Ko Chang, Thailand: Travel / Tourist Information Guide
Ko Chang is an island in Trat province at the eastern region of Thailand. It is the one of the largest islands in the country and the largest in the Mu Ko Chang National Park archipelago; a marine national park that comprises parts of Ko Chang and other islands. It has an area of 429 square kilometers. Ko Chang means "Elephant Island" because of its elephant shaped headland, however, elephants are not indigenous. It is a tropical marine national park that consists of long white sandy beaches, virgin and well-preserved rain forests with Khao Salak Phet being the highest peak at 743 meters, and wildlife like the stump-tailed macaque, the small Indian civet, and the small Asian mongoose. The island has nine villages and it is not heavily populated. It is a more calm and serene place than Phuket and Thailand's . The island has three main seasons and it is best to visit the island during the cool season that runs from November to the end of February. This is the busiest time of the island with an average temperature between 27 degree Celsius to 30 degree Celsius. The hot season runs from March to April with a temperature of over 33 degree Celsius. Thailand's new year celebrations, "Songkran", take place every April. The last season is the rainy season that runs from the end of May until the end of October. During these months, tourism drops off with lower prices, rain forests are lush green and full of life, and the island is quieter.
Ko Chang is housing some of Thailand's best beaches. These are mostly located on the west coast of the island where the best accommodation, nightlife, and beach resorts are situated. The most popular beach in the island is the White Sand Beach or the Had Sai Khao. Other known beaches are the Klong Prao Beach, the Kai Bae Beach, and the Lonely Beach.
White Sand Beach
The Had Sai Khao, popularly known as the White Sand Beach, is the main hub of tourism in the Ko Chang. It is a 3 kilometer long beach with soft white sand, an active nightlife, comfortable resorts, and countless accommodation. The White Sand Beach has two divisions; the north and the south. The southern and the central areas are the main spot of the mid-range to the upscale resorts. At the central area, the best portion of the beach is located that makes it a good choice for the classic beach holiday. At the far south, the beach disappears making way for cliffs and rocky outcrops. The area includes some places like quieter resorts, restaurants, the International Clinic along the main road, and other amenities including a bank. At the opposite end, the far north area of the White Sand Beach, is a different part that is a less developed area with cheaper accommodation perfect for a budgeted and a long term stay. Staying in this part of the White Sand Beach is an escape from the main tourist drag and crowded areas in a more natural setting.
Klong Prao Beach
The Klong Prao Beach is located along the west coast of Ko Chang that is a home to some of the most high-end resorts on the island. The beach is divided into two by an estuary that runs out into the sea through a coconut plantation. The island is not really a central tourist hub making it a more relaxed area perfect for couples and families. It is also the home of the Klong Plu Waterfall; a scenic place with a natural pool to take a plunge and cool down. There are other waterfalls in the island such as the Klong Nonsi, which is reachable by foot from the Klong Plu Waterfall, the Klong Nueng, which is said to be the most breathtaking waterfall, and the Khiri Petch, which is a medium-sized waterfall. At the center of the village of Klong Prao is the Klong Prao Temple. It is also a place where fairs and festivals are held. There are also four elephant camps in the Klong Prao area.
Kai Bae Beach
Located past the far southern section of Klong Prao is the Kai Bae village and beach. It is known to be one of the island's most tropical settings with a mixture of nightlife, restaurants, and relaxing beach time. It is popular with independent travelers and families because of its affordable accommodation and peaceful setting compared to the touristy beaches like the White Sand Beach. The beach is a place to enjoy kayaking and boating to one of the nearby islands. At the northern end of the beach is a pier where boats depart to reach the islands at the south of Ko Chang. The northern end is also the part of the beach where the majority of the nightlife is located. On the opposite side, the southern end of Kai Bae, is a bit of rugged trek starting past the fruit orchard leading to the secret waterfall.
The Lonely Beach is also known as Haad Tha Nam to the locals. It was used to be cut off from the mainland and only reachable by a hike over a large hill that offers a slice of paradise with little huts for accommodation. Nowadays, there is a road connecting the Lonely Beach to the rest of the west coast. The huts were also upgraded to guesthouses, bungalows, and mid-range resorts. Majority of the accommodation aim to cater the budget travelers and backpackers. Towards the southern end, the sandy beach fades away and gets replaced by pebbles. It is where a stream coming off the mountains runs into the sea. At night, the Lonely Beach has a bustling nightlife with a lively atmosphere offering bars and clubs to drink and dance the night away. There is cut off time of 2 am, but this is rarely enforced making the parties long at night and sometimes until dawn.
Other beaches in Ko Chang are the Klong Kloi Beach, the Dan Kao Beach, the Klong Son Beach, the Long Beach, and the Wai Chaek Beach. The Klong Kloi Beach is also known as the Bangbao beach as it lies near the Bangbao fishing village with a wide range of accommodation from budget fan huts to simple beach bungalows. The Dan Kao Beach is a small red sand beach. It is a home to the three Ko Chang's best small resorts; the Amber Sands, The Souk, and the Serenity Resort. The Klong Son Beach is a 1.2 kilometer long beach that is the home to the Siam Royal View housing development and it is also the location for regular beach cricket matches. The Long Beach is hard to reach beach at the far south-east of the island. It has one place to stay, the Tree House Bungalows, that has extremely basic and cheap huts. The Wai Chaek Beach is an another hard to get to beach that is located at the south coast of the island.
If planning to arrive by plane, Bangkok Airways has flights from the Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport to Trat Airport, which cost at approximately 3200 baht. From the airport, there are air-conditioned minibuses that service to Ko Chang; it costs 500 baht per person. Other way to get to the island is by bus, there are buses from Bangkok that service to Laem Ngop; the place for Ko Chang's ferry piers. It costs 275 baht and takes 5 hours for the travel time. There are also express shared minibuses from Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok to the Lonely Beach at Ko Chang. Tickets usually cost 600 baht which include a ticket for the ferry. In arriving by boat, Laem Ngop has three piers; The Laem Ngop , The Centerpoint, and The Thammachat Bay that caters Ko Chang vehicle ferries. It usually takes 1 hour to reach Ko Chang. There are two piers in Ko Chang upon arriving; the Tha Dan Kao and the Tha Ferry Dan Kao.
In daytime, there are songthaew for 50 baht - 150 baht per person ride. The price is incredibly higher than other places in Thailand. There are also taxis from Dan Kao Pier that cost 50 baht to the White Sand Beach, 100 baht to the Lonely Beach, and 150 baht to the Bang Bao Beach. There are also motorcycles that can be rented for 150 baht - 300 baht per day. There are also 4x4 cars available for rent. However, a visitor must coordinate to the hotel in order to rent a car. The price may vary depending on the model of the car and the conditions agreed to. Hitching in Ko Chang is also an alternate way in getting around the island to avoid expensive rides. Islanders are willing to pick up a hitchhiker.