– editors note. Thanks to nurseRon for his 1st reader submission!
As I’m a bit long winded and lack a proper editor, this comprehensive piece will be presented in finger food sized chunks! If you like quiet (Betty Ford clinic kinda quiet), beautiful, semi-untamed tropical Islands with beaches and outstanding seafood, top notch accommodations at very reasonable rates, read on……
I’m on my 5th trip to Koh Chang and continue to find it a relaxing and entertaining adventure each time. I go because the city wears me down after a week or so. As I get older the constant bombardment of stimuli, filth and scumbags lurking around Bangkok taxes my senses so, that I need a holiday from my holiday! If you thrive on high energy and enjoy the never ending supply of ambient noise and pollution on offer in Bangers, this will most likely bore you to tears! That said lets figure out how to get off the Monger district and onto my favorite little retreat…
Quick note regarding talent on Koh Chang, they have NO go-gos, one proper Disco/dance club that closes @2 (kinda like Funky Villa in format/style?) and only beer-bars and restaurants! So pickings are very slim in the low season and I’ve always imported my own BKK sand and never found myself in regret! For you “A” gamers, if you hunt long and hard you can find a 6 to 8 hiding here and there but don’t be surprised by the effort needed. If you’re lazy and don’t want to pack anything other than swim trunks, sandals and wife beaters, bring your own gems and if something presents you can test your pmmp daddy magic on keeping everyone on task? Cheers!!!
Here’s the deal, you need to get from where you are (BKK or Patts) to a room on the Island? First you go to Trat, then to the ferry, 30 min-ish ride across the channel and to the Island ferry harbour, then you need to get to your room.
Koh Chang is about 4-5 hours by mini bus (300-450 baht) via Victory monument and 5-7ish hours by bus (250 baht) via Ekkamai Bus station. If you’re in Patts you need to figure it out better than I did? Or you can taxi it for god knows how much or drive a private car?
The mini’s are faster and if pre-arranged, you can get transport across the ferry and to the Hotel/Resorts door step at a significant convenience. You may want to pre-arrange for door step drop off @ about 100 to 150 baht extra, because once you’re at the mainland ferry you will need to pay toll (80 baht one way, 120ish with return if purchased at same time) After the ferry you will be at the Islands’ Harbor and must now negotiate passage to your accommodations with a song tow driver.(80 to ??? baht) You bypass all this bullshit and extra fees if you simply make it included in your deal with minibus dude, this option is not available if you take a regular bus. I would recommend the mini’s if you’ve pre-booked your accommodations but if you’re open ended on duration and where to stay, the mini’s can be a miserable option. Especially if you’re a normal to large size Westerner and don’t like surprises! These guys are but a slight up grade from moto-taxi jocks and they will try to screw you if given the chance. On my last trip I sought transport from Patts (thinking it would break up the ride and may be a little cheaper?) Not the case! Unless you carry a reputable minibus company’s’ business card and can directly arrange passage it may be more expensive than from BKK? I could not find any online refs. or info regarding minibus companies out of Patts for less than 650 baht. I eventually found a middle man willing to broker transport for 2, directly to my resort all tolls and fees for 550 per person = 1100 baht. Finding out later that this should have cost no more than 300 plus 100 for door to door service! I wasn’t too torn up over it!
Where to stay? First go online (Google Earth Satellite) or get a good hi res. copy of a map of Koh Chang. http://www.kohchang2.com/ (lots of good info here but the map sucks) Next figure out if you want to pre-book or just wander around? Low season is great for hunting down budget rooms (300 to 700 baht/night) but if you like to stay at a proper beach side resort you may be better off booking online since at the door quotes are silly, even during low season!?? I like, and have used Agoda.com for years! an example; I always call the hotel/resort directly once I’ve narrowed my search on Agoda. 20% of the time they will offer me a better cash deal than the online quote. 80%, as was this case, I was staring at an 1125 baht per night quote online as I’m speaking with the Hotels reservations staff who’s just informed me those rooms are full and only the 2400 baht per night room were available. Needless to say I clicked “confirm” and now have a <$200 AMEX billing for a solid 3 star beach front room, cold buffet breakfast included, for 5 nights at the Klong Praobeach resort!
The ferry is on the Northern most tip of the Island. You can go South East and follow the coast down but this is the VERY VERY quiet side of the Island and is better to be explored later on a rented moto than making this your starting point.
Go to the Western side first since this will give you a better feel for what’s on offer…If you’re into having a nightlife option stay in the White Sands beach (North and South) area. This is the most developed area and the first stop after cresting the hill climb from the ferry. Aside from having the only real dance club, you will enjoy most 24hr services as you would in BKK (7-11, good restaurants open later, ATMs’, most of the Islands talent, and street/foot path lighting) The beach here is nice but can get a little crowded & touristy during the day? All and all this is a safe bet if you want a room on, or very near the beach and don’t want to be out of touch with the rest of the world.
I like the next beach down from Whites Sands, Klong Prao, it’s way quieter and private during the day and the beaches and water are fantastic! I stayed at the Northern end this time at the Klong Prao resort. Nice place, get a sea side/view or Villa instead of a basic room. Killer pool, great beach and no old dead coral beyond the break to cut you up on, as is the case further south @the Tropicana, VJ health spa and Amari Emerald cove! I like this area due to it being kinda in the middle of the Western side. If you rent a moto (200 to 300 baht/day) from this location your about halfway from any point on the Island, and since the road was washed out years ago on the southern tip the northern route is the only way to the Eastern side…
Next area is Kai Bae. I’ve never stayed here but have walked around it’s rocky coast and had many wonderful meals. I’m into being on the beach and this area is surrounded by cliffs and shallow rocking coastline that is better suited for moorings and water craft launches. They have a number of upscale very private looking bungalow/suites. I’ve asked and the prices were 2k and up. I want a beach and the option to sink a few drinks while toes in sand for 2k a night, sorry. But swanky and cool, perhaps if your working a Thong Lo
good girl that ain’t going anywhere near the water/sun/sand/fun, this would be a good choice? But why bring her to an Island??? Anyway this area also has a couple of 7-11’s and is a little more developed than Klong Prao, so if you need stuff after dark this would be your last chance if you’re heading further south.
After Kai Bae the next major area is Lonely beach. This is a diverse mix of High end and back packer ville all within a few kilometers of winding coast. You can find some quirky little sand side huts and bungalows from <400 to 1500 baht, all the way to big ass gated 5 star gigs at NYC prices…This area also has some cool little bars and friendly people all the time. Better to check it out during the day and make note of interesting places/people you want to follow up on later that eve. I have not stayed here before but if you were not committed to a room else where, I would consider spending a night or two.
Next and nearly the last stop before roads end is Bang Bao Bay. I love this area, it’s got a cool little fishing village on the Cape that I always go visit and have lunch. Continue along the road East,(passing the Marina village and pier) just before the road turns North, look to your right (East) and you’ll see a 15-20 meter rickety bamboo/ply/scrap wood bridge over a small creek! Go across and hang out at the little beach side bar! Order some outstanding Thai sea food, have a drink, massage or go for a swim! I’ve done all and this place is what it’s all about for me! (BTW if you’re a man, ride your moto across the bridge, if not walk it, or you continue riding up the paved road and turn off at your first right onto the dirt and follow it back to the coast!) If you walk down the beach a bit (East) there are a bunch of newly built places to stay. Some are kinda quirky looking stucco dome things, normal Bungalow/huts, and a few very nice looking traditional Thai style Wooden houses that may be private homes? Continue East and the beach ends at a harbour. This is an upscale very private resort that does not allow non guests to wander around so don’t waste your time here since almost all other areas on the Island will welcome you as a visitor!