It’s school holiday time and I’m heading for the coast. I’ve been told about this beautiful, remote and rugged island in the Gulf of Thailand that is without the crowds of Phuket or Koh Samui.
Thick jungle, steep mountains, thundering waterfalls and sweeping beaches. That sounds perfect for me.
I’ve hired a car from Ayutthaya for the seven-hour drive and heading south then east towards the city of Trat. Traffic is heavy and progress is slow on the ring around Bangkok with many trucks destined for Thailand’s largest port of Laem Chebang.
It’s several hours until I pass Chonburi just north of Pattaya and as I drive through Rayong, the road becomes quieter and I make better time.
The change in the countryside is interesting
It’s flatter and more tropical the further south I travel. In Chanthaburi, about five hours after leaving Ayutthaya there are rows of roadside stalls selling local produce especially durian. Lots of durian. I’m not tempted. There are also many pineapple stalls.
I’m pushing on to get to the ferry at Trat that will take me across to Koh Chang and I want to arrive before sunset.
This part of Thailand is quite close to the Cambodia border, a narrow strip of land separating the Gulf and Cambodia.
I reach Trat mid-afternoon and drive straight to the ferry terminal. There’s a line of vehicles waiting for the next ferry. It’s really hot and sunny and the oppressive heat foretells an evening storm. After joining the line, I wander over to the ticket office and pay. The next ferry will arrive in about 30 minutes and depart shortly after.
The ferry is surprisingly large
It’s modern and the operation is slick. After driving on board, I leave the car and join the passengers in a seating area for the 30-minute crossing.
We get underway and there’s a welcome cooling breeze as we pick up speed. Koh Chang looms ahead. It’s an impressively large island but already dark storm clouds are gathering on the mountain tops.
During the trip, there’s quite a lot of sea traffic, mainly fishing trawlers. Some of these are really big while others are tiny. Hopefully the smaller craft are in shelter before the weather turns rough.
A wild welcome to the Island
The storm strikes as I drive off the ferry with a violent light display accompanied by rolling thunder. This throws out my plans as it becomes quite dark immediately as heavy rain sets in. I’m planning to stay on the other side of the island but driving across the hills in the dark on a winding road and during a storm isn’t a good idea.
I look for accommodation near the ferry terminal and find a cabin that isn’t great but it is dry and the air-conditioning works. I’m tired and hungry so I slosh through the running water in a steady downpour to a small restaurant nearby. It’s an open fronted restaurant and it’s hot and humid.
An ice-cold Chang beer revives me and after a quiet dinner it’s time to brave the storm and return to my cabin for an early night.
During the night, the storm dies down. It’s a beautiful sunny morning as I drive across to the western side of the island. From the vantage points off the winding and twisting narrow road, the green mountains contrasting with the blue sea looks incredible.
It takes me about 40 minutes to arrive at the resort I’ve booked. It’s a four-star property and surprisingly inexpensive.
Time to relax
I’m going to spend a few days swimming, enjoying the spectacular scenery and eating at some excellent seafood restaurants.
Having a car is a big plus as it gives me flexibility, especially with the monsoonal weather that’s around. It’s a relatively quiet island with excellent sandy beaches without the crowds of tourists and beach sellers.
The rainforest is stunning with waterfalls running strongly with the present weather pattern. The restaurants are excellent and not expensive.
After a day getting to know the surroundings, I head off the next morning to explore further along the coastline. It is fairly easy to get around in Koh Chang. There is one main road that goes all around the island, except from a bit at the southern end where there only is a dirt road.
The beaches are stunning
The most popular areas are White Sand beach and Lonely beach. White Sand beach is the most popular so there are more people there than the others. Lonely beach is further south.
Bur there is more to Koh Chang than just the luxury resorts and incredibly beautiful beaches.
If you’re an adventurous type and don’t particularly enjoy spending all your time on the beach, then this island still has a lot to offer. Some of the most popular activities are kayaking, jungle trekking and diving and snorkelling.
I enjoy wildlife and nature and I was delighted to find out that Koh Chang is great for that – making it one of the most interesting islands in Thailand.
Sunsets on Koh Chang
Wherever you are on Koh Chang, admiring the sunset is a great experience that shouldn’t be missed.
The sun disappears into the ocean or behind the hills, giving it an extraordinary glow. Darkness follows quickly.
With darkness, the welcome glow from the many restaurants along the coast casts a welcome light for both locals and visitors alike. On Koh Chang, I enjoyed some of the best seafood I’ve ever eaten and in a relaxed and friendly environment.
People in Koh Chang are incredibly friendly
Although Thai people have a reputation for being friendly, on Koh Chang they actually go even further which is typical of people in Thailand away from the main tourist and business areas.
Besides being very friendly, they are always ready for a laugh, willing to help and curious to have a chat with travellers.
Add this to the overall stunning scenery, affordable activities, such as water sports, a visit to Koh Chang Waterfalls or a hike through Mu Ko Chang National Park, as well the spectacular beaches all around the island, and Koh Chang is certainly a great place to relax.