There are in fact two Koh Changs in Thailand
. So lucky you, you get two node
s in one! How often does that happen?
Koh Chang: Gulf of Thailand
This island is the largest of 52 islands which make up the Laem Ngop-Koh Chang Marine National Park. Koh Chang is the second largest island in Thailand after Phuket and is about 30 km in length. Although the island is a designated park, portions of it that were privately owned still are and coconut farms and rubber tree plantations can be seen throughout. There is also quite a lot of resort development on Koh Chang and although bungalos are supposed to stay behind the tree line this doesn’t always seem to be the case (see Lonely Beach).
Koh Chang is located off the East coast of Thailand in the Gulf of Thailand, close to the Cambodian border. The pier is easily reached by songthaew from Trat and the ferry to the island takes about 1 hour. Chang means elephant in Thai and the island is named so because of its resemblance to this animal.
There are many things to do on Koh Chang like snorkeling, hiking, mountain biking and elephant riding. There are also a couple of waterfalls to visit in the park and since the highest peak on the island is over 700 meters there are many spectacular views to enjoy. For the less physically inclined, there are comfortable beaches of white, pristine sand for your lounging enjoyment.
Until a few years ago, Koh Chang was seldom visited and relatively quiet. However, along with the rapid increase in tourism to Thailand and the influence of the travel agents on Khao San Road, the island is now heavily crowded. During the dry, peak season from December-March, it is often difficult to find accommodation and the beaches are packed with sleeping bodies waiting for rooms. In the low season, many resorts shut down because of heavy rainfalls. If you are going to visit, make sure you have a reservation, but don’t always count on it being honored if you are late.
Accommodation is available at the following locations:
- Ban Khlong Son: a small fishing village where there is no beach but also relatively few visitors
- Hat Sai Kaew: this is the main bungalo stretch on the island and is quite crowded
- Aow Khlong Phrao: there are fewer resorts here and beach is less crowded, but accommodation tends to be more expensive
- Hat Kai Bae: until last year, this was the last bay reached by road and is almost as crowded as Hat Sai Kaew
- Lonely Beach: the road has recently been extended here and visitors no longer need to take the small ferry; this bay is popular with backpackers, but that might change with recent development.
Koh Chang: The Andaman Sea
Koh Chang is often cited as the the Koh Samui of 20 years ago. It is quiet, undeveloped with pristine, white sandy beaches and beautiful, lush rain forests. Unlike the other islands of Thailand, which either are or are becoming overcrowded, Koh Chang has a chance of surviving as a well kept secret. All the land on the island is privately owned and belongs mostly to one huge, extended family. Although, it is divided and each member runs their own set of bungalos and restaurant, competing with one another, they are united on one front: they will not sell to mass developers. Although many have approached with generous offers, all have been refused. If one owner sells out, the rest are doomed to do so as well. So far, so good.
Koh Chang is reached by ferry from Rayong on the west coast of Thailand. Rayong is the furthest northern Thai town on this coast and faces, across the bay, Victoria Point, Myanmar. The ferry runs daily at noon and costs 150 Baht, about 6 US$.
Koh Chang is named so because it apparently, resembles a sleeping elephant. I didn’t quite see the resemblance, but maybe I’m not that imaginative.
There are few things to do on Koh Chang aside from relax. There are no roads on the islands, only paths, which make for great hiking. Just be careful of the wild boars that live here. There are, as on any Thai island, many opportunities for snorkeling and, of course, soaking in the sun. Entertainment facilities are limited since most resorts turn off their generators after 10pm. Each resort, which usually comprises of a dozen or more rudimentary bungalos and an open air restaurant, is far removed from the others and generally inexpensive (3-12 US $/night). Don’t expect air conditioning or hot water though, not that you need it, you should be spending most of your time outdoors anyway.
The best time to visit Koh Chang is the during the dry season from October to May. Raoyong is easily reached by an 11 hour bus from Bangkok.