The biggest of the chain of 52 islands in the Gulf of Thailand and falling under the administration of Trat province, Koh Chang (Ko Chang) hosts more than 400,000 visitors annually, a quarter of them tourists from Sweden, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Germany, Britain, and Hong Kong. Word has gotten out on Koh Chang's charms, and the number of visitors has increased dramatically over the years.
The west coast, blessed with better beaches and clearer sea water, has most of the accommodations. The major beaches on the west side of the island include Klong Son, Hat Sai Khao (White Sand), Klong Prao, Kai Bae, Bai Lan, Tha Nam (Lonely Beach) and Bang Bao. The east coast remains as it once did years ago, while the west coast has developed rapidly.
KLONG SON BEACH
On the northern end of the island, Klong Son Beach (Half Moon) is the first beach that greets you after disembarking at the ferry pier. It has a scenic cape with a stretch of sand and plenty of coconut trees. The first hotel you'll see as you enter the beach area will be the Koh Chang Grand Orchid Resort and Spa, whose modern, comfortable rooms feature sophisticated and traditional architecture in a lush, natural setting. The luxurious Aiyapura Resort & Spa, meanwhile perches on a hillside overlooking the sea. The two islets of Koh Chang Noi and Koh Ma Pring opposite the Aiyapura can be delightful sights. Fishermen use the bay as a port since the area protects against the strong winds.
WHITE SAND BEACH (Had Sai Khao)
White Sand Beach (Had Sai Khao), the most popular and most commercial, features a long strip of powdery sand and slopes gently into the sea. Casuarinas and palm trees line the beach while forested hills lurk in the background. During low tide, the beachfront becomes much wider and consequently attracts lots of beachgoers. The northern end is sandy and quiet, while the southern end has plenty of stones. Use caution when swimming since the currents can be strong, and there are no lifeguards on duty.
White Sand Beach is the hub of many activities, where many people take a stroll while watching the sunset. Various sporting activities, such as football, volleyball and frisbee games, regularly take place along the beach.
The busiest area of Koh Chang, White Sand Beach brims with bungalows and resorts which offer various amenities, combining tranquility and comfort for tourists. A wide variety of accommodation on White Sand Beach ranges from the basic thatched-roof huts to the upmarket units with air-conditioning, hot water and a TV. White Sand Beach Resort is one of the resorts that feature 53 air-conditioned rooms while the rest of the 51 rooms have fans. Convenience is not far away, as the main road features numerous shops, bars, pubs, restaurants, one of which is the restaurant of the charming Ban Thai Resort, complete with a garden walkway and offers colourful sunsets and dining right on the sand. Tour operators, vehicle rentals, minimarts, a police kiosk, foreign exchange counters, ATMs and a shopping plaza are also close. However, the road is not near enough to the accommodations so the beach is still peaceful in places like Koh Chang Lagoon Resort, despite the many businesses.
Four full-service banks in the area, close to places like Baan San Sabay Resort are the Siam Commercial Bank at the entrance of the White Sand Plaza, Bank of Ayutthaya, Thai Military Bank (both near Cookies Hotel) and Siam City Bank. Many of these banks offer mobile foreign currency exchanges and are found parked around the island. This makes it convenient for guests of Plaloma Cliff Resort, which sits on a lush tropical setting; thereby creating a romantic ambience as the property extends beyond the beach to include a cliff.
Located on the northern end of the beach is the White Sand Beach Resort which has 104 bungalows, some of them less than 10 steps from the beach. Most have attached bathrooms and most offer good views of the sea. The stretch of peaceful beach in front of this resort is 680-metres long. Descending from the hill as you reach the White Sand Beach is the KC Grande Resort which now has a new swimmimng pool and has a nice seafood barbecue restaurant overlooking its beach. It has undergone recent renovations and all villas at the resort have private balconies to sit back, relax and savour the picturesque view of the sea. The huts stretch along the beach so each one feels a bit private. Another hotel that has recently opened is the Chang Buri Resort and Spa, which features luxury accommodations of poolside villas, with private sunbathing areas and modern amenities such as a jacuzzi with plasma TV and wireless internet in rooms. While it has swimming areas that surround the entire compound, Chang Buri Resort and Spa has maintained its natural setting by keeping the original trees on its property around.
Also located here is the Koh Chang International Clinic, under the supervision of the Bangkok Trad Hospital. The clinic deals with minor injuries and is equipped to transport more serious injuries to Trat with its helicopter emergency services. English-speaking doctors are available. The Bangkok Trad Hospital is a sister outlet of the well-known Bangkok Hospital in Bangkok, which has a reputation for excellent services to locals and overseas visitors alike, with interpreters for more than 20 different languages.
Laem Chaichet, which sits between White Sand and Klong Prao beaches, serves an ideal spot for onshore fishing or to watch the sunset. The area is a small cape with a rocky curve that rounds into a secluded bay, making it very peaceful. Only a handful of bungalows exist on this stretch of land, making the beach less crowded than the other beaches. The fishing pier near Laem (cape) Chaichet also serves as a perfect viewpoint for the entire Klong Prao Bay. Villagers can be seen collecting tiny shrimps which serve as the crucial ingredient of the famous Koh Chang shrimp paste.
KLONG PRAO BEACH
Klong Prao Beach starts where the gently curving Laem Chaichet ends. Coconut trees line the beach, and the northern end has a beautiful rocky landscape. Resort development has grown rapidly, although the beach itself does not get very crowded. Between White Sand Beach and Klong Prao Beach is the 18-unit Remark Cottage, built with natural materials that mix with its secluded environment. The resort is outstanding for its traditional Thai spa and massage by well-trained staff. The Coconut Beach Resort has a variety of units which include the very simple wooden huts raised from the sandy beach by stilts at the seafront, the fanned bungalows and the air-conditioned bungalows with a refrigerator and a TV. VIP rooms by their new beachside swimming pool were recently open. The upmarket Koh Chang Resort & Spa provides packages for three days and two nights including meals and round-trip transfer from Bangkok. The bungalows have air-con, hot water, and satellite TV. The luxurious Klong Prao Resort has cottage-styled rooms of different sizes, bungalows around a lagoon, VIP rooms by the pool and beach and a conference room for up to 200 people. Its long and wide beach is ideal for a leisurely walk or athletic activities. There is also a two-storey house that can hold up to 15 people.
Panviman Koh Chang Resort, a very pleasant hideaway, offers unique Asian architecture featuring three-tiered roof of reddish brown tiles. In addition to the swimming pool, there are the Jacuzzi and sauna. The 50-villa resort has been successful in attracting many European travelers, who usually spend a week to three weeks there. Rooms have wooden floors and four-poster beds. Another spa place is now located in the V.J. Hotel & Health Spa. Guests can enjoy the many contemporary comforts the hotel has, including a swimming pool and restaurant on the beach. The 39 boutique-style villas at Barali Beach Resort is nearby as with two other more upscale accommodations on this strip of beach. The Magic Resort on Klong Prao Beach has bungalows for up to four persons but larger ones sleep up to five. The pride of Magic Resort is its beachfront restaurant built over a bay.
KAI BAE BEACH
Kai Bae Beach, the last major beach on the west coast, is another great location on the west coast to watch the spectacular sunset. It's a sandy beach with many palm trees providing plenty of shade. Several islands are so close you're tempted to wade through the water to reach them. At low tide, you can actually walk chest-deep to Koh Man Nai from the beach at Kai Bae.
The mostly flat beach is divided into three sections, and in the dry season, you have to walk about 100 meters in order to reach the water. Once a sleepy area, Kai Bae has become developed with the emergence of new upscale resorts. The Koh Chang Cliff Beach Resort, a 33-room resort which offers a spectacular view of the Gulf of Thailand from a cliff sparsely laid out in a lush tropical garden. There is also a secluded beach where privacy is guaranteed. The Chang Park Resort & Spa has a well-landscaped garden with a pool by the seaside. Sharing the same ownership with Centre Point Ferry, the resort runs regular promotions with bonus return ferry transfer for the car and driver.
In Kai Bae Village, there are a few small shops, supermarkets, restaurants, internet cafes. Dive shops in front of the Kai Bae Hut have boats, canoes, sea kayaks and diving gears for exploring the surrounding sea and islands. Dive trips are also available during the dry season.
THE NAM BEACH
The Nam Beach is a small stretch south of Kai Bae beach. Only 1 kilometer long, Tha Nam (Pier) Beach is popularly known in the tourist brochures as Lonely Beach. Formerly a back-packer's haven, the beach used to be deserted. More visitors have descended on this small beach that features fine white sand on the northern end and stones on the southern end. The northern end is one of the best places to swim along the west coast, and is separated from Kai Bae beach by a forested hill.
BANG BAO BEACH
Bang Bao Beach on the southwestern tip is in a fishing community where residents still live in houses built on stilts and are connected by wooden bridges. It is a well-protected bay with a small and quiet beach. There is a growing number of tourist shops, scuba dive outlets and seafood restaurants, offering a good selection of seafood. New bungalows have sprouted amidst the grove of coconut trees. The latest addition is the Remark Pu-zi, a simple, cozy and very natural home for those who are serious in nature. There are only 20 huts with fan, bathroom and TV. The attraction is actually the setting itself. About one kilometer south is a viewpoint with fine views of the bay and the village.
Getting to Bang Bao is challenging as the southward road from Tha Nam is steep and winding.
Salakphet Beach on the southeastern tip is, similar to Bang Bao, in a fishing village. Distancewise Salakphet is close to Bang Bao but the stretch of three-km ring road linking the west and east coasts has yet to be completed. Salakphet and nearby Ban Rong Than are two biggest communities on Koh Chang (ko Chang). Both are ideal shelters for fishing boats and there are many piers for the fishing boats as well as boats to nearby islands and Laem Ngob in Trat. Salakphet is a genuine fishing village worth visiting. The Salakphet Seafood and Resort has fresh seafood and its accommodation is clean. Rong Than village on the west of the bay is the main residential area for the community. A monastery known as Atulaporn Banpot and the Salakphet Temple are religious rendezvous for the locals.
At the south end of the bay is a small beach with a memorial commemorating the sea battle of 1941 between the Thai and French navies. Two kilometers northeast is the 12-storey Kiriphet waterfall, with a great view of the bay. To get there from Koh Chang's Centre Point, it is about 20 kilometres while from Ao Sapparos, it is about 25 kilometres. The area is open 24 hours a day but it is best to go from 8 am to 5 pm. While known as the Naval Battle Ground in Trat's Laem Ngob area, there is a memorial to the event as well in the south of Koh Chang. In a calm beach setting near Salakphet, there is a marker on the waters indicating where the French and Thai navies fought.
THAN MAYOM BEACH
Than Mayom Beach, situated on the eastern side of the island, is a good spot for catching the sunrise. The beach is scattered with rocks and the seafront is muddy. The view is particularly good at the end of the pier which stretches into the sea. The headquarters of Koh Chang (Ko Chang) Marine National Park is located in nearby area close to Than Mayom Waterfall