My guide to Koh Chang, Thailand
Koh Chang is the third biggest island in Thailand with about 5000 people living there. It is located in the province of Trat in eastern Thailand close to Cambodia and is part of the Mu Koh Chang Marine National Park together with 51 other islands. So far, it is not as exploited as the western parts of Thailand, like for example the biggest island Phuket, but tourists are starting to find this exotic island too, and it’s getting more and more popular. It attracts both backpackers, families and luxury travellers. Ko Mak and Ko Kut are two other beautiful islands in the area that you can reach from Koh Chang.
With a little imagination you can see that the shape of Koh Chang resembles the head of an elephant. Because of that the island is called “Elephant island” and it is what got to name it. Chang actually means elephant in Thai.
Getting there and around
In the northern part of Koh Chang you find the ferry terminal (Koh Chang pier). This is where the ferries from the mainland of Trat get in. To get to Trat you can either come by car or fly to Trat airport. Here there are shuttles waiting for passengers that want to get to Koh Chang. When you land on the very small airport you buy a ticket at the tourist office and say where on Koh Chang you want to go. So this isn’t something you have to book in advance. They place you in a suitable car which will take you from the airport, with the ferry and then to your hotel.
In the south of the island, about 25 km from Koh Chang Pier, there’s another pier called Bang Bao. From here you can take the speedboat to the neighbouring islands of Ko Kut and Ko Mak. Bang Bao is a fishing village and a sight for itself. Here are of course some seafood restaurants, some dive shops and souvenir shops.
The island is very mountainous and the inland is covered with jungle. Most of the villages and hotels are on the western part of the island. Here are plenty of beautiful beaches and things to do and is where most of the tourists go. If you want a more isolated vacation away from it all, the east coast seems to be where to go. It’s hard to get between the west and east side because of the topography and jungle though. There is a road connecting the two parts in the north, just by Koh Chang pier, but in the south there isn’t a land road yet. It’s missing about 4 km.
The main transportation for getting around the island is a songthaew. It’s a kind of taxi. If you’ve been to other parts of asia you are probably familiar with tuk tuks. The songthaew is much bigger and are not as cheap as the tuk tuks. I was kinda surprised by the prices actually when I used them to travel between the villages and beaches along the west coast.
You can also rent a motorcycle, but I don’t recommend it to anyone who is not used to drive one. The island has many hills and the traffic is intense. I saw someone fall from their motorcycle in one of the most steep hills in the south of the island, even though they were driving slowly.
Beaches and towns
The west coast of Koh Chang has beautiful beaches with soft white sand and crystal clear water. Starting in the north, we have White Sand beach, Klong Prao beach, Kai Bae beach, Lonely beach and Klong Kloi beach in the south. And of course some smaller or private beaches in between.
I visited Koh Chang over New Years 2018 and stayed on Kai Bae beach for 5 nights. As usual I read a lot about where to go and stay before the trip and ended up booking a place in Kai Bae beach. The choice came down to this because it was almost in the middle and I then had the same distance to visit the beaches in the north and in the south.
White Sand beach
This is by far the most popular beach with many resorts and restaurants just by the beach. The village here is also the most hectic with a lot of traffic and some smaller shops and food stands. You can find nightclubs, cafes and supermarkets here too. I didn’t really get a good vibe from this town, not only because of the big road right in the middle through it, but it didn’t have the feeling I’m normally after.
When I first went to White Sand beach I didn’t have any expectations at all, as I knew it was so popular. I took a songthaew there and got off in the south part of the village. From here I walked a short distance to the beach and started walking north along it. And at first I couldn’t see the sand for all the people! Kinda… There were so many people, so many Swedish people, in their sunbeds. The photos below are a bit further north though and not where the beach was overcrowded.
But I continued to walk, and I walked and I walked. I passed the beach restaurant The Rock which looked really nice and just continued past it. The more I went the less people there were. And then I was in the most northern parts of the beach and it was like a whole different place. It was so pretty, so calm and just perfect. There were almost no people at all more than some women selling massage. I was so surprised. Maybe there weren’t any people cause there almost weren’t any buildings or restaurants? I don’t know, but I loved it! Just a short walk south from there were two small and cute restaurants. The one I ate at played Elvis Presley which made the atmosphere more than great!
My plan for the day was to see White Sand beach before lunch and then continue to Klong Prao beach, so that’s what I did. But I should have stayed here…
During the evening the restaurants expand their food area out to the beach. They place tables and chairs in the sand and you can sit there and enjoy a good meal listening to the waves with sand between your toes. Many of these places looked really cosy.
Klong Prao beach
South of White Sand beach we find the longest beach on the island, Klong Prao beach. This is very beautiful too and has some resorts, but not as many as White Sand beach. The beach stretches for several kilometers and I didn’t see all the parts of it. But I would guess it has a good mix of some beach restaurants but still possibilities for some quiet time. The village of Klong Prao is not directly by the beach. By some parts you’d had to walk for quite a bit to get there.
Kai Bae beach
This is the beach where I was staying. The northern parts which were closest to my hotel wasn’t the best in my opinion. There were plenty of people in a small area, but otherwise a fine beach. This is where they keep some elephants though that tourists can ride on and take a swim with… I don’t know how well the elephants are taken care of, but I didn’t like to see that.
If you continue south along the beach it gets much nicer though, and if you go south enough you reach Porn’s restaurant. A very cosy and nice restaurant with a beautiful view and very good food.
Like all of the towns the centre is along the main road. Here in Kai Bae the road is much more narrow than the towns in the north. And unfortunately it’s not very nice to hang out along the road all the time. You have to be careful and it’s really noisy. But if you can disregard from that the town was quite nice. Plenty of restaurants to choose from and some smaller souvenir shops. And of course you could get a massage, manicure, pedicure and book tours and stuff like that too.
Another very nice beach! This is apparently where many of the backpackers still go on the island. It supposedly has a good nightlife and is where you go if you want to party. Or if you want to see monkeys…
Klong Kloi beach
And so in the very south of the island we have Klong Kloi beach. There are some resorts just by the beach with sunbeds for their guests. If the beds aren’t all occupied you can rent one as well. On this beach there are parts with lots of people and parts with not as many. I always like a good beach where you have some restaurants to get lunch and a drink, and still at the same time you can have a spot on the beach where you can’t listen in on other’s conversations. And that’s what I found here.
That’s it! My visit to Koh Chang was really good. I had such a nice time exploring the island and some of its beaches. If I’d have more time I would have went on a snorkeling tour to one of the small islands outside Koh Chang and visit the waterfall on the island. But sometimes it’s hard to do all the things you want and still find time to relax! Well, I’m happy with my trip there.
By the way, don’t miss the Kai Bae viewpoint where you have a beautiful view of the outside islands. I was here and watched the sunset, the last sunset of 2018.