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Introduction to Koh Chang

Inviting white sand beach of Koh Chang

Koh Chang has always been a favourite get-away for Thai people. Lush and mountainous, this quiet island, full of natural treasures, is a jewel just waiting to be discovered.

Only 360 kilometres from Bangkok, Koh Chang is an island paradise with pristine forests and rich marine life. The largest of 47 islands off the coast of Trat province, its seeming inaccessibility means that the island has been largely overlooked by visitors, making it a true island get- away. However, an excellent road from Bangkok and a short flight from Bangkok to Trat airport, have meant that the destination is now starting to get the attention that it deserves.

 

Mountainous Koh Chang has an undisturbed interior of dense tropical rain forest, home to many species including macaque monkeys, barking deer and wild pig. Trekkers can also expect to see more than 70 species of birds.   Koh Chang and the islands in this chain were awarded Marine National Park status in 1982 to ensure that this pristine environment is preserved.

Whilst exploring the jungle is a possibility, the less energetic who simply want to relax on the beach won't be disappointed! The whole of the western side of the island has white sand beaches, which stretch as far as the eye can see.

Charmingly Simple

Largely untouched, Koh Chang is an unsophisticated island which remains unaffected by the modern world. The original inhabitants of Koh Chang (Khon Kard) still live traditionally, surviving mainly from an income of fishing, supplemented by growing fruit and rubber. There are still fishing communities on the island where rain or shine the fisherman take the boats out. At night you can see the lights on the horizon from the fishing boats catching squid. 

Local fishing boats on Koh Chang

Local History and Traditions

An important part of the island's history took place at the Naval Battle Ground (Boriwaen Yutthanavee). It was here that the French and Thai navy clashed during the height of the French colonization of Indochina. This culminated in a battle on 17th January 1921, when the Royal Thai Navy's ship, "Thonburi" was sunk.    

A museum has been built on Laem Ngnob Beach, on the mainland, with an exhibition of Koh Chang's naval history on display.   On top of the building is a statue of Krom Luang Chumpon Khet Udomsak, a key figure in the battle, with his face turned to look at Koh Chang.   Every year, the people of Trat province hold memorial services from the 17th to 21st of January, floating garlands in the sea, to honour those who perished. The actual battle was near Ao Salak Petch and the wreck is now a popular dive site.

Chao Po Koh Chang
(the Godfather of Koh Chang)

This Chinese style shrine in the north of the island, with two huge elephants guarding the entrance, has been a saviour to the Khon Kard for generations.  Throughout the history of the island, when the fishermen found themselves facing a strong monsoon or a poor harvest, they would seek guidance from the Chao Po Koh Chang. Island folklore records amazing stories of answered prayers when people have asked for help at the shrine.

Local fishing boats on Koh Chang

Beaches

Koh Chang has several stunning white sand beaches for visitors to enjoy. Largely deserted, particulary in the south, guests can choose to either relax and soak up the sun or take long strolls along the powdery sand.

Our guide to enjoying Koh Chang:

Hat Sai Khao (White Sand Beach)

This is the longest and most popular beach in Koh Chang and very wide during low tide.  It has long been a place for travellers to hang out so it is a good place to meet other people in the many small bars and restaurants. In the evening the local restaurants place tables at the water's edge, so you can enjoy the local cuisine by candle light with the feel of the sand between your toes.

Klong Prao Beach

This white sand beach, where the Amari Emerald Cove Resort is located, is  much quieter and offers peace and solitude.  The area is also more natural, covered in coconut groves and wild vegetation.   A small lagoon dissects the beach, but you can walk across at low tide or at high tide, be paddled from one side to the other in a small rowing boat for a few Baht.   In the evening, the local villagers can be seen collecting the tiny shrimps called "Khei" to make the shrimp paste, for which Koh Chang is famous.

Kai Bae Beach

This beach is a great viewing point for sunsets and there are also some small islands, so close that you can get there by kayak.   At low tide, you can walk out to Koh Man Nai with the water at chest level.   A little further out, Koh Yuak has a small beachfront and clear shallow waters which are a good snorkeling point.

Hat Ta Nam (Lonely Beach)

This is the last beach on the west coast.

Islands

For a bit more of an adventure, there are also numerous beaches to visit, tucked away on the small surrounding islands and accessible only by speed boat.   Here you can feel like a castaway, for a few hours at least.

Very Close to Koh Chang

Koh Klum

This island has historical significance as it was the battleground for the Thai and French during the French colonization of Indochina. This island is a good dive site and there are corals 10 to 20 meters deep. It is also an excellent fishing spot with larger fish in abundance

Koh Wai

This island with its crescent shape has two small but pleasant beaches and is a quiet place for a day trip

Koh Phrao Nai and Nok

These islands were originally named because of the long lines of coconut trees on the island. Both islands have beautiful white sand.

Koh Lao Ya

This is a group of 3 small islands which are well known for their long white beaches, turquoise waters, green forests in the interior and lovely coral at shallow depths. A wooden bridge links two of the islands and the water beneath this is incredibly crystal clear.

Koh Ngam

This enchanting island is only a few hundred metres of the southern most coast of Koh Chang. The island comprises of two kidney shaped sections held together by a narrow sand dune and with two lagoons which are excellent for swimming and snorkeling. There is also good fishing and dolphins are occasionally seen in the area.

Koh Kood

This is the eastern most island of Thailand, 80 kilometers south east of Trat town close to the border with Cambodia.   It is the second largest island in the Koh Chang national park and the fourth largest island in Thailand. About 70% of the island is covered in tropical forest and there is a breathtaking waterfall in the interior. The island has little development and stunningly beautiful beaches.

Koh Maak

Between Koh Chang and Koh Kood, about 40 kilometres from the main land is Koh Maak. This is a largely flat island covered in both rubber and coconut plantations with lovely long beaches. 

Natural Environment

Pristine rain forest covers most of Koh Chang, making the island an eco paradise. The island appears very mountainous from the shore, with the highest peak, Khao Salak Phet (744 meters), in the middle of the island.   The rocks are mainly granite and the slopes are rounded rather than sheer cliffs, so that trekking is possible.   Mangroves and beach forest line the shores, and the whole island supports a huge diversity of wildlife, including macaques, monitor lizards, pythons and barking deer. White-winged terns, nightjars and several species of hornbill are some of the indigenous birds and many others migrate here.

Our guide to enjoying Koh Chang

Hiking Trails

Koh Chang offers scenic hiking trails that take just a few hours, particularly from Khlong Son to Hat Sai Khao (white Sand Beach) and from there to Hat Khlong Prao. In the south, the harder and longer Kai Bae - Bang Bao trail is a challenging experience and passes through shady rubber and coconut plantations.

Elephant Trekking

There are two different elephant treks to try in Koh Chang. The Chang Chutiman company between Klong Prao and Kai Bae has a choice of two trekking trails, a one-hour and a two-hour trail which go into a pomelo orchard, and then for the longer trek, into the National Park's rain forest. The Ban Kwan Chang elephant camp in the north of Koh Chang is supported by the Asian Elephant Foundation.   There are a forty-minute and a one-hour-and-twenty-minute treks into the island's beautiful valley, through peaceful pomelo, durian and rubber plantations and a chance to watch the animals bath and feed.

Waterfalls

The mountainous terrain of Koh Chang creates some quite spectacular waterfalls in the tropical forest. The following are some of the better known ones which can be visited.

Than Mayom Waterfall

This is probably the most famous waterfall on the island, near the Than Mayom pier of the east coast of the island and near the Koh Chang Marine National Park Office.  A pathway of about 400m, leads through a durian orchard, to the waterfall. The waterfall is medium sized, with four levels and a large pool at the front. Visitors mostly do not go to the fourth level which is quite far and used as a source of drinking water by the locals. Swimming is allowed at the waterfall and watching sunrise from here can be a real treat.

The three-step Than Mayom Falls, the first of which is less than an hour's walk from Tha Than Mayom, is well worth hiking to. Rocks on the first and third steps bear the engraved initials of Kings Rama VI and Rama VII, and Rama V respectively.

Klong Plu Waterfall

This is the most popular and frequently visited of the waterfalls as it is close to both Klong Prao and Kai Bae beaches. It is about a 20 minute hike to the waterfall which is on 3 levels. Most visitors stay on the 1st level as the 10 metre fall here is already an impressive site and it is quite a slippery climb to get up to the other two levels.

Nang Yom

Located in the north of Koh Chang, Nang Yom is a small-sized waterfall with several cascades. You can get there by following a path from Ban Dan Mai near the Koh Chang sub-district police station and the trail is about one hour long.

Khiri Phet  Waterfall

This medium sized waterfall is about 2 kms from the Salak Phet community, in the south of Koh Chang.   During wet season the fall can look as if it is a two-storey waterfall of about 5 meters high, but in the dry season you can climb up to the 7th level.   There is water in the falls all year round and a pool to swim in at the first level.

Klong Nueng Waterfall

Not far from Khiri Phet, this is the tallest in Koh Chang and an excellent place to take a dip in the chest deep pool, once you have made the hour's hike there. You have to climb across a huge boulder, which blocks the trail, to see the sight of the water cascading down the ravine.

Excursions

Part of the charm of Koh Chang is the relaxed atmosphere and traditional lifestyle which still carries on. Guests can enjoy a feeling of how the local people live and the area's scenic natural beauty. The following excursions can be arranged:

Full Day Tours

A Drive Around the Island

All island tours, stop at a Chinese style temple, Chao Po Koh Chang or the Godfather of Koh Chang in the north of the island which has particular significance for the inhabitants of the island.

The east of the island should also be visited, it has dramatic rocky beaches rather than the white sands of its western counterparts.   Here, there is little development and life continues on the island much as it has for decades, with people living from fishing and small scale farming. Fruit bushes laiden with rambattans, for which the province is famous, bloom at the roadside in season. In the far south, a fishing village, Salak Phet, is nestled in the mangrove with boats lined up waiting to go out to sea and others awaiting repair. Everywhere there is the rhythmic sound of hammering, as essential work is carried out on the boats. Aboard small crafts, women deftly repair the nets, whilst the men store the fish traps on the jettys for use the next day.  

A short distance away as the crow flies is Bang Bao, a photogenic fishing village built on stilts and extending out over the water.   However, since the roads on the east and west coasts don't yet join, it is not possible to drive completely round the island and you have to reach the village from the western road enjoying the roller coaster of a drive with dramatic views down the shear drop at the side of the road to the beach below.

An island tour could also include a stop at one of the island's waterfalls, with a chance to have a swim and cool down. 

Island Hopping and Snorkeling

The many small islands surrounding Koh Chang provide many opportunities for a variety of boat trips to different white sand beaches for picnics and snorkeling. Highlights could include a stop a "Koh Nok" or "Bird Island" which has wonderful coloured corals in very shallow waters.

Half Day Tours

Lunch or Dinner at A Fisherman's Village

Bang Bao is the best place on the island to enjoy seafood, with a great selection in the restaurants, which has been freshly caught that day. The restaurants also have large tanks as you walk in, filled with different types of live crab, king prawns and other crustacians for you to select.   It's a relaxed place to enjoy simple but delicious cuisine and watch the breeze gently blow through the homemade shell mobiles, which are hung from the wooden beams of the restaurants.

Trekking on Foot

Treks of varying lengths and difficulty and be arranged into the rain forest in the island's tropical interior with a local guide.

Elephant Treks

A great way to explore the interior of the island is by the island's namesake, a "chang" or elephant.   Actually, the island was so named because of its shape, and elephants are not indigenious and have, infact, only been recently brought to the island.   Nevertheless, it is a pleasant way to spend an hour or two and there is a choice of two starting points for treks. One takes you through a rubber plantation and into a pomelo orchard where the elephants have a fabulous time pulling the fruit from the branches, seemingly unconcerned if the pomelos are ripe or not! The second route is longer and takes you into an inland valley in the north of the island, where the elephants can enjoy bathing in the water from the Nang Yom waterfall.

Catamaran Cruise, Supercat

Enjoy the bright blue sky and emerald sea with a touch of luxury on board Supercat, a custom-built catamaran. Cruise in comfort, including catering, all through the Koh Chang National Marine Park archipelago, with the assurance of an expert captain and crew, who will take good care of you. Supercat follows different routes around the islands and stops off on some idyllic shores. There's chance for snorkeling and exploring, and you may get a chance the feed the primates of Monkey Island, as well as enjoying the sunshine and working on your tan.

(Supercat tours are subject to weather conditions and generally take place from late October to April - ask staff for details.)