Koh Chang is an island located on the east coast of Thailand in the gulf of Thailand, 310 kms away from the capital Bangkok near the boader with Cambodia. Koh Chang was named for the elephant shape of its headland and means Elephant Island accordingly, although it is important to note that elephants are not indigenous to the island. Koh Chang is the second largest island in Thailand after Phuket with an area of approximately 217 square kilometers consisting of 70% undisturbed tropical rainforest. The island also offers tall mountains and rock cliffs with the tallest mountain peak of Khao Salak Phet being 744 metres above sea level. The island consists of an abundance of waterfalls, beaches and splendid reefs in the west of the island and at present, there are eight villages in total.
Koh Chang is one of Thailand’s most beautiful untouched islands with many almost deserted long white sandy beaches, the discovery of the island as a tourist destination is relatively recent compared to the other tourist islands of Thailand. The waters surrounding Koh Chang are rich in marine life due mainly to the fact the island and its 51 surrounding smaller islands became the Koh Chang Marine National Park in 1982. Animals that can be found in the national park include the stump-tailed macaque, the small Indian civet, the Javanese mongoose and around 61 resident bird species.
A Guide to Koh Chang
Most of the scenic sandy beaches and bays are located on the western side of Koh Chang, extending from the north to the south including Klong Son Bay, White Sand Beach, Klong Prao Beach and Kai Bae Beach. Aside beautiful long sandy beaches on Koh Chang the surrounding islands of Koh Mak, Koh Kood and other smaller islands are well worth exploring with similar activities like snorkeling and diving. Traveling around Koh Chang is convenient by taxi though be prepared to bargain as thai taxi drivers love nothing more than taking tourists (farangs in Thai) for a ride in more ways than one. The other option is renting motorcycles, but be sure to be careful on the roads and ensure you thoroughly check over the bike making sure to note any scratches or dents. Try not to drop or scratch the bike as you may find a hefty bill once you return it.
Accommodation is usually available on the island and surrounding islands ranging from simple cheap bungalows to luxurious 5 star hotels. Despite the number of accommodations available on the island, rooms can sometimes be hard to find in peak seasons, so it is advisable to book ahead.
White Sand Beach (Haad Sai Kao,)
is the most popular beach located at the northern end of Koh Chang’s west coast. It’s over 2 kms long and lined by rocks, over-hanging palms and broad-leaved trees. The southern part is the busiest of the island with numerous shops, resorts and restaurants. While the northern part, probably the most well-known and longest visited beach on Koh Chang, is today still rather quiet. At both ends of the beach are rather steep mountains covered with dense rain forest, which almost reach the beach. The beach is rather flat, similarly to almost everywhere on the west coast and therefore very suitable for swimming at either high or low tide.
Klong Prao Beach (Haad Khlong Prao,)
is slightly over 3 kilometre long sandy beach, situated south of White Sand Beach. The beach is divided into 3 sections by 2 river estuaries: the Khlong Plu in the north and the Klong Prao in the south. There are many shops, bars, restaurants, motorbike rentals and internet shops, all mainly located at the road along Klong Prao Beach.
Kai Bae Beach
is located in the South of Klong Prao Beach. The scenic beauty of this beach and the small island are very popular at sunset. At low tide Koh Man Nai reveals it picturesque sandy beach and one can walk to the island at chest-deep water level, although it is recommended to use either boats, canoes or sea-kayaks. Lonely Beach (Haad Thanam) is about 1 kilometre-long wonderful postcard beach south of Kai Bae Beach. In principle it is the northern part of Bai Lan Bay (Aow Bai Lan), but is mainly known as Lonely Beach. It consists of fine white sand while the southern section is rather stony.
The beaches of Ko Chang have an abundance of restaurants to choose from, with the obvious specialty being seafood as well as traditional Thai cuisine. There are also many western restaurants for those of you who feel you need abreak from the spice. Koh Chang’s nightlife and bar scene offers you the choice of relaxed beach bars with amazing sunset views to chill out as well as disco bars which you can dance till the sun rise.
ACTIVITIES/THINGS TO DO
Other than the usual chilling out on beautiful beaches if you feel the need to add a little spice to your holiday, there is an abundance of things to do on Koh Chang. Check out what Koh Chang has install for you:
Snorkeling & Diving
There is an amazing array of marine life and colorful corals to discover in the waters surrounding Koh Chang. Explore the underwater marine world by either snorkeling or diving. The best time to go snorkeling or diving in Koh Chang is between October to May. The diving is at shallow depths at 5 – 25 meters. Visibility is between 7 and 30 metres. Beautiful sites are around Koh Rang, Hin Luk Bat, Hin Sam Sao, Hin Raap. Further down south, white-tip reef sharks can be spotted near Hin Phrai Nam.
There are diving trip operators located at most of the beaches. You can join the trip with other tourists or book the trip for your own group.
Fishing is another relaxing activity to participate in on Koh Chang. Fishing tours operate from the main beaches and one can experience both day time or night time fishing tours.
Canoeing & Kayaking
Explore the beauty of the coastline by canoeing or sea kayaking. Experience is not necessary for this fun way to check out the island. Make sure to bring sun screen. Most canoes and kayak can be rented from hotels or resorts at hourly or daily rates.
Yachting /Sailing can be done amongst the islands of Ko Chang between November and March, when you can count on steady winds of 15-30 knots. You can choose from 2-day or 3-day sailing trips or charter your own boat with a skipper.
In the verdant mountain of Koh Chang, hiking allows you to explore the lush and flora and fauna existing on the island. In the west of Koh Chang, there is a hiking route on the main road, from Klong Son to Kai Bae. In the north of the island, you can walk from Ban Klong Son to White Sand Beach. Short hikes to waterfalls are also popular. The best hiking tracks is in the south of the island as there are fewer roads. More strenuous and adventurous hikes in the inland to the steep and forested hills can also be done. There is also 5-6 hours hike through the forest to the peak Chom Prasat at 626 metres above sea level starting at White Sand Beach. Overnight jungle trek is also available. Hiring a guide is recommended for a long hike in the inner land.
There are a series of scenic waterfalls across the island. It costs 200 baht to enter the national parks. On the east coast the Nam Tok Mayom waterfall has three waterfalls and can be climbed in under an hour. A smaller waterfall at Nam Tok Klong Phu on the west coast can be reached via Khlong Prao. There are plunge pools to cool yourself off after the trek to the falls. There are other, less impressive falls in Khlong Son, White Sands Beach and Kai Bae.
Thai Cooking Courses
If you love Thai food then, perhaps adding a few of your favourite Thai dishes on to your cooking repertoire is something to consider. Take a Thai cooking course where you could learn the most popular dishes such as Green Curry (Gaeng Kheaw Wan), Hot and Sour Soup (Tom Yum Goong) and Papaya Salad (Som Tum).
Koh Chang is located 310 km from Bangkok. The island can be accessed by different means of transport. The quickest way to get there is by plane. Koh Chang has no airport but there is a domestic one on Trat mainland. There are daily flights flying from Bangkok. Then it can be connected to the pier by minivan and later by ferry to cross over. Driving is also possible. It takes approximately 4 hours drive from Bangkok through Chonburi, Rayong and Chantaburi. The car can be ferried onto the island. If you don’t want to drive, there are bus services leaving Bangkok’s Ekkamai Bus Terminal many times a day.
The best time to go is during NOV-FEB which is comparatively comfortable compared to March to May where the temperature is extremely hot. The monsoon season is between June and October where it rains quite a lot a lot and due to this most guest houses close during this season, so accommodation is limited.