With no less than 50 offshore isles, Koh Chang boasts the finest red gems, sweet Rakam fruits, indigenous dogs, the historic Koh Chang Naval engagement, and is the eastern-most province in Thailand.
Koh Chang (Elephant Island) is Thailand’s second largest island and the primary destination for those visiting Koh Chang Marine National Park, which includes dozens of unspoiled islands. Located in Trat Province, about 300 kilometers East of Bangkok and not far from the Cambodian border, Koh Chang is 70% covered by unspoiled rainforest and the island’s 5000 permanent residents are only gradually becoming more involved in tourism as development has increased in the past decade.
Now serviced by an airport just 15 minutes from the ferry terminal in Trat, Koh Chang is more easily accessible than ever before. Drawn to Koh Chang’s pristine beaches and sparkling water, more well-to-do Thai and international travelers have been discovering Koh Chang and numerous luxury spas and resorts have sprung up to cater to them. Nonetheless, the island is still a dream destination for budget travelers and families, with a wide variety of affordable accommodation options and numerous gorgeous and tranquil beaches surrounded by crystal clear water.
While the number of tourists has increased, particularly among middle class Thais, Koh Chang is still predominately unspoiled forests and pristine beaches. In addition to natural beauty, the island is also home to a wide range of wildlife, including native birds, snakes, deer, and even a number of elephants. As for activities, Koh Chang and the nearby islands that make up the national park are great for snorkeling, diving, camping, and jungle hiking.
The majority of tourists stay at Haad Sai Khao, Haad Kai Mook, Haad Ta Nam, and Laem Bang Bao, all of which are linked by a single road running down the west coast.
Access to the island is via Bangkok Airways service to Trat or buses that connect to shuttle service to the ferry docks at Laem Ngop near Trat.
Once the quiet refuge of backpackers in the know, Koh Chang (Elephant Island) has grown in popularity as a tourist destination since 2000, when the Thai government hoped to develop the island as the next Phuket. Fortunately, as Koh Chang is nearly as large as Phuket, a decade of development that has seen the construction of an airport in Trat and numerous hotels and restaurants has done little to sully its appeal as an island of spectacular natural beauty.
Koh Chang, the largest island in the Koh Chang Marine National Park, is a beach lover and nature enthusiasts dream come true. While recent development has led to the opening of some nightlife on the island, the primary attractions on the island are the beaches, waterfalls, and neighboring islands. However, several fishing villages, a number of naval battle sights, and some opportunities for diving and snorkeling make Koh Chang both an interesting and relaxing place to visit.
Koh Chang, in Trat Province, is located approximately 315 km east-southeast of Bangkok, not far from the Cambodian border. Visitors can travel to Koh Chang by ferry boat after arriving in Trat via air, air-conditioned bus, taxi, car, or motorcycle. Once upon Koh Chang there are songtaew taxis and both motorbike and mountain bike rentals for exploring the island.
Getting to and from Ko Chang
- By Bus:
Busses directly to Centerpoint Pier in Laem Ngop, Trat depart from the Ekkamai Eastern Bus Terminal in Bangkok at 745 am and 945 pm. The journey takes approximately five hours. Return service departs Laem Ngop at 2 and 4 pm.
In addition, there are 1st class and 2nd bus class services from both the Ekkamai Eastern Bus Terminal and the Mo Chit Northern Bus Terminal that connect Bangkok with the provincial capital of Trat, from which visitors must take a 30 minute songtaew to the port at Laem Ngop, where the boats depart to Koh Chang.
- By Air:
As the owner of the airport in the provincial capital of Trat, Bangkok Airways is the sole air carrier for service to Trat and Koh Chang. There are two flights a day from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport to Trat. One should be aware that even after the roughly one hour flight from Bangkok to Trat, visitors must still get a 30 minute transfer to the ferry pier at Laem Ngop and take a 45 minute ferry to Koh Chang.
- By Other:
Between the pier at Laem Ngop and Pattaya, Ban Phe, and Bangkok's Khao San Road there are regular direct minibus services. There are also opportunities to procure a minibus from the Cambodian border to Laem Ngop, though these are not as regularly scheduled as those from Bangkok or Pattaya.
Most boats servicing Koh Chang depart from the town of Laem Ngop, which has three piers: The Laem Ngop pier is approximately 700 meters west of Laem Ngop, the 'Centrepoint' Pier is located about 3.5 km north-west of Laem Ngop, and the Koh Chang vehicle ferry pier is located in Thammachat Bay (Ao Thammachat), around 15 km west of Laem Ngop. All ferries can transport both passengers and vehicles and have regular departures, though Centrepoint has the most frequent boat service.
Boats from Laem Ngop arrive at the two piers that are located at Dan Khao on the east coast of the island: Tha Dan Khao and Tha Ferry Dan Khao.
Boats to or from Laem Ngop and Dan Khao complete the voyage in around 45 minutes, while the car ferry from Laem Ngop takes around 1 hour and arrives at the Tha Ferry Dan Kao pier, 400 meters southeast of the Tha Dan Khao pier. The Koh Chang vehicle ferry from Thaammachat Bay arrives at the Koh Chang Ferry Pier (Tha Ferry Koh Chang) at Sapparot Bay (Ao Sapparot), 3 kilometers northwest of the Dan Khao piers.
Getting Around Ko Chang
- Getting around Koh Chang isn’t particularly difficult as there are only two major roads on the island: one on the east coast and one on the west coast, both of which run parallel to the sea. Other smaller roads branch off these main roads to provide access to individual beaches and various attractions, namely, Keereephet, Klong Neung and Klong Phu waterfalls.
- By Motorbike:
Getting around by motorbike is convenient and inexpensive, around 150-200 baht/day. Visitors can either hire their own motorbikes or get around via motorbike-taxi. As the island has some particularly steep and dangerous hills it is best to drive with extreme caution and dress in appropriate attire, including closed toes shoes and helmets, the latter of which are required by law.
- By Rental Car:
It is possible to hire a car or four wheel drive truck on the island. As Koh Chang has some particularly steep and dangerous hills it is best to use a 4x4 if you wish to rent a car. Be aware that only Commercial First Class Insurance provides full coverage on rental cars (as opposed to limited personal or third party only insurance). Most international car rental agencies will offer this insurance (some only for those with a valid international driver’s license) while local companies may or may not. You may wish to request a copy of their insurance policy and ensure that it states "For Commercial Use". Regardless, inspect rental vehicles prior to rental and drive with caution, particularly as traffic in Thailand can be quite confusing, especially the habit of Thai motorcycles drivers to drive on the wrong side of the road.
- By Songtaew:
The easiest way to get around the island is via songtaew, a pickup truck with padded benches in the rear. Songtaews provide service along the two main roads and can be used as public transport or can be hired privately for a half or full day.
- By Long-tail Boat:
For beach hopping or visiting nearby islands, long-tail boats can be hired for half day or full day excursions.
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