Koh Chang Travel Guide

Thailand Vacations on Koh Chang



Overview

Eastern Island Paradise

Koh Chang - Thailand's second largest island in terms of land area – has everything that holiday-makers fantasize about when planning their trip, including white beaches, sparkling waters and most of all, the chance to enjoy these treasures in relative seclusion. 70 percent of the island's mountainous terrain is blanketed by a thick covering of lush forest, offering trekkers plenty of opportunity to stomp around the island interiors.

Until the last decade or so, Koh Chang remained relatively undeveloped and only basic accommodation and unpaved roads awaited visitors who made the journey to the island. However, decided efforts from the government have elevate Koh Chang's status into one of the Kingdom’s famed island destinations, and it is now home to a wide range of holiday accommodation and facilities.

The pearly beaches that decorate Koh Chang’s shoreline are best visited outside of the wet season, which runs from June through September. The majority of beaches are positioned on the west coast of the island, and over the years each beach has built up its own unique character based around the activities, restaurants and shops on offer.

As well as exploring the island’s pristine beaches, a range of activities including diving trips, snorkelling, jungle treks and elephant rides attract visitors to Koh Chang year after year. The island is also a treasured gem for nature lovers, who can spot sea eagles, monkeys and even Great Hornbills if they are lucky.

Ultimately, Koh Chang’s greatest attraction is undoubtedly the way in which it has managed to strike a balance between its modern amenities and its splendid scenery to retain its natural tropical island allure.

Warm waters, nice beaches and carefree days


Nature and beaches

Visitors who revel in Thailand’s cultural attractions should not miss a trip to the Shrine of Chao Por Koh Chang. Situated relatively close to Ao Thammachat pier lies the shrine of Chao Por and Chao Mae Koh Chang, who are revered as the Godfather and Godmother deities of the island. According to local legend, pilgrims that come to pay homage at this shrine have often had their wishes granted.

Travel tip: Koh Chang's interiors hold no less than six waterfalls. For a change from the sea, head for the hills. [link to blog post]

Klong Phrao by Sunset


Nature and Waterfalls

Waterfalls

The island’s reputation as a tourist hub arose in the 1970s when the first backpackers arrived on the island via fishing boats. After becoming part of the Koh Chang Archipelago National Marine Park in 1982 along with a scattering of other islands, Koh Chang has transformed into a major tourist destination for both foreign and Thai holiday-makers.

Key attractions in the vicinity of the island include the archipelagic marine park itself. The park comprises 46 islands in addition to Koh Chang, and offers a great exploration for visitors who want to explore the delights of the Gulf of Thailand.

Other natural attractions on the island include an assortment of impressive waterfalls. Scattered liberally across the island, most tourists head to Klong Phlu waterfall first which is situated on the west side of Koh Chang. However, visitors who continue on Koh Chang’s waterfall trail often report that the most breathtaking fall on the island is Klong Nueng. During the cooler months from November to January, many visitors are delighted by watching the fireflies that light up the forests in the island’s mangroves by night. To enjoy this spectacular sight, visitors can rent a boat and cruise alongside the forests for the most exquisite view.

One of many waterfalls on Koh Chang


Adventure

Explore

Tree top adventure park: Visitors in the mood for a little adventure can make the trip to Koh Chang Noi to explore the forest's canopy. Open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., the park allows visitors to fly high above the ground using swings, zip lines and rope bridges.

Traditional villages: Visitors seeking to immerse themselves in the traditional lifestyle of the island's natives should make a visit to one of Koh Chang's villages a priority, and can even opt to take part in a home stay. Each of the villages comprises structures that are positioned on stilts that extend past the shoreline of the island, in addition to providing an excellent chance to indulge in some freshly caught seafood. Visitors can discover the village of Bang Bao, a fishing village that is connected by a network of wooden bridges and walkways. For an authentic island experience, Ban Salak Phet is a good place to go for visitors who want to try out a home stay or to take part in a snorkeling adventure.

Enjoying the gentle giants


Beaches

Beaches

Visitors that come to Koh Chang in search of long white stretches of blissfully uninterrupted beach are not disappointed. White Sand Beach is located on the northern part of Koh Chang’s Western coast, and is the most popular beach on the island. Khlong Phrao Beach is undoubtedly one of the most visually striking beaches on the island, with its stunning mountain backdrop offering visitors splendid views, while the northern end of the beach at Laem Chaiyachet is home to a rocky outcrop that provides the best place to watch the sunset on the whole of the island.

You know it, cold refreshing beer on the beach


Nature and Local Island

Local Islands

Waterfalls: Namtok Phlong Phlu is situated around one mile from Hat Chlong Phrao, and is Koh Chang's tallest waterfall. After following the trail to the waterfall, visitors can cool off with a refreshing tip in the uppermost tier of the three levels that comprise the fall. Surrounded by an abundance of wild orchids and blossoming forest herbs, Namtok Khiri Pet is a great waterfall for visitors that want to snap some colourful photographs for their holiday album. Namtok Khiri Pet is a small waterfall found a 15-minute walk from Ban Salak Phet.

Koh Mak is located to the sourtheast of Koh Chang, and unlike most of the other islands in the vicinity, it is not mountainous. Koh Mak is a great destination to have a go at some bike riding or snorkelling. The charming isle of Koh Kham is located less than one mile from Koh Mak, and at low tide it is even possible to walk there. Koh Kut lies to the east of Koh Mak, and boasts some of the most outstanding beaches in the archipelago that provide ideal locations for swimming, snorkelling and kayaking. At 63 square miles in side, visitors that want to enjoy exploring the nooks and crannies of the island are best off hiring their own motorbike.

Travel tip: Koh Chang is a great base to explore the other island sprinkled in the Gulf of Thailand, including Koh Mak and Koh Kood. Have a look at out our videos about Koh Mak and Koh Hood, the nearby islands to have a mini vacation from your vacation. [link to blog post]

Arriving at Koh Kood


Markets & Shopping

Despite the fact that Koh Chang is not known as a shoppers haven, there are a number of boutiques and stalls where visitors can spend their afternoons browsing the range of touristy knick-knacks on offer. Most of the shops on Koh Chang are located near to the beach, and a stroll along the road adjacent to the beach will take you past a range of small shops and stalls where it is possible to get your hands on some souvenirs, traditional handicrafts, beachwear and DVDs.

If it is souvenirs you are after, roving vendors selling traditional knick-knacks usually move up and down the beach selling to sell their wares. Some of the more developed beaches, like White Sand and Kai Bae, are studded with a few air-conditioned oasis shops that sell brand name swimwear and books.

However, the best location for shopaholic visitors who would like to burn some baht is Khlong Phrao Beach. Khlong Phrao is home to three villages, each of which boasts its own shopping plaza. The villages, Baan Chaichet, Baan Klong Prao and Baan Map Khangkhao, offer a typical mixture of small shops, restaurants, tailors, tour agents, massage parlours and bars.

The most prominent shopping plaza, VJ Plaza, can be found in the village of Ban Chaichet to the north of Klong Prao Beach, and is home to a supermarket and a small nucleus of other shops.

Koh Chang is also peppered with a variety of small markets which generally cater to the local community, but can offer a fun afternoon of browsing to visitors. Bartering for a better price is accepted, so don’t be afraid to negotiate with the stall owner.

Easy to get around by scooter, this map shows some amenites


Since Koh Chang's tourist boom began, the island's nightlife scene has expanded alongside it. Each beach offers a different nighlife vibe, whether you are in the mood for a wild night out on the town, or a few relaxing drinks as the sun goes down. Party animals gravitate towards White Sand Beach, which is home to a multitude of pubs, clubs and bars that stay open until the small hours of the morning.

Lonely Beach is a hub for the island's full and half-moon parties that are held on a regular basis. Kai Bae beach is also home to a varied nightlife where visitors who want to live it up can head to one of the area's bars or karaoke joints for a night of fun. Alternatively, Kai Bae is also home to a number of venues where guests can enjoy a leisurely game of pool or darts if they are planning on a low key evening. Travellers in the mood for a sweet and fruity cocktail should head to Kai Bae's Casamarina Bar, which has its own balcony for guests to relax and enjoy the refreshing sea breeze. Alternatively, Kai Bae's Lek Bar is an ideal venue for visitors who want to enjoy some great tunes at an outdoor bar with a great atmosphere.

Travel tip: The westward facing beaches of Koh Chang make for perfect sun-downer venues. Here are some of the island's best beach bars depending on the company you're with. [link to blog post]

You'll need your scooter to get to Lonely Beach but its a great lunch or picnic destination


Beaches

Dining on the Beach

The varied and plentiful dining options on Koh Chang mean visitors are in for a culinary treat. To gorge yourself on a street food feast, you need look no further than the hordes of street food stalls that line the main roads that traverse the island. While most hotel restaurants offer a broad menu that features both Thai and Western food, chowing down on street food instead can be an economical alternative for visitors looking to save a few pennies. Furthermore, roadside stalls are often the best places to indulge in Thai specialties like som tam (spicy papaya salad) and ka prao gai (chicken stir-fried in basil leaves).

Visitors should not miss the gastronomic treat offered by one of the open grilling and cooking restaurants found on major beaches like Klong Phrao, White Sand and Kai Bae, where it is possible to feast on a selection of freshly caught seafood that is barbecued right at your table. Nong Bua Seafood, on White Sand Beach, is a family run joint and one of the best places to enjoy seafood on Koh Chang. In addition to serving up some excellent seafood, the beaches on Koh Chang also provide a collection of romantic spots for couples to enjoy the sunset alongside their dinner. The terrace at the Top Resort on White Sand beach is a great place to snap some sunset photographs before devouring a sumptuous dinner.

Evening dining on Kong Phao Beach


Getting Around

Getting Around Koh Chang

One of the most convenient ways to get around Koh Chang is via songtaew, one of the large pickup trucks that comprises bench seating in its covered back. During the daytime, it is possible to catch a songtaew on its route around the main road for between THB50-100 (US$1.60-3.20) per person, depending on the distance you intend to travel. After night fall, however, some songtaews no longer operate as public transport but as vehicles for private hire, which jacks the price up somewhat. As such, it is advisable to try and negotiate a rate you are comfortable paying before hopping onboard.

Visitors who want to get off the beaten track and explore the island independently can rent a motorbike for around THB150-250 (US$4.80-8.00) per day. If you would prefer to rent a car, four wheel drives are recommended for some of the bumpier, unfinished roads that criss-cross the island.

Alternatively, it is easy enough for travelers who want to remain within the vicinity of the beach where they are staying to get around on foot, as each beach is home to a wide range of amenities.

Getting In and Out

Getting in and out of Koh Chang

By Plane

The swiftest way to reach Koh Chang is to take a flight from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport to Trat Airport. Flights operated by Bangkok Airways cost somewhere in the region of THB1,800 (US$57) to THB3,300 (US$105) and leave twice a day. Trat is not an island, its on the Thai mainland.

Upon reaching Trat Airport, travelers can take a direct minibus and ferry transfer to Koh Chang. A one-way ticket costs approximately THB475 (US$15) per person, while a return ticket costs THB800 (US$25), including both the minibus from the Trat Airport to the ferry and the ferry to Koh Chang. Alternatively, you can also make transfer arrangements through your hotel on Koh Chang. Not every resort on Koh Chang does this, mostly only the 4 star hotels. The benefit of this is that you also get picked up by your hotel shuttle at the ferry terminal on Koh Chang. Otherwise once you disembark the ferry on Koh Chang, you are now looking for a taxi to take you to your resort where you have booked a room, which is fine, you will get there.

Bus and Mini Van to Koh Chang

By Bus

The most economical way to get from Bangkok to Laem Ngop, the pier for ferries to Koh Chang, is by bus. The first class bus from Bangkok’s Ekamai Bus Terminal goes directly to the Laem Ngop pier, and a seat on the five-hour bus journey will cost each passenger THB275 (US$8.80) for a single ticket. This service departs twice daily in the mornings.

Alternatively, passengers can opt to take the cheaper second class service from Ekamai or the bus service from Mo Chit Bus Terminal, although buses from Mo Chit to Trat province depart less frequently. In addition, the bus line directly from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport to Laem Ngop has been gaining in popularity since its launch in 2009, with tickets available online through the Suvarnabhumi Burapha Bus Company.

Mini Van

You can also take the mini van from Victory Monument Station in Bangkok. Once you exit the BTS Skytrain, (Victory Monument is a huge traffic circle) you will eventually find that there are several vendors selling tickets to various destinations of which Koh Chang is just one of many. Buy your ticket for 500Thb or $15 dollars two days before because mini vans leave early in the morning. This mini van will take you to the ferry terminal where you will have to buy your ferry ticket based on the next departure which are throughout the day.

By Boat

The majority of ferries to Koh Chang depart from Laem Ngop, which has three piers. If you are traveling to Koh Chang with your own vehicle, it is necessary to catch the vehicle ferry from Thammachat Bay, which is located 15km to the west of Laem Ngop.

The journey from Laem Ngop to the Dan Kao piers on Koh Chang takes around 45 minutes, while the car ferry takes around one hour.