After the Pearl of the Andaman (Phuket), Koh Chang is the largest island in Thailand. Nestled in the Gulf, the island is slowly transitioning from a quiet and rustic one to one of the most sought-after beach destinations in the country, so visitors to Thailand should be sure to head to the jungle-dominated island before it becomes a tourist attraction for good. Here, the top 10 things to see and do on the island of Koh Chang in Thailand.
Dive at the HTMS Chang
Koh Chang has slowly been surpassing some of its southern neighbours as being one of the best islands in which to dive at, and one of the reasons for this is because the island is home to the HTMS Chang. The sunken and decrepit former U.S. Tank Landing Ship LST-542 is found on the southeast coast of the island. The ship is the longest wreck dive in the entire country, coming in at 33 meters in length. The HTMS Chang was sunk on November 22, 2013, and though it has only been underwater for some four years, it has already acquired an abundance of wildlife residing in its shell of a vessel as well as vegetation and coral throughout. Though there are plenty of dive shops scattered throughout the island, one of the most reliable, affordable, and organised of them all is ScubaDawgs. The dive shop offers some different dive packages, including three fun dives for ฿3,300 (approximately $US99) which includes one dive at the HTMS Chang wreck and followed by two reef dives.
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Snorkeling trips are in abundance in Koh Chang, but be sure to book ahead of time if you want to utilize a reputable one. Each company will offer different trips, with snorkelling destinations including the neighboring islands of Koh Klum, Koh Wai, Hin Luk Rap, Koh Rang, Koh Yuak, and more. Visitors are able to take to the island's surrounding, crystal clear water with a snorkel and flippers in tow for anywhere from ฿400-1,400 (approximately $US12-42) depending on the company and the duration of the trip. Our excursion that lasted seven hours and included three snorkelling stops and lunch was ฿700 (approximately $US21). Keep in mind, however, that the cheaper your trip is the more crowded your vessel is likely to be. Most of the trips and tours will leave from the Bang Bao pier.
Rent a motorbike
The island of Koh Chang is the largest island in Eastern Thailand. Though there are songthaews (truck with two benches) available that can take visitors to destinations around the island, these are often quite expensive for a one-way route. A journey taking 20 minutes costs around ฿100 (approximately $US3) per person, and this only includes the one-way trip. That being said, if visitors have never driven a motorbike before, Koh Chang is not the place to learn how to do so. The roads rise and fall with the jungle terrain and are not kind to new riders. For those who have driven before, renting a motorbike can be as cheap as ฿150 (approximately $US4.50) for an entire day. As always, wear a helmet and do not leave your passport as a form of down payment or insurance for the motorbike. You never know what you are going to come across while zipping around the enormous island on a motorbike.
Swim in the Khlong Plu Waterfall
The Khlong Plu Waterfall, especially during the monsoon season, is one of the most stunning natural features found on the island. It is located near the Khlong Prao village and is cared for by the National Park Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department of the island. This source of water is especially important to the locals, and even the hotels use the several streams that become a river here as a source of drinking water and for utilities, as well. There is a ฿200 (approximately $US6) entrance fee for foreigners and ฿20 (approximately $US.60) for Thais. Many of the other waterfalls on the island are free to explore, but the small price to pay to come across the massive cascading falls at Khlong Plu are certainly worth the price tag. The waterfall is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Go to the Kai Bae viewpoint
The Kai Bae viewpoint found on the western coast of the island offers visitors one of the most impressive places to watch the sun go down over the Gulf of Thailand. It is here visitors will see not one but four different islands scattered around the body of water: Koh Pli, Koh Yuak, Koh Man Nai, and Koh Man Nork. The viewpoint welcomes visitors with seemingly endless views of the shimmering Gulf and a cheesy sign to pose with if you are so inclined.
Look out for the wildlife
The island of Koh Chang is part of the Chang Islands National Park. Because of this extra added protection, wildlife is seemingly in abundance. Koh Chang was officially declared Thailand’s 45th national park on December 31, 1982, and the national park also covers part of Koh Kood, the island southeast of Koh Chang. Regardless of its name (Koh Chang, meaning elephant island), visitors are unlikely to see elephants roaming the terrains of the island unless they take to a cruel elephant camp in hopes of riding its back. Instead, the number one animal in which visitors are likely to come across are monkeys.
Visit the Bang Bao Fishing Village
Though encompassing a more touristic vibe recently, the Bang Bao Fishing Village is still a nice stop off point for travellers hoping to pick up a souvenir or two while on the island. The slender, rickety pier here is lined with quaint restaurants that look as a beachside shack should: adorned with shells and standing defiantly over the water on slender stilts. If visitors do decide to book a snorkel or dive tour, the Bang Bao pier is a likely departure point. Otherwise, visitors can simply come here to take in the views, indulge in the seafood, or purchase a Thai-inspired souvenir or two. Visitors who meander away from the pier will find the quaint fishing village a handful of quiet beaches, including Klong Kloi Beach.
Eat dinner Oasis Koh Chang
Offering an enticing combination of both Western and Thai dishes is Oasis Koh Chang. This restaurant and bungalow duo is found just adjacent Lonely Beach. Though it lacks beach access, making the trek up the steep hill to this restaurant is certainly worth the climb, and the sunset views from its treetop location almost surpasses the beachside restaurants' views, as well. Western dishes, like melt in your mouth cheese and mushroom sandwich, will only put visitors out less than a few hundred baht. In addition to delicious dishes, the restaurant also features signature shakes at ฿90 (approximately $US2.70) that are both delicious, relatively healthy, and large in size, undoubtedly lasting guests the entirety of the meal. And while all aspects of this restaurant are memorable, indeed its most noteworthy characteristic is the decor. Candles grace each low wooden tabletop and cast a romantic glow over the seating arrangements. Traditional Thai seating makes up the dining area and helps visitors feel somewhat at bay from their fellow tourists below. The views from the jungle-surrounded venue are also some of the best the island has to offer. Food is served daily from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
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Stay at Elephant Bay Resort
Budget-friendly accommodation seemingly does not get more luxurious than Elephant Bay Resort. Situated on the island’s southwest, rocky coastline, this resort makes visitors feel as though they have splurged on accommodation while in reality have spent much less, with fan rooms under $15. Shell out a few hundred baht more and enjoy an air conditioned room or a private bungalow. Take to the cue and try your hand at pool or lounge in a swinging hammock with waves lapping the shore from the nearby Gulf. The accommodation option is but a stone’s throw away from Lonely Beach, as well.
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Have a drink on Lonely Beach
After dark, visitors to the island need to make their way down to Lonely Beach. This is the beach in which young travellers simply swarm to, though it tends to offset a budget backpacker vibe with its upscale yet affordable beachside restaurants and overall cleanliness. The cuisine here is a bit overpriced in comparison to its quality, which is why it is better to enjoy a few cocktails instead of cuisine here. Plenty of restaurants and bars line the Gulf, so feel free to select one and watch the sun go down with a happy hour beverage in hand. The area also becomes abuzz after dark as this is where a handful of thriving bars are found that are popular amongst tourists and locals alike.
How to get there
Koh Chang is about 250 kilometres from Bangkok. The best way to get to the island of Koh Chang is by bus from the Ekkamai bus station found right off the BTS Skytrain. This is known as the Eastern Bus Terminal. Visitors can also get a bus from Mochit, otherwise known as the Northern Bus Terminal. A ticket to get from Bangkok to Koh Chang from Ekamai is ฿380 (approximately $US11.40), but this price included the bus ticket there as well as round-trip ferry tickets to the island. There are also buses that leave from the Suvarnabhumi Airport. The coastal city of Trat is home to the Trat Airport, as well. It is about 17 kilometers from the ferry going to Koh Chang, but of course, flights from Bangkok to Trat will be more expensive than getting a bus. Depending on your budget and how much time you have in Thailand, this might be the better route to take.