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Koh Chang Travel Information

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 Chanta Buri.

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 is Salakpetch.

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 snorkelling sites.

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 year.

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 intended.

The Coastline
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.

Fishing villages

BangBao Village
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 energy!

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.

Had Kaibae
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 decades.

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. 

 
 
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