Difference between revisions of "Ko Chang"
Revision as of 16:38, 25 October 2012
Ko Chang (เกาะช้าง) is an island in Trat Province, Eastern Thailand. Ko Chang is Thailand's second largest island, and the biggest in Eastern Thailand. With about 5,000 permanent residents the island is not heavily populated, but tourism (and development) has increased dramatically over the last few years.
Ko Chang is one of Thailand's most beautiful islands with long white sandy beaches, most half deserted. The island is also home to a wide range of wildlife, including a good selection of birds, snakes, deer and a number of elephants. The island and its vicinity are great places for snorkeling, diving and jungle hiking. The "discovery" of the island as a tourist destination since 2000 has brought on a large amount of rapid development, and while still far quieter than places like Phuket or Ko Samui, it's probably better to go now than later. Regarding services and activities specifically aimed at tourists prices have reached such a level that the islanders are pricing themselves out of the market when compared to the other islands.
Prior to World War II, Ko Chang was little known by anyone. During this period, the few families there made a living growing coconuts and fruit on the mainland. In January 1941, during the Japanese occupation, the Thai Navy fought the French in a battle in the waters to the southeast of Ko Chang.
Nothing else happened to Ko Chang until the first backpacker foreigners started arriving on the back of local fishing boats in the mid-1970s. In 1982, Ko Chang along with surrounding area became part of the protected Mu Ko Chang National Marine Park. Only very recently, in less than ten years, Ko Chang has turned itself into a major tourist destination, both for foreigners and local Thais.
This sudden tourism boom however, has been fraught with controversy concerning land encroachment etc. The government is trying to "develop" it from a backpackers' paradise to a top-level destination, and construction work is going on throughout the island, with basic huts torn down to make way for fancy resorts.
Ko Chang is the largest island in the Ko Chang Archipelago. The name means Elephant Island, named for the elephant shape of its headland, although elephants are not indigenous to the island.
Ko Chang has an area of approximately 429 square kilometres. The topography contains high mountains and complex stone cliffs. The highest mount is Khao Salak Phet which is 744 metres high, rich in fertile evergreen forest which is the main water source. Therefore, there are many waterfalls, beaches and splendid reefs in the west of the island.
Most accommodation is located on the western side of the island, where the sandy beaches are. On the eastern side of the island there are no sandy beaches and this side is far less touristy. There are some nice waterfalls though.
70 percent of this undisturbed island is rainforest, steep hills, cliffs, waterfalls, and wildlife, fine beaches, coral reefs and an abundance of marine life. The island also offers tall mountains and rock cliffs.
Ko Chang has the same seasons as Bangkok. The best season to go is the (comparatively) cool season between November and February. March to May are roasting hot and between June and October it rains, and a lot at that: 4,000 mm in an average year. Many guest houses close during this season, so accommodation is limited.
Direct door-to-door minibus transfers from Trat airport to Ko Chang resorts cost 475 baht/person one way and 800 baht/person return including the ferry crossing.
From Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, take the free express shuttle bus from outside the arrivals concourse to the airport's own bus terminal, and from there the next available bus to either Trat or Chanthaburi, then proceed as described below.
From Bangkok the most economical way to get to Laem Ngop (where the Ko Chang ferry piers are) is to take a 1st class bus #999 from the Eastern (Ekamai) Bus Terminal direct to the Laem Ngop piers. The fare is 268 baht and takes just over five hours. Departures from Ekamai are at 07:45 & 09:45, and return at 14:00 and 16:00 (it seems no more 4:00pm bus). Subject to seat availability, this bus can also be boarded at Chanthaburi and at Suvarnabhumi Airport. However, as of December 2009 there was a more comfortable way to travel from Bangkok Airport to Ko Chang: the new bus line # 392 starts from the airport at 07:30 and returns from Koh Chang at 12:30. Tickets can be bought online at the Suvarnabhumi Burapha Bus Company . As of 1 Nov. 2010 there are also express shared minibuses running from Suvarnabhumi airport non-stop to Lonely Beach on Ko Chang . Tickets are 308 baht for the big bus and 600 baht (800 baht round trip)for the Lonely Beach Express minibus which includes a ticket for the ferry.
Alternatively, there are 1st class (approx. 5 hours, around 250 baht) and 2nd class services from both the Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekamai) and Northern Bus Terminal (Moh Chit) direct to Trat, and frequent songthaew services from Trat to Laem Ngop (approx. 30 minutes, 50 baht/person). Departures from Ekamai are more frequent than from Moh Chit. If coming by bus from the south, the #511 air-con bus can be used to connect directly between Bangkok's Southern (Sai Tai Mai) and Eastern (Ekamai) bus terminals.
Connection in Trat can also be used if coming from Pattaya (2nd class bus, 4 hours, around 200 baht).
There are direct minibus services to Laem Ngop from Pattaya, Ban Phe (gateway to Ko Samet), and Bangkok's Khao San Road and Victory monument (in front of the Payathai hospital). They, however, are less comfortable and spacious than public buses, and you may be charged significantly more by travel agencies selling tickets to these, as often with any tourist-oriented transportation in Thailand.
It may also be possible to proceed directly to Laem Ngop by minibus or songthaew from the Hat Lek / Koh Kong border crossing with southern Cambodia, depending on the time of year, time of day, etc - enquire locally. Price around 120 baht (one way) from the border to Trat bus station
Most ferries operate from Laem Ngop, which has three piers . The Laem Ngop (Tha Khrom Luang or Tha Laern Ngop) pier is approximately 700 metres west of Laem Ngop. The Centrepoint (Tha Centre Point) pier is located about 3.5 km north-west of Laem Ngop. These piers serve both vehicle and passenger ferries.
Koh Chang vehicle ferry pier is located in Thammachat Bay (Ao Thammachat), around 15 km west of Laem Ngop.
All piers on Ko Chang are situated on the eastern side of the island. The major piers are the two Dan Kao piers, Tha Dan Kao and Tha Ferry Dan Kao, who handles most of the traffic. To take a boat from Laem Ngop to the Dan Kao piers take around 45 minutes. The car ferry from Laem Ngop take around 1 hour and arrives at the Tha Ferry Dan Kao pier, situated 400 metres southeast of the Tha Dan Kao pier. The car ferry from Thammachat Bay stops at the Ko Chang Ferry Pier (Tha Ferry Ko Chang) in the Sapparot Bay (Ao Sapparot), 3 kilometres northwest from the Dan Kao piers.
Light meals, fruit, fruits and beverages are available at all the piers and on the car ferries.
There are two operators that provide daily bus services from Ko Kood to Ko Chang. One is based in Ban Bao, the other on Kai Bae Beach  Rates are the same but departures times can vary, so make sure to book ahead.
By taxi or limousine
From Bangkok or Suvarnabhumi international airport the ride takes a total of about 5-5.5 hours by Limousine  or Taxi. Most taxi driver will decline this journey as the risk of empty return is too high for them. Most (airport) limousines or minibuses  will deliver you at the hotel or resort on Koh Chang, especially if they can make it back to the mainland before the last ferry sails.
In the daytime, you can catch a songthaew on its route around the main road for 50 or 100 baht/person, depending how far you go. The rates are generally much higher than in other places, but the vehicles are almost new and in excellent condition. Starting from 5.00pm, many of them start to ask "taxi" price, telling you that they operate as a public transport only until that time, and may quote prices as high as say 500 baht from Lonely Beach to the Dan Kao pier (bargain if you choose to hire, do not support silly prices!). However, if you have some time and patience, you still can try and have a "shared" ride with some drivers, maybe for a higher rate if they expect little or no other passengers.
These taxis are also waiting at the Dan Kao Pier (50 baht/person to White Sand beach, 100 baht to Lonely Beach). At the Dan Kao Ferry-Pier there may be no taxis available. If you arrive without a vehicle you may have to walk the 400 metres to Dan Kao Pier.
Small motorcycles can be hired for 150-250B per day. The main road is sealed and almost circles the island and there are plans to complete the circuit in the near future. Cars are also available for rental, most hotels can help with it. 4x4 car recommended, since some roads might be in bad condition, especially near Lonely Beach.
If there are 2 or more people going with you, hiring a songthaew may cost the same price, or even be cheaper than paying per each person in a "shared" songthaew (there is no difference, an empty songthaew can easily be hired). Just do not forget to bargain if their price sounds quite silly when compared, say, to Bangkok taxi-meter (on Ko Chang it can be difficult if not impossible to get the same price, but at least it should not cost double or even more). Generaly most people just stay on the beach of their choice and walk to wherever they want to go.
Hitching on Ko Chang is also an alternative if you choose not to pay the often exorbitant fees of the songthaew. Many islanders are more than willing to pick up a hitchhiker who happens to be going the same way they are. A Coke or cold bottle of green tea for the driver are always appreciated at the end of your journey.
Go Diving or Learn to dive  in the beautiful waters of Koh Chang with DivingScool Koh Chang situated in the lovely village of Bang Bao, the center of all diving activities on Koh Chang. Come diving or snorkeling with "Eco-Divers Koh Chang", Booking office can be found in White Sand Beach ( near Kacha Hotel ), Kaibae ( just in front Kaibae Resort, on the main street ).The main office is located in front of the 7/11 at the entrance of Klong Prao and is open from 9 am to 8 pm. Eco-Divers Contact : (+66) 03 955 72 96 Website : http://www.ecodivers-kohchang.com Mail : email@example.com
Walk with a Ranger from the Than Mayom Waterfall to the Khlong-Plu Waterfall. The tour takes 8-10 hours and costs 500 baht per person.
Trek in the jungle with Tan, 089-6452019, 089-8322531, who has been taking guided treks for over 10 years and speaks very good English.
Learn Thai cooking in one of the 3 thai cooking school located around klong prao Kati Culinary, Koh Chang Thai cooking, Blue lagoon
Discover or Practice Yoga , Reiki or Chakras balancing at Baan Zen 
Guided sea kayaking trips. KayakChang.com is run by a British qualified guides. They use imported sea kayaks and equipment. They offer single day expeditions off the west coast and multi day expeditions in the southern islands.
Enjoy “rope and harness”  tree climbing and share the fun activities and amazing views from the top of the trees.
Charter a sailing boat 
Snorkelling, Jungle Trekking, Elephant Treks and many more tours and activities can be arranged by agencies on the island.
Meet the Retired Koh Chang Elephants at the North end of White Sand Beach, 
Slow Life Cycling Koh Chang Bicycle Tour  Tel:084-880-0930 If you're looking to explore Koh Chang in different perspective with insight information by a great funny local guide, here's your answer. Cycling through local areas to see culture and experience the way of local living with fascinating scenery surrounding is an ideal way to see this island. Go to slowlifecycling.com for more info.
Latest fashion trends at Madoosika Bang Bao Plaza. Chic, BOHO, Gypsy, Hipie, Maxi dress, Party and Sun dress. 
Menus are similar to the rest of Thailand, but an island-surcharge is high not so much due to higher transportation cost but because of tourist development. There are many restaurants on any given beach open both daytime and evening with a strong concentration of tourist-minded facilities in White Sand Beach.
The beaches of Ko Chang are all dotted with restaurants dishing up some delicious seafood as well as offering romantic evening views. And don't forget to try Koh Chang's very own wine which comes in a variety of fruity flavors including: mangosteen, pineapple and grape.
Sunsets can be watched in style from the terrace at the Top Resort in south White Sand Beach from the advantage of a cliff top, bring appetite and your camera, no reservations needed.
Each village offers something different, but taken as a whole, Ko Chang's nightlife is fairly mellow compared to other islands. There are some quiet beach bars dotted around White Sand Beach with amazing sunset views.
Lonely Beach's nightlife and bar scene is gaining a reputation everyday among the backpacker community. It is the place to be for "full moon" imitations, bucket parties and dance till you pass out disco bars. The rubbish left over from the parties are barely cleaned up, so the next day you can see exactly where the party took place from the main road.
Hat Sai Khao (White Sand Beach)
Most of the hotels are located on the west side of the island, with many resorts and guest houses all along the road that leads down the coast. Generally speaking, prices drop off the further away from the port you get. Supply far out-strips demand, so finding a place to stay should never be hard, though the best or cheapest places may fill up at weekends.
Klong Son Bay
Klong Prao Beach
Kai Bae Beach
Hat Tha Nam (Lonely Beach)
Be aware that, following a great deal of development, the name "Lonely Beach" has become something of a misnomer. Lonely Beach is the party capital of the island and each guesthouse on Lonely Beach takes it in turns to hold "party night," during which the partying and attendant thumping music goes on until about 5am and all the revellers on the island come to your guesthouse. If you do not want to be kept awake then Lonely Beach is definetly not the place for you. Most guest-houses giving "Lonely Beach" as address are not located along the actual beach but about 500 m down the road. From the village access to the sea is not possible as the coast is rocky.
Most of this beach is rocky, only the southern end - which is dominated by the resort, not really welcoming non-resdidents - is sandy.
Bang Bao Bay
Bang Bao is on the south side of the island. It's little more than a long stretch of wooden deck that takes probably 5 minutes to walk from end to end, with dive shops, seafood restaurants, local housing and a few places that provide accommodation for visitors.
Tan Mayom Beach
The first beach on the east has very few places to stay as there is no sandy beach. The place is very natural, though.
Overnight camping is possible. 2-person tents cost 150 baht and 8-person tents cost 400 baht. You can also camp in your own tent for 20 baht/person.
If you want to spend one night in the jungle, it can be arranged at a fee of 700 baht.