Islands in this part of the world are synonymous for relaxation, marvellous sights, beautiful coasts, and cocktails with little parasol hats. Koh Chang is one of those islands and boasts all of that. If the world’s situation is making you a little itchy, then perhaps a relaxing Koh Chang beach holiday is exactly what your doctor would order.
Koh Chang is part of the province of Trat, in the east of the country, on Thailand’s gulf. Near the Cambodian border, it is the third-largest island in Thailand after Phuket and Koh Samui. It enjoys the incredible climate that the country is so famous for, a flagrant sun and welcoming warm temperatures throughout the entire year.
Heat is not much of an issue here like in urban areas such as Bangkok. Here the ocean breezes cool you regardless of where you are on the island. The rainy season is probably the only time that discourages visitors from the beaches. Still, even at such times, the showers aren’t constant, and the activities are plentiful enough that it doesn’t matter if the sun fails to appear.
Koh Chang has an interesting etymological background. “Koh” as you may well know, means “island” whilst “Chang” if you like your beer, might ring a bell too, as this is the Thai word for “elephant”. “Elephant Island” is thus what it is called, not because it brews the local Thai lager, but because of its shape, which if you bear notice, resembles the head and the trunk of an elephant.
Koh Chang’s history is quite impressive, as the island was largely undiscovered, right up until the Second World War. Before that time, few families lived on the island and subsisted by growing and harvesting coconuts and other assortments of fruits. During World War Two, Koh Chang came into the limelight. Far from the most flattering of reasons for fame, it was the frontline for the Battle of Koh Chang, in which the Siamese Navy faced off against the colonial French, in an alliance that comprised of Vichy France and French Indochina. The battle resolved positively in favour of the French, who defeated Luang Phrom Viraphan’s men, the commander of the navy back then. Two ships were sunk at the time, with one severely damaged. A month into the battle, the belligerents agreed on a peace agreement which ended the confrontation. There was something positive from the battle, however. With the island completely devastated, the government focused on the renewed development projects there, which have culminated in making it one of the most beautiful territories of modern-day Thailand.
Seventy percent of Koh Chang is rainforest inhabited by the Stump Tailed Macaque, the Small Asian Mongoose and the Small India Civet, which all coexist within the lush greenery. The island also possesses remarkable coral reefs and waterfalls, making it a tourist haven. Additionally, sixty-one avian species have been recorded to date, an impressive figure, considering the relatively small landmass. Various types of snake and deer are also present, creating a truly heterogeneous environment in the forest.
Koh Chang tourism didn’t kick off until the middle of the nineteen seventies, during which time there were only a few backpackers who dared explore this mostly local island. At that time, the island was not really set up to receive the visitors that made their way via local fishing boats, staying in the handful of small guesthouses that could be found. Those days, however, are long gone.
Without question, the primary attraction is the Mu Ko Chang National Park, which is a protected area and eighty-five percent of the island. There are many coral reefs and waterfalls within Mu Ko Chang. The Klong Plu Waterfall is the most popular. However, there are also waterfalls on the island’s eastern side, such as Klong Nongsi, Klong Nuang, Khiri Petch, and the Thanmayom.
The village of Ban Salak Phet has a temple called Wat Salak Phet built during King Rama V’s reign and visited by the late monarch, which can be seen when visiting the Wat’s museum.
The busiest of the island’s beaches is Hat Sai Kao. Hat Sai Kao translates to “White Sand Beach,” and it most certainly is. However, the truth is that most of Koh Chang’s beaches are white and sandy so that Klong Kloi can be a better choice as it’s much less visited. For nightlife, the ironically named Lonely Beach is the place to go, as affordable restaurants, accommodation, and other amenities are available in the vicinities, not to mention the nightly parties that happen regularly.
Getting to Koh Chang is relatively easy. While the only means of access to the place is by boat, it is affordable and comfortable to travel there. Additionally, if one wishes to go there from provinces afar, Trat has an airport merely fifteen minutes away from the ferry terminal.
Koh Chang is a fantastic island to visit. It’s not noisy or overly crowded like other Thai islands, but it is developed enough to ensure a pleasant stay. It is one of those destinations where you wish you had planned to stay longer. If you haven’t been there yet, it is very much worth the trip.