When you think of island hopping in Thailand, places like Koh Samui, Koh Phi Phi and Koh Tao are the first to come to mind. If however, full moon parties and crowded beaches aren’t really your thing, or you’re just looking for a more relaxed, low-key vibe, then Koh Chang may just be your oasis. From sweeping jungles to white sandy beaches, Koh Chang is one of the most beautiful and relaxing places. Just a short ferry ride from the town of Trat, this stunning island is one of Thailand’s best kept secrets. With turquoise clear waters, and fine-sand beaches lining most of the west coast, it is highly likely that you will fall in love with this patch of paradise. There are plenty of activities, glorious sights to fill your days, and a range of bars to suit all tastes by night.
A place for hydrophilics, Koh Chang is a perfect blend of water-related activities. Known for its endless stretches of beaches, expect adventures that are sure to guarantee you an adrenelin rush.
- There are two elephant trekking operators on Koh Chang. They offer two-hour treks that take you into the tropical rainforest, pommel orchards and the secluded Wang Nam Kiew Waterfall. Other programs on offer include elephant bathing, feeding, performances and a one and a half-hour trek into the forest. Shorter rides are also available.
- Koh Chang’s first paintball arena, Splat-Fields, is located in Dan Khao, about 100 meters from the Centerpoint ferry pier. This combat game is quickly gaining popularity among the young and the young at heart. Bring out the toy warrior in you at this fun venue.
- The waters surrounding Koh Chang are home to amazing coral reefs and a plethora of marine life. In particular are the coral reefs of Koh Rang, a smaller island south of Koh Chang. There are also boat wrecks off the south west of the island that are interesting to check out. There are many companies that will train you in scuba diving and rent out the appropriate equipment. The west and the south of the island, between Koh Chang and Koh Kood, is an excellent spot to dive. Snorkeling on other small islands off Koh Chang like Koh Kham, Koh Rayang, Koh Wai and Koh Laoya are also worth checking out.
- The waters around Koh Chang are relatively calm making them ideal for kayaking. You can rent a kayak by the hour at any major beach. Take the opportunity to discover hidden stretches of beach, and if you time it right, a gorgeous sunset on the water.
- Ideal for hiking due to its mountainous geography, Koh Chang has some of the best hiking routes in the southern part of the island. More adventurous and challenging routes are located inland with forest-clad steep hills. You can hike through the tropical rain forest and be treated to views of waterfalls along the way.
- Many of the beachfront restaurants spread out onto the beach in the evenings, setting up plastic tables and chairs on the sand. They’ll often have a display of the daily catch where you can select something for the grill and eat it at your table with your toes in the sand. Performers wander the beach offering free fire shows most evenings and this is a fantastic way to wind down after a day in the sun.
Prior to World War II, Koh Chang was little known. There were a few families living on the island and they made a living from fishing and picking fruit. During World War II, when Thailand was occupied by Japanese forces, Koh Chang was the scene of the 1941 Battle of Koh Chang between the Royal Thai Navy and a Vichy French naval squadron, in which the French won a decisive victory.
- The Shrine of Chao Po Koh Chang is not very far from the pier. Thi shrine is highly revered, specially by the locals. Chao Po Koh Chang has protected the people of Koh Chang, Trat and nearby islands for generations.
- The Koh Chang Naval Battle Area is close to Salak Petch Bay. This is where the Thai and French naval forces fought over the eastern border. A museum has been built on Laem Ngnob Beach, boasting an exhibition of Koh Chang’s naval history.
- Ban Salak Khok is a tiny village set amongst a grove of mangrove trees, and is a great place to paddle or boat among the trunks. The village has maintained its culture with many of the houses on stilts and connected by boardwalks. There are a few restaurants that serve authentic Thai food. As tourism becomes a vital part of Thailand’s economy, it’s important to visit local villages to support those trying to make a living.
Dining options at Koh Chang are diverse and plentiful. No matter what pleases your palate, you’re bound to find it on the island’s many beaches and areas. Most hotels and resorts usually feature an excellent choice of dining venues serving a wide range of popular local and international cuisines. The choice extends to scrumptious cuisine like Italian and Indian.
- In addition to local and international cuisine, a choice of seafood, caught fresh off the ocean, is also readily available and can be prepared in a variety of ways to suit your taste. And to complete Koh Chang’s fantastic and memorable dining experience, do not miss seafood restaurants – with open grilling and cooking stations – found on major beaches like Klong Prao Beach, White Sand Beach, Kai Bae Beach and Lonely Beach.
- You’ll never go hungry on Kai Bae Beach. Wide ranges of options are available along the stretch of the beach’s main road. Visitors usually have a choice between hotels and resorts’ dining venues, where Thai and international cuisine are on offer, or roadside eateries, where simple local Thai dishes are served.
- Klong Prao Beach offers a mix of roadside restaurants and plush eateries found within the beach’s many luxury resorts. Not to be missed is a couple of small restaurants at the entrance of Klong Plu Waterfall. A simple meal of Thai style papaya salad, sticky rice and a roast chicken will give you more than enough energy to explore this area.
- Given its unofficial backpacker status, it’s not surprising that Lonely Beach is home to numerous cheap eateries offering a great range of both local and international favorites. Hotels and resorts usually have restaurants and cafés serving a wide choice of dishes. Street food, which often comes in forms of a roadside restaurant and a mobile stall, is also a great way to dine since it’s cheap and also very tasty.
- There’s no shortage of good restaurants at White Sand Beach. The main road is lined by a wide choice of global cuisines and good value meals can often be found at many roadside restaurants. Don’t miss the famous ‘kai moon’ (rotating grilled chicken) at Som Tam Kai Moon and egg noodles with red BBQ pork at Ba Mee Nong Bua.
Shopping on Koh Chang is more for convenient shopping and souvenirs, rather than an extravagant shopping spree.
- White Sand Beach is one of the most shopping destinations in Koh Chang. Lined along the main street, stores of all kinds can be found. Selling beachwear, clothes, sarongs, sunglasses, shoes, sandals, paintings, carving stones and wood, books, CDs and DVDs, souvenirs, jewellery made from silver, precious stone, other hand-made jewellery items, handicrafts, kid’s toys, rugs, carpets, antiques, cushions and much more.
- Shopping on Kai Bae Beach can be quite limited. Still, there are some small shops along the street. The goods and products are similar to other beaches such as locally-made souvenirs, T-shirts, beachwear, Thai paintings, Buddha paintings, sunglasses, jewellery, hand-made accessories etc.
- Klong Prao has three villages, Ban Chaichet, Ban Klong Prao, and Ban Mao Khangkhao. Each of these has its own small shopping plaza and small shops where you can find bikinis, shorts, sarongs, sunglasses, towels, sunscreen, books, newspapers of different languages, snacks, drinks and food. The biggest supermarket on the island is also located here.
- Located further south to the main beach of Koh Chang, Lonely Beach has some small shops selling souvenirs and beachwear such as sarongs, flip flops, sandals, batiks, sunglasses, some quirky T-shirts. The shops are located along the main street, alternating with restaurants, grocery stores, massage places, motorbike rentals.
Koh Chang is alive with gorgeous untouched nature and the locals’ undisturbed ways of life. Well-suited for everyone in the family, waterfalls are among the most popular attractions on the island. If you want to see how the locals go about their daily routines, make sure to visit one of the fishing villages along the further south of the island.
- Visiting Koh Chang waterfalls makes a nice break from the beach, with the main one at Klong Plu, the northern end of Klong Prao Beach. This is easy to walk to, so suitable for families of all ages. It is perfectly safe to swim in the pool or even dive off the rocks. There are another six or so waterfalls on the island, mostly on the eastern side of the island. Hiring a motorbike to explore that area would enable you to hunt them out, though some of them do take a good hike to reach.
- White Sand beach is by far Koh Chang’s most developed and most commercial beach. Here you have everything you need for a perfect day in Thailand: a wide and beautiful beach with crystal clear water, great beach restaurants with delicious seafood, two minutes from your beach towel. Some of the island’s most sophisticated hotels and the widest choice of nightlife options on the island.
- Monkey School in Koh Chang is located at the southern end of Whitesand Beach. Here monkeys are taught how to pick coconuts and fruit from trees in order to secure their survival. A visit here is highly recommended!
- Lonely Beach is a hippie’s heaven! Further south of the island is a colourful strip of guest houses, bars and cafes, the kind of places where you grab a cushion and get comfortable on the floor surrounded by lanterns. In any of these places you will find backpackers from all over the world sitting and talking, listening to reggae music, sipping a bottle of beer while you lounge around and watch the sunset. This area has a pretty lively nightlife if you visit during high season, with many bars hosting parties with live music.