Koh Chang: Beauty on the Beach

If you’ve seen the movie Collateral, starring Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise, you might remember how Foxx, a cabbie, gets through the hard times in his life. Clipped to the sun visor in his cab is a photo of beautiful islands. Whenever he’s feeling blue or having a less than stellar day, he looks at the photo and it takes him away from his troubles and helps him remember there is more to life than driving a cab.

Maybe you’ve thought about it at one time or another; palm trees, white sandy beaches, and a crystal blue sea, sipping a cold beer and taking it all in? For some, Pattaya is too in your face, Koh Samui and Phuket too touristy and Hua Hin is just missing the “it” factor. Or, maybe you’ve already been to these places and are just looking for a change. Whatever the reason, if you are looking for that perfect getaway, I’ve got just the place for you – and I’m hesitant to tell you about it. Call me selfish but I love the place and want it all for my own – Koh Chang.

Koh Chang is approximately six hours from Bangkok by land. You can fly Bangkok Air to nearby Trat (an hour and five minutes) however you’ll need to take a song thaew to the pier and then the ferry to Koh Chang. A round-trip flight from Bangkok to Trat will cost you about 6000 baht. Minibuses to Ao Thammachat pier are provided free of charge by Bangkok Airways.

A cheaper alternative would be to take one of the many air-conditioned buses (250 baht) available at either Ekkamai or Mor Chit stations. The bus will take you to Trat and travel time is about five hours. Take a songthaew to Ao Thammachat pier and then grab a ferry to the island. In addition, there are vans available from Khao San Road and elsewhere starting at 500 baht per person.

Ferries to and from the island run every thirty minutes from 6:30 AM to 7:00 PM daily; the cost is 120 baht each direction. The trip goes by quickly and there is food and drink available.

Once you reach the island, take a songthaew to your final destination. Fares run between 50 and 80 baht depending on whether you go to the nearest beach, White Sand Beach (15 minutes), or one of the farthest, Lonely Beach (80 baht). No matter where you decide to go, immediately upon landing you’ll be rewarded with breath taking tropical scenery. Where you decide to stay is strictly a matter of personal preference but the island is about as close to paradise as you will find anywhere on earth and you will not be disappointed. There is just enough development to fulfill your basic needs – yes, there’s internet and cable TV – but the island is still relatively undeveloped.

Whether you’re looking for inexpensive, Spartan bungalows or four and five-star resorts, there’s a full range of accommodations on Koh Chang.

The White Sand area of the island is arguably the most developed; Klong Prao and Kai Bae has wonderfully priced four and five-star hotels with equally spectacular ocean views. Lonely Beach, while no longer quite as lonely as it once was has still managed to keep from turning into an overdeveloped tourist destination. Lonely Beach is the preferred backpacker destination with unspoiled beaches, low priced bungalows and farther away from the pier than the more developed White Sand Beach.

The White Sand area of the island is a great place to bring the family. Quiet and yet with enough small restaurants and stores to keep you busy – at least for a few days. You can also do what I did – nothing – other than laying around on the beach, sipping beer.

There are no huge malls or movie theatres on the island – but there is more than enough to do. If you tired of drinking at one of the abundant Tiki bars along the beach, or gorging yourself with seafood, you can always take a trip to one of the numerous waterfalls on the island. The Than Mayom waterfall consists of four levels is probably the most popular of the waterfalls on the island. In addition, you can swim in the large pool that rests in front of the falls. Another waterfall worth travelling to is the three-level Klong Plu waterfall. As with any waterfall you hike to, be careful – the Klong Plu falls are quite slippery and the last thing you need to ruin your holiday is to fall from fifty meters.

Koh Chang has good food, affordably priced accommodations, extraordinary scenery, and a laid-back atmosphere. For those who care, there is a bar scene. It doesn’t quite rival the nightlife of Phuket or Pattaya but for a semi-deserted tropical island, it’s more than enough.

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