I have a secret island I want to tell you about.
It shares its name with a beer brand and the Thai word for elephant.
It’s also a verb, according to Urban Dictionary: To simultaneously chill and hang contiguously and amicably with one’s compatriots in a manner which is no big deal.
Ko Chang is positioned about 8 hrs southwest of Bangkok in the Gulf of Thailand. It’s got all the best offerings for island-seeking travellers that Phuket, Ko Phi Phi, Ko Samui and Ko Pha-Ngan have to offer, but without all the… y’know… crappy bits.
Let’s go exploring…
Why we love Ko Chang
Other than the fact it’s shaped like a happy elephant with its trunk up?
We love Ko Chang as it was a complete accident find for us. We had just returned from a fortnight in Myanmar and needed some chill time before getting back to work on developing the Tripmasher app.
Looking at the Thai islands we were familiar with (eg Phi Phi, Ko Tao, Ko Samui, Phuket, Ko Lanta), we saw we would be visiting at the wrong time of year. I felt like a modern day explorer as I zoomed out of the google map on my screen and started to research all the small landmasses in the Gulf of Thailand.
Ko Chang (Ko Kut and Ko Mak) are the gold star independent travel trip and island getaways we were looking for.
As the second largest island of Thailand, Ko Chang is blessed with long stretches of white sandy beaches and has all the amenities that larger islands have. But (and here’s the big but!) it’s only been on traveller’s radars for the last decade. So it’s got all that great discovery and youthful energy that smaller islands have without being completely swamped by beach-side development.
Things to do in Ko Chang
Diving & Snorkelling – a must experience
Ko Chang is part of the Mu Ko Chang National Marine Park which comprises of 46 small islands, coral gardens and shipwrecks. If you are lucky, you may even spot a whale shark in this marvellous underwater world.
We travel to snorkel and of all the Thai islands, Ko Chang was our favourite snorkelling trip. We loved our day trip with BB Divers. Totally professional, fun and a great day out. We shared a boat with mainly divers, but we snorkellers had different areas to explore totally uninterrupted. Check out these crazy colours and crystal-clear visibility:
Riding around the island
Ko Chang has a ring road which (almost) circumnavigates the entire island. The ride around the island would take you about 2 hours and there are numerous spots to stop off at and explore, like waterfalls, short walking trails, temples, fishing villages, and gorgeous peaceful beaches.
We had a blast tackling both the winding and coastal roads happening upon picture-perfect spots like this:
Restaurants in Ko Chang
Like most of Thailand, the food is exceptional, fresh and affordable. We loved eating at the many beach front restaurants on Lonely Beach. You could also check out Bang Bao pier right next to the fisherman village for the freshest catch of the day.
Or the wonderful sangria and tapas at BB World of Tapas. Run by the same outfit as the snorkelling and diving crew.
Accommodation in Ko Chang
Accommodation options are mainly located on the west side of the island. You can choose from:
- Lonely Beach – Budget price tag for the backpacker set. Good access to beaches, diving and snorkelling tours, food and nightlife.
- Klong Prao – Medium to high-end price tag. Modern hotels and resort-style accommodation catering for group tours. Good access to some undeveloped beaches, restaurants and bars.
- White Sands Beach – Busiest part of the island with a huge choice of accommodation, bars and restaurants. At high tide, the beach is narrow and quite crowded, so if you have the budget would opt for a beach resort style accommodation with your own private patch of beach.
- Dan Khao – Near the ferry and on the east side of the island you can find a few boutique-style resorts. There is nothing really by way of nightlife or eating options, so if you are content to stay in your resort this could be a very private option.
- Salak Phet – If you are after a more authentic experience, there are homestay options on the very southeast of the island staying near the mangrove forest.
We came to Ko Chang for 3 days and ended up staying longer because we loved the laid-back vibe of the island. A big part of that was because of our $20AUD flashpacker jungle bungalow at Little Eden. Set back a bit from the main road, it’s a private little oasis with a wonderful communal area, great food, and conversation with the owner, John.
Beaches of Ko Chang
With beautiful stretches of beach and super calm waters, it won’t be hard to find your perfect spot on Ko Chang. Most of the beaches are on the west side and are well serviced with deck chairs for hire, massage booths, and restaurants. Note there are a few vendors combing the beach trying to sell you nick nacks. A polite ‘No’ should work, unless you are interested of course!
If you have time, try and get to the secret beach of Wai Check. Located on the southeast side of the island you can kayak there, ride or convince a boat driver to take you. I hear it’s something out of Robinson Crusoe.
Waterfalls and walking trails of Ko Chang
Want to bust out a sweat and enjoy the greenery? With 6 waterfalls to explore on the island, it won’t be hard to find a trail and swimming hole. Watch out for the nibbly fish at Klong Plu Waterfall.
Nightlife of Ko Chang
For at least one of your nights, try and catch the sunset from Oasis Bungalow treehouse viewpoint. It’s up the road from Little Eden near Lonely Beach.
Now, do you want to kick on to the wee hours of the morning? Then look no further than Ting Tong Bar near Lonely Beach. Bliss out on the bamboo mats seating area, chill out to the variety of music on offer or boogie barefoot like nobody’s watching.
Do not make the same mistake we did and think you are going to share only one bucket. There is no such thing as a quiet night drinking buckets. We have no photos. It is for the best.
Fancy a Canoe?
We love the water and almost any activities in it. (Disclaimer: Almost any activity. You can read about my terrifying trip white-water rafting.) Anyhoos you can kayak out on the open sea around small islands on the west coast from Kai Bae beach or check out the mangrove and fisherman village on the southern east coast near Salak Phet.
How to get to Ko Chang
Ko Chang by Plane
There is no airport on Ko Chang island, so you will have to arrive into Trat Airport located on the mainland. It costs about 500 baht for the mini bus and ferry crossing, whereas it costs 600 baht from Bangkok. So I would not recommend flying into Trat airport, unless money is no object, but time is.
Bangkok to Ko Chang minibus and ferry service – Recommended option
The journey is almost a full day’s travel at about 7 hours. From Bangkok, you can organise a combined minibus and ferry ticket to Ko Chang for 600 baht (price at November 2015). The minibus departs at 8.00am from Coincidence Hotel near Khao San Road and takes about 5 1/2 hours. You stop for one short break. You then get transferred to a small songtaew to the ferry for the 1 hr smooth ferry ride to the island. Once on the island, expect to pay about 50-100 baht for transfer from the ferry port to your accommodation if you are staying near Lonely Beach. NB: Thai minibuses are not overly comfortable and often cramped with too many people and their luggage. Something to be aware of if you don’t travel well or are very tall.
Ko Chang to Bangkok mini bus and ferry service
The same route as above, but in reverse. It’s a full-service minibus with pickup from your island accommodation (at about 11.30am), ferry crossing (1pm) and minibus ride to Khao San Road (arriving at 7pm). The ferry has snacks and instant noodle soup if you fancy a simple lunch, otherwise bring your own food, because there is only a short stop on route at approx. 4pm.
Ko Kut or Ko Mak to Ko Chang
Ko Kut and Ko Mak are the awesome younger siblings to Ko Chang. Definitely worth a visit, but unfortunately the pricing for the ferry transfer between the islands to Ko Chang is a little pricey at 450baht per person. We loved our time on Ko Kut and I’ll be sharing our adventure with you soon.
Best time to visit Ko Chang?
It’s perfect to visit Ko Chang from October to March when the islands of Ko Samui, Ko Tao and Ko Pha-Ngan are experiencing the wet season, or places like Ko Phi Phi, Krabi, Phuket and Ko Lanta are bursting at the seams with holiday makers seeking sun during the festive season or school holidays.
Hope you found this guide useful and do let me know in the comments below.
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