Pattaya City Thailand, An introduction to Koh Chang

An introduction to Koh Chang

Thailand's second largest island is the centre of a 47-island national marine park.

The old wooden boat that takes you across to the island, is  retired from its life as a fishing vessel, it grunts and groans under its load of 30-odd deck-sitting sun seekers and enormous amounts of food hidden within its hold.

Across the sea, the island looms like a large black shadow against the opulent glare from the mirror-smooth ocean.
Koh Chang is Thailand's second largest island after Phuket. But unlike the southern resort, it remains virtually unspoiled by volumes of indiscriminate developers and tourists.

The choice of beach on Koh Chang is fairly academic. Without exception the sand is white and powdery and the beaches wide and long.

This unsullied pearl in the Gulf of Thailand is hard on the Cambodian border. It's the largest of 47 islands off the coastline of Trat making up the Koh Chang National Marine Park.

As the overloaded boat draws closer to its destination, the lush virgin forest, which accounts for some 70% of the island, verdant hills and towering cliffs comes into focus.

We were so close but the boat stuck fast on the bottom of the bay into Ban Klong Son, a fishing village perched on the island's northernmost lip.

Backwards and forwards, chugging and belching black smoke, the boat carved its way laboriously through the sandy seabed to eventually, miraculously, dock alongside a rudimentary jetty.
Koh Chang eastern Thailand
Ban Klong Son had rooms for those who wanted to stay and watch the village life. But most of us, in search of sand and sea, would go to Hat Sai Khao and further a field along the rugged west coast of the island.

A young woman, baby in arms, asked in remarkably good English who wanted a motorcycle. She stood just ahead of a group of cocky young lads, bikes between their legs, ready for the ride.
No wonder. They wanted THB. l50 for the four kilometre ride along a perfectly good road with a few decent rises along the way.

There would be NO bargaining -and as a consequence they got only two takers. The rest of us took to the road for the walk, a pleasant though at times strenuous hike which delivered stunning views across the island amidst the orchestral tunes of the forest.

For those less keen on walking, it was good to know a boat from Laem Ngop, on the mainland, plies the length of the west coast from Hat Sai Khao down to Ban Bang Bao dropping off passengers at beaches of their choosing.
On each are perched rudimentary huts, the type favoured by budget conscious backpackers, although from time to time a few made of solid materials with a tell-tale bathroom tagged on at the back appear.

Only one international standard resort, operated by the ubiquitous Holiday Inn Group, can be found the length and breadth of the 30 km long, 8 km wide island.

But as with any island paradise, change will come quickly and, to beat the jet-set, now is the time to visit.

Long expanses of beaches on Koh Chang are virtually deserted. Fringed by thick jungle, the only way to trek to the centre of the island or across its breadth is along established tracks.
koh chang-fishing boat and huts on beach        koh chang island - eastern thailand
click on thumb nails for zoomed view

The walk through the jungle should be tackled in sturdy shoes. Snakes, scorpions and centipedes are not often preferred appendages to feet.

But the risk is not great if the rule of the jungle is followed: tread loudly and the reptiles and arthropods will get out of the way. They are less keen on encountering you than vice versa.

Heading to my room on the first night there my torch fell on a small black snake with yellow stripes - no- one could tell me what it was but I was glad I didn't step on it.

The favoured island walk is to a series of three waterfalls reached from the east coast via Tha Than Mayom or from the west by Klong Phrao. From either direction, about half a day should be set aside for the trip unless, like two people who zipped past me, you've taken your mountain bike.

Seriously, the island could not be better suited to the sturdy mountain bike. Although ringed by a road, in some places the link is so narrow it would be inconceivable for a car to pass. With motorbike hire charges, without fuel, of Bt30 an hour, the beautifully fresh air and the jungle sounds, a bicycle tour would be superb.

So too is a tour along the coast-line by boat down to Ban Bang Bao, a stilted fishing village inside a natural marina where an intrepid yachty had a craft moored.
After a walk through the village, the local billiard hall can refuel the batteries with a tasty noodle soup with either squid or pork or just a BBQ.
 Although the coral that rings many of the smaller islands dotted around Koh Chang is almost all dead, the surreal world below is still teaming with tropical fish.

Yellow and black striped, multi- hued as if the colours had run, iridescent coated and camouflaged beige varieties dart in and out of the distorted marine polyps.

For how long the islands with remain so is, however, questionable. Although they have survived the millennia, the creep of progress is taking its toll. People talk even now of a car ferry linking Koh Chang to the mainland in the years to come.

koh chang island eastern thailand
For Accommodation in Koh Chang
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Pattaya City Thailand, An introduction to Koh Chang