This island off the eastern coast is a good alternative to Samui and Phuket if you are looking for beaches that are more low-key in nature. Also it is closer to Bangkok than the southern beaches.
There is no air transport to this island, so the only way to get there from Bkk is by bus. It is about 5 hours to Trat, and then you have to take a ferry across to the island. So, it isn't a quick trip (flying to Samui is faster), but for those of you who have more than a couple of days, Koh Chang is an excellent place to spend it.
Koh Samet is closer to Bkk (maybe 3 hours by bus plus the ferry (it is off the coast of Rayong)), but it is more crowded, esp on weekends when the Bkk crowd lets out. On long weekend, it is packed and you will be staying in a hired tent if you don't reserve accommodation.
Trat, by the way, is one of the 2 provinces in Thailand that does have malaria. So take precautions (repellents, mosquito nets). I don't recommend anti-malarial drugs - see my Thailand page under Warnings or Dangers. Please read my Koh Chang homepage for the latest news - Koh Chang as we know it may soon just be a memory. The Thai government has some big plans for this quiet island.
Should be able to book a trip snorkelling from most places in Ko Chang and most are selling the same trip at different prices, we paid 500 baht per person while most others were charging 700+.
Will be picked up from your resort (or where ever u say) in the morning and brought to Bang Bao the village port on stilts. This is where the boats leave from.
The boat then takes you to probably 3 locations for snorkelling and a beach to chill at half way. The snorkelling is great at Ko Chang with plenty of marine life and coral to see. The beach though is probably the best beach i've seen and i've seen a lot in Thailand.
You will be fed on the boat with a barbecue onboard mostly sea food but some potatos and stuff aswell and different types of sauces. You can also buy crisps and tins of fizzy pop if u don't like the food. The boat I was on had a small dinghy speedboat aswell with it which took people out for trips and pulled people along and just fooled about which was a good laugh.
Best thing about it was flying fish would jump out of the water and fly along beside the boat. I bought an underwater camera 500 baht at the local 7/11 but the photos weren't great as you can see by my photo. The colour does'nt show and the feesh in the photo are meant to be yellow it looks hundred times better to be there than the photo as it has also been scanned. Should bring a digital camera with an aguapac for better photos.
You get snorkelling equipment onboard but you maybe charged for flippers as i was.
Anywhere you stay, there will be a nightly barbecue nearby. I highly recommend taking part at least once.
A local person will cook the meal right on the beach. You will have choices of vegetables (corn, potato, peppers, etc...) and meat/fish (pork, beef, shrimp, squid, fish).
It's very tasty and very reasonably priced. $5 US will be more than enough for one person, including a beer. Barbecued squid - ask for them to make the hot dipping sauce to go with it!
Kai Bae is another popular place to stay for tourists. There's plenty of accommodation of all kinds and of course lots of restaurants and shops.
The beach is small, but with fine sand and great for swimming.
Koh Chang - island in the sun
"Why Koh Chang?"
Why Koh Chang?
My response to this was - the weather! I visited during a season where the Pukhet side would be turbulent and the Siam Bay islands around Koh Samui would be overcast and perhaps rainy. Koh Samui has the best sun record among the islands of Thailand.
There are other reasons why you should visit: the island is part of a huge archipelago that you can explore. The interior of the island has a decent jungle, some of it protected, with interesting wildlife and plants. Toursim has been well developed, perhaps somebody should whisper to the planners that tourism if continuing the same path will be sawing off the branch it sits on. A saturation point has been reached.
"Things you should do on Koh Chang"
All the things you can do in and with warm water and calm seas. I enjoy swimming and snorkelling; the latter is a fairly limited affair on Koh Chang itself, but still fun.
You can enjoy quiet days on this fairly quiet island. If you land in a real resort (e.g. "resort" is sometimes the name for an average hotel in Thailand) you can enjoy all the in-house services and recuperate.
You can go fishing, boating, diving, cruising among the other islands east and southeast of Koh Chang.
Travel around the island to see the communities, there are things to buy, good food to eat, people to meet.
If you want to go partying, there are pockets of resistance to resort tourism, especially on the south-west beaches, in particular the backpackers and post-hippy-style Lonely Beach' southern stretch.
The natural heritage, especially the inland Koh Chang jungles can be visited, best with a guide.
Time will pass well on Koh Chang and you will feel you have gained time...
"Bear in mind...."
Tourism has a huge impact on Koh Chang, and perhaps begining to consume the value of the island's heritage.
Choose your hotel or resort with care; not all "resorts" are resorts and not all "beach hotels" have direct beach access.
There is not a huge selection of things to be bought on Koh Chang, and the settlements are some distance apart, so bring your key things with you. Shops are weak on technology, for instance.
It is not a good island for walking (apart from the jungle hikes that can be real adventures), it is rugged along the shore, and private properties, hotels, quays and the road hugs the shoreline. The single nearly-around-the-island road has no sidewalk/pavement for walkers.