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.
sea, the island looms like a large black shadow against the opulent
glare from the mirror-smooth ocean.
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
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
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.
|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
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.
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.
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
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
|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
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.
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.