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The Koh Chang Experience

Woody Woodpecker

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Koh Chang (Elephant Island) is the largest island in the Gulf of Thailand, at 492 sq km, is the second largest island in Thailand after Phuket. Koh Chang is about 70% undisturbed rainforest, the best preserved in Thailand, which provide the source of rivers and waterfalls. A mountain range with steep cliffs rising to 744 meters shield the island from prevailing winds.

Tourism is very seasonal with several months of rainfall during the year. Weather is cool and pleasant, with plenty of sunshine, during high season from November to April. Temperatures reach 34C during March and April, and the southwest monsoon from the Gulf brings an abundance of rainfall from June to October. The eastern side of the island is a sediment area brought from the Trat River, making it a fertile fishing area, while resorts and beaches populate the western side of the island facing the sea.


Your options are air, public bus, minibus, and taxi.  Bangkok Air owns the airport at Trat so no competitive pricing, one-way for 2600 on a prop plane from Swampy, flight time is about 30 minutes.  There were just a couple dozen passengers when I took this flight.


The island is too mountainous to support an airfield, the Trat airport is a single airstrip on the mainland, about 20 minutes from the ferry pier.  It's still necessary to take a minibus along the more treacherous 2-lane segment of the journey for a slightly unreasonable 500 baht.  After leaving my condo in Bangkok at 9:30 A.M., I arrived at the resort just after 2:00 P.M.  That's very good time, I imagine a minibus would take at least until 4:30, or later if I had to wait for more passengers to fill the seats.



Minibus is most convenient and economical, you can even get door-to-door service from Pattaya.  Using public bus you'll need to transfer to a baht bus 15 km west of Trat, waiting up to an hour with no a/c.  I tried taking a taxi once but, upon reaching the pier, the driver refused to take his cab on the ferry.  He said I needed to book a minibus from Malibu Travel after crossing on the ferry. I deducted the cost (300 baht) from his fare.

Ferries depart every hour (until 6:00 PM I believe) and take about an hour.






Accommodations exist in all price ranges, from a small room with ceiling fan for 300 baht per night up to several thousand baht high-end resorts. Rates for the more expensive properties will vary dramatically between seasons. Many visitors prefer to stay at White Sand Beach, near the nightlife. Personally, I think this is the wrong approach.  Anyone visiting Koh Chang for the nightlife is likely to be disappointed, the best reason to come to Koh Chang is to relax.

I've stayed at the Sea View, Mercury Hideaway, Tropicana, Chang Buri, Nirvana, Kacha, Aana, and Paddy's Palms but now I only stay at the Emerald Cove Resort.  I've stayed there 15 times, usually off-season when occupancy is low and rates are half-price.  The grounds are beautifully landscaped, and I particularly enjoy the 50 meter lap pool.









The resort is beautifully illuminated at night.





It rains a bit off-season 


I usually book a mountain-facing room for half-price, rooms are identical, but sometimes they gave me a free upgrade to a sea view room because I'm such a good customer. 



I enjoy the sea view at the Pool Bar with the money I've saved.  Half-Price drinks 4 PM to 6 PM, including tasty concoctions like Passion Fruit Mojito and Mango Daiquiri. 



Alternately, for about the same price as a sea view room at the Emerald Cove, you can book a pool villa room at the Mercure Hideaway with private plunge pool.  A 10 foot wall provides privacy, and the small courtyard also includes a Jacuzzi.  The pool is too small for swimming but loads of fun if you have company.




For my most recent visit I tried staying at The Chill at Kae Bae Beach.  Opened in 2010, about 1-2 km south of the Emerald Cove, The Chill is a boutique resort with ultra modern decor.  Only 38 rooms, of which about 6 are occupied.  The Chill gets the highest ratings on Trip Advisor at present so I was curious what the buzz was about.



Rooms are smaller than the Emerald Cove, but have a second bed on the balcony. 



All rooms are facing north, towards the pool.  The property is long and narrow so only the last unit, the most expensive suite, has a sea view, but ground-level rooms feature direct pool access from the balcony.




The beach is a bit rocky so I did all my swimming in the pool.


Caution:  The wooden deck can be very hot on the feet!!! 


Breakfast is served all-day, any time from 7 AM to 10:30 PM at the Chill Out Cafe, and is ala cart, just order as much as you like.  Complimentary for guests, 695++ for walk-ins.


I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at The Chill.  The staff were wonderful and really went out of their way to see you were comfortable, but I still believe The Emerald Cove is the best place to stay on Koh Chang, and not just because it's slightly less expensive.



Klong Plu waterfall is a large waterfall of three levels. The entrance is about 3 km from Ao Klong Plu with a 500 meter walk into the forest, entrance fee includes parking,




The entrance fee can be applied to other points of interest within the Koh Chang National Marine Park, since it occupies the interior of the entire island. I once visited Than Mayon Falls on the eastern side of the island, about a 45 minute walk from the parking lot. There are two stones bearing the initials of Rama IV and Rama VII. 



The main bar area is at White Sands Beach near the Chang Buri Resort.  The white building in the background serves as a short time hotel.




The second largest bar area is on the northern edge of Kai Bae near the Sir Henry Morgan Pirate Pub 



The third largest concentration of bars is at the southern edge of White Sands.


Bang Bao Village is a small fishing village in the southwest corner of the island built on wooden stilts in the sea. Buildings are connected by a bridge. Besides the usual stores selling crap souvenirs, there are some very good seafood restaurants, and the village serves as a place to rent boats and make arrangements for visiting other nearby islands, including Koh Mak and Koh Kood.

See my Koh Kood Trip Report 






The village includes a hospital and pool hall




Roads are treacherous with sharp S-turns up steep inclines on the north side of Koh Chang, and a dangerous hairpin turn near Lonely Beach on the southern end. If you rent a scooter, I strongly advise staying between White Sands Beach and Kai Bae Beach, particularly at night. I was never injured riding my motorcycle, but had some very close calls, once nearly being forced off the road by an SUV barrelling around a corner at night.




Koh Chang is a great place to chill out and relax. The ferry pier is about 4 hours from Pattaya, 5  hours from Bangkok. Ferries run about every hour from dawn till dusk, the crossing takes an hour and costs 120 baht each way. Check it out soon, before it becomes more like Phuket and Samui. 



Edited by Woody Woodpecker
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Excellent, thanks again @Woody Woodpecker

Have stayed in Bang Bao a couple of times and really enjoyed it. First time at a very basic place, possibly called sea view. Built and ran by a youngish couple who were lovely and kept wanting to feed us for free or give us drinks.

The second time at some octagonal bungalows, no idea of the name, which were much more luxurious. 

Definitely some good restaurants there and vaguely remember having a great drink with a Portuguese girl who ran one of them.

Thought the scuba diving in the area was a bit disappointing to be honest. 

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probably the most in depth and honest review of KC that i have seen.. thank you..  brings back a shed load of memories, including the s bends on the roads....  am just working on a promo for KC  incl trasnport from Pattaya...the minivans seem the most straight forward.  am wondering what its like to be in the last hotel they drop off too, that would annoy me.  

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2 hours ago, drifter said:

Thank you for posting this. I’ve been starting to travel to the Thai islands. So far I’ve only been to Koh Larn and Koh Samet. Koh Chang looks very nice.


How long would you recommend staying? At least 2 nights?

I usually go for a week but i’d suggest 2-3 nights for your first visit to see if you like it.

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