very tasty indeed). Fizz Lounge is one of the many cool little bars located on Sairee Beach. It always manages to draw in a big crowd and this might also be down to the yummy BBQ’s they host each evening. Choosing your freshly-caught seafood is quite exciting when you first arrive and then when it turns up to your table, accompanied with a lovely salad and smoked corn on the cob, it seals the deal even more-so.
The only problem with this bar – if any – is that it’s quite dependent on good weather; a few times that we have been have resulted in us quickly evacuating the beachside after noticing a monsoon heading its’ way over the sea (as we all know of Thailand, during rainy season, you can be sun-bathing one moment and the next swimming home). Weather permitted however, this bar is one of the many that give Koh Tao it’s reputation of being a vibrant, upbeat and one of the coolest islands in Thailand.
Ｗｅ ｇｉｖｅ Ｆｉｚｚ Ｂｅａｃｈ Ｌｏｕｎｇｅ：
4. Lantern Lounge – Hanoi – Vietnam
Lantern Lounge happened to be the first bar/restaurant that we visited on our trip to Vietnam. Located down one of the side-streets in Hanoi, it’s a great little place to unwind from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets. As you may be aware, eating in south-east Asia is relatively cheap in most places and at lantern lounge this is certainly the case. We ordered a dish called Bún chả which is a Vietnamese dish of grilled pork and noodle (this dish is thought to have originated from Hanoi). Bún chả is served with grilled fatty pork (chả) over a plate of white rice noodle (bún) and herbs with a side dish of dipping sauce and is very yummy! Two portions of this, accompanied by a number of sides and as many beers as we wanted (lots of places in Vietnam offer you all you can drink beers if you come and eat in their restaurant) merely costed us £11 in total! The food was incredibly tasty and the atmosphere made it the perfect getaway from the craziness of Hanoi’s streets. We came here a few times during our stay in Hanoi and loved sitting upstairs in the chill room surrounded by the beautiful lanterns.
Ｗｅ ｇｉｖｅ Ｌａｎｔｅｒｎ Ｌｏｕｎｇｅ：
3. Dive Bar – Hoin An – Vietnam
During the evenings, The Ancient Town of Hoi An comes to life with thousands of beautiful lanterns all creating quite the spectacle! Although secluded from the liveliness of mopeds and traffic each night, the town can become extremely busy with tourists from all-around admiring the sights and soaking up the Ancient Town vibe. During our first few nights in Hoi An, we found it somewhat difficult to locate a good chill bar; there are many bars that turn up the music until the early hours and although these looked quite fun, a party until 7am wasn’t really what we were looking for in Hoi An. With this in mind, we sought out to find more of a relaxed place where we could grab a cocktail, listen to some music and play a few games of cards. Dive Bar was the perfect find, offering many of the things above (plus more). The bean bags were there, the tables were small and the music was great! Not only this, there were also a few guys walking around offering out laughing gas balloons at one hell of a price… so we had to steam in, of course! Giggling in to the night, we were a little gutted that we hadn’t found this place during our first few nights in Hoi An (luckily we had been to a incredible restaurant the night before though so it didn’t matter too much – you can read about or Top 5 Restaurants of 2017 here to find out more)
Ｗｅ ｇｉｖｅ Ｄｉｖｅ Ｂａｒ：
2. Cafe Chill – Ella – Sri Lanka
In comparison to places like Thailand or Vietnam, Sri Lanka is still relatively new to the backpacking scene, therefore we found that most of our destinations in Sri Lanka remained relatively quiet during the evenings. If you head to Sigiriya for example, not much really happens in the town post 9pm which I guess is great if you’re really looking for a relaxing evening at your hotel/homestay. We also found this to be quite similar in Nuwara Eliya after we caught a ride in to the main town one evening, only to find nothing more than a few tumble weeds blowing around. However, if you head to Ella which has become one of the most popular destinations for tourists in Sri Lanka, there is a vibrance to the town the seems to be coming in to its’ own. Alongside Ella being a beautiful location for many things such as waterfalls, mountains-capes, incredible train journeys through the clouds (literally), there is a town that has a great energy and some cool little bars that remain open until the early hours. We found a place called ‘Cafe Chill‘ (the perfect name!) What really made this place great was that they had recently restructured the building by adding a roof terrace on top of the existing bar. Covered with an impressive structure of bamboo, as soon as we walked upstairs we knew that we were on to a winner! Bean bags – check! Tiny tables- check! Beer and cocktail menu – check! Great food menu – check! ……what more did we need – Cafe Chill was the one! The only problem with the bar was – due to it’s popularity – landing yourself a bean bag during either the day or night was quite difficult! Luckily the staff remained very clued up on who has been been waiting and for how long and they let you know as soon as seats become available.
NB. If you’re looking for other upbeat locations in Sri Lanka, Mirissa and Hikkaduwa are widely becoming known amongst backpackers as the ‘lively’ destinations.
Ｗｅ ｇｉｖｅ Ｃａｆｅ Ｃｈｉｌｌ ａｎ ｅａｓｙ：
1. The Magic Garden – Koh Chang – Thailand
The Magic Garden is a bar that we found on an accidental trip to Koh Chang. Reading up on Thailand before we arrived, we noticed that Koh Chang seemed to be a popular destination for Thailand-goers, so we headed straight for it after out trip to Chiang Mai. When we first arrived on the island, we thought for a good while that we might have been two of the five people actually there. Koh Chang is extremely quiet during the months of July/August and all of the hype that we had read about seemed to be long gone. From mid-May through to October it’s the season referred to as the rainy season and therefore there will be rain most days (and there was!) As the island is somewhat isolated on the south-west of Thailand, during the rainy season Koh Chang suffers more-so with rain in comparison to places like Koh Phi Phi and Koh Chang located on the east.
So although upon arrival, even though our first impressions of Koh Chang weren’t great, we soon realised that actually this is a perfect little opportunity to sit back and relax and that’s where we found what we now consider to be the original ‘chill bar’ – The Magic Garden. By coming here on numerous occasions it quickly set a precedent for our love of chilling. As the island was very quiet, so was the bar and this meant that each night we had first dibs on any of the hammocks hanging from the roof top. This was the perfect way to spend an evening, listening to reggae and chatting in to the night over a Chang beer.
Ｗｅ ｇｉｖｅ Ｔｈｅ Ｍａｇｉｃ Ｇａｒｄｅｎ ａ ｓｏｌｉｄ：
ＳａＬＴ ＡｎＤ ＣｏＣｏＮｕＴｓ
The perfect chill album that we continuously listen to whilst away is from a New Zealand band called Fat Freddy’s Drop. The album is called Based on a True Story and couldn’t be any more perfect for those times that you want to sit and unwind. The band’s musical style has been characterised as any combination of dub, reggae, soul, jazz, rhythm and blues – all those sounds that keep you hanging in your hammock!
(You wouldn’t believe that as I sit here writing this blog from a bar in Wimbledon, Fat Freddy’s Drop have just come on – What are the chances!?)
Happy chilling x