An island of lovely sandy beaches, coral reefs, tranquil fishing villages and many beautiful waterfalls is worth a visit.
The island of Ko Chang is a tropical marine national park is the Thailand’s new tourist heaven. Its hinterland consists of over 70% virgin rainforest and is the best preserved tourist holiday destination in Thailand. Situated to the east of the country in the province of Trat on the Cambodian border, it’s Thailand’s second largest island after Phuket.
With its chain of white sandy coves and beaches, pristine rain forests and abundance of wildlife and marine life, coral reefs, high mountain peaks, several scenic waterfalls, a rich variety of cuisine and great nightlife, Ko Chang is one of Thailand’s most sought-after holiday destinations.
From breathtaking mountains to calm beaches to traditional fishing villages to neon nightlife this Thai island which is sometimes called the “Beast of the East” and sometimes the “Elephant Island” truly has something for everyone. With no less than 50 offshore isles, Koh Chang boasts the finest red gems, sweet Rakam fruits, indigenous dogs, the historic Koh Chang Naval engagement, and is the eastern-most province in Thailand.
About Ko Chang
Ko Chang (Elephant Island) is Thailand’s second largest island and the primary destination for those visiting Ko Chang Marine National Park, which includes dozens of unspoiled islands. Now serviced by an airport just 15 minutes from the ferry terminal in Trat, Ko Chang is more easily accessible than ever before. Drawn to Ko Chang’s pristine beaches and sparkling water, more well-to-do Thai and international travelers have been discovering Ko Chang and numerous luxury spas and resorts have sprung up to cater to them. Nonetheless, the island is still a dream destination for budget travelers and families, with a wide variety of affordable accommodation options and numerous gorgeous and tranquil beaches surrounded by crystal clear water.
In addition to natural beauty, the island is also home to a wide range of wildlife, including native birds, snakes, deer, and even a number of elephants. Koh Chang, the largest island in the Koh Chang Marine National Park, is a beach lover and nature enthusiasts dream come true. While recent development has led to the opening of some nightlife on the island.
How to Reach
Access to the island is via Bangkok Airways service to Trat or buses that connect to shuttle service to the ferry docks at Laem Ngop near Trat.
By Bus: Buses directly to Center point Pier in Laem Ngop, Trat depart from the Ekkamai Eastern Bus Terminal in Bangkok at 745 am and 945 pm. The journey takes approximately five hours. Return service departs Laem Ngop at 2 and 4 pm.
In addition, there are 1st class and 2nd bus class services from both the Ekkamai Eastern Bus Terminal and the Mo Chit Northern Bus Terminal that connect Bangkok with the provincial capital of Trat, from which visitors must take a 30 minute songtaew to the port at Laem Ngop, where the boats depart to Koh Chang.
By Air: As the owner of the airport in the provincial capital of Trat, Bangkok Airways is the sole air carrier for service to Trat and Koh Chang. There are two flights a day from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport to Trat. One should be aware that even after the roughly one hour flight from Bangkok to Trat, visitors must still get a 30 minute transfer to the ferry pier at Laem Ngop and take a 45 minute ferry to Koh Chang.
Where to stay
Most of the Koh Chang hotel and guesthouse options are located on the beaches along the west coast of the island, namely Haad Sai Khao (White Sands), Klong Prao, Kai Bae, Bailan, Lonely Beach, and Bang Bao towns and beaches. There are a wide variety of accommodation options to choose from, including budget beach bungalows, luxury spa resorts and apartments. If you drive, you can hire motorbikes, jeeps and cars to take you to any of the beaches along the coastal roads and, in the evening, there are plenty of restaurants, live music bars and nightclubs to choose from to spice up your holiday. The majority of tourists stay at Hat Sai Khao, Hat Kai Muk, Hat Ta Nam, and Laem Bang Bao, all of which are linked by a single road running down the west coast..
Things to Do
As one of the premier tourist destinations in Thailand, Koh Chang has innumerable attractions, ensuring that visitors with any interest will find something to keep them entertained on their Koh Chang holiday. Off the sand, activities include snorkelling and diving trips to nearby coral reefs, jungle treks to waterfalls and mountain peaks, elephant rides and motor biking adventures to the stunning southeast coast. As for activities, Ko Chang and the nearby islands that make up the national park are great for snorkeling, diving, camping, and jungle hiking.
Food & Drink
Similar to most other Thai beach destinations, Koh Chang has a variety of dining options for visitors, though prices may be slightly higher as the relatively remote location requires restaurants to pay a bit more for their supplies. While most resorts will serve a variety of Thai and international dishes and frequently host beachside seafood barbeques, there are a number of international restaurants serving fairly authentic Indian, Italian, and other foreign cuisines, particularly around (Haad Sai Khao) White Sand Beach. If you are looking to sample something specific to Koh Chang, you can look out for Koh Chang wine, which may not be top shelf, but comes in a variety of flavors, including mangosteen and pineapple.
For those looking to learn some Thai cooking skills, try a cooking class at the Blue Lagoon in Khlong Phrao.
Shopping isn’t the prime attraction on Koh Chang, but there are souvenir shops selling standard goods: some handicrafts, t-shirts, tailored clothing, and sarongs. Some beaches have a few boutique shops and there are many vendors selling goods along the beach: don’t worry about finding them, they’ll find you. For daily sundries, there are 7-11 stores on the island, mostly along the main roads in the bigger beach towns.
Currency – 1 THB= 1.90 INR
Visa– Visa is on arrival for Indian Passport holders. You can get your visa done here too at Rs. 2000 for single entry tourist.
Accessibility – Ko Chang can be reached via Bangkok. From Bangkok nearest airport to Ko Chang is Trat which is of 1-hour flight. From Trat, the island is 45 minutes ride by ferry. Return flight fare from Bangkok to Trat is approximately RS 13500.
Image Courtesy- Tourism Authority of Thailand