Thursday, February 1, 2018

Koh Chang: The Underrated Third Largest Island in Thailand


When I think about the best beaches I’ve been to, Koh Chang will be definitely not included on the list. Koh Chang may not have that picturesque almost desktop wallpaperish beach backdrop but the overall vibe of the island can be soothing, if you even get to the beach in the first place. We’ve stayed for a week on the third’s largest island in Thailand and we totally had a bipolar experience altogether; serenity and confusion.

Koh Chang was our second stop on the third leg of Same Same Summer Trip 2017, our annual two-month summer backpacking trip. After rediscovering our favorite spots in Malaysia and Cambodia, we headed to Thailand and crossed the Cham Yeam Border (Cambodia) to Hat Lek Border (Thailand) and had a quick stay at the town of Trat where we spent a night. We then headed to Koh Chang for a quick respite.


I’m a beach-person. I could stay all day on the beach and probably could down a bottle or two of beers and would be pleased with just that. Blessed with over seven thousand islands in the Philippines, I’ve had my fair share of favorite island escapes in my home country. Conquering the Maldives two years ago, I also enjoyed the clearest waters and fine sandy beaches on this part of the world. I am no expert when it comes to beaches but I know what I don’t like either. Not that picky, but I just know what a great beach adventure is like.

I’ve been to other islands in Thailand, including Phuket, Koh Lanta, Koh Rok, Koh Phi Phi and Koh Pangan and realized that these islands are packed with tourists around the globe that Thai culture is somewhat non-existent. In Koh Pangan, for example, I’ve seen a handful of locals compared to tourists which felt like I was not in Thailand anymore.

Koh Chang Thailand Guide
Koh Chang's Main Road
And just when I thought that there’s no serene place on the favorite holiday country of tourists, there’s this quiet island southeast of Bangkok that is less-developed and a holiday destination for Thai locals (check here for discounted tours, transportation and activities in Bangkok). I’ve never seen more local tourists enjoying the beach than in Koh Chang.

Koh Chang Thailand Guide
Crispy pork all day, every day.
Located in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Chang is gifted with dense, steep jungle and waterfalls in the middle of the huge island surrounded by beaches and local villages. Literally means “Elephant Island”, expect to see elephant camps and treks that is famous in the island. I am not a fan of animals in captivity because it’s really horrible to see them being punished and stuff so those activities weren’t our main goal for the trip, although wild animals scare me as well like the chance encounter we had of a wild elephant when we were in Sri Lanka.

Koh Chang Thailand Guide
Motorbikes for rent and fresh fruit stalls on the road.
Coming from the town of Trat, we took a songthaew to Center Point Ferry Pier (THB50.00 | USD1.50 per person). After the 30-minute scenic ferry ride (THB80.00 | USD2.35), we arrived at Koh Chang where we headed straight to our first home, Serenity Resort.

Koh Chang Thailand Guide
Night Bazaar in Koh Chang.
Our first three days were spent at the comforts of the resort (check here for discounted beach resorts in Koh Chang). Together with a Japanese couple and a number of local tourists, we felt the calmness and serenity of our secluded cove. It was a retreat of some sort for three days. We did nothing but slumber and fill our tummies with great Thai dishes. It was the perfect slowdown halfway our backpacking trip.

Koh Chang Thailand Guide
Serenity Resort
On our third day, we decided to check out the other areas in Koh Chang and found refuge at Boonya Resort. Located at the quiet village of Klong Prao, we took a shared songthaew taxi (THB80 |USD2.53 each) and settled on our villa.

Koh Chang Thailand Guide
Kai Bae Beach
For three days, we explored the area on foot. We could’ve rented a motorbike, joined shared tours or take shared songthaew to explore the island but we chose to utilize our restless feet.

Koh Chang Thailand Guide
Unnamed beach near Kai Bae Beach
Mornings were spent on extended slumbers and sometimes we’d catch up on our writing backlogs. I would also do the laundry (yes, we have money for beer because we do our own laundry) and prepare our simple breakfast.

In the afternoons we would explore the beaches around the area. This was the challenging part though.

Koh Chang Thailand Guide
Kai Bae Beach
All the while we thought that if we used our online maps, we could pinpoint exactly where we should enter to go to the beach. Sadly though, the shoreline is blocked by the private resorts and public entryways are too hard to determine. So almost every time, we would crash some gated resorts and hotels just to get to the beach.

Koh Chang Thailand Guide
Klong Prao Beach
It’s frustrating, I know. The feeling of trespassing just to have a quiet day at the beach is insane.

We’d trespass a resort until we reached the shore and then go out on another. It feels weird to not find a public entryway to the beach. It was as if the whole shoreline was bought by these establishments. It saddens me because it’s hard even for locals to enjoy the beauty of their own island.

Koh Chang Thailand Guide
Klong Prao Beach
We’d stroll onto a 4-kilometer stretch of beach by looking for a resort to crash and the find our way back to the main road to go back home—all on foot. Crazy, I know. But we’ve been doing this for quite some time now and although it may look hard at first, it will really let you experience the soul of the place like our walking trips in Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang in Laos.

Koh Chang Thailand Guide
Chai Chet Beach
So, yeah. We set foot in Klong Prao Beach, Chai Chet Beach, Kai Bae Beach and an unnamed beach in Koh Chang by trespassing to resorts in the area. If it were in the Philippines, I’d be mad for the non-existence entryways, but I’m in a foreign land.

It’s a pity to finally find a place in Thailand that isn’t flocked with tourists. But then, the kind gesture of the locals on this southern part of the country is worth the visit. Thinking that Thais in general are snobbish is so not true as the friendly smiles of the locals here are sincere and contagious. If not, maybe we were reprimanded many times for our trespassing woes.


Check here for discounted beach resorts in Koh Chang






1 comment:

  1. I'm so jealous of your annual 2 month holiday. Must be heavenly to return to your favorite spots.

    ReplyDelete