Koh Chang island, Thailand’s other northern treasure

Aleta Fimbres 28/01/2011

koh chang ferry

Follow the backpackers’ route to Ko Chang Island for a getaway holiday! High blue mountains rise from the sea; a dark silhouette on the horizon. From a distance the land mass takes on the shape of a giant elephant rising almost to the base of the clouds that drift landward with the monsoon’s prevailing wind…

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No wonder early visitors – fishermen and pirates – identified this as Chang or elephant island. It was here they sought shelter from storms, where they found plentiful water and fruits to replenish their boats. Those natural assets continue to attract travelers today.

As the winds change in November, Chang Island emerges from the mist and storm clouds – a picturesque destination, an emerald island on the eastern seaboard. Until recently tourists ignored Chang but that is changing with improved highways, fast bus services and convenient ferry links from Trat province.

The incentive to visit is made attractive by Bangkok Airways, which flies to the privately owned airport on the mainland from both Bangkok and Samui. The airport is located close to the ferry port where boats take you the island.

Chang, the second-largest island in Thailand, stands off the Trat province coastline near the Cambodian border, representing an area Of 492 sq km. Covered in virgin rainforest, its topography is dominated by high mountains rising from shoreline cliffs. This gives the island an abundance of waterfalls and streams, rugged almost impassable interior and rainforests. All the beaches and tourist attractions are located on the west coast that is accessible by road or boat.

Originally the island was a temporary refuge for fishing boats and pirates during the monsoon. They settled at Salak Petch bay, noted for its freshwater source and shelter.

Tourism started during the 197os but was controlled by local families who built small A-frame bungalows on Kiong Phrao beach. It was not until the 1990s that resorts took shape and even today facilities are basic when compared with Samui and Phuket.

The peak season begins in late October and last until the end of April, with heavy monsoon rains and storms during the rest of the year.

Koh Chang pier

Transfer Trat-Ko Chang

Getting to Koh Chang is not difficult, just take the bus (songtaew) from Trat to Laem Ngop on the coast for a very cheap price. Ferry from Laem Ngop to Ko Chang takes from 45 minutes to two hours, depending on the boats used. There are three points from where boats leave for Ko Chang.

There are two piers at Thammachat and Ko Chang centre point. One is a ferry pier for visitors taking their car to the island. Cost of ferry depends on the kind of car. Roundtrip fare for a car is about Btl50 (free for driver) and Bt6o per passenger.

The other is just a passenger ferry pier with wooden boats. Roundtrip is about Bt100 (after 17:00, you have to charter a ferry for about Bt1,000). Ko Chang Centre Point pier is about 5 km away. It is also for visitors taking their car to the island, It starts serving from 7:00 until 17:00. Ferry fare for a four-wheeler is Btl00, six-wheeler Bt200, l0-wheeler Bt400.

The third point is Natural Bay pier, about 15 km from the others. Ferries leave from 7:00 until 19:00. A car costs Btl50. Once on the island getting to the beaches is an easy matter. The traditional songtaew costs Bt30 to Sai Kaew, Bt40 to Kiong Phrao and Bt50 to Kai Bae (to other places you have to charter a baht-bus). Another way to travel in Ko Chang is to rent motorcycle for Bt400 a day or a mountain bike for Bt40 per hour or Bt200 to Bt300 per day.

From Pattaya an air-conditioned minibus leaves at 7:00 daily at Malibu Travel, Pattaya 2 Road. Fare is Bt500 per person (one-way) and Bt1,000 (roundtrip) including boat transfer. To charter a taxi costs Bt2,500 per day and Bt2,800 for an air-condition minibus. Contact Malibu Travel, Tel: 038 423 180.

Accommodation

Koh Chang offers all kind of accommodation, from three-star resorts to simple tents, depending on money and taste. A high-end resort is located on Sai Kaew beach but also has standard accommodation and tents. Rates are from Bt300 to Bt7,000. Resorts on Kai Bae beach cost from Bt300 to Bt3,000 and also have mountain bikes for rent. The best spot to visit during sunset is on Laem Chaiyachet, Kiong Phrao beach.

Accommodation there is from Btl,400 to Bt3,500. Beautiful corals for scuba diving and a hotel with full facilities you find on Klong Son bay. Room rates are from Bt8,000 to Bt26,000. You also can enjoy trekking through forests or coconut plantations or fishing at Sai Yoa beach (Long Sand beach).

Accommodation there is from Btl00 to Bt1,000. Walk across the hill for a safe swim at Bai Laan bay where you can stay for Btl00 to Bt250.

Our favourite place to stay in all of Thailand is Treehouse Lodge on Lonely Beach. Now run by a different group of people than it’s founder, the new Treehouse Lodge run by a lovely German lady named Pamela is now on a more remote part of the island, so be sure to make it clear which beach you want to go to. The images in these pictures is the original Lonely Beach area…

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Tourist Attractions

Yuttanawee Memorial is situated on Laem Ngop beach on the south of island, consisting of the figure of Krom Luang Chumpon Khet Udomsak who is the father of waterway transportation in Thailand, and a warship-shaped museum building with an exhibition of the historic war between Thai and French naval troops fought over the eastern border, 17 January 1941, near Ko Chang.

Beaches

Ktong Phrao beach is located on Laem Chaiyachet near Kai Bae beach all year round. Swimming is possible. The northern part of Klong Phrao is close to Chaiyachet bay with a beautiful landscape.

Kai Bae beach is close to Kiong Phrao beach. There are also quite a few cheap bungalows in the area.

Sai Yoa beach is located on the south of close to Satak Petch bay. Swimming is possible. Enjoy fishing and visit the forest, coconut orchards.

Bai Laan, one of the longest and quietest beaches, is located next to Kai Bae beach. Swimming is very safe.

Kiong Son bay is located on the northern part of the island’s west cost. Near the bay, there are lots of beautiful corals.

Bang Bao fishing village is very interesting because residents in the area build their houses with poles pitched into the sea and the bridge reaching every house is set up to link the community together.

Waterfalls

Tan Ma Yom waterfall is located behind the National Park office, Walk through the durian Orchard for about 500 metres. There is wonderful three-storey cascade of medium proportions. In the past, King Rama V and VI once visited this waterfall and signed their names on the highest cliff of the cascade.

Kiong Ptu waterfall is three-storey fall about 3 km from Kiong Phrao. It takes two hours to walk to the waterfall.

Klong Nonsi waterfall is located on the northernmost section of the island. It is 3 km from Baan Daan Mai Or 4km from the National Park office.

Kiong Nueng waterfall is a small waterfall situated remotely from Satak Petch Community near Satak Petch waterfall.

Tri Petch waterfall 3 km from Satak Petch Community along the orchards of rubber trees.


Images of Lonely Beach by Jeffree Benet

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