Koh Chang Travel Guide
The second largest island in Thailand gets less attention than it deserves. Due to its location in the far east of the country rather in the uber-popular south, Koh Chang gets a trickle of the tourist traffic that cousins like Koh Samui and Phuket get.
Perhaps it is for the best, as this mountainous isle has retained a sense a beauty long lost elsewhere in the country. Its thick jungle, voluminous waterfalls, and offshore coral reefs all await visitors. While its beaches aren’t bleach white, their off-white complexion is just as beautiful to those seeking a tropical island experience without feeling crowded by the hordes found in other destinations.
While most come to Koh Chang for its uncrowded beaches, there are a few cultural highlights worth visiting when suntanning and swimming gets old. Rent a scooter and head over to the east side of the island, where Wat Salak Phet awaits.
Built after a visit by King Rama V more than a century ago, it is easily the most significant Buddhist temple on the island. While some of the more hardcore wat lovers might not be impressed by it, it is a beautiful place which fits in well with the surrounding scenery and it adds to the peaceful nature of this corner of Koh Chang.
Culture hounds will also want to take a break from scootering around the island when they come across Chao Por Koh Chang Shrine. Located a short way from the ferry terminal, this Chinese arch is easily missed by most visitors, as walled songthaews often motor past this monument’s entrance on the way to the west coast.
Fishers will often pray at the shrine for safety and for good fortune out on the water, while on-shore farmers ask for a bountiful harvest. Regardless of any wishes you may or may not have, its stylish, brilliant red arches are a stunning sight, so have your camera at the ready.
While it has become a bit of a tourist trap, the Bang Bao pier is home to a variety of vendors who deal in local crafts and seafood. There are also a number of restaurants which serve up the day’s catch, making it a great place to get a taste of the island.
Be sure to walk out to the end of the concrete pier, as you will find a small white tower resembling a lighthouse. It is slightly run down within (so take care), but from the top, views of the pier and beaches behind will make the trip to the bottom of Koh Chang worthwhile.
During your time on Koh Chang, you’ll have the opportunity to take a number of cooking classes, which are offered in most parts of the island. By attending these day-long courses, you’ll get to see where chefs on the island go to obtain the ingredients for their restaurants, how to prepare them before cooking, and how to make several common Thai dishes.
Doing this won’t just get you away from the beach for a day – it’ll allow you to impress friends and family with a new array of meals when you get home.
Looking for a break from the beach while in Koh Chang? Head inland to Klong Plu Waterfall. At its best just after the conclusion of the rainy season in late October to early November, the waters of this cataract tumble down from central highlands which rise up as high as 700 metres above sea level. Be sure to bring flip flops if you plan on taking a dip in its gorge, as the rocks lining its bottom can be sharp.
If you plan on renting a scooter during your stay on the island, be sure to drive out to the Mu Koh Chang National Park View Point once to take in the sunset. Situated on a hill between Lonely Beach and Kai Bae Beach, it has an elevated view of several small offshore islands and the Gulf of Thailand beyond.
When you aren’t watching the sun sink into the horizon, there is a giant red post box which you can take advantage of for your selfie needs and an on-site convenience store where you can buy ice cream and postcards.
If you have made your way out to Koh Chang, chances are good you are looking forward to lounging on one of its many beaches. Most are located on its west coast – the first you’ll come across is Klong Son Beach.
Located off the main road on a quiet bay, this off-white sand beach is home to one of the island’s most exclusive resorts, Siam Royal View. While it is in the process of being developed, it is still a very peaceful place.
White Sand Beach is on the other end of the scale – as the most developed stretch of sand on Koh Chang, those looking for a wide range of shops, services, and restaurants will be well served here. The southern part can get a bit claustrophobic, but those looking for peace and beauty only need to head north of town, where you’ll find nothing but fine white sand and backpacker bungalows.
Klong Prao Beach is next in line as you go south – divided in half by an estuary, it has a nice mix of tourist services, quality sand, great accommodation options, and excellent mountain views.
Next, you’ll come to Kai Bae Beach – smaller than its counterparts to the north, it nonetheless is home to a number of nice resorts. Close by to several offshore islands, paddling kayaks out to them is a popular activity for tourists here.
Want to be where the party is at? Lonely Beach where you’ll want to go. Except for a pair of 3-star resorts at its northern end, the scene here is dominated by backpacker resorts, bungalows, hostels, and affordable boutique developments. With a collection of bars which pump out the latest hits well into the night, this is a wonderful place for the young and young at heart – not so much for families and those looking for sleep.
Bailan Bay is a few kilometres further south – while the beach here is tiny, it is a haven for those old enough to remember the way Lonely Beach used to be.
Located near Bang Bao, Kong Koi Beach is the spot of the moment on the island of Koh Chang. While it is far from the ferry docks in the north, this beautiful place makes up for its distance with its droopy palms, aquamarine waters, and tight-knit village.
The east coast of Koh Chang is mostly dominated by mangroves, but isolated Long Beach is a notable exception to this rule. A thin but empty sliver of sand at the end of a long and bumpy road, it is known for drawing those sick of development and society to its quiet shores. If you feel the same way, a few days here will do you good.