Welcome to Koh Chang
This is my Koh Chang Wiki page and will be updated on a regular basis. If you have something to add please comment at the bottom of the page so everyone can benefit.
Chang (ช้าง) in Thai means ‘elephant’ so Koh Chang ( เกาะช้าง) means ‘Elephant Island’. Koh Chang can be found on the Eastern seaboard of Thailand not far from Cambodia. It has become a trendy destination in recent years and there has been a lot of development, including luxury resorts although Koh Chang bungalows can still be had at cheap prices. This is the second biggest island in Thailand after Phuket.
Those who knew Koh Chang back when it was off the tourist map will lament the passing of the ‘good old days’, but people visiting for the first time are usually quite impressed. There are still plenty of unspoiled beaches and you will find a lot of entertainment options. Away from the beaches there are paths to explore within the interior; there you will get to see a wide selection of wildlife including deer and elephants. Koh Chang is a mountainous island and this only adds to its beauty and provides interesting terrain to explore.
A few years ago there were no paved roads on Koh Chang, but now it is possible to travel around most of the island relatively easily. In a very short period this island has turned from a backpacker favorite full of cheap bungalows into a location full of luxury resorts – although you can still find cheap options if you look. More money has poured into the island because of tourism and so has the number of businesses aimed at the tourist grown as a result.
Many of locals who inhabit Koh Chang once depended on fishing to make a living – but not anymore. The original population of the island is now outnumbered by Thais from other parts of country who have come to make money. The whole island now seems focused on the tourist dollar. There is a worry that the special quality that separated Koh Chang from other places like Phuket will disappear because of these changes. Others would claim that this fear is overstated and there are many reasons why the Elephant Island remains unique and well worth visiting. One thing for sure is that visitors seem to have no problem returning here again and again; some stay for months at time.
Koh Chang Arrivals and Departures
The only way to get to Koh Chang from the mainland is by boat. The more popular pier is Laem Ngob but there is also another pier at Tha Centre Point and you catch the car ferry at Ao Thammachat; all of these locations are in Trat province. The journey across to the island takes anything from forty-five minutes to an hour depending on where you get the boat. These ferries are not too spectacular but you can purchase food and beverages on board. If you are willing to spend a bit of money it is also usually possible to rent a speed boat to take you across to the island. All boats arriving on Koh Chang land at the Dao Kao on the east of the island; there is a separate Dao Kao pier for the car ferry.
The nearest airport to Koh Chang is in Trat. Once you land you can get either a bus or a taxi to the Trat or directly to the port at Laem Ngob. You can also get a minibus that will take you all the way from the airport to your resort via the car ferry. Trat airport is quite small and there are only a few flights per day. If you are flying into Suvarnabhumi Airport then you may be able to get a connecting flight; so long as you arrive at the right time.
There are quite a few options when it comes to taking a bus to Koh Chang. If you are coming from Bangkok then you will find buses leaving from Ekamai bus terminal (there is a BTS station right beside this). Coaches go all the way to Laem Ngob where you can catch a boat to the island. There are also buses coming from Suvarnabhumi Airport direct to the island. It takes about eight hours to reach Koh Chang from Bangkok if you are traveling by bus and boat – longer if there is no boat leaving when you arrive.
If you are staying in the Koh San Road area of Bangkok you will have no problem finding minibuses; these can be booked in any of the travel shops. The minibus will usually pick you up from your hotel and take you all the way to the island. These minibuses can get quite packed so this probably isn’t the most comfortable way to reach Koh Chang. You can also find minibuses going from Pattaya and Koh Samet to the island; just check locally.
Getting Around Koh Chang
It is only in recent years that the roads in Koh Chang have been paved; it is now relatively easy to travel around most of the island. Drivers and motorcyclists need to be aware though that there are some extremely steep hills in different parts of the island. The small motorbikes can struggle to make it up them; especially if the bike is old. Many accidents occur because bikes stall going up one of these inclines. There are many accidents on the island and those renting bikes will often make a lot more money from charging visitors for repairs than they do on actually renting bikes. Many visitors don’t wear a helmet and this is reckless. It is also important that people don’t drink alcohol and then ride a bike – you are just asking for trouble if you do.
It is also possible to rent cars on the island. This is probably safer than renting a motorbike but you will still need to be careful. Make sure you fully inspect the car before accepting it and insure that any scratches or dents are noted – otherwise you might be charged for these.
The Songtaew is a type of bus service that you will find in most tourist locations in Thailand and Koh Chang is no exception. This is just a converted truck that comes with two benches in the back. There is a regular service that you can just hop on and hop off; this travels between most of the main destinations on the island – it can cost anywhere from 50 to 100THB depending on where you want to go. You can also hire a Songtaew to take you where you want to go; this is only really cost-effective if you have a group of people.
What to See on Koh Chang
White Sand Beach
White Sand Beach (Had Sai Khao หาดทรายขาว) is probably the busiest place on the island but the beach is long enough to accommodate everyone. It is made up of powdery white sand and the water here is a delight to swim in. A lot of people arrive on the island and spend their whole holiday in this location; the day on the beach and the evenings in the bars and restaurants. In recent years there have been many resorts popping up in this area and it is possible to find something to suit most budgets, from bungalows to high end hotels. You will find a lot of people meeting up on the beach around sunset; this is also a nice time to walk along the seashore.
Klong Son Beach
This is the nearest beach to the pier at Dao Kao. It is not as busy as White Sands beach but there are many accommodation options here. You will also find plenty of shops and bars as well as banks and tour operators. The beach is bordered by coconut trees; ideal for putting a hammock – just make sure that a coconut doesn’t land on your head.
A common complaint that you will hear from repeat visitors is that Lonely Beach just isn’t lonely anymore. This may be true but there is no doubting that it is still attractive. At one time it was only really backpackers who got to enjoy this beach but nowadays it seems to be attracting richer clientele. The actual name of Lonely Beach is Hat Tha Nam.
Klong Plu Waterfall
This waterfall is located on the western side of the island and makes a nice change from the beach. The waterfall is located along a path and you get to experience some the jungle on your way in to it. The waterfall has one level and is about 30 meters high. During most of the year you will be able to swim in the pool at the bottom of the fall. It is also a nice place to have a picnic and there are a few restaurants in the area serving Thai food.
Bang Bao – The Fisherman’s Village
Every visitor really should make the effort to visit Bang Bao; also known as Fisherman’s Village. Many of the shops and restaurants are on stilts above the sea. This is a nice place to visit during the day or early evening. When you walk down the most popular street in the village you are walking above the sea. You can find accommodation where you can sleep in a cabin held up by stilts. If you want the soothing sound of waves to send you to sleep then you might want to choose this location.
Had Kae Bae
Had Kae Bae is a beach over 2km in length. From here you get a nice view of the nearby islands. There are a few resorts in the locality but this is a fairly quite part of the island. It seems to be a favorite for couples and those who want to just enjoy a bit of peace. During the low tide it is possible to walk all the way across to Man Nai Island.
Klong Nueng Waterfall
Klong Nueng is another waterfall and it is said to be the most stunning one on the island. It is also the tallest and the water drops into a deep pool. If you bring your bathing gear this can be a great place to swim. The water here is cool and this makes it a refreshing escape from the heat of the day. You will find Klong Neung waterfall near Salak Petch.
What to Do on Koh Chang
Hit the Bars
White Sand Beach is probably the best location if you plan on hitting the bars and going a bit wild. Here you will find a wide selection of drinking establishments catering for different tastes. There are a couple of music venues as well as some bar-girl places – although this is a lot more sedate than what you might see on somewhere like Samui. There are also a couple of nightclubs on the islands. The beach bars get crowded as the evening turns to night and here you will have plenty of loud music to get you through the night.
There is plenty going on beside the beach and in the water. In the evenings you will find many Thais involved in football games and volleyball; they are usually delighted if foreigners join in on the action. You may also see a game called Takraw; this is similar to volleyball but instead of using your hands you can only use your feet. Takraw is a top sport in South East Asia and great fun to play.
There are a few snorkeling sites where you can get to see some underwater wildlife. If you want to see more of this then the best choice is to join in on one of the snorkeling tours. These tours will take you out in a boat and bring you to the best spots – they usually supply you with equipment as well. If you like kayaking you will find a few places where you can rent the boat and safety equipment for this.
If you fancy some relaxing time fishing then you will find plenty of boats willing to take you out for the day or even for a spot of night fishing. Some of these boats even come equipped with bars so that you really can kick back and enjoy the experience. The sea surrounding Koh Chang is teeming with fish so you have no excuse for not catching something.
Like many of the other islands and beach resorts it is possible to arrange to scuba dive during your stay in Koh Chang. If you are already experienced and have a license then you can get some more dives in or earn further qualifications. Those who have never experienced Scuba can go for an introductory dive or do the study to achieve an Open Water Certificate and license. Doing the course is a good idea because you get to see a lot and you will then be licensed so you can easily go diving again in the future if you want to. In fact most people who dive once will want to do it again and again – it is a wonderful experience. Just make sure you come at the right time of year for diving. The Koh Chang weather is extremely rainy from May through September and during these months you likely won’t be able to dive.
A lot of people just focus only on the beach and forget that there is an impressive jungle right behind them that is also fun to explore. There are a few local companies that can arrange tours into the interior. There are paths and it is possible to go alone, but you will probably see a lot more if you go with a tour. This will also give you the opportunity to get in a bit of exercise while you get to view the local flora and animal life.
Bird watching is becoming increasingly popular on Koh Chang and you can join a tour where you get to view some of the spectacular species that live on the island. As well as bird watching tours on Koh Chang itself you can also find tours going to other local island as well.
Visit the Other Local Islands
Koh Chang is actually part of the Koh Chang National Marine Park and there are many more islands nearby. Some of these have their own private resorts but you can also take day trips to many of them. The beaches on some of these islands are quite stunning and most people seem to enjoy the experience of traveling somewhere so remote. There are times of the year when travel to these islands is difficult due to bad weather conditions.
Thai cookery Classes
Some hotels now offer Thai cooking lessons. This can be a nice way to find out more about Thai food and you will get to eat all that you make. Learning how to cook Thai food means that you will be able to benefit from your trip long after you arrive home.
If you have never ridden on the back of an elephant then you might want to consider doing so on Koh Chang; after all, this is Elephant Island. There are a couple of outfits that organize elephant trekking through the jungle interior of the island. You normally travel on the back of these magnificent beasts for about an hour; make sure you bring your camera because you are going to have many photo opportunities.
Get a Tattoo
You will find many tattoo artists wandering around the beach and lots of visitors with freshly created body art. If you are going to get a tattoo on the island make sure that all the proper hygiene procedures are followed. If you intend to get Thai characters printed on your body you should double check that they say what you think they say. Thai tattoo artist will tend to just follow your instructions exactly rather than question them. This means that if you ask them to tattoo a Thai word and it is spelled wrong many artists will just go ahead and do the work; the customer is always right after all. If you have met a nice local girl and are considering getting her name tattooed on your body you are strongly advised against this – there is just too much of a risk that you will later regret it.
Off the Beaten Track in Koh Chang
An Evening with the Fireflies
One of the strangest activities on Koh Chang is traveling by canoe at night to see the fireflies that accumulate beside the mangroves. These tours occur mostly during the cooler months and are recommended if you happen to be on the island at that time.
Trat (ตราด ) is not on Koh Chang but is instead the town nearby where most people will catch the boat going to the island. Trat is actually well worth a visit as there a few nice entertainment venues. It tends to attract a lot of budget travelers and there are many cheap guesthouses in the town. You will also find a couple of good second-hand bookshops if you are light on reading material. If you have the time to stop at Trat it is a nice place to spend the day. There are also a few local beaches that are well worth visiting; some of these get busy with Thai tourists.
The War Memorial
This war memorial monument can be found on the south of the island and is worth seeing if you want to find out a bit more about the history of Koh Chang. This should not be confused with the other Koh Chang war memorial that is situated on the mainland at Laem Ngob. Both of these memorials are to commemorate a sea battle with France in 1941. The Thais were able to drive off the French but 36 Thai sailors died in the process; the monument is to remember their sacrifice.
Emergencies on Koh Chang
Crime on Koh Chang is relatively rare and when it does happen it is usually committed by other tourists. There have been incidents though where confrontations have occurred between visitors and local Thais. It is important to avoid any arguments with the locals because if you cause a loss of face this can quickly erupt in violence. Thai people are generally placid but when they are made to look foolish they can respond forcibly – most Thai men will fight as part of a mob.
Illegal drug use does sometimes happen on the island but visitors are advised to stay well away from this. The penalties are severe and a holiday of a lifetime can turn into a nightmare if you are caught with illegal substances. The Thai police have been trying hard to crack down on drugs so there is a good chance that you will be caught if you engage in this activity. You should also be aware that undercover police will sometimes offer to sell drugs in an attempt to catch unwary travelers.
If you are a victim of crime on Koh Chang then you are advised to deal with the tourist police. These people are familiar with dealing with foreigners and most can speak some English. There are not that many police officers stationed on the island but luckily there does not tend to be much trouble. You can contact the tourist police by telephoning 1165.
Medical services on Koh Chang are limited but there is enough to deal with most emergencies. Some of the doctors can speak English and the hospital is now familiar with dealing with tourists. The hospital opens twenty-four hours for emergencies; for non-emergencies you will need to visit between 8:00 and 16:30. The telephone number for this hospital is 039 586 131; it is situated in Dan Mai which can be found on the northeast of Koh Chang. There are also a few small clinics scattered around the island; these can help with minor issues.
Highlights of Koh Chang
– A visit to Bang Bao where you will get to see almost a whole village on stilts and resting above the sea.
– Trekking through the jungle and discovering the wildlife that lives in the interior of the island.
– Spending the night partying near White Sand Beach where you will find plenty of bars and restaurants.
Where to Next?
– If you want to see a different side of Thailand then why not journey to Issan; the northeast of the country. Many of those who work in tourist areas come from Issan and here you will get to see a part of the country that is hardly affected by tourism.
– If you are feeling adventurous then you might want to continue traveling east and enter Cambodia. It is easy to arrange transport from Koh Chang and it only takes about three hours to reach the border.
– If you would like to spend some more time on an island then you might want to travel to Koh Samet in Rayong. This is smaller than Koh Chang but it is also beautiful and well worth a visit.