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Koh Chang: The Alternative Thai Island

by Tommy Walker
Koh Chang Lonely Beach

Thailand was once the go-to place for hedonistic backpackers and budget travellers but recently the country has seen a meteoric rise appealing to all kinds of travellers especially those keen to explore the the southern Thai islands.

Phuket; much loved by expats, is a place for family holidays and weddings. Koh Phi-Phi island first came to the world’s notice back in 2000, with the movie starring Leonardo Di Caprio in “The Beach”. Koh Phangan is notorious for The Full Moon Party, and Koh Tao is a small island that is overflowing with scuba diving first timers, shops and enthusiasts.

Lesser known Koh Chang island has a certain innocence about the place with 70 per cent of the island covered in untouched jungle. Add in beaches and mountains too, and Koh Chang has bragging rights as one of the most naturally eco-friendly islands in Thailand.

Despite this, Koh Chang isn’t as offbeat as it might sound and there is something for every type of traveller. Here is a guide:

Holiday Koh Chang

White Sand Beach is the most developed beach and area of Koh Chang, and the first stop you’ll come to if arriving in a shared taxi (locally called songthaews).  Expect a holiday vibe here, with many families, couples and some backpackers. You can choose from many hostels and resorts on the beachfront and along the main road, you’ll find banks, supermarkets, and restaurants. The beach is split up into a north and south section with plenty of room for sun loungers, umbrellas and deckchairs.

Party Koh Chang

Lonely Beach is the place for solo travellers or partygoers in Koh Chang on a budget. The area has been likened to Khao San Road in Bangkok, although a lot less crowded and commercial. You’ll find lots of food vendors, tattoo studios, clothes shops, restaurants, bars and a couple of nightclubs here.

The beach itself is actually located prior to the lively area of Lonely Beach around only 15 minutes walk (or two minutes on a scooter) away. Even though you might think the island has as many people as any other Thai island, it doesn’t. The parties in comparison are small, and many people end up hanging around the area that precedes Himmel Bar.

Authentic Koh Chang

Bang Bao Pier Koh Chang

Bang Bao Pier (c) Laborant

Bang Bao was once a quiet small fishing village, although now popular with travellers, it still keeps its authentic set up and appearance. The fishing village is built in traditional fashion along with its interconnected piers, almost like a mini lost pirate colony. Worming your way around Bang Bao’s wooden networks you’ll come across guesthouses, markets, bars and restaurants. There are many restaurants but we recommending checking out Barracuda Restaurant for a real quirky and cosy dining experience.

Personal Koh Chang

Klong Kloi beach feels a little away from the rest of the island and that’s how we like it. Just to make sure, we recommend a budget stay looking over the jungle-clad river at Tree House Cottages. Klong Kloi is evidently still a little raw, with a small beach with sandy paths everywhere. Here you can relax by the beach, sit in a hammock and read and really take a step back from reality. As you arrive here via windy road, you’ll probably pass wild monkey families that may or may not be interested in you. Although keep your belongings safe, it does represent the casual approach this part of the island takes.

Couple Koh Chang

Kai Bae is ideal for couples that want a bit of variety. Although it isn’t as lively as Lonely Beach, it is no means dull either. There are small lively bars that appeal to most, and the selection of cuisine is generous with Asian and European options.

Kai Bae beachfront has a 1km long narrow but friendly stretch that attracts the book readers and sunbathers. Staying on Kai Bae main road strip, you can take a 30-minute walk through the jungle to the Kae Bae Waterfall past the elephant camps for a little added excursion.

Alternative Islands

Koh Mak

Koh Mak (c) Phraisohn Siripool

Koh Mak is popular for couples and families and the island is only 30km away from Koh Chang. It takes 3 hours via wooden boat or 1 hour via speedboat. The island is fairly flat, so it’s ideal to roam around via scooter. Many people come here to relax, eat and the odd explore. You can visit Buddhist shrines, viewpoints and hidden beaches. Koh Mak is a quiet island with some restaurant filled lit up areas, but don’t expect big parties here.

Koh Kood has the lowest population in the whole of Thailand that gives you an insight to how things work here. There is no nightlife, but plenty of places to stay, and despite its little local population, there are more facilities than probably needed. Still, Koh Kood is a gem of a place that offers breathtaking beaches, fun scuba diving and hidden waterfalls. Only a short distance from Koh Chang, like Koh Mak here you’ll find it more ideal if you’re travelling in a couple or with family.

Where to Stay


Getting There

By road: Catch a coach from Khao San Road in Bangkok. The journey begins at 8am and arrives around 15:30, so will take around 7 hours in total reach Koh Chang Island. Cost: 450 baht including the ferry ticket. Once you’ve arrived on the island, it’s 150-200 baht per person in a shared taxi to your desired destination on Koh Chang.

If you’re taking a shared mini bus from your hotel, it costs a little more, around 950 baht including a ferry ticket. Times normally vary from 8:00am to 10:30am departure. Mini bus travel is normally a little quicker taking around 5-6 hours door to door.

Fly to Bangkok: Direct flights into Bangkok are operated by Thai Airways. Other airlines fly but normally involve a stop off in between.

Once in Bangkok you can fly to Trat from BKK airport which takes 1 hour exactly. These are operated by Bangkok Airways, 3 times per day; twice in the morning and one in evening. Please see the below for the times: AM: 8:20 + 11:20 | PM: 17:00

Flights one way normally cost around the 2,000-4,000baht which equates to roughly £45-90 GBP.

Once Landed: To get to Koh Chang from Trat Airport, you’ll need to arrange a mini bus or private transfer. Included in this journey you will need to take a ferry. The trip to the pier is around 30 minutes, and the ferry ride is about 45 minutes.

Shared mini buses are the cheapest, although slightly expensive still for Thai prices, costing around 500 baht (£12).

Private transfers can cost around the 2,000 baht mark, similar to the cost of the flight itself.


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