Koh Chang is located in Eastern Thailand. It is Thailand's third largest island, behind Koh Samui (#2) and Phuket (#1), but is far less popular than its larger siblings; and that's a good thing! Whilst it is certainly a developed island, the development is spread out along a vast coastline and constrained by a mountainous interior, therefore it has maintained a low-key charm that many other Thai islands have lost.
We spent 6 nights on Koh Chang, but we could have easily stayed much longer.
We made our way to Koh Chang from Siem Reap, Cambodia. It was a pretty miserable 14-hour journey by minibus with a slow border crossing in the middle. Our advice: download a long film. We picked The Godfather; 3 hours of mafia bliss!
The only sensible option for the journey is an all-inclusive package from a tour operator. It pays to shop around and barter on the price. We paid $15 per person, down from $20; an offer we couldn't refuse.
Lonely beach is the quintessential backpacker destination. There's lots of budget accommodation, a fantastic beach and a good selection of bars and eateries where one can indulge in good food, live music and even a bucket or two.
We arrived late in the day, exhausted and a bit disappointed when we saw the hostel we had booked. We made the rather rash decision to start shopping around at 10pm, only to discover everywhere was full. Bad weather on every other Thai island had made low-key Koh Chang the hottest ticket in Asia. Luckily we struck gold at BB's Lonely Beach. They had two bunks in a dorm room left for 200 Baht each (~£4.50). The bunks were what you would expect for the price, lumpy and noisy, but at least we had a bed for the night. Mercifully a lovely private room opened up first thing the next day, which meant we could stop stressing and start relaxing.
Once we were settled in we headed straight for the beach, which was a short 10-minute walk from the center of the village. We spotted a family of friendly monkeys on the way. That evening we checked out the nightlife, made some friends in a reggae bar and had one too many buckets; it was a good night out!
Strolling along Lonely Beach
Enjoying some live Reggae
Bang Bao Pier
Feeling a little sorry for ourselves after partying at Lonely Beach, we lounged around the pool at BB's all morning until we summoned the strength to get a pick-up truck taxi ('truck-truck') to Bang Bao.
Our second destination on Koh Chang was dictated to us by the availability of accommodation; which was scarce to say the least. The pier at Bang Bao wasn't top of our wishlist, we had eyes on one of the other beautiful beaches on the island, but it was all we could find for our budget. We took the last available room at Paradise Homestay for £14 a night, and what a find this turned out to be! A working pier at the far end, Bang Bao Pier closer to shore is actually an extension of the village, with restaurants, shops, and a few guesthouses all built on stilts over the ocean.
When we arrived we were pleasantly surprised to find a quaint and quirky pier in a serene sheltered bay. The accommodation was amazing! We could see the water beneath our feet through gaps in the floorboards; we had to be careful not to drop anything small. It was the perfect place to relax, unwind and nurse our hangovers. We originally booked for 3 nights but quickly extended to 4.
Unfortunately, the aftermath of Lonely Beach stayed with Hayley for a few days as she was struck down with a pretty severe case of food poisoning. For two days she couldn't be more than 5 meters from the bathroom. On the bright side, there are worse spots to rest and recuperate...
Our quirky little homestay
Catching the sunset from the decking
A panoramic from the decking
When Hayley was feeling a little better, we hired a kayak from the homestay and paddled across the bay to Klong Khong beach; a really nice and quirky beach with a handful of fun beach bars. We enjoyed tasty coconuts and Hayley managed to choke down some solid food in the form of 'french fried'.
Hayley pretending to paddle
Posing in front of our kayak
The Koh Chang archipelago includes a number of smaller islands to the south. There are lots of snorkeling and diving opportunities around the islands and numerous day trips on offer. The most popular place to visit is the protected marine park around Koh Rang, which is about 1 hour from Bang Bao Pier. Day trips start at about 600 Baht per person (~£14), but that's aboard a cruise liner with a horde of 80 other people; good luck seeing any fish with someone's flipper in your face. This type of excursion is our idea of hell. We opted to go with a dive boat called Scuba Dawgs, which was more expensive at 900 Baht per person. However, we were on a boat with around 12 others and often had the snorkel spots to ourselves; so well worth the extra!
Despite Scuba Dawgs being a little hap-hazard, we had a fantastic day out. We got pretty lucky with the visibility which was around 15m; unusually good for the area and time of year. We also met some really nice people on the boat and I got to practice my french. We would definitely recommend paying extra for a dive boat if you love snorkeling as much as we do! C'est bon.
A clownfish guarding his anemone
Hayley and a curious fish
Finding my zen in the deep
Hayley practising being a mermaid
- Koh Chang has everything the more popular islands have whilst maintaining a more low-key atmosphere, which we loved. It's now one of our favourite Thai islands and we highly recommend it, there's something for everyone.
- Head to Lonely Beach for backpacker vibes, buckets and partying.
- If you're looking for some R&R, Bang Bao Pier hits the spot.
- For snorkeling, check out the marine park around Koh Rang, but take a dive boat to avoid the crowds.