Koh Chang (the name means elephant island) is beginning to rival the Islands of Phuket and Koh Samui. With less tourists, more space, jungle interior, white beaches and turquoise waters full of colourful fish for those who want snorkelling, diving or just plain floating in warm seas, it is as paradisiacal as Phuket and Koh Samui once appeared.
Where is it?
Off the coast of Thailand in the Province of Trat, close to the Cambodian border, it is the largest of the 47 islands that make up the 458 sq. Kl. Koh Chang National Marine Park. As part of the Park, the landscape, which is 70% covered in Virgin Rainforest, is protected and is considered one of the best preserved holiday destinations in Thailand.
To anyone who remembers Phuket or Koh Samui before mass tourism arrived and turned these two idyllic islands into distinctly non-Thai (but very enjoyable) islands, Koh Chang will look familiar. The “thai-ness” and sense of a totally alien but delightful world is there, along with the escapism. Small resorts and little local restaurants scattered along the beaches provide the only entertainment.
The Thai government actively protects nearly 85% of Koh Chang as well as 47 nearby islands and coral reefs. The rainforest allows many species of animals and birds to thrive, and elephant camps raise awareness of elephant welfare and provide education to visitors.
Fresh water streams and rivers are always clean due to the annual rainfall in the area and as there is no airport, travellers use greener travelling methods such as ferries and buses.
The main road circles the island so motorcycle or car hire is recommended (4WD is necessary as most roads are what one would called “rugged”, especially near Klong Prao Beach which most people like to chill out on). Also available at the Dan Kao Pier are “Songthaews’ which will take you around the main road, ideal if you are a day visitor.
What to Do
Explore the diverse interior, vist the waterfalls that are dotted around the island, especially the very photogenic Namtok Than Mayom cascades, and the Klong Son Elephant Camp or Ban Kwan Chang (Tel: 081-919-3995) which offer half-day tours from 8.30 to 11.30 a.m. The tour includes elephant bathing, feeding and a half-hour trek into the jungle and both camps are supported by the Asian Elephant Foundation. Hotels can arrange ferries to surrounding islands
Where to Stay:
Despite its “green” credentials and its remoteness, Koh Chang can offer a variety of accommodation ranging from budget bungalow huts on the beach to 5* resorts and spas. Bungalow accommodation is found mainly on the quieter beaches and with this you can experience the undiscovered side of Koh Chang. Hotels range from Koh Chang Kacha Resort and Spa, AANA Resort and Spa, The Spa Koh Chang Resort, The Ramayana and The Dewa and one can expect the best in Thai hospitality from hotels such as these.
How to Get There
By Plane: Bangkok Airways flies 3 times a day from Bangkok to Trat where there are direct transfers from the airport to Koh Chang. (approx. 380 Bht per person).
By bus: From Bangkok to the Koh Chang ferry pier from the Eastern (Ekamai) Bus Terminal direct to the Centre Point pier, the fare is approximately 232 baht for 1st class (or 438 baht for a round trip) and takes just over five hours.