Go Koh ChangKirsty Turner
I stand on the deck of the gently rumbling ferry and watch as the sky slowly changes hue, streaks or red and orange mingling as the light blue background darkens to indigo. The air smells fresh and clean, lightly spiced with salt. Much as I love Bangkok, there are times when I just have to get away, and I can think of few better places than Koh Chang.
It takes about 40 minutes to cross the stretch of sea from the quiet mainland port of Laem Ngop to the island’s Centerpoint Pier. From there, I heft my rucksack aboard a songthew and hold on tight as the driver negotiates the impossibly steep and winding roads, actually seemly to accelerate into the tight, blind bends. For once, I am glad for the trend of packing the vehicles as tightly as possible, relying on my neighbours to keep me from falling out of the open-backed mini bus.
It’s been four years since I last visited Koh Chang, but as we speed through the village of Sai Khao – White Sands – I can see that it has changed a lot. What was previously a sleepy village sprinkled with privately owned restaurants, quiet bars and cheap accommodation has been transformed into a replica of Pattaya. There are neon signs everywhere, signs promising western food and a
lot more besides. I sigh at the price of progress as we swerve to avoid a large westerner staggering in the road. But soon enough we are past this village and I am treated to spectacular views of the bay as we top an unbelievably steep hill.
It takes about 25 minutes to reach my destination, the naturally beautiful Lonely Beach – Hat Thanam. I check into my room and spend the evening relaxing on the rooftop of the newly built Ting Tong bar, looking at the starts and listening to the sounds of nature compete with the distant Techno beat from Tree House Bar.
After spending a long time in the city, waking up in a wooden hut in the middle of the forest feels magical and exotic. There are many places to explore on Koh Chang and the best way to do it is by hiring a motorbike, which can be obtained for 250 baht per day. You can follow the road almost the entire way around the island, stopping at the many lookout points to take in the spectacular views. Although the roads are in good condition, they are very steep and not for beginner drivers.
About a 20 minute drive down the coast, the beautiful beach at Ao Bang Bao is definitely worth a visit. Practically deserted, this is a great place to get away from it all. In the other direction, Kai Bae beach, Klong Phrao beach and White Sands beach are also beautiful, if more crowded.
Also worth a visit is the Koh Chang National Park, which covers 192 square kilometres of land and 458 square kilometres of water and contains 47 islands. The best way to explore this unspoilt area is to walk with a ranger. The tour goes from Than Mayom Waterfall to Klong Plu waterfall and lasts for 98-10 hours.
Day snorkelling tours are also a lot of fun, although it is better to pay extra for a small boat as the bigger boats take a lot of people and tend to get quite crowded. Anyway, these tours are a great way to see the islands and the fish and coral are stunning.
In the evening there are a range of entertainment options, from lively parties on the beach at White Sands or Tree House bar, sipping cocktails under neon signs or simply relaxing with dinner and a movie at one of the island’s quite restaurants.
The only problem is, with all this relaxation, you might never want to return to the frantic pace of Khaosan Road.
To get to Koh Chang from Bangkok, either book a mini bus and ferry package at one of the many travel agencies around Khaosan Road or go to Ekamai bus station and catch one of the regular buses, which leave about once an hour. It takes 5-6 hours to reach Koh Chang, so you should leave Ekamai by 1 pm to catch the last ferry, which is at 7 pm. Expect to pay about 250 baht.
About the author:
Kirsty Turner (Kay) is currently living in Bangkok where she teaches English at Rajabhat Suan Dusit. Kay has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!