Ko Chang

For other places with the same name, see Ko Chang (disambiguation).

Ko Chang (เกาะช้าง) is an island in Trat Province, Eastern Thailand.

Understand

White Sand Beach on Ko Chang

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 past 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 snorkelling, 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.

History

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. 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.

Geography

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 peak is Khao Salak Phet which is 744 m high, rich in fertile evergreen forest which is the main water source. There are many waterfalls, beaches and splendid reefs in the west of the island.

Most accommodation is on the west side of the island, where the sandy beaches are. On the east side there are no sandy beaches and it is far less touristy. There are some nice waterfalls though.

70% of the island is rain forest, steep hills, cliffs, waterfalls, and wildlife, fine beaches, coral reefs and an abundance of marine life. The island also has tall mountains and rock cliffs.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 31 32 33 35 33 32 32 32 31 30 30 30
Nightly lows (°C) 20 22 24 25 25 24 24 24 24 24 22 25
Precipitation (mm) 39 43 99 112 365 418 439 490 502 274 54 2

Ko Chang has the same seasons as Bangkok. The best season to go is the (comparatively) cool season between Nov-Feb. Mar-May are roasting hot and between Jun-Oct it rains, and a lot at that: 4,000 mm in an average year. Many guesthouses close during this season, so accommodation is limited.

Get in

By plane

Bangkok Airways flies three times a day from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) to Trat. The flights depart at 08:30, 12:40 and 16:50, and takes 1 hour. Fares are between 1,800-3,300 baht.

Direct door-to-door minibus transfers from Trat airport to Ko Chang resorts cost 500 baht/person one way and 900 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.

By bus

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 5 hr. Departures from Ekamai are at 07:45 & 09:45, and return at 14:00 and 16:00. Subject to seat availability, this bus can also be boarded at Chanthaburi and at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

There is a more comfortable way to travel from Bangkok Airport to Ko Chang: Bus 392 starts from the airport at 07:30 and returns from Ko Chang at 12:30. Tickets can be bought on-line at the Suvarnabhumi Burapha Bus Company. There are also express shared minibuses running from Suvarnabhumi airport non-stop to Lonely Beach on Ko Chang via the Lonely Beach Express. Tickets are 308 baht for the big bus and 600 baht (800 baht round trip) for the minibus which includes a ticket for the ferry.

Bookable from most travel agents near Khao San. Travelmart operates a large, nice air-con VIP Bus from Khao San area to Centrepoint ferry terminal 4-5 hours. 300 baht which includes the ferry crossing is among the cheapest and most convenient way to Koh Chang. Leaves at Khao San at 08:00, but times can vary. Return service is also available.

Alternatively, there are 1st class (approximately 5 hr, around 250 baht) and 2nd class services from both the Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekamai) and Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit) direct to Trat, and frequent songthaew services from Trat to Laem Ngop (approximately 30 minutes, 50 baht/person). Departures from Ekamai are more frequent than from Mo 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.

Connections in Trat can also be used if coming from Pattaya (2nd class bus, 4 hr, 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 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/Ko Kong border crossing with southern Cambodia, depending on the time of year, time of day. Inquire locally. Price around 120 baht (one way) from the border to Trat bus station.

By boat

Harbour

Most ferries operate from Laem Ngop, which has three piers: the Laem Ngop (Tha Khrom Luang or Tha Laern Ngop) pier is approximately 700 m west of Laem Ngop; the Centrepoint (Tha Centre Point) pier is about 3.5 km northwest of Laem Ngop. These piers serve both vehicle and passenger ferries; the Ko Chang vehicle ferry pier is in Thammachat Bay (Ao Thammachat), around 15 km west of Laem Ngop.

All piers on Ko Chang are on the east side of the island. The major piers are the two Dan Kao piers, Tha Dan Kao and Tha Ferry Dan Kao, which handle most of the traffic.

To take a boat from Laem Ngop to the Dan Kao piers takes around 45 minutes. The car ferry from Laem Ngop takes around 1 hr and arrives at the Tha Ferry Dan Kao pier, 400 m 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 Sapparot Bay (Ao Sapparot), 3 km northwest of 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 who 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 takes a total of about 5-5.5 hours by taxi. Most taxis will decline the trip as the risk of empty return is too high for them. Most (airport) limousines and taxis can deliver you to the island, especially if they can make it back to the mainland before the last ferry sails.

Get around

Country road in the southeast

In the daytime, you can catch a songthaew on its route around the main road for 50-100 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 17:00, 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. 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 m to Dan Kao Pier.

Small motorcycles can be hired for 150-250 baht 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 rent, most hotels can help with it. 4 x 4 recommended, since some roads might be in bad condition, especially near Lonely Beach.

If there are 2 or more persons 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). Most folk however, just stay put 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.

See

Beaches

Waterfalls

Do

Kayaking in Ko Chang
Elephants in Ban Kwan

Buy


Eat

Menus are similar to the rest of Thailand, but the high island prices are due not so much to higher transportation costs, but because of high demand. There are many restaurants on any given beach open both daytime and evening with a strong concentration of tourist venues on 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. Try Ko Chang's own wine which comes in a variety of fruity flavours including mangosteen and pineapple.

Sunsets can be watched in style from the terrace at the Top Resort on south White Sand Beach from the vantage of a cliff top. Bring an appetite and your camera, no reservations needed.

White sand beach

Bang Bao

Drink

The drink you have to try is Chang beer, even if its only for the name. If you have a busy schedule ahead of you, better stick to Tiger beer as it doesn't give as much of a headache (yet it is slightly more expensive). 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 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. The party location generally rotates among several different bars depending on the day of the week, and is usually heavily advertised which bar is "the spot" for each night.

Sleep

Typical resort

Hat Sai Khao (White Sand Beach)

Most hotels are 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)

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 05:00 and all the revellers on the island come to your guesthouse. If you do not want to be kept awake then Lonely Beach is definitely not the place for you. Most guesthouses giving "Lonely Beach" as an 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.

Bailan Beach

Most of this beach is rocky, only the southern end—which is dominated by the resort, not really welcoming non-residents—is sandy.

Bang Bao Bay

Bang Bao

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 houses and a few places that provide accommodation for visitors.

Go next

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