Finally I was able to organise my trip to Koh Chang, on the east coast of Thailand, direction Cambodia. I was really looking forward to this travel experience. I read so much about Koh Chang. I was mostly pushed by the many comments saying that the island offers some of the best beaches of Thailand. Is it really true?
I started googling around to see what could I do in the island, what was on offer, what activity I could be busy with. Well the word busy is really to be used cautiously in Thailand, I mean a “busy” that I can have some fun with. I can’t really stay at the beach for the full day…..or can I? LOL
I started my trip in Bangkok. I love the capital city and every time I am there I find a new spot for my photography, a new site to explore, a new restaurant and I end up experiencing a new guest house for every single stay, although my favourite is still Loy La Long. I have been visiting Bangkok for the last 10 years and I keep always updated my Photography Guide to Bangkok with top sites to visit, best gear to carry, shopping areas to buy new cameras/gear or repair your faulty one and so much more.
Crazy traffic in Bangkok : Best places to make a photo
The trip Bangkok – Koh Chang
There are three easy ways to travel to Koh chang and they all take a similar time (assuming you start your trip in the centre of Bangkok) .
The first way is to take a public bus at the Bangkok Bus Terminal (Easthern) in Sukhumvit Rd
The bus station is easily reachable using the subway and stopping at the Ekkamai station. I suggest to buy the tickets the day before at least, especially if travelling in the Christmas period, as I did
The public bus will take you directly to the ferry station in front of Koh Chang island, it’s the last station, therefore just take a nap till they wake you up LOL. It costs around 250-270Baht (2015) and it’s a real deal, considering the distance. Time wise is not the quickest way of transportation but it’s stress free and you can show up just 5 minutes before departure.
You can buy the ferry ticket and here you are in the island. The wait for the ferry is minimal. Once in the island just take one of the many van waiting on the arrival, they all have the same price based on the destination you desire to go.
For the way back, from Koh Chang to Bangkok you need to book the full package (van, ferry and bus) in one of the many agencies.
The frequency of the buses is almost hourly (different operators running it). Again check them the day before at least.
Scuba diving is very popular in Koh Chang. Most of the morning departures are from Bang Bao, however you can book wherever you want in the island
From Bangkok the private mini-buses leave either from the same bus station as above or from Victory Monument. The ticket price (around 300Baht) is similar to the public bus. There are a couple of differences:
- it’s faster, sometime as fast as scary, you know what I mean. The driver main goal is to reach destination as quickly as possible
- it’s a two hop trip. From Bangkok to Trat (few km before the city centre) and you will be picked up by a second minibus there to the ferry
Trat airport to Koh Chang
This is by far the most expensive way to get to Koh Chang, however it is also the quickest as well as, most probably, the safest one. Bangkok Airways flies to Trat Airport and from there you can buy directly the tickets to the Koh Chang Ferry station.
Expect a price around 10 times higher than the bus (around US$150), although it really depends on the period of the year. You can fly only with Bangkok Airways which can control the price at its own will. You need to add also the van from Trat airport (around 500 Baht one way)
My choice of transportation
I decided to go with the public bus for the trip Bangkok – Koh Chang and with the private mini-van for the return Koh Chang – Bangkok. Both were fine to me. The part that takes quite a bit of time is actually the one from the island resort to mainland. Of course it all depends on where you stay in Koh Chang, I was mostly close to Lonely Beach, definitely far from the Ferry station.
In Bangkok I arrived at Victory Monument
From there I took a city bus to my accommodation in Bangkok, the unique Loy La Long.
On the private minivan I was lucky enough to meet a Thai girl that knew the public network and she could speak perfect English too. Victory Monument is one of the main street bus station in the city; beside you can take the subway to wherever you want.
I heard there is also a direct bus from the Bangkok Airport to Koh Chang, however I do not have much information on that
View from the ferry leaving mainland Thailand, direction Koh Chang
Transportation in the island
There are essentially three types of transportation in the island:
The minivans have some sort of fixed price listing. In saying that you can also try to manage a better price in the “off-peak hours” time, if there is any. A smile always helps. The price you get at the ferry station or at Bang Bao (the end station on the south side of the island) are usually fixed. Where you can bargain a better price is usually on unlisted routes
Although the drivers seem having too much caffeine in the coffees (read they do not drive slow), this is by far the safest way to travel in Koh Chang.
Another safe way is by rented car although parking may be an issue, especially in Bang Bao
The easiest way to tour the island is the scooter although it is also the most dangerous one. The road between Lonely Beach and Bang Bao is super hilly, with some really steep ascend and dropping descend, not to venture in the dark. As usually I did it…but what a risk LOL Do not drink and drive. It is never a smart idea, however in these roads is most definitely a bad idea.
Once you settle in the island you may see few people with injuries, wrapped or even with plasters…..that may be the result of a bad experience with a scooter. Do not rent a motorbike here if you do not have enough experience. Definitely not a place to accumulate experience. It is more to use your experience 😀
In saying that the scooter offers the best and greatest freedom you can imagine. I had it for two weeks and it was just awesome. If you are in Koh Chang around Christmas try to book as soon as you are in the island because it is really a busy period.
Best beaches of Koh Chang
I have explored this island upside down. This is what I like to do. Take the scooter and just get around. I loved few spots and I liked a bit less others (as it usually happens in every place you visit).
First thing first, do not go to Koh Chang if you are looking for an unexplored island, this is not what you will find. Maybe it was 20 years ago but not anymore. To be honest I found some peaceful corners, mostly on the east coast, however they are more of rare gems than the usual find
In my opinion today Koh Chang has the right balance, maybe tending to the busy direction however we will see in the coming years. I ended up spending most of the nights in the southern part of the island (between Bang Bao and Lonely Beach), I was in three flashpackers/resorts places and although all the places were extremely quiet, you could hear the background noise of a party somewhere in the island. Once in the room it was ok to sleep 😀
The majority of the beaches and sites are on the west coast of the island. This is also where most of the travellers and the mass tourism is.
One of the last large public beaches when you drive south of the island. The small village is about 500 metres from the long beach. There is also a mini market right where you park your car/motorbike.
This is one of my favourite beach. It can be busy but not crowded. There are few private resorts but you have easy access to the beach, something which is becoming more and more rare I figured out.
I loved the village, even on Christmas and New Year time it was never overcrowded. There is a wide choice of accommodation, for the party animals as well as for the traveller looking more for a quiet night. I spent a week around here and I had a great time. In the night was easy to find some live music, awesome restaurants and cool pub to have a drink. All with a reggae cool down style
The Treehouse and Long Beach
I heard that the Treehouse has been lately closed down. I am still investigating a bit further and I will update this guide with more info later on.
At the time I was there the Treehouse was run by a French guy. It is a very hippy place to be. A couple of food selection, both vegetarian, and water or beer.
Long Beach, where the Treehouse is built, is just amazing. Very long and with nobody around, just you and few other people, mostly couples. This is the place to be for a quiet time.
You could also sleep here, although on the very very basic side.
The unsealed road to the Treehouse was a real adventure. I had a scooter and it was on the hard side, nothing challenging, just double check every single direction to avoid big stones.
When I was at the beach I noticed they were building, in the middle of the jungle, a big villa so I suspect they will improve the road. I wonder if this has caused also the Treehouse to close down.
To arrive to Long Beach from Bang Bao or Lonely Beach you need to drive all around the island. It’s around 50-60km or an almost 2 hours ride. Keep this in mind if you desire to stay there to see the sunset.
Kai Bae Beach
In my opinion this is the place to be for sunset, there are few bars at the beach to enjoy your cocktail, incredible view with the small Koh Man Nai island on the left side. Really a great spot.
You can also rent a canoe and paddle down to Koh Man Nai for your private Thai spot. I had a gorgeous day there and the water was so calm that I could go and come back in no time.
Most definitely a lovely beach to spend a day. Plenty of things to do, including the inevitable soccer game with the locals 😀
Ploy Talay Beach
This beach actually belongs to a private resort but they are ok for you to access, provided you buy lunch or drinks from them (similar prices to most of the places in the island).
Ploy Talay is located half an hour before long beach and the access is all on sealed road. There is a nice small pier for some jumps in the water or to be used as great subject for your photos.
Fantastic spot for a sunset session. Another super quiet location to relax
Klong Prao Beach
Another lovely quiet place to spend a day reading a book. It is quite shallow which makes it great if you have kids.
There are bars along the beach that become barbecue places during the night. An almost 24/7 business
If you love swimming I would probably go to Kai Bae Beach as it can become really shallow with low tide.
Other sites to visit
This place is advertised as a fishing village and most probably it was, however not anymore. I believe the real economy now is based on day trips to the nearby islands, scuba diving courses and fishing restaurants.
In saying that, spare at least a sunset and a dinner here. I loved Bang Bao. Once the Scuba Divers come back around 4-5pm, almost at the same time of day trip boats, suddenly, in a matter of minutes the village become empty as most of the tourists head back to the own resorts. That’s when you enjoy Bang Bao the most.
The restaurants are not overpriced for what they offer and there are few nice bars to spend the night if this is your thing.
Bang Bao has some great spots for your photography
If you are looking for a real fishing village head to the Karang Bay, on the other side of the island (see map for more details)
Bailan Beach and Bailan Bay
The Bailan Beach can be accessed only through private resorts which is a real pity because the bay itself is really gorgeous. I spent few nights there in a flashpacker place, really cool, I enjoyed it so much (more info in the accommodation section). This is a place you can visit even for drinks and breakfast, one of the coolest place in the island. Try to get a sea front hut for the beautiful view. They have a small swimming pool too. Great base to explore the island
You can check the bay through a secondary street. It will take you down to a run down restaurant, great spot to make some photos and enjoy a romantic night in the isolated table at the end of the pier.
White Sand Beach
This is the first beach you will see when your taxi/minivan will drive to the south of the island. It is probably the longest beach of the island. This is the part of Koh Chang I liked less. It’s overcrowded with buildings and night clubs. If you are after a party week, this is probably the place to be. For anything else move on.
It’s probably a good place for a night at the local street market, you can buy some gifts to bring back home, although I had this feeling they were mostly Chinese made.
The elephant experience
Somebody may argue that elephants should not be used for tourists transportation. I visited an elephant camp on the main road of the island called Ban Chang Thai. I was offered short and long trips through the jungle. Part of the ticket price was also used for an animal hospital, which was great.
The elephant knows already where to go however there is always a guide with you that takes care of the animal. He was actually a good guide that helped me to take few photos too. I had a great time there.
Highly suggested if this is your thing
Koh Chang Elephant Ride
Accommodation used in the trip
I was there during the Christmas holiday for 2 weeks. I booked my first accommodation on the web and I checked the other personally before making any booking.
I was actually lucky I booked the first 3 nights because the island was super packed. Once there I was able to book something else. I was well impressed with all of them. My favourite is still……
- Bailan Hut Resort in Bailan Bay. I loved the peace of this place. The photos of the booking website are really misleading, this is a gorgeous place to be (they should have better photos). The huts are right 1 meter from the sea. I loved to close my day with a cold beer seating in front of my hut literally centimetres from the water. The huts are clean and basic, with air condition. Nice terrace on top
- Elephant Bay Resort, my favourite stay in Koh Chang. Just awesome. Super cool place open to the sea and with a small swimming pool. It is almost constantly booked out and there is a good reason for that. Clean and easy going. They offer rooms on the cheap side and more expensive ones. The highlight is the bar area, so relaxed. I suggest a visit for breakfast or lunch/dinner even if you book somewhere else.
- Tarzan Island Resort, this is the first resort I booked on line, my first base. To be honest I had limited options (it was the busiest Christmas period ever). I was not sure of the location. It turned out to be a valid choice. Lovely hut and a nice garden on the quiet side. The restaurant has a corner for live music which is awesome for dinner time (come here anyway for few beers and the great fresh fish). The bands stop singing just after the meal, which is great for sleeping. The only drawback is that it is not seafront and you need a fear walk to the beach. I rented a scooter next door, which was great value considering the sky rocket price of Lonely Beach. Would I come here again? Probably I would book the stay in Elephant Bay Resort
Map of Koh Chang
Here is a useful map with all we talked about in this post.
Malaria in Koh Chang – Hospitals
I heard people back at home in Australia having concerned on malaria in Koh Chang. I investigade a bit and, based on the bulletins and the government run medical websites, Koh Chang is a malaria-free island. It used to have malaria 30 years back but not anymore.
If you decide to visit mainland, direction Cambodia, or other less popular islands it is however suggest to check with your family doctor, or the Malaria Institute in your country, as they may suggest to use prophylaxis.
If you are experiencing a sudden high temperature you may want to check with one of the Hospital on the islands (see below the full list). Do not leave it at the last minute. I heard there is also a Malaria Clinic in Laem Ngop, mainland Thailand, however I would suggest to check first with the local hospital.
|Bangkok – Koh Chang Hospital
||White Sand Beach
||Tel: 0 3955 1555
||Private clinic, open 24 hours
||Klong Son Bay
||Tel: 0 3955 7211
||Private clinic, open 24 hours
|Koh Chang Hospital
||East Coast, Baan Klong Nonsi
||Tel: 0 3952 1657
Hot or Not
I believe that Koh Chang is more on the hot side. Tourism is well developed and, at the moment, it has not been overbuilt (except maybe at White Sand Beach).
The island is mostly a National Park which prevents aggressive builders to set up “massive” businesses. You add that the access to the island is not that easy, as for example in Phuket and Koh Samui, islands that have the own airports.
It’s not an undiscovered place by any mean. Tourists are there. I was personally surprised by the number of Russians around. Clearly a well known destination in that part of the world
If you are looking for a Crusoe experience you may try few days in Koh Mak, a much smaller and isolated island few hours south. Regular boat transportation runs from Bang Bao.