Koh Chang is Thailand's second largest island and the
biggest in Eastern Thailand. With about 5000 permanent residents
the island is not heavily populated, but tourism (and
development) has increased dramatically over the last few years.
Koh Chang is one of Thailand's most beautiful islands with long
white sandy beaches, most half deserted. The island is also home
to a wide range of wildlife, including a good selection of
birds, snakes, deer and a number of elephants. The island and
its vicinity are great places for snorkeling, diving and jungle
hiking. The "discovery" of the island as a tourist destination
since 2000 has brought on a large amount of rapid development,
and while still far quieter than places like Phuket or Ko Samui,
it's probably better to go now than later.
Trat province is close to Chanta Buri and Cambodia in the North
and adjacent to the Gulf of Thailand in the South. The east is
seperated from Cambodia by Buntud Mount Range eastwards from the
middle of the province. Weru River seperates the west Trat from
There are 52 islands with delightful natural scenery including
waterfalls and forests in the area, other than that Trat has
little to offer, except as a jumping-off point for the Koh Chang
island group or forays into outlying gem and Cambodian markets.
Market fans will note that Trat seems to have more markets for
its size than almost any other town in Thailand - again partly
due to the Cambodian coastal trade.
The largest island in the Koh Chang Marine Park archipelago, Koh
Chang was named for the elephant shape of its headland, although
elephants are not indigenous to the island.
Koh Chang has an area of approximately 429 square kilometres.
The topography contains high mountains and complex stone cliffs.
The highest mount is Khao Salak Phet which is 744 metres high,
rich in fertile evergreen forest which is the main water source.
Therefore, there are many waterfalls, beaches and splendid reefs
in the west of the island.
70 percent of this undisturbed island is rainforest, steep
hills, cliffs, waterfalls, and wildlife, fine beaches, coral
reefs and an abundance of marine life. The island also offers
tall mountains and rock cliffs. The tallest mountain on Koh Chang
Diving at Koh Chang Island has an exploratory feeling, and the
best season to go diving is from November until the end of May.
The diving around Koh Chang is at reasonably shallow depths at 5
- 25 meters. Visibility is between 7 and 30 metes. There are
fantastic reefs with a variety of corals. The main dive sites
are Hin Luk Bat, Hin Sam Sao, Hin Raap and Koh Rang. Mu Koh
Chang Marine National Park has a large selection of healthy
fringing reefs as well as an interesting wreck and several
In general, visibility averages between 5 and 10m, although it can
occasionally be in excess of 20m. Marine life tends to be less
prolific than elsewhere, and dynamite fishing in restricted
areas has taken its toll. However, on the plus side there are
numerous giant clams and plenty of colorful reef-dwellers, and
there is always the chance of spotting large pelagic's. Diving
here still has an exciting exploratory feel to it.
Koh Chang has the same seasons as the capital Bangkok. The best
season to go is the (comparatively) cool season between November
and February. March to May are roasting hot and between June and
October it rains, and a lot at that: 4,000 mm in an average
Koh Chang is the ideal location for a real rest as the weather
there is very comfortable with the average temperature around 28
deg. Between May and October which is the period of
south-western monsoons, the west coast is always stormy and
thus, not safe for ferries travelling to the islands. November
to April on the other hand is the best time to visit them.
The province is also the source of red sapphire, fine shrimp
paste and sweet rakum, a kind of palm of the genus Zalacca with
a sweet yet acidic taste.
Accommodation is available and there are a few guesthouses as
well as the odd hotel here and there, but there isn't a vast
choice. Trat's tourist industry co-insides with gem purchasing
although there are a few sightseeing spots worth mentioning.
Most accommodation is located on the western side of the island,
where the sandy beaches are. On the eastern side of the island
there are no sandy beaches and this side is far less touristy.
There are some nice waterfalls.
Most of the beaches are on the western coast, and each has built up
with a distinctive atmosphere based on shopping, activities,
partying or chilling out. Accommodation offers a style to suit every
type of traveller, from independent low budget backpackers to those
wanting a touch of luxury.
It has only recently been discovered by non-Thais as ferry, road and
now air access has made the island increasingly accessible (regular
flights are now available from Bangkok to Trat). A favourite of the
Thais who appreciate the mixture of stunning unspoilt terrain,
relaxed friendly locals and excellent seafood; these factors
combined make Koh Chang a gem waiting to be discovered for
travellers of all types.
The island comprises of 70% rainforest, rugged high peaks and steep
cliffs set off by gently shelving white sand beaches, colourful
coral reefs and dramatic clear blue waters. The ecological value of
Koh Chang has been recognised by being included in the Marine
National Park which includes 52 other surrounding islands covering
just over 650 square kilometres. The regulations manage the
development of the island and ensure a balance between the tourism
dollars and the natural ecology of Koh Chang. The majority of
development takes place on the western and to a much lesser extent
to the eastern coastline leaving the inner hinterland as nature
Secluded coves, romantic long stretches of beach, unspoilt fishing
villages and dazzling cliff views describe the island coastline. A
wide range of interests can be catered for, should you wish to relax
soak up the sun, take strolls along the powdery sand, partake of a
mouth watering fresh seafood thai meal watch the sun set or for the
more energetic there is scuba diving, snorkelling, fishing and
visiting some of the smaller island neighbours or bars, dancing and
shows. (Water based activities are limited to those which will not
damage the fragile coral ecosystem ? both hard and soft corals are
abundant) Each area has a strong identify. I have outlined some of
my favourite below.
Community of fishing houses built on poles jutting out into the bay.
This has been a sanctuary for fishing craft seeking shelter from
storms for centuries. Now a resort the bay still holds it?s original
charm but visitors can now benefit from fine seafood restaurants and
accommodation of character.
Salak Phet or Raung Than Village
The largest fishing village on Koh Chang visitors can see first hand
the original craft of Thai fishing. Located in the South of the
island many fishing and boat trips to neighbouring islands including
Laem Ngob are available.
Salak Kok Village
The village is near Salak Phet community. Though possesses no beach,
its location on a lagoon is offers excellent shelter for fishing
boats during the tropical storms. The community attracts visitors
with its unspoilt traditional fishing village life and its temple.
Koh Chang Beaches
Ao Klong Son
Located in the North of the island the white sandy beach is lined
with pine trees and benefits from wonderful vibrant coral reefs.
Had Sai Khao (White Sand Beach)
A long and safe swimming beach some 2 kilometres long this popular
beach is backed with coconut trees and forest. Backed by steep
hillsides the view both across the bay facing the sea and from the
sea to the hillsides are remarkable. This is the liveliest area in
Koh Chang with bars and late night dancing for those with the
Had Klong Phrao - Laem Chaichet
Linked with Kai Bae beach, the beach is shady with coconut trees.
Quiet and peaceful. Ideal for personal rest and relaxation. The Long
Beach is suitable for beach activities and sports. North most of the
beach is located Laem Chai Chet.
Adjacent to Klong Prao Beach it offers the best sunset view and many
outdoor mainly water based activities and safe swimming.
There are plenty of activities to be organised
from almost anywhere on the island: snorkelling and diving trips to
nearby coral reefs, jungle treks and elephant rides, not to mention
various beach sports.
With it's long stretches of sandy beaches and bay, Koh Chang's west
coast has become the focus of the development boom, and that's where
most foreign travellers stay on the island. Beaches such as Haad Sai
Khao (White Sands Beach), Khlong Prao and Kai Bae have developed
more in the past few years than most of Thailand has in the last few
If you want to party, swim, dive or do practically anything else
you'll find somewhere that's perfect for you.
There are three different and definitive vibes from each of the
three main west coast areas; White Sand beach, Kai Bae/Khlong Prao
and Lonely/Bailan. White Sands is more modern than the others,
reminiscent of Kuta in Bali, or indeed its aspired cousin, Phuket.
The Kai Bae and Khlong Prao strip is gorgeous on the eye with its
quaint village appearance, plenty of quirky shops and bars --
certainly more of a tropical island vibe.
Lonely Beach and Bailan Bay continue on the topical island theme,
but are far more traveller orientated; less souvenir shops, more
bars playing Bob Marley. No Italian restaurants, but an abundance of
affordable Thai fare. Ultimately it's a backpackers heaven.
The east coast is home to major Thai villages but few beaches and so
attracts far fewer foreign travellers. This side of the island is
popular with Thais from cities such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai, who
might never have seen the ocean before and want to join in
traditional Thai seaside life.
Sea Eagles, monkeys, epic views and jungle noises are all around,
and if you're lucky you may spot the majestic Great Hornbill,
resident of Koh Chang but rarely seen. Koh Chang is somewhere you
can let your hair down a little, where perhaps those who hit the
road in years gone by can capture the spirit of this wonder that we
call travelling, yet enjoy the facilities that they yearn in today's
society... namely air-con, hot water and a comfortable bed, and all
found in abundance in White Sand, Khlong Prao and Kai Bae Beaches.
At the same time, the old scene still exists at places like Lonely
Beach, a reminder of what got the ball rolling in the first place.