My First Trip To Koh
Chang - October 2011
My wife is a hotelier and
prefers to stay in higher end places. I don't mind as long
as the accommodation is worth it. In Thailand, a lot of
self proclaimed four-star resorts are barely two-stars.
There are no laws permitting you to sue a hotel that lies about
its star rating. You don't really know what you're
getting. I considered myself lucky she was agreeing to
even go. I booked us two
nights at a four-star
"resort" on Whitesands Beach, the most developed area of the
island, full of the nightlife and widest choice of restaurants.
At USD 50, the room was small, the air-conditioner made the
noise of a freight train, and the breakfast was average.
We moved to another beach 15 minutes south on Klong Prao for
slightly more cash. This room had a bigger balcony and a
nicer, quieter setting. At night, we had a private
motorboat tour down a narrow waterway adjoining the gulf waters
to see the fireflies. The resort offered free kayaks, and
we went on a morning kayak run after breakfast.
Koh Chang isn't a large island. About 30 km long
and 14 km wide at its widest point. But it's large
enough you don't get bored in one day. The eastern
side lacks considerable development . . . so far.
We spent one day on motorbikes, driving south from
Whitesands to the southern part of the island at Bang Bao
Bay. The road dead ends at the Grand Laguna Resort.
Other maps made it seem like a crude road connects from the
Grand Laguna to the eastern side of the island, but we were
told there was no road. Grand Laguna in low season had
an admission fee of less than USD 2, entitling one to visit
the fun and scenic
Prao Talay Waterfall and use the Grand Laguna's pool and
On another day, we drove our motorbikes to the eastern side of the
island all the way to
Klong Neung Waterfall. The clouds turned grey, a sign that rain was
on its way, and we hightailed it out of there before any real
exploration was done.
Koh Chang, itself an island, is surrounded by other smaller islands,
some slowing turning into hip relaxed locales of their own, and the hip
thing now is to get off the 'developed' island and chillax on the
smaller ones. Places like Koh Wai, Koh Kood, and Koh Mak slide off
the hipsters tongue like another dosage of E.
The inexpensive way to see 4 or 5 islands in a day is to book an island
tour. We did this in Krabi and had a memorable experience.
The 4-island tour we booked in Koh Chang was crammed to the gills with
tourists, mostly Thais and Russians. It's a good value if you consider
that an all-day USD 16 trip gets you lunch, a snack of steamed prawns,
snorkel gear. But it was too much package tourism gone wild.
Our already well stuffed boat was met by 6 other boats of similar size
wherever we went. This was cruise ship port tourism at its worst
and, thus, probably something you'd love to do.
My Second Trip To Koh
Chang - October 2011
My wife, my stepson, myself -- we all left Koh Chang
after 4 nights with smiles upon our faces. All good trips
must come to an end. The stepson's was due back at
school the next day. The wife had to go to Korea in
two days for a family visit. Tears rolled down our
cheeks as we bid our farewells.
Meanwhile, in Bangkok, flood warnings in the media were
becoming dire. "At this point it is not a question of
if but when . . . inner Bangkok will be inundated by
The Nation. Thai MP's were
warning that the flooding would last a month. My
wife took the son to Korea and suggested I get the hell out
of Bangkok. Hua Hin,
already flooded with tourists. The north was out; it
had already been flooded. The south was too far.
I hit on an innovative idea: go back to Koh Chang!
Koh Chang fit the bill as an out-of-the-way place to go
to that wasn't too out of the way. On this second
trip, I didn't go to Koh
Chang from Bangkok. I first went to Hua Hin to drop my cat off to avoid the impending flood that
never came. To avoid going back to Bangkok with
so much traffic on the road, I caught a minibus from Hua Hin
to Pattaya. From Pattaya, I had to catch a series of
minibuses, first to Rayong, then to Chantaburi, then to Trat,
and then a songthaew to the port. Five days after I
left Koh Chang the first time I was back there for the
This time around, I booked no rooms in advance.
Burma Mike, proficient in virgin beach seduction on the island
in the early 1990's, had returned to Koh Chang
upon my recommendation, to spend a last few days zoning out
before he had to return to the U.S. He invited me to
share his luxury beachfront room down in Lonely Beach for his
last night. This 3-star resort had air conditioned hillside bungalows
available, including a buffet breakfast and
killer views, for just USD 22/night, a better value than the
places I'd stayed with my family the previous week.
High season kicked in two days after I arrived, and the resort
wanted to double the rates on me. I moved next door to an
outfit owned by relatives of the first resort and into another
aircon bungalows that were more spacious and better built
than the first, this time for only USD 20/night, another
outing on the Chang was different than my family trip. I would
use the resort pool by day and kayak at sunset and during the
day I'd go on outings at my own pace lasting several hours, being as
rigorous as I chose. I visited the
Klong Plu Waterfall,
the island's best known attraction which my family and I had
avoided because of the relatively sky high foreign admission
rate. Solo, speaking a little bit of Thai, I convinced the
park cashier to give me the local rate. My wife would've
been too proper to let me work my magic. Another day, I motorbiked over to the not very popular Klong Chao Luam
Waterfall and almost stepped on a snake. I saw two other
snakes on the first level off the falls before I turned around.
Burma Mike had done a one-day 10 km interior jungle
trek to Kongoi Waterfall and highly recommended it. That
took up another day.
second trip lasted a week.
Is Koh Chang Really That Special?
It is now. Thai island experts would probably say Koh Chang isn't
Thailand's nicest island. And it's not the closest island
to Bangkok. Koh Samet is closer, but also pricier,
less spectacular, and much smaller.
Koh Chang, though
considerably more developed than it was pre-2000, remains
predominantly undeveloped. Most of the island is a
national park, so cannot be developed -- in theory.
There's no inviolate rule in the universe that today's national
parks cannot become tomorrow's strip malls. The perimeter of the island isn't national park
territory, apart from a small chunk in the island's southeast. The rest of the island's waterfront can and probably eventually will be turned
into condos, resorts, theme parks, whatever. You can already see plenty of construction going on on
the island's eastern coast.
Koh Chang's future course of development look at Koh Samui's and
Phuket's past. For the moment, the island south of Klong Prao retains much of its original national beauty.
small, accommodation remains exceptionally affordable, the food
is delicious and competitively priced. On other islands,
essentials are boated in and markups are high. Here,
things, too, were boated in from Trat province on the mainland,
but with the ferry only taking 25 minutes, and paved roads
circumnavigating the island, the island price differential isn't
The island still retains vestiges of the 1990's rustic Thai
travel experience, something that is sure to fade as the island's popularity continues to increase
and pricey establishments set up base on the island to reap their share of the potential tourism windfalls.
At some point, condo communities will spring up like weeds, with billboard
signs every 5 minutes offering studios and one-bedrooms for so
many millions of baht. Retirees will relocate here and so will bar-owners bringing their contingents of bargirl sex workers.
You know how the story continues from there. Get here
before the story changes.