My first trip to Thailand is dated back to 1998. The country has changed a lot since, as most of Asia has done. I was recently in Koh Chang, a small island close to the border with Cambodia, on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand.
I had different expectations. I was looking for a relaxing place to spend some time reading my books, making photos and enjoy the local food. I usually read guides and people comments before travelling to any place, the sort of sites as TripAdvisor. Some of the feedbacks were not great, describing the island as a party place, chaotic and impossible to drive. Was Koh Chang the paradise island with some of the best beaches in Thailand?
I usually rent a scooter wherever I go. That is the quickest way to reach the best places for my landscape photography as well as the local festivals for some street photography. I booked the flights for the busiest time of the year, Xmas/NYE. Was it a good idea?
What did I find once in the island?
Everything. You can have the most relaxing time as well as the biggest party ever, it is your choice. Stay in White Sand Beach and you can have all the party you want. Stay in Lonely Beach if you are a backpacker. Go to the Bang Bao village to have a quiet night. Move to the west coast, like in Long Beach, and you are on your own, peace day and night. I loved the island and I am looking forward to spend more time there in future!!
Can I rent a scooter in Koh Chang?
I rented a scooter to move around the island. The roads are not that easy, lots of hills that make crazy ascent and steep descents, add that the condition of the surface is not that great. I saw few people with injuries due to motorbike accidents. This is not the place where you start riding. If you are not that experienced, take the shared bus, a better option. If you rent a bike, just drive cautiously and it will be fine, don’t race, anything can happen on the road and there are so many villages where you may expect a sudden pedestrian or animal walking through.
The photography side of my trip was great. I spent two weeks in the island and I wished I had more time. Most of the people stay on the west side of the island and this is where you have the most spectacular sunsets. This is my list of the top 6 sites which you must visit for some great photos. I am sure there are other sites and please add them in the comment area and/or send me the photos and I will include them in the post. That would be great 😀
Best sunset location in Koh Chang
Kai Bae Beach Sunset
This is a very quiet location just before Lonely Beach. Come here to have a drink before the sun goes down. The beach is a long and wide one. Usually kids come to play football which makes a great silhouette subject. Fishermen go out 1-2 hours before sunset, just small boats to catch the dinner for themselves and the local restaurants. All fresh food in the island. This is another fantastic subject. Lots of action to include in your photo
The fishing village
Go to Bang Bao for the best shots of a fishing village. Yes, Bang Bao is not anymore the place it used to be, it is quite commercial and when you walk in you may feel as the locals live of tourism more than of fishing, however as soon as you get through the first shops and you head down to the harbour you will have a complete different view. Moreover you will have the sunset just in front of you, a site you want to be.
The Bailan Dock restaurant
The Bailan bay is between Lonely Beach and Bang Bao. There are few small resorts and backpacking places beside restaurants and bars. It is a quiet location. There are few docks where you can take great sunset shots including sunbeds, umbrellas and more, a real feeling of the relaxing life in this island.
Long Beach is the only site on the east coast in this list. It is a must visit. It is not easy to arrive here and you need your own transportation system. Even by motorbike was a challenging one. The road is really bumpy and without any sort of maintenance. Hopefully it is going to be better this season. If you don’t stay overnight in this side of the island leave one hour before sunset. Remember that we are close to the equator and it becomes dark very quickly. This beach is in a promontory facing west which makes it great for sunsets
The TreeHouse (above) is a basic and quiet place on the beach. Vegetarian food and drinks are available. You can spend few nights here as well but do not expect any luxury. I heard that the last owners left the place some months ago but difficult to say if it was just a rumor. I would suggest to double check with them
Kai Bae View Point
Probably the best view point in the island, located between Kai Bae Beach and Lonely Beach. You will not be alone but you can always find a great spot in the wide area. The view of the small islands is just outstanding.
Bang Bao Lighthouse
I talked of Bang Bao as a great spot already in #5. Once you head down to the end of the harbour you will see a lighthouse. You can either add the lighthouse as the main subject of your photo or, even better, walk up to the top and look back to the village, what a great view!!
This is it!!
As you see from the map the sites are quite close to each over however is it almost impossible to cover two sites in the same night, except maybe Bang Bao.
Where to stay in the island?
This is a great question and there are so many options around. My favourite area was around Lonely beach, a real easy going village even in the busy Xmas/NYE time. Do not expect any big party here, just lots of live music and drinks to enjoy a nice conversation through the night.
Here below the three accommodations I used
- Bailan Hut Resort in Bailan Bay. Basic clean and tidy huts with air condition. The great advantage is the location, really few cm from the water. How awesome is to jump out from bed and go for a swim straight away!! Nice terrace on top
- Elephant Bay Resort, this is the coolest place to be in this part of the island. I checked more of a few and this is the real chill out resort you want to stay. It’s similar price to the others, however it offers a great bar area for breakky and lunch (I believe I spent my best brunches there) beside a small pool for a quick bath. The place is also directly at the beach, although with stones (I would go somewhere else for some beach time). I have no affiliation with the resot, just loved it
- Tarzan Island Resort, this is the first resort I booked on line. Loved the restaurant area, great fish and live music till 9pm. A bit far away from Lonely Beach and nothing really around, not even the beach LOL. Great price for scooters in the bar next door (much less than in Lonely Beach). Suggested only if you can’t find anything on line and you need a first base. Would I come here again? Probably I would book the stay in Elephant Bay Resort, if available
Do you need to book in advance your accommodation?
If you feel more relaxed in this way, yes, do it. There is no worst feeling than being stressed during your vacation time. I booked just the first 2 nights and after that I looked around. I was always able to find a nice place not listed in any booking site. Just the NYE night was a challenge. Going back in the same period I would probably make sure to have the 3 days from the 30th of December to the 2nd of January already booked.
Enjoy your trip and photography experience.
Full Map of the top 6 site to make a sunset photo in Koh Chang
Click here for a bigger and interactive Google Map