Where is Koh Chang?
Koh Chang is an island in the far east of the Gulf of Thailand, close to the Cambodian border and forms part of the Mu Koh Chang National Park. It’s around 180 miles east of Bangkok which can be reached in an hour via Trat airport which connects the coastal region to the capital. Ko Chang bound boats depart from Trat daily and the crossing takes around 30 minutes.
Across the island you can easily flag down a songthaew, hopping on and off when you wish. These white pick-up truck style taxis can be found at all the popular beaches and attractions and are both fun and affordable. Although most operate a fixed fare, rates will vary depending on the time of day and how many other people are travelling with you so be sure to confirm the price with the driver before jumping in. Private cars and taxis can also be arranged with your hotel. Ko Chang’s hilly and winding roads have the potential to be quite dangerous for the inexperienced driver and potholes are a common problem along many of the side roads. If you have your heart set on hiring a moped or car, exercise caution and ensure you’re wearing the correct safety gear.
Speed boats and inter-island ferries circuit the neighbouring islands of Koh Wai, Koh Mak and Ko Kut for an enjoyable day out and bigger operators connect Ko Chang back to the mainland.
We wouldn’t advise visiting Ko Chang for its shopping scene but that said you’ll be able to find most things you could possibly need during your stay on the island. The popular resorts are home to a handful of convenience and souvenir stores where you can pick up everything from an extra bottle of sun cream to handmade jewellery and clothes. As with the rest of Thailand, good-natured haggling is expected.
Diving and snorkelling
As part of the Mu Ko Chang Marine National Park, Ko Chang has some remarkable snorkelling and diving spots offshore. Koh Rang, a small uninhabited island, is at the centre of the scene and can be reached by boat in just under an hour. Free from fishing this protected area is a delight to snorkel, teeming with underwater life from brightly coloured tropical fish to living coral, while divers can hope to catch glimpses of sea turtles, moray eels and the odd whale shark. You’ll find plenty of daytrips available to explore the small islands within the marine national park which are a great option for discovering the best spots.
Diving runs throughout the year with the best time being from November to May when the sea is at its calmest and visibility reaches at least 10 metres. With a lack of strong currents, it’s a fantastic place to learn to dive and boasts the largest diving wreck in Thailand, HTMS Chang.
An unusual feature for a Thai island, Ko Chang is a haven for hikers with a well-developed trekking scene. You’ll find plenty of English-speaking local guides with in depth knowledge of the local flora and fauna offering gentle strolls through the thick rainforest to observe the native wildlife and exotic waterfalls to advanced climbs to the rocky tipped peaks of Khao Chom Prasat behind White Sands Beach. Soaring 650 metres above sea level, the three-hour trek to the top of Khao Laem in Salak Phet is not for the faint-hearted but offers 360 views of the island below.
Food and drink
Outside the comfort of your resort, you’ll find a multitude of places to eat from street side shacks to upmarket beach front restaurants with a view. Unsurprisingly, seafood features heavily on most local menus with snappers, barracuda, tiger prawns and oysters all front of the line when it comes to catch of the day. Aside from all your Thai favourites, western cuisine is readily available across the island as well as quaint bakeries producing freshly made bread and sweet treats.
Don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path. There’s no better way to devour some mango and sticky rice than wrapped in banana leaves from an open-air market and you’ll find some of the best cooks in unsuspecting bamboo shacks having learned from previous generations.