Koh Chang is an island nestled on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand. It belongs to the Trat province that borders Cambodia. The island got its name because its shape loosely resembles the head of an elephant. Koh Chang has only recently become a popular destination for tourists seeking an island experience in Thailand. Before the late 1990s, the island was home to little more than a few beachfront huts and small hotels. Now, thanks to the influx of tourists seeking a quiet getaway, five-star hotels and bungalows have sprung up all over. Yet, compared to other islands such as Koh Samui, Koh Phi Phi and Koh Phangan, it is still one of the least developed large islands of the country, which means you’ll still get a relatively authentic Thai experience on your travels.
It’s easy to get there
Getting to Koh Chang isn’t difficult as you have various options for transport. The most convenient method is to fly into Trat Airport. This may save you time as you can get to the island without spending hours on the bus, however, it is also the most expensive method. Flights can easily cost you around $100 – $200 USD, so this option is only recommended if you are really strapped for time and have the budget for it.
Another, much cheaper option to get from Bangkok to Koh Chang is by a six hour long bus ride. Buses aren’t the most comfortable way to go, however ideal for the budget traveler. You can catch buses from the Ekkamai Bus Terminal, the Mo Chit Bus Terminal, and Khao San Road. Prices can vary from around $10 – $20 USD. These busses will take you to either Trat town or the Koh Chang Ferry Pier. To avoid any uncertainty and add a little more comfort to your journey, you can pre-book a private transfer where you can make the journey on your own time and stretch out as much as you want inside. With a private transfer, you can also make sure you reach your proper destination and have your driver guide you through the ferry ticket booking process.
Once you check-in, explore the island
While in Koh Chang, you can enjoy a combination of emerald-colored ocean, pristine white sandy beaches and lush jungle all in one go. It will be difficult to not immediately get into your swimsuit and head to the beach for some relax time. The beaches here include White Sand Beach, Klong Prao Beach, Kai Bae Beach, Lonely Beach, and Bang Bao Bay.
White Sand Beach and Lonely Beach are the two most popular beaches, great for the extrovert looking to mingle with backpackers, enjoy some water sports such as snorkeling and diving, and party hard at night.
Klong Prao Beach, Kai Bae Beach and Bang Bao Bay are on the quieter side, ideal for those looking for a peaceful getaway without much crowd. You should keep in mind that while the popular beaches will have more accommodation and dining options, the less popular beaches will have just a few for you to choose from. Watersports on the island include snorkeling, diving, canoeing and more.
Koh Chang is also home to impressive and unspoiled waterfalls, and plenty of lush jungle. The Mu Koh Chang National Park spreads from head to toe of the island, making it perfect for the nature-lover to explore. Entering the park will cost you 200 THB ($5.00 USD) and you’ll be free to explore the park. However, it might be recommended for you to explore the park with a guide who is knowledgeable about the park’s various sights and animals.
The waterfalls can also be a little bit tough to find and will require a bit of hiking, oftentimes not an easy hike. To avoid any potential mishaps, head to Klong Plu waterfall which is easy to get to on foot and a great place to take a dip in the warm, fresh water. Another nameless one is a little hidden. Just south of the 7-11 at the bottom of Kai Bae Beach, there is a road heading inland. Once at the end of this road, take a left and then the first right. You will be on a dirt track leading up to a village, and then from there just follow the signs. The waterfall is as secluded as it can get and chances are you won’t find another person on the trail.
If you’re looking for a bit of a challenging hike, try tackle Salak Phet – the highest point on the island. However, we once more recommend that you do not do this alone. Instead, go with a group of friends, ask your hotel to recommend a tour, or find a tuk-tuk driver to take you up.
Please note that elephant riding is quite a popular activity in Koh Chang. We recommend that you do not partake in such an activity because of the effect it has on their spine and also how poorly treated these animals can be. Unfortunately all the elephant parks in Koh Chang offer riding, so if you really want to see elephants without contributing to animal cruelty, then head over to Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai where you can observe these beautiful animals going about their day and join them for a bath.
Indulge in the best of seafood
It will certainly be remiss of you to visit Koh Chang and not indulge in the delicious and fresh seafood. Beach Tango and Baanta Restaurant are two of the most popular seafood restaurant options, but don’t feel afraid to check out the local street food! In Thailand, some of the best food you will find is served by tiny mobile carts on the street. While individual stalls are dotted everywhere, for a market experience, head over to White Sand Beach.
The 100 meter long stretch of roadside in the center of the beach turns into a makeshift food market every evening. Vendors line the beach side of the road selling all kinds of food, from grilled meats, vegetables and fruits, and all you can eat seafood! Fish, crab, lobster, sea snails, and more, you will it find prepared in various ways – so it’s time to forget about that beach diet. Klong Son has a similar market in the late afternoon. Here you must try Khao Lam – sticky rice cooked in coconut milk inside a piece of bamboo over a charcoal BBQ.
Koh Chang is also one of the best fishing destinations in Thailand, and there are many deep sea fishing tours, usually followed by a beachside barbecue. Also do make sure to take a Thai cooking class while in Koh Chang. The relaxed beach atmosphere makes it the perfect place to learn some Thai cooking skills and impress your family and friends back home. Blue Lagoon Cooking School and Koh Chang Thai Cooking school are two popular options that cover a selection of well-known Thai delicacies.
There is an impressive variety of accommodations in Koh Chang ranging from budget-friendly huts by the beach to five-star resorts. Popular names for hotels on the lower end of the budget include Du-Talay Hotel on White Sand Beach and Pajamas Koh Chang Hostel. These are almost on par with a 3 or 4-star hotel, and budget travelers can enjoy some extra comfort at an affordable price. You’ll be surrounded by a fun-loving crowd and it will be easy for you to mingle and make friends. Budget options can cost you from as low as $10.00 USD to about $25.00.
Popular mid-range hotels include Nest Sense Resort and Koh Chang Paradise Resort (about $40.00 – $75.00 USD/night) and if you are comfortable enough to splurge, then do it at The Emerald Cove, The Gajapuri Resort & Spa or The Chill Resort & Spa (upwards of $75.00 USD/night). These stylish 4 and 5-star resorts are great options to pamper yourself or for a romantic getaway. Booking in advance is not necessary unless you travel during high season, but after your journey to Koh Chang from other parts of Thailand, you’ll probably not want to drive around looking for a place to stay. So play it safe and book your hotel before you arrive on the island.
No matter which corner of the island you decide to stay on, you are guaranteed to have a great time at Koh Chang with its plethora of activities to partake in. Make sure you do a bit of everything – spend some time on the beach, chase some waterfalls, eat seafood to your heart’s content, and party till the sun comes up! That’s what Koh Chang is about – fun.