Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ko Samet

I've vistited Samet 3 times - in 1998, 2008 and 2010. Most of this page was written after the 2008 trip, but I have updated info and added pix from 2010 where needed..

Still some nice relaxed beaches on Samet - this is Ao Pudsa aka Ao Tubtim, looking north.

Samet is a small hilly island with all but one of the beaches on the east coast. You can walk from the north east corner to the far south on the east-coastal track in a leisurely 3 hours (image Blue You)

A bigger, much more detailed map from travelfish showing bungalow locations can be seen here.
As usual, travelfish's general info and bungalow reviews are excellent.
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Listen up island-seekers, this is what I learned.

It’s not a real good idea to form a firm impression on an island:
- after travelling all night by overnight buses from the Andaman with little sleep.
- arriving so early in Ban Phe you have to hang around interminably for the first ferry.
-getting RAINED ON on that first ferry (dry season, no less).
- getting quoted a rip-off fare for the short journey from the pier to the beginning of the beaches by Samet’s sleazy songthaew mafia.
- trudging along with yer bag dodging puddles through that tacky looking shopping street before the National Park gates (admittedly that strip has a good selection of services these days).
- paying the rip-off 200baht NP entrance fee …. for what? (maybe being able to say at least it's better than the old 400 fee, which tezza refused to pay the whole time it existed) and then finding the concrete road turns to muddy slush 30m past the NP entrance (couldn’t the cheap bastards spend a bit of our money paving the road at least as far as the 3rd of the first 3 (all popular) beaches - nah, too busy building luxury concrete condo-style holiday places for NP bigwigs on Ko Kradan and similar).
- being shown a crap value 400 baht share-bathroom room at Naga Inn on AO HIN KOK (2nd beach down) with a lovely outlook over piles of building debris (particularly when you have just left a great 200b with bathroom place overlooking a gorgeous beach on Ko Phayam).
- noticing Naga have put in a beach bar/nighclub across the road and someone else has a Reggae Bar next door, both of which didn’t exist on your last visit in ‘98 and would be sure to make the nights restful.
UPDATE 2010 - well Hin Kok might be a bit noisy at night but I found it the least busy of the first 4 beaches from the north during the day. And with some of the whitest sand when not wet.
That's Ao Phai and then Ao Pudsa/Tubtim further south in the background. Click to expand the shot. Note that shots taken in 2008 don't expand - those taken in 2010 should, although it could depend on your browser.

So yeah - by this stage of the game I was pretty pissed and tended to agree with those who have been claiming Samet has gone to the pits.
So I decided to head south, where in ‘98 there I’d seen some real laid back places.

Well not at the next beach, AO PHAI which these days is pretty built out by several bungalow outfits including one I was determined to stay in next visit - Samed Villa, - but whose neat headland bungalows have been replaced with bigger, decidedly upmarket jobs seemingly closer together - yet way beyond tezza’s budgetary reach. Ao Phai also has a reputation for partying.

But hold the weddin’ trendsetters, I walked around the headland on the coastal path and as Samed Villa ended Pudsa Bungalows started, with nice old-style bungalows almost on the seaside rocks and 20m from the ocean. I went a bit further and WHOA, the compact beach itself (AO PUDSA aka AO TUBTIM) looks just like I remember from 1998- real nice - and there seems to be only one other bunglalow place on it, the widely praised Tubtim Resort.
Sweet beach - Ao Pudsa/Ao Tubtim

Pudsa Bungalows' rockside huts are my sort of location.
Now Tubtim’s website had indicated it was a bit upmarket for me, so I walked into Pudsa Bungalow’s airy beachfront restaurant. Sorry, the rockside 800b bungalows are aircon and taken (1500 in 2010 - with some 1000 rockside fan jobs - 900 for longer stays), but yeah, I can have a second row fan job on the hill for 600 (700 when I checked in 2010) . Well, 600 don’t seem so great after Phayam, but it sure blows Naga Inn out of the water. It also blows similar style places in similarly popular Andaman locations like Railay and Phi Phi right off the planet. And the beach is as nice as Phayam, nicer than the beaches I’d just trudged past (which aint too bad beach-wise at all) and way less crowded than the popular Andaman spots. The fact I couldn’t see any nightclubs, beach bars or long tails threatened to drive me to sleep with lack of noise.

So hey, all of a sudden I’m thinking old Samet may not be as bad as a lot of people are saying. So I grabbed a bungalow.

This 600fan hillside second-rower with an interrupted view of beach and sea wasn’t great, wasn’t bad - plenty of room, a big comfy bed, soap/toilet paper supplied, no towel, no sink, good water pressure, clean but starting to look a bit tatty (the adjacent bungalow was being renovated - hey, perhaps mine was next). Grounds were clean but there was a lot of scratchy looking bare earth (see section on water shortage), paths well lit at night.
Chez tezza at Pudsa Bungalows

Restaurant prices were average budget bungalow, food and service okay. They set up a seafood BBQ each night and they had a section with those neat bar mats+candles+ cushions set up on the sand.
Pudsa Bungalow's beachside restaurant.
I also ate at nearby Tubtim’s beachfront restaurant. Ditto except prices maybe a little bit higher. BTW, Tubtim was putting in some brand new big upmarket looking bungalows towards the southern headland with elevated balconies and excellent views up the island of the northern beaches. If I come back with a few $$ (3000b in March 2010 - which was a few $$ too much fer me) this will be just the place.
Tubtim also has a small sunbathing platform moored in the bay near the southern headland which was a nice spot to spend some time.
Ao Pudsa/Tubtim beach - Pudsa Bungalow's restaurant foreground, Tubtim's behind. New Tubtim bungalows going in on the far headland.

UPDATE 2010 - I spent a fair bit of time checking Tubtim this trip. The place is huge, with dozens of bungalows including a hell of a lot of fan with bathroom jobs at 600-700 when I asked. Just about all of these looked a step up from basic traveller bungalows.

An onshore breeze was blowing during my visit which at one stage was strong enough to get small waves breaking off Pudsa. For a brief 10 minute period they were big enough for me to actually body surf them, something I have only done once before in many dry season visits to Thailand.
I also had a look off the southern headland for coral etc on account my stalker, TT poster somebodyelse, is always giving me grief when I don’t. Samet is not known for good snorkelling and sure enough, when I dived down (the choppy wavelets had turned visibility to crap) the scraps of coral were rubbishy and the fishies were limited. I also managed to bang my shin on and unseen rock and break the skin. Curse you SBE!


SOUTH OF AO PUDSA
Pudsa is about a third of the way down the island from the north. There are 8 or so beaches to the south. So next day I took the beach path to see how much they had changed in 10 years.

Well, all of them have a fair bit more development, except for:
- VONG DUERN which was pretty built-out back then. Actually it seems improved - back then it was known as the haunt for sex-tourists and a lot of the places were a bit tacky, now it doesn’t look too bad at all. However it still looks to be one of the busier noisier beaches on the island with mainly midrange accommodation and quite a few bars etc.

UPDATE MARCH 2010 - for part of my latest visit I decided to stay on Vong Duern, at Vong Duern Villa whose second rockside restaurant above has real nice views over the beach. The beach is indeed a pretty nice place to stay with good sand, nice swimming most sections at all tides and plenty of variety in places to eat, grab a beer etc. Not particularly noisy at night.
About 5 minutes gets you to quiet Candlelight Beach to the south - less than 2 minutes to Ao Cho to the north. Vong Duern Villa had a great position beachside/rockside/hillside at the south end, but I would not say our tiny rockside bungalow was particularly good value or in great condition. Lady Tezza is has filed a report with lots more info and pix in the TRIP REPORTS section.

- And AO NUAN - the tiny beach first south of Tubtim which has just one traditional backpacker style place, Ao Nuan Bungalows.
A 2010 shot of Ao Nuan which is by far the most laid back beach north of the far far south. But the bungalow joint might be taking advantage of this - it has a wide range of accommodation from tiny rustic outside bathroom traditional bungalows to big aircon jobs, but wanted 700b for the former in almost shoulder season 2010 (2000b for the latter). Apparently there is no road access here - but it is only about 3 minutes walk from the beaches each side on the coastal track - Ao Pudsa to the north being the easier trek with a pack. Of course a speedboat drop-off would be the go and this is one place a National Park ranger would be unlikely to be waiting on the beach for his 200b. That's the far northern end of White Sand Beach in the far background - you could walk up there in about 25 minutes and cross 3 other beaches.

AO CHO just north of Vong Duern surprised me - a recently printed guidebook said its isolation meant it was one of the more laid back but the two or three places there seemed to crowd the bay out and the beach was reasonably busy.
UPDATE 2010 - umm, I'm gonna revise that. Lady Tezza and I walked to Ao Cho several times from Vong Duern (less than 2 minutes to cross the low headland saddle) and found the beach delightful - not busy, good water for swimming, some nice bars and restaurants.

AO THIAN (aka CANDLELIGHT BEACH) - AO LUNG DAM was my favourite last visit; lovely patches of sand, sparsely settled and with some very eclectic bungalows belonging to Candlelight Resort on the northern headland and corner of the beach.
Well bungalows are now built just about everywhere possible, Candlelight Resort has gone considerably upmarket and has moved maybe 100m south away from the corner of the beach - but I thought Thian still attractive because somehow it doesn’t appear crammed, some of the wooden seaside accommodation blocks at the north end have multi-tiered balconies virtually overlooking the sand (I’m a sucker for sitting waaay up on my balcony with a bottle of Maekhong watching the passing parade of bikini babes) and the southern most bungalow place, Apache (technically on Ao Lung Dam - the longish bay is divided by small sections of rock into several patches of sand - Lung Dam is the southern most) was real appealing with okay looking beachside trad style fan bungalows for 600 and a neat rickety pier with some outrigger sitting platforms over the water, the perfect place for a beer or 5.
There were some Thai girls frolicking in tiny bikinis off the pier. Hey, niiiiiice. Then I thought - you don’t see many Thai girls in bikinis (update - more of them in 2010) , even the rent-girls travelling with guys normally wear shorts. And the babes I was checking were taller than usual, had bigger boobs, paid excessive attention to their hair and bikini fit, sashayed when they walked and kept giving me flirty looks. Whoa, katoeys!!!
Still they looked way hot.
Jeez, I’m starting to get seriously worried about me!!!!!

2010 pic of northern half of Ao Thian shot from the end of Apache's pier. There are some real nice rockside and hillside bungalows belonging to other operators which look to be budget/flashpacker to left of frame before the pier. This is a nice shot to expand - Candelight Bungalow's restaurant is that biggish beachfront job closest to the water a bit away from the corner - their bungalows are on the low hillside behind (to our left).

Ao Lung Dam south of the pier. Apache's bungalows are mainly in this section. Pretty basic trad jobs but a guy staying there told me he was paying only 300 in March 2010 which is a fair bit cheaper than my '08 quote.
Lady Tezza really liked eating and having a beer on the pier - we came down every day from Vong Duern, takes maybe 5 minutes to hit the north end of the Ao Thian but another 10 minutes to walk down here.
I kinda think the guy right background had something to do The Lady's enthusiasm - looked like a 2010 version of Fabio. I didn't mind - his girl was hot. If you expand pic you'll notice a gunship in the left background - the Thai princess was visiting swanky Kui Na Nok to the south and this was part of her escort.

Blue tube is pumping fresh water to Apache resort - water shortage is a big problem in dry season. One reason why bungalows are more expensive.
AO WAI, south of Thian, was another 98 favourite. It is now monopolised by the very large Sametville Resort, which a woman on my slowboat to Ko Phayam raved about. But alas budget bungalow fans, this is decidedly midrange in price although a lot of the bungalows looked more flashpacker. Nevertheless, one of the quietest areas on Samet and not unattractive.
UPDATE 2010 - Sametville has expanded with several more bungalows on the higher area north of the beach itself. And they have thrown a barbed-wire fence and locked gate across the coastal walking track, forcing walkers down onto the difficult rock platform. WTF! This is National Park land and all us suckers have paid 200 baht to walk the tracks. When I go back I'm taking a set of wire-cutters - fix that fence and gate big time. I got a real nice shot of their beach, but bad luck Sametville, aint gonna show it.

The southern most settled beach, KUI NA NOK, has the mega expensive Paradise (Paradee) Resort and Spa. Seems these people don’t want the lower classes on their beach, because the long coastal track thru the scrub on the approaching headland had felled vegetation and spikey vines deliberately set across it. Aint gunna stop a world-class seaside rock-hopper like yers-truly. The security guy glared at me as I scoped out the millionaires' mistresses draped on the seaside banana chairs but I just gave him the big cheesy - ALL beaches in Thailand belong to the King who has opened them to the public. Aint no such thing as a private beach no matter what these goons will try to tell you.
For the same reason as Ao Cho, no KNN beach shots here.
Paradise Resort itself looked real nice, but worth only a quarter of what they charge.


THE NORTHERN SECTION OF THE EAST COAST.
As I said, AO PHAI and AO HIN KOK north of Tubtime/Pudsa are pretty built-out, not unattractive beach-wise during the day and have lots of people sitting at tables and mats on the sand at night. Both have a fair bit of entertainment at night (ie noise).
UPDATE 2010 - despite misgivings about noise, Ao Phai was one of our two home beaches on the latest trip - we stayed at Samed Villa which gets good user reviews and is a place I've wanted to stay from my first '98 visit. I have to say it is one of the nicest places I've stayed at in Thailand and our cheapest-in-resort but very nice backrow aircon/hot water room was about as far as you can get from Silver Sand's disco so that noise was no problem. This pic is shot from Samed Villa's rockside lounges - the beach lounges closest to shot also belong to them. Nice sand, good water quality and depth in a bouyed-off swimming enclosure, lively passing parade, plenty of places to eat/drink on a budget, 2 minutes to neighbouring Aos Tubtim and Hin Kok, 10 minutes to White Sand Beach.
Lady Tezza has included more info and pix on Ao Phai and Samed Villa in the TRIP REPORT section.

By the way, many people confuse Samed Villa with the similarly-named Sametville further down the island on Ao Wai when researching/booking - as said earlier, Sametville are the creeps who have blocked the coastal walking track.

If you are staying at Hin Kok and at Ao Phai's Ao Phai Hut, Sea Breeeze, Lost Resort and some huts at the huge Silver Sand you are going to get traffic noise from the main road which is pretty busy these days. The road heads inland south of these so traffic noise becomes no problem. The beaches further south are accessed by side tracks with not much traffic.

HAT SAI KEW (WHITE SAND BEACH) is just over a small headland from Hin Kok and this northern most east-coast beach is the longest and busiest on the island. It is packed with bungalows, restaurants, bars, beach-chairs an umbrellas and features the dreaded jet-skis, water skiing and paragliding.
I’m not gonna knock it. It is an attractive beach in appearance, has a buoyed-off section for safe swimming, has about a thousand neat candlelit tables and mats set up on the sand at night (concentrated in the southern third of the beach - places north had a few of these but were unpacked whereas south was running 90%+), lots of gorgeous Russian bikini babes running around (heaps of Russians package tourists jet in to nearby U-Tapao for some time in the sun. As a real nice Anna Kournikova clone told me, it’s minus 35C in Siberia in Feb.
Gratuitous shot of Anna K clone. Whoa, maybe not a clone!!! In the spirit of equality, I have a hunk-shot fer all you ladies at the foot of the page. (image - Star Diet Secrets)
Note that once these babes pass 35 the bikinis don't grow but the ladies do markedly - hey lighten up on the borsch and fermented potato sweethearts! Russian guys are biiiiig bulky blokes who favour those budgie-smuggler racer swimsuits hauled way up at the sides and down low below the beer gut in front. Listen up Alexi, Olympic swimmers and Aussie surf-lifesavers can carry the Speedo look, but what you need is a whole lot of surfer board shorts, size XXXXL. Preferably Billabong.****

There is a good supply of shops and tourist services behind White Sand beach and that main road shopping street is less than 10 minutes walk.
Hell, any island can bear a White Sand/Hat Sai Kew. If it don‘t float your particular boat, head south.

Note that some bungalows in the very big White Sand complex at the southern end will get main road noise. The rest have no problems from the road, but could get entertainment noise.

Good news for budget travellers - there is at least one nice looking traditional place left on White Sand, Laem Yai Hut House, way down the far northern end of the beach which is arguably the nicest and quietest section. A good number and range of bungalows spread over a big area across the low saddle of the cape here, one or two actually overlooking the rocks of the north-east coast rather than the beach. Fancier bungalows looked to be flashpacker class - a guy in a slightly more basic place incl bathroom told me he was paying 700.
This is a 2010 shot, but how long will this place last in this prime spot?

AO LUK YUN. When I was leaving in '08, my speedboat turned around the north-east corner of the island beyond White Sand Beach and I saw this rather appealing old style bungalow resort with about a dozen trad bungalows along the shore of a little cove. The place looked budget in standard. Hey, this could be the perfect place for those old time travellers wanting something all by itself - kinda like Sunset, the place I stayed on on Ko Mak. Travelfish's map shows Pineapple Beach Resort in this area. Note that there did not seem to be a real beach here, although that could improve at lower tides. No problems, White Sand Beach is only about 10 minutes walk away. This area is pretty close to town too.
This is a 2010 shot of Ao Luk Yun. Pineapple is the place at right - a fair bit of new building going on here although there seemed to be few guests. The place on left was a nice looking newish midrange joint - didn't get the name but Google might find it. Sand is pretty limited here. A fair few locals fishing off the rocks in the area.


THE WEST COAST.
There is only one beach here, AO PRAO. Back in 98 it was dominated by high-end and midrange joints. I couldn’t see any reason for change and because the trek across is hot and dusty, gave it a miss this time. From memory the beach is pretty nice.
UPDATE 2010 - I got across to Ao Prao this trip - see shot below. It is now a gated community with a security checkpoint on the steep access road 100m behind camera - although I don't know how effective this is as they let riff-raff me through. Some very nice joints along here - and access to speedboat is by a tractor-driven trolley out into the water so you don't get your Manolo Blahnik gym-shoes wet.

Note that 5 star Paradee joint way down south at Kui Na Nok also extends across to the west coast - the island is real thin there.


THE NORTH COAST.

Nicest section of beach on the north coast is in front of Mooban Talay resort.
If you turn right off the ferry at Na Dan you can walk along a nice, pretty quiet concrete road to the far end of the laid back north coast in about 15-20 minutes. The area is called AO WIANG WAN and AO NOI NA. There is a range of accommodation along here from budget to pretty flash, nice views back to the mountain-backed mainland, and you don’t have to pay any 200baht National Park entrance fee. The beaches are pretty small and not as good as in the park except at the far end where the section in front of the attractive upmarket Mooban Talay Resort is as very nice.
Samed Cliff Resort's wooden walkway-connected white bungalows built on a steep hillside are in another attractive looking midrange joint which has a pool with a small but fairly nice section of beach across the road.

There are a couple of PLACES ON STILTS OVER THE WATER along here - mostly midrange looking or higher. Google for Ban Ploy Samed and Mook Samet.
Ban Poi Samed is both restaurant and accommodation - stand on the pier this shot was taken from and ring the bell for a boat shuttle across.

Ban Pou Dan on the road is more flashpacker, looks to have some nice rooms and has a couple of them built over the water off the side of a very short walkway. These are sort of an extension to the main building.

There are some good value cheapies along here, down to 200baht. Home Resort had waterside (over the rocks, maybe a bit of beach at lower tides) fan bungalows with bathrooms for 300 - first off the ferry, within 3 minutes stroll. UPDATE 2010 - This place has tarted itself up quite nicely and is now calling itself Sunrise Villas with 500b fan rooms incl hot water and TV plus aircon rooms for 1000. Ph 089-2200117

WET SEASON - Samet is one of the driest islands in Thailand. Check the stats on the Wet Weather Thread accessed from the index. This makes it one of the better islands from April into November. A plus is that almost all beaches face east and so are sheltered from the prevailing wet season westerly winds. So you get much smoother seas and less unsightly flotsam etc blown onto the beaches.

WATER SHORTAGE - the downside is that come dry season the water runs out quickly meaning bungalows have to cart it from the mainland, an expensive process. A bungalow owner told me the main reason bungalows halve prices in “wet” season is not low patronage, but because they don’t have to pay for water.
The shortage of water means less expensive bungalows have a lot of bare earth rather than nice lawns, gardens.
This is a late March 2010 shot of the island's reservoir in the hills between Ao Phai and Ao Prao - probably still a month and a bit before the start of wet season but only running at abt 5% capacity. Water tankers at left were pumping water out - it seems coastal resorts bring water from the mainland by boat while inland places rely on these tankers for water delivery.

BIG WEEKEND CROWDS - closeness to Bangkok and Rayong means lots of Thai locals hit Samet for weekends and public holidays. If you intend to arrive on Friday or Saturdays or on public holidays, make sure you are booked or look forward to a lot of searching for a room.

AVOIDING THE NATIONAL PARK FEE - harder these days because the NP guys are waiting on quite a few of the beaches for ferries and speedboats to arrive, as well as at the northern entrance. Didn’t see any on Tubtim/Pudsa, but did on a real unlikely quiet southern beach. Maybe a matter of luck.

THE ROAD SOUTH - note it turns inland near the start of Ao Phai, the 3rd beach down. It has a crap surface and is real steep in parts so take care if you hire a motorcycle - and it is a hot tiring bastard to walk. The beaches are reached by side-tracks, a lot un-signposted. If you are walking, use the coastal path which is very pleasant most of the time.

THE COASTAL PATH - I reckon it has gone downhill from ‘98. I already mentioned the deliberate blockage down south. Why the hell aren’t the NP guys clearing this? (answer, because Paradee Resort probably paid THEM to block it). There are virtually no NP direction signs so sometimes it takes a while to locate the route when leaving a beach - actually the signs you DO see for the path have been created by bungalow operations to stop people wandering around their places looking for the way.
How pathetically slack is the Thailand National Park service!!??

ATMs - there are a couple in town before you come to the NP northern entrance including the 7/11 near the entrance. The word is they often run out of money on weekends and public holidays.

NOISE - I don’t think I saw a longtail boat on the east coast. Speedboats yes, but they hummmm thanks to the American Environmental Protection Agency. For the same reason they also emit about 1/100th of the pollution of a longtail.
White Sand, Hin Kok, Phai and Wong Duan have noise from bars, music etc.
I’ve already mentioned road noise in parts of the first 3 above.
Dogs are in moderate numbers (in a National Park!!!!)

New stilts over water joint on north coast of Samet - sign said Mook Samet


GETTING TO SAMET
Slow ferries from Ban Phe near Ranong to the northern pier at Na Dan roughly hourly (they tend to wait for a decent load) from 0800 to 1700 in high season - the trip takes up to 45 minutes. Buy a one-way 50baht ticket on the boat, not the return 100baht one the travel agents will try to sell you. You may wish to come back by speedboat which is a lot better particularly if you are at one of the beaches away from the piers.
Ferry arrives at Na Dan pier in the island's north. Some are a bit bigger as are almost all the ones which are operated by the east coast bungalow joints.
Those bungalows behind right are part of the afore mentioned tarted up Sunrise Beach Resort. The ones out of frame to right are higher on the seaside rocks and quite attractively sited. Sign advertises "Avoid the National Park Fee"

Ferries run to Wong Duan less frequently. UPDATE 2010 - actually various resorts run ferries to many of the other beaches too - if you book into a place enquire about this possibility. Some of the public ferries will also deliver to the beach for a price - for instance they would take us around to Vong Duern after delivering others at the main pier for a reasonable sum if there were at least 7 of us. Fewer and we would have to pay way more.

A bit tricky is the fact there are at least 3 Ban Phe piers - I've previously only used the central pier which I think is the one most Rayong songthaews and minibuses from Bangkok and Pattaya drop off at, but in the latest 2010 trip we were dropped at the eastern pier opposite the bus station. This pier seems to have a reasonable service but I didn't see any speedboats around. There are budget restaurants and beer if you have to wait.

Ferry services are roughly halved in low season.

There is now a good speedboat service from a number of operators. I think they wait until they get a decent load at Ban Phe - go to one of the little travel agents in the lane near the 7/11 in Ban Phe opposite the pier for info. For the reverse trip there are set times for the first morning run at least. I caught one of these off Ao Pudsa/Tub Tim - it took less than 20 minutes including a pick up at White Sand beach. The cost was 200baht (200 from adjacent Ao Phai in 2010 although Samed Villa's personal speedboat was 250) which was scarcely dearer than the taxi charter back to Na Dan + slow boat.
Quite a few bungalows have their own speedboats (and slowboats) and will take other paying passengers to the particular beach.

There are hourly buses to Rayong from Bangkok’s eastern (Ekamai) bus terminal, and a few direct to Ban Phe. UPDATE 2010 - now much better - Cherd Chai Tour runs every hour to Ban Phe from counter 5 - also has boat tickets.
Time a bit less than 3 hours to Rayong - maybe 3.5 to Ban Phe.
There are also fairly frequent buses from the northern/central bus terminal (Mochit) to Rayong and fewer to Ban Phe.
A similar service to both Rayong and Ban Phe runs out of the new Transport Centre at Survanabhumi airport.

Songthaews leave from beside the Rayong bus station to Ban Phe frequently - about a 40 minute trip for 25 baht.

You can also get minibuses from and to the Khao San Road area of Bangkok. Minivans or Ban Phe leave frequently from the Victory Monument area of Bangkok. Apparently the large sign is hard to miss. There are also frequent vans to Rayong from here.
There are also vans from Pattaya and from the Trat piers where you arrive from big Ko Chang.

 Leaving Samet, buy your tickets at the agents in Ban Phe, small travel agents in the village at Samet plus a lot of the bungalows' and resorts' travel desks.
Note the minibuses from Ban Phe to the Trat Coast tend to drop you at travel agents some distance from the operating piers, the hope is to sell not only ferry tickets but accommodation, daytrip excursions etc - the travel agency we were dropped at in 2010 was charging 150 one way for the ferry tickets, well over normal. No problem, a similar place 100m down the road was charging 80 including the 3km transport to the Centerpoint pier. There were people from our minibus who were dropped off at this second travel agency - I think it depends on who you originally book your minibus ticket with - we booked through Samet's Ao Phai Hut's travel desk.

Car with driver transfer Bangkok Airport and Bangkok downtown to Ban Phe (also vans for large groups)

There are no ferries from Samet to Ko Chang or across the Gulf to the Samui area, a fairly frequent question on travel sites.

SONTHAEW TAXI TRANSPORT ON SAMET - in my opening rant I moan about a rip-off quote from the northern pier to my destination. This was because there was way too few people for a full load (around 8 people from memory) - with a full load the fares are quite reasonable. But if you have to charter a songthaew taxi it can be ridiculous - for instance the 5 minute trip from Vong Duern to Samet Villa cost Lady Tezza and I 200baht in March 2010..
The good news is that rates are now posted at the northern pier and most beaches.
Fares board at northern pier. Bit hard to read shot even when expanded - 2010 rates ( full load/charter) - White Sand Beach 10/100, Ao Phai 20/200, Tubtim 20/200, Ao Cho 30/250, Vongduern 30/250, Candlelight-Lum Dam 40/350, Ao Wai 50/450

Note there are plenty of motorcycles for hire near the pier, in the village and at most beaches. Be careful if not skilled - the road south can get bumpy with those nasty trippy transfers ruts and steep in parts.

Some of the places mentioned in this report. Click to expand image which is looking from the north-east towards the north-west. That's Na Dan village to left of MAIN PIER - the north east corner of the island is at bottom, west coast at top.

***DISCLOSURE - the author owns a truckload of Billabong stock. Well that aint quite true - the Mutual Fund I hope to finance my early retirement (The Nigerian Trust and Fidelity Fund) owns a boatload of Billabong stock. Or so they tell me.
My personal equity is about one millionth of one percent of the company’s shares - I figure I own the sign on the executive washroom door.
Listen up dudes and dudettes, keep buying that great Billabong gear and maybe I’ll be able to upgrade to flashpacker in my dotage.
Aint capitalism great!!!!
Buy more Billabong trendsetters! BTW, this is the only shot on the net of yours-truly. You have to trust me on this. (image Surf Skate Online)

Julie has done a Ko Samet trip report with more info and pix here.
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If you are considering Samet perhaps you might be thinking of calling in to:

PATTAYA on the way from Bangkok

KO CHANG AND NEIGHBOURS further east

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If you have any extra information or corrections, please post them below. If you have questions, please ask them on the Forum, which can be accessed from the Index. I don't get to check each island page often, but I'll try to check the forum each day when not travelling.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ko Kut (Kood, Kud)

This is the old Ko Kood page - there is now a much better page with lotsmore info HERE.

Ko Kut has a string of nice beaches like this one, at Siam Beach Resort, Bang Bao.

Note - this is now the oldest non-updated page on this site - I visited in February 2008.
A lot of the basics would be unchanged but research I'm doing for my upcoming February 2012 trip indicates there are quite a few more resorts on the island and perhaps the road conditions have improved.
Will have a much more detailed island account up by mid-March, hoping to show all the main beaches. Should have been back earlier, but there are too many islands to revisit plus others I haven't stayed at yet.
This is why I like you guys doing TRIP REPORTS (see section in INDEX) - you can keep us up to date far better than I manage.


Ko Kut (Kud, Kood) is a fairly big, hilly island in the far eastern Gulf to the south of Ko Chang and Ko Mak.
Like Chang, it has a string of beaches along its west coast, most with one or a few tourist operations. But unlike Chang, Kut is largely undeveloped away from these beaches - we are talking mainly dirt roads, mostly unsignposted with the occasional small village or gathering of a few huts - and very laid back, both on and off the beaches. In fact, from the western point of view it is kind of a new frontier - western tourism has not been a big deal, most of the existing resorts relying on Thai middle and upper class package groups.
However things seem to be picking up with farang tourism and there are several places suited to both budget and higher-end western travellers.
Map image - KoKud.com - Bang Bao where I stayed is just under the bottom edge of the printing for Ao Ngarn Kho about three-quarters the way down the western (left) coast.

AO KHLONG CHAO
Tourist central seems to be the attractive and very nice Ao Khlong Chao. Here a small river entrance turns abruptly to form a nice lagoon at the back of a spit of sand which makes up Chao’s nice beach, and then turns inland again, under the “main” road bridge. The khlong is navigable for a few kms towards Khlong Chao waterfall, the last 800m of which must be done on foot.
River entrance from Bai Kood Shambala Resort. Across river on the right, the beach goes for about 800m directly away from the camera, and to the left the river forms a lagoon as it heads up the back of the treed spit.
A bunch of midrange and budget accommodation places have put themselves along this waterway, some with those cool restaurant platforms on piers over the water. This seems to be the area where the speedboats which most people access Kut on terminate after dropping people at other beaches. Speedboats tied up to a restaurant pier near the bridge at Ao Khlong Chao (image Panoramio-Bonazera)
Most of the backpacker/flash packer places seemed to be on the inland side of the bridge - the most distant from the beach would involve about an 800m walk. I didn’t check any of these paces but travel fish covers them pretty well
http://www.travelfish.org/accommodation/thailand/eastern_thailand/trat/ko_kut/all/
Fabulous sunset shot from Michael Braun-Panoramio of river area looking back towards mainraod bridge.

For you higher rollers, there was a nice newish upmarket place with a Disney or animal name right on the beach and another called Bai Kood Shambala on the southern side of the river entrance overlooking the lagoon.
The rather spiffy Bai Kood Shambala with the views seen 3 shots above. Actually travelfish says this joint also has some budget rooms.
UPDATE JULY09 - Shambala has been taken over by Away Resorts and is now Away Koh Kood and looks to have pushed upmarket.

The whole Ao Khlong Chao area seemed very uncrowded when I checked it - but it was mid-week. I think weekends and public holidays are bigger with the Thai package crowd.
The beach on the seaward side of the spit at Ao Khlong Chao - the river entrance is unseen at the far end.
NAMTOCK KHLONG CHAO.
Waterfall-freaks looking for Niagra on any Thai island are gonna be real disappointed but Namtok Khlong Chao is nice enough, involving parallel 15m drops into a big 50m pool and accessed by a real nice rainforest ctrack. And access is free - not the rip-off 200baht to similar falls on nearby big Chang.
I was a bit lucky. It looks like from this shot (image Panoramio-apaecezalt).....
…that the falls don’t run too well in dry season. But unusually it rained EVERY night (and briefly on two days) in my dry season February fortnight in the eastern Gulf and so a good flow was going over, as can be seen here…
This shot from above is of the smaller of 2 parallel drops into the big pool at the base of Khlong Chao falls

I didn’t get a shot from the immediate lower falls area on account the approach requires a fair bit of rock hopping. After surfing point-breaks most of my life I’m sick of going arse over turkey on wet rocks so I gave it the big miss. However about 100m up the main track from the lower access side-track are other short side-tracks which get you to the top of the falls. There are some nice pools up here to cool down in, although they are not particularly deep for good swimming like the lower one.

tools4fools was less lazy than me and got this great shot of one of the falls
I accessed the falls by turning my hire Honda up the (well sign-posted for a change) side road heading inland on the southern side of the main road bridge crossing the river. This passes those budget/flash packer joints mentioned before and ends about 600m from the falls. As said, the walking track is thru real nice rainforest.
I saw some people walking up from the bridge - it would take maybe 40minutes. Remember you can also hire long tails to go most of the way.

AO BANG BAO
I’d originally intended to stay at Ao Khlong Chao above, but when my speedboat from Ko Chang swept into the narrow but deep-set bay at Ao Bang Bao and I spotted the nifty looking traditional style huts of Siam Beach Kohkood Resort behind the rather excellent looking beach I though Whoa -This is the place for me! and bailed out at the rickety pier.
Siam Beach Resort's trad bungalows and nice beach look pretty sweet from the end of the pier.

Hur hur hur.... for the second time in 2 islands, all the huts in my chosen place were taken. But the nice manager put me in one of the big rooms in the family unit in “Siberia“. I call it Siberia because it was waaay over the southern side of the resort about 400m from the restaurant and 100m from the beach. It’s actually a block of 5 rooms built on piers over a small lagoon which looks pretty spiffy at higher tide levels, but they have taken no advantage of this - the balcony out back to take advantage of the lagoon view must have slipped the architect’s mind.
But this area is good news for families and bigger groups of friends. Most of the 5 rooms are about 10m by 4m, with either 4 or 5 beds, plenty of space for all those people’s gear and with big bathrooms. My room was slightly narrower at 3.5m and had only 2 beds - big soft ensemble jobs, ditto pillows. Shiny tiled floors but wooden walls not particularly soundproof. Quiet fan, lights a bit dim. Bedside table but otherwise storage on huge floor area. Huge tiled and concrete bathroom, basin, bidet gun, good water pressure. Towels, toilet paper, soap, comp water. No screens or mozzie net but not too hot at night despite closed windows. It was basically clean but looked to be not occupied for some time so needed a 3 minute sweep to clear dust etc. Pretty good value at 500b.

Mind you, the fan bungalows at the same price (they also has aircon bungalows at around 800) were real nice, have screens + mozzie net and most bungalows are front row close to the beach.
Fabulous wet-season shot from Bang Bao beach (image Ko Kood Resort)
The restaurant at Siam Beach Resort is the usual open-sided beachside job. Food was good to me, but then all Thai food is, prices seemed to be pretty normal and the service was quick, although English is not real strong away from the super busy manager. The Thai-Chinese owner is a bit brusque, but I have to say he’s a pretty good BBQ chef - every night I was there they put on a BBQ. I was a bit bucks-down and couldn’t afford the seafood, but for 130baht I had myself some excellent marinated pork+salad+huge potato-in-foil which goes down as my new best meal ever in Thailand.

A note which could be useful - Siam’s accounting skills are shakey, so pay your meals as you go instead of putting them on account. It took me ages to straighten out my bill on leaving.
Note there is a local guy who has set up a small restaurant on the inland side of the lagoon - he also had a couple of rooms. His place is accessed from the other side of the small bridge on Siam's access road.
There are 2 other bungalow resorts to the north of Siam on Bang Bao, The Beach Natural Resort and Ko Kood Resort & Spa. There was also a selection of huts along the southern headland just across the small river estaury the other side of Siam, but these looked to have been closed for some time.

Siam Resort claims to have the best beach on Kut and from what I saw when checking the other bays this is true mainly because there is still a strip of sand at highest tide.
Bang Bao beach at Siam looking north - see the introductory picture for looking south. The small entrance to the lagoon is just behind the camera.
At lower tide times it was even nicer of course, but all the other beaches I checked on the southern half of the west coast were pretty sweet at these times too.
I found swimming laps at lowest tide on Bang Bao no problem - it’s just a matter of going out a bit further.
By the way, the deep reasonably narrow bay is good shelter and was a popular overnight anchorage for a small number of yachts. One or two Thai fishing boats used it as a daytime anchorage before chugging off for some million-candlepower fishing each night - so don’t go completely naked on the beach Miss Sweden, the fishing guys deserve some sleep.
The long protective headlands make Bang Bao a good spot in the wet season according to Ko Kood Resort's website. (image Ko Kood Resort)

Actually the mix of travellers at Siam were interesting - only a few younger travellers, just one of those old-hand budget specialists in their 30s and 40s who were so widespread on nearby Mak, a couple of young families and quite a few mature-age first-time Thailand travellers apparently attracted by Guidebook tales of Kut’s relative quiet, good beaches and nice scenery. Well that’s what one nice Brit lady doing a Thai stopover from visiting her daughter in Perth told me. Ditto her friend whom she had met at Siam, except the friend had visited family in Bangkok.
There were no domestic Thai guests when I was there during the week, but the Siberia section I stayed in seemed set up more to their tastes (although the toilets weren’t squat).

THE OTHER BEACHES.

Plenty of other nice beaches on Kut, this is Ao Khlong Hin, one of the southern east coast beaches - image tools4fools
I hired the usual Honda (300b per day at Siam) to check the other beaches on the southern half of the western coast. It is about 5-6 km between Siam’s beach and the inlet at Khlong Chao to the north and there were two nice beaches along here, Ao Ngamkho and Ao Sai Dang, both of which looked good and had nice looking bungalow resorts. Actually that nice Brit lady said she stayed on Sai Dang in a resort more upmarket but only a little more expensive than Siam, but it had so few guests she shifted across to Siam for some interaction.

Going south of Siam are 3 further beaches, once again looking the equal to Siam at least when the tide wasn’t full, and with nice bungalow outfits that appeared to be in the flashpacker range (which is how I would qualify Siam, although I don’t think lower-midrangers would be disappointed in an aircon bungalow). I think I saw about 3 tourists total at these beaches.
You could feel a bit isolated down here, but all bungalows seemed to have motorcycles for hire and the roads although mainly dirt and stone were not too bad if you took it real easy on the more cut-up sections. Frankly, there are not too many attractions on the island away from your beach apart from the waterfall - I couldn’t see any specialists bars etc although I believe some of those places on the river at Khlong Khao put on karaoke weekends when the Thais are in “town”. Thais love karaoke, and as a group are as bad at it as any other nationality.

I did try to reach the south-east fishing village of Ao Yai for a look at the nearby Cambodian coast, but the road a few km in was so cut up on a steep downhill section I considered it past my limited riding skills and turned around. I’d rather rather swim than check the Cambodian coast and mountains anyway. Sorry I haven't any shots of the nice southern beaches, but my camera's batteries gave up the ghost.
I also rode up thru Ban Hin Dam, the only really decent sized settlement on the west side (maybe 2 dozen buildings) - when I passed thru the first time it was a ghost town, mid-day and no-one to be seen - coming back 10 minutes later half a dozen people were on the street. The road approaching Hin Dam is sealed, as apparently it is for the 15km across to the east coast fishing town of Ban Ao Salat, but I didn’t have time to go across there.

I’m a keen bicycle rider, but the nearest bicycle hire I saw was at a newish place (some sort of dive operator and ticket booking place from memory) about 400m north of Khlong Chao’s bridge on the main road and opposite that nice river-entrance midranger I showed in one of the pics above.
Seeing this is about 5 km from Bang Bao, it’s a bit of a walk up from Siam to hire one, but not very far from those nice accomm. places on the river. The bikes themselves looked in pretty good condition, a change from the usual Thai Island rent-a-wreck bicycles. What do you guys do to them??!! (sez tezza, who is always stacking pushies on crazy downhill kamikaze runs).
I saw a public songthaew once in lots of hours of walking and riding the roads and tracks, so I don’t think you should rely on this form of transport to get around.

One of the southern most beaches on the west coast - Ao Prao. (image davelliot)

GETTING THERE.
From the mainland, most people come in by speedboat on account of the distance - I think there are a few slow boats per week from Ban Dan Kao near Trat into the pier east of Hin Dam, but you are looking at maybe 3+ hours compared to around an hour+ on the speedboats. Most leave from Laem Ngop near Trat and call in at Ko Wai and Ko Mak.
One leaves from further down the Trat coast at Laem Sok which is connected to Trat by reasonably frequent songthaew service.

The Island Hopper Service from Ko Chang wasn’t running this year, but The Bang Bao Boat outfit run a similar service with both a slow boat and a speedboat, once again calling in at Wai and Mak.
I came down on the slow boat, on account there is some pretty nice island and south coast of Chang scenery to take in. This really only runs as far as Mak’s Ko Mak Resort pier. There they transfer you across to a resort on the opposite coast where the speedboat comes in - the ride is thru nice country and the wait at the other beach is about 60+ minutes which gives you time to have a look at Mak’s southern coast - the beach is quite a nice walk if the tide is away from full or near full, particularly to the left. The slow/fast boat combo cost me 700 including shuttle from my Chang accommodation - I think the speedboat all the way is 900. Try not to sit up in the bow on the speedboat - the ride can be brutal if the sea is choppy.
Other Chang based speedboats also do this run.
Waiting for the speedboat transfer to Kut from Ao Khao beach on Ko Mak

Note the slow boat starts from Bang Bao at 0830 and the chill factor of the slight breeze caused by the boat’s movement had girls in strappy-tops and others in t-shirts pulling out jackets or towels for warmth.

For getting to Laem Ngop from Bangkok and nearer locations, see the Ko Chang page.

Note that in low season most places close and there are few boat services to Kut. Don't rely on any of the above to be available save the slowboat between say mid April and November.

UPDATE MAY O8.
I just found a link which has info about at least one place on Kut open wet season 08 plus some good info on the limited wet season transport to the island -
http://www.kohkoodresort.in.th/during-the-rainseason.html

By the way, there are no banks or ATMs in the areas I visited. Siam Beach Resort had pay internet, no doubt quie a few other accommodation places are the same and Ban Hin Dam had a pay internet place.

Nice end shot from tools4fools' Ko Kut pix

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If you are visiting Kut, perhaps you will be interested in nearby:

KO WAI

KO MAK

KO CHANG

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NOTE - IF YOU HAVE EXTRA INFO ON KUT, PLEASE POST IT BELOW. IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, PLEASE POST THEM IN THE FORUM WHICH CAN BE ACCESSED FROM THE INDEX - I DON'T GET A CHANCE TO CHECK EACH THREAD EVERY DAY.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ko Chang updated

Last visited February 2012


Who says you can't find a nice, near deserted beach on Ko Chang any more? This is Long Beach in the far south-east, with only one very nice and funky budget priced bungalow operation.


Big Ko Chang (to differentiate it from little Ko Chang Andaman side and Ko Si Chang north of Pattaya) is a big (duh) mountainous island in the eastern Gulf not far from Cambodia. Relative closeness to Bangkok compared to the southern islands, a domestic airport at nearby Trat and direct flights from Russia into U-Tappao east of Pattaya mean it is becoming one of Thailand’s more popular island destinations. Too popular according to some.


90% of the island is National Park, but there is no rip-off 200b fee to access the tourist beach areas, nearly all of which are on the west coast.
Nearly all the tourist beaches are on the west coast. Secluded Long Beach is that small bite out of the peninsula above the T of Salak Phet at bottom right (image AsiaRooms.com)

Ko Chang from the south-west - showing places mentioned on this thread - click to enlarge. The mainland is top left. That's Ko Wai closest to the side bottom right. Details will be more clear if you click/expand. (Image from Google).

MAPS OF MAIN BEACH AREAS
showing accommodation, restaurants and more can be found on a sublink at the foot of the page.



THE BEACHES

North West Coast
WHITE SAND BEACH 
White Sand Beach (Hat Sai Khao) is the first beach after the mountain pass from the ferry and has always been the main tourist beach.

White Sand Beach looking south from half way down the mountain pass from the ferry. Actually you can mainly see the central and far south of the beach in this shot. The nicer northern part of the beach starting at KC Resort is patly seen at right of image and the even better section beyond Rocksand's little headland is out of frame well to the right.
Critics claim the sand is more yellow-brown than white and gets a bit skinny in the far south - that the main beachfront now has only a few traditional bungalows left, mostly tarted up versions with aircon at pretty ridiculous prices. More common are new concrete structures in the boutique hotel style such as Cookies which has also quite a big beachfront pool. My old favourite, KC has built a huge beachfront concrete structure which would equal most Phuket hotels and has a slightly smaller similar section at the beginning of the mountain road.
But I still like White Sand Beach. Many people are unaware that there is absolute beachfront budget accommodation up in the northern RockSand precinct, plenty of less expensive rooms in the main street area and that the latter has evolved into a pretty complete service center in recent years.

Oblique Google Earth image of the White Sand area. I've divided it into 4 sections as detailed below. The actual sand strip is 1800m long. The north coast is at top of image and the steep mountain road from the ferries which land there to the beach can be clearly seen. These days the shopping/restaurant/accommodation strip extends along the road for some distance south of where the beach ends - be aware it is possible to book a resort some distance from the sand. Details may be more clearly seen if you click-expand image.

Far north White Sand Beach
Many visitors to this area are unaware of this rather superior section of the beach. From central White Sand they look north, see Rock Sand's headland 500m away and think the beach ends there. They need to push on past Rock Sand to get to the area in the shot below.
This is shot from as far north as you can get on the beach. White Sand Resort's section of beach from the far northern end - it extends right down to the very distant beachside structure far far right of pic (more clearly seen if you click-expand image) which is RockSand's waterfront restaurant - the main (central and northern) part of White Sand Beach starts past that structure. Bungalows in shot are those north of White Sand Resort's main restaurant - other WSR bungalows extend right down to very near RockSand. There is another White Sand Resort restaurant just out of frame to the left.


Some of White Sand Resort's cheaper bungalows - trad style but aircon.


Southern most White Sand Resort bungalows just north of the Rock Sand precinct. This is a high season shot, but the beach aint exactly crowded.

White Sand Resort for most of my visits had pretty good value prices for a flashpacker place. However in 2012 tariffs seemed less good value although the restaurant prices and food were still pretty reasonable. Thing is, the resort seems to be pushing into the lower midrange - although there was no pool in 2012. White Sand's website will give current situation and accommodation costs.
No problems accessing with your heavy bags on arrival - the guy there told me you ring them from the main street and they will send a shuttle for you. This accesses the resort via a steep track pretty close to the top of the mountain pass on the way into White Sand Beach.

Far north White Sand Beach - for scale it is 700m from the far north of the beach to Rock Sand at bottom.

North White Sand Beach
THE ROCKSAND PRECINCT
I consider Rock Sand's headland the division between Far North WSB and North WSB.
All those old-time knockers who say White Sand has developed out of reach of budget travelers aint done their research. They can still get a high season bungalow overlooking the beach for geniune budget prices in this area - and lower priced ones a row back.

This is Rocksand 2012. There is a '98 shot lower down this page for comparison.
The restaurant and bar is now confined to the lower deck and this deck has been extended each side.
The top deck has been filled in to make 6 fan outside-bathroom rooms, the front 3 with wonderful seaview balconies. That's our seaview room top right with the washing.
Behind the deck at right is a 2-storey extension with another 6 rooms - cramped Seaview fan rooms on the bottom, nicer bigger Seaview aircon TV rooms on top. In the same position to the left is the cookhouse.
There is another block out of frame to the left which you can see in a shot below.
At anything above quarter-tide, people moving from the main beach to the northern section of White Sand (to the left) are forced to climb up through the bar/restaurant terrace, which is great for business - and for guests to check the passing parade.

 Back in ‘98 I stayed here in a 50 baht bungalow which was basically a lean-to against the steep cliff-side. By 2008 okay backpacker style fan bungalows featured, and at 500 baht high season for the latter were pretty good value for places within meters of the sea on Chang‘s most popular beach (and at the adjacent to Rocksand north end, one of its better sections of beach). There were now more expensive rooms and some of the elevated beachfront ones are as close as you can get to the water on White Sand Beach. Sunsets from the bar-restaurant are pretty awesome.
MARCH 2010 - I stayed at Rocksand for part of my 2010 trip to Chang - I have a trip report with heaps of pix on this joint, the surrounding budget travellers' precinct and White Sand in general on the second half of this page - old timers might like the half dozen shots of White Sand Beach last century in the Nostalgia Tripping part.

The deck of RockSand's bar-restaurant - the nicer, wider, less visited section of White Sand Beach opens up between here and the headland in the background. Note the railing above the blue roof - this is part of the balcony of the spacious outside-bathroom beachfront rooms. I had one at 700baht in March 2010 - take a running jump here and land in the water.

This is a shot of RockSand taken on my first Chang visit last century - shot from the beach in front of where Independent Bo is now located. Bo's site was just steep rock and higher rainforest then. RockSand has developed a bit too.

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BREAKING NEWS OCT 2010 - a mudslide hit the RockSand precinct during a period of very heavy rain. This good report was posted on the excellent http://iamkohchang.com/
The ‘Great Landslide of Koh Chang’™ occurred early morning on 11 October. One woman died, her husband was trapped for a few hours and later airlifted to hospital by helicopter. A small budget hut resort, where the couple worked, called ‘Little Chang’ was partially destroyed as were eight bungalows from Independent Bo’s, which lies adjacent. Various businesses on White Sand beach suffered damage from the run off of mud and water that came down the main road from the hill where, in addition to the main landslide, there were also numerous smaller ones. The 7-eleven had a window broken and anyone wanting their fix of pricey tourist food by the beach at 15 Palms will have to head elsewhere until the mud is cleared out of it.
Earlier newpaper reports sais RockSand itself was hit, but apparently this is not the case. Thing is, if you are visiting high season 2010-11 it might pay to see what is open in that area.
This is a Feb 2012 shot showing the damage at Little Chang still not repaired. btw land-slips are always a problem in steep slope areas wet season but I would't hesitate to stay in this precinct dry season.
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A small point - water depth at low tide is a bit of a problem for swimmers at the othersouthern end of White Sand Beach and gets progressively better as you head north. By the time you approach Rocksand there is no problem.

A larger point - a problem in all areas of White Sand and at other west coast beaches during and after storms in wet season is big surf - lots of visitors have drowned due to rip currents. If you are going to visit in wet season it may be an idea to check my How Not to Drown page. In dry season the offshore winds see dead flat conditions or ankle-tickler wavelets only.

MARCH 2010 - it's great to see these rip warning signs are now posted in about a dozen places along the beach. That image on the left is identical to the one on my HOW NOT TO DROWN page - looks like Ally sent it to them too ;-)


Area immediately to the north of Rocksand - the high building is part of Rocksand with the Sunset Cocktail Bar lowest (not operating when we visited, in what was virtually shoulder season), a big Luxury Beach Room above and latest owner Joost's pad on top.
Note the elevated walkway to this building's left, for high tide access further north.
The high building at the walkway's left is the excellent Mayalamean with very inexpensive and good food and the cheapest beer and massages we found all trip. Their elevated restaurant is far left and there are budget beachfront rooms to its right (500b) - cheaper ones behind (300b when we visited). I have a phone number and restaurant shot on the main Chang page.
At the far left of shot is the first part of the very extensive White Sand Resort.
This is a nice shot to expand for detail - click (may depend on your browser).



Maya lamean's restaurant was a nice place to spend time - good food, cheapest beer all trip, efficient German lady manager. Lady Tezza found the associated massage cheapest all trip at 200b an hour, with better privacy than most places.


Immediately to the south of Rocksand (whose restaurant balcony end is at far left) - funky Independent Bo is immediately next, followed by Little Chang Bungalows, then Star Beach followed by Pen's Bungalows. All seemed to have March 2010 prices of 500 beachfront, 300 or so further back and plenty of vacancies at this time. Independent Bo has an elevated eating spot which we didn't visit, the others nice beachfront restaurants - pretty reasonable prices here too. The northern-most bungalows of flash new KC's start behind trees at far right of shot.


Another shot of the area to the south of Rock Sand. Independent Bo is the multi-coloured one. Note how low tide limits the beach in this area - forcing people heading to Far North White Sand Beach to walk thru Rock Sand Resort's restaurant. A lot of them stop for a drink or eats - nice place to spend time.


Pic from similar position but showing the full length of the beach from White Sand's balcony down to the far southern end. A good pic to click-expand. Beach tends to have plenty of sand at high tide down to central White Sand Beach and water not too shallow at low tide.

MORE INFORMATION AND LOTS PIX OF THE ROCKSAND-MAYA LAMEAN-INEPENDENT BO ETC PRECINCT - PLUS THE REST OF WHITE SAND BEACH CAN BE SEEN IN THE TRIP REPORT SECTION HERE.

KC GRANDE RESORT
Moving south of Pens Bungalows you reach the first of KC Resort's accommodation. KC still has some of its older traditional style bungalows, now tarted up with aircon, tv etc , but at 4200b (2010), no bargain baby. At that time similar bungalows at White Sand Resort in the far north of the beach were less than half.
March 2010 - KC's tarted up trad bungalows at 7000k discounted to 4200!!
Tell them they're dreaming! But no, quite good occupancy in late March. Bungalows have air, fridge, TV, jug etc but are not real spacious - you would pay 1200 to 1500 beachfront most islands.

KC Grande stretches a good 350m further south - past the traditional bungalows you reach this newer section. This beachfront pool aint too bad at all and there is a smaller version beachside further north. Top priced room was 25k when I asked (2010 gulp!) but it being almost shoulder season and with the red-shirts raising hell in Bangkok, they were prepared to give me a 40% discount (still gulp). Booking sites will give you current prices - I don't wanna think about them. BTW I stayed in a beachfront fan bungalow at KC back in 2008 at genuine budget prices. But times change and you can't stop progress - it''s kinda interesting to see how many old resorts have evolved.


KC Grande near its southern end. The only thing remaining from 2008 is those palm trees.


North White Sand Beach. The steep main road reaches beach level at the sweeping corner. For scale Google Earth's ruler tells me it is 480m from Rock Sand Resort at top to the access path bottom.


Central White Sand Beach
The best access to this section of the beach is via the paths alongside the main street 7 Eleven store close to where the coast road descends from the pass. This is immediately left of camera. The sand is pretty good along here unless there has been bad wet season storm wave erosion. The water gets a bit shallow lowest tide. More people than northern and far northern White Sand Beach. The main resort in this section is Cookies which these days has headed right into the mid-range unlike the backpacker place I stayed at in '98. Be careful booking - Cookies also has a section across the other side of the main street. Various resorts have candle-lit beach tables at night but not as concentrated as further south.


Far Southern White Sand Beach
This is shot from the very end of the beach looking north - that is the headland at the very distant northern-most White Sand Resort in the far background 1800m+ away. The very nice pool of Kacha resort is actually behind-right of camera with rocks out front (although I gained the impression that enough fine weather might deposit high tide sand out front - certainly there was some at lowest tide at time of visit). Kacha's beachside restaurant is just behind the first sign in shot. The beach is narrow along most of this 300m section, good shade, water pretty shallow low tide. This is the most crowded part of White Sand Beach day and night. I walked up here 4pm one afternoon and they already had heaps of beach mats/cushions/low tables with candles set up for the sand bars and lots of dining tables being put out. There tends to be a concentration of resorts and other beach businesses along this section.

As said up page - quite a few of White Sand Beach's newer resorts are actually even further south from this - those people closest in the shot were on my minivan from Samet and told me their place was a good 800m south on the main road. Nice pool, nice resort but a long walk to the beach. It might pay to check location maps on your booking sites.

Central and Southern White Sand Beach. For scale it is 650m from where the access path in the north hits the beach to beach end in the south.



Main Street White Sand Beach
Ah, main street White Sand Beach. More like main street Chaweng (Samui) these days with just about every type of shop and service you could want.
Hell, who’s complaining? In ‘98 if you ran out of money you had to catch a ferry back to Laem Ngop and go up to Trat to access a bank. There are at least three banks and sundry ATMs at White Sand now (plenty of ATMs on other parts of the island plus 2 bank money-exchange booths near the pier at Bang Bao in the far south-west.)
Several places on main street have newish looking upstairs aircon + hot water rooms  prices which could appeal to flashpacker types - not budget but not over the top (1000 in 2010).
There are also flashpacker and budget places to stay on the inland side of the main street in town - Tantawan near the internet cafĂ© on the main street just south of KC and the 7/11 is one - and travelfish talks about some cheapies on a road leading uphill from the main street a bit further south.

ANTI MOANING - the above improvement in the main street offerings is one of the counters I offer travel forum moaners who are always crying about how Ko Chang aint what it used to be. I also mention the points below:
Other improvements to the island:
- A pretty good paved road almost circles the island. Apparently they are now working on the last short section between Bang Bao and Salak Phet in the south (UPDATE 2012: don't hold yer breath - still not finished, actually no sign of work. If you check the mountainous landscape you will not wonder why. Really there is no call for this link apart from the tourism industry).
In ‘98 the west coast main road pavement turned to dirt not far south of White Sand then became total crap south of Kai Bae. It was also unpaved most of the very long length of the east coast (big Ko Chang is the second largest island in Thailand -it‘s about 30km from the arrival pier to the southern tips of each coast).
- Ferries: there is now a good ferry service from at least 3 piers on the Trat coast, including a constant shuttle of 4 or maybe more vehicle ferries from two piers. These have a big upstairs deck for other passengers, are a bit quicker than the older passenger ferries and their size keeps them running when big wet season storm stops the smaller passenger ferries. Your minibus, songthaew or whatever driver on arrival at the coast will work out which pier is best. Prices at the ferry in March 2010 were 100baht each way - less for a two way ticket. Note one travel agency where the minibuses from Ko Samet were dropping people on the mainland coast instead of at the piers was charging 150. No problem, a similar place 100m down the road was charging 80 (go figure) including the 3km transport to the Centerpoint pier.
- The songthaew service is now quite good the full length of the touristed west coast. Maybe a bit expensive.
MARCH APRIL 2010 - a plus is that fares are now posted on the songthaews. A minus was that drivers were insisting on the fine print towards the bottom about 12 persons - for instance the driver wanted 80 from the ferry pier to White Sand Beach even though there were 10 of us. Good math there - less than 20% too few passengers so we pay 60% more. We gave him the hint he was dreaming. Note that 12 passengers will have 2 riding on the rear platform.
If you want to access the less visited east coast there are regular sonthaews leaving from behind the KFC in Trat town and running right down to Salak Phet via the vehicle ferries for less than 100 total, which is lower than the passenger ferry fare alone.
- Inter island access is now great. If you want to move on to Kos Wai, Mak and Kut to the south there are several fast and slow island hopping boats leaving from Bang Bao. Last century I had to go back to Laem Ngop pier on the mainland for the Wai ferry, and then back again to Laem Gnop for the Mak ferry. Wai and Mak are not far apart and not far from the south coast of Chang, but a hell of a distance from Laem Ngop.

So who said more tourism can ruin a place? - in the above aspects, Chang is much more user friendly for all visitors, budget and upmarket.





Central West Coast Beaches
KLONG PRAO
Want something a bit more laid back than White Sand Beach but not too far from the ferry. Klong Prao starts less than 5km south of central White Sand and is a pretty nice beach.
Klong Prao is a long (3+km) gently curved beach split by a small river estuary mid-way (there are actually several other inlets but in low flow dry season they were either sealed or easily waded). This is the northern section of the beach shot from in front of Coconut Beach Resort, a place that has been recommended on the user forums. This indeed is a nice looking place, along with several similar joints in the first 400m or so. After this the north beach is largely unsettled except for a couple of good value budget restaurants until adjacent the estuary.

The central river estuary - this stream is actually fed by the popular-with-visitors Klong Prao waterfall - no great shakes in my opinion, as are most Thailand waterfalls. The river mouth has two nice looking midrangers/or better beachfront near each side, Ramayana and Panviman. Note the guy who runs the excellent iamkochang.com website operates BaanRimNam a short distance up the river. This joint has budget/flashpacker rooms and gets rave reviews on user sites.

My sort of place. The first half of the southern section of Klong Prao beach from the river is similar to the northern section sand-wise and has a not-too-closely settled collection of traditional places like this (KP Huts) and more expensive joints. These guys were paying 700 in late March 2010 - huge balcony, normal compact traveller living area behind.

The far southern section of Klong Prao beach gets pretty narrow and is crowded with a whole bunch of accommodation places of all standards. Not as attractive an area IMHO but with a nice holiday vibe.


Google Earth's Klong Prao. This is one long beach - we are talking 3500m from the north end place marker to same at south end. Beach looks pretty skinny mid-section but I have walked the full length. The river mouth was less than waist deep in dry season but may be a different proposition in wet season.


KAI BEA
Kai Bea begins only a km further south. But here's a confession. I haven't been right to the beach since '98. On several recent visits I motorcycled down side roads from the main coast road but resorts always seemed to be blocking beach access. I just don't seem to be able to pick which road ends up at the pier. Not that that may be much help - in '98 there was no beach in the pier area and not much beach anywhere else at higher tide levels. This may not have changed a lot - the Ko Chang Guide's map of Kai Bea shows pretty discontinuous sand.
Map shows central pier but this may be a thing of the past. Google Earth's image shows a new mini-harbour in the area. Looks like the developers have been real busy.


Google Earth image showing new central harbour area near Kaibae  Hut. The built area at the very top of image is the southern most part of adjacent Klong Prao showing just how close the two areas are. For scale it is 1600m from the "beach end north" place marker to "beach end south?" I've put a question mark there because it's kinda difficult to know where the actual "beach" ends - zooming in on Google Earth shows a discontinuous narrow (maybe non-existent away from lower tide levels) strip of sand past here all the way to isolated Sea View Resort 500m south which gives its address as Kai Bea.


Central mini harbour area. When I called in in '98 the coast was relatively straight and the old pier used to go out just seaward of Kaibae Hut from memory - the pier had a real neat budget restaurant on the end. 
Seems like a whole lot of earth moving has been going on. Better mooring facilities are no surprise - Kaibea Hut these days is big time in the day trip industry - has a fleet of speedboats which make trips south to Ko Wai, Mak and Kut. Very popular with Russian package tourists.

BTW - don't let the relative lack of sand put you off Kai Bea. Bai Lin further south has way less sand and I think it is a great holiday location. At the same time, people who like lotsa sand should maybe thinking of far north or central-northWhite Sand Beach , Klong Prao just to Kai Bea's north, Lonely Beach to the south or (if they don't mind more time spent getting there) Long Beach in the south-west.
Anyway I feel a bit ashamed I have no more up to date info on Kai Bea - have to get back to Chang to check it out. Trouble is Chang is a hell of a way from Australia - and from Phuket where my elcheapo JetStar flights come in.

This is what I remember of the typical scene at Kai Bea (image http://www.trekearth.com/)....

....although this one looks way nicer 
(image http://www.travelpod.com/resort/Garden_Resort_Kai_Bae-Ko_Chang.html)


Lower West Coast Beaches
This section is a bit confused. Lonely Beach is the next south of Kai Bae with Bai Lan a very short distance further, but I do them in reverse order.

In 2008 I was pretty keen to stay in the south of the west coast, an area I didn’t get to last century on account the road south of KaiBae got killer steep with treacherous ruts and holes, forcing me to turn my rent-a-wreck Cannondale around and pedal the 15 hot dusty kms back to White Sand.

BAI LAN
I’d heard LONELY BEACH was a cluster of hippie shacks back in the '90s, more but recent news said it had developed greatly and had a lot of noisy WOMPA WOMPA music into the early hours, so on my 2008 trip I passed thru and dived off the songthaew at BAI LAN a few kms further south.
This area is actually a series of tiny bays with scattered backpacker/flashpacker places and at least one midranger. It is witten up as pretty laid back. In typical tezza style I walked in cold to Bai Lan Family Bungalows which got good reviews (it's gone now - see below). Ummm, they were booked out, but the lovely guy running the place could give me a nice bungalow with bathroom for 300b mid week. He suggested Orchid next door, but also suggested he negotiate otherwise they might overchanrge me at 400. Hell, I’d just come from a markedly inferior looking 600b bungalow on Samet - and Orchid even had a small pool. Ummm, Orchid was booked out too.
So I hauled my bag down the road a few hundred meters where I saw a sign for Bai Lan Huts, another place I’d heard about - the forums mentioned a restaurant on piers over the sea. I’m a sucker for that kind of corny touristy stuff, so I took the side road a few hundred meters to the shore and got me a bungalow.
At first this place was a bit polarising. The access road gave way to a sizable dirt parking area which because of overnight rain was pretty muddy and daggy (if you don't know what daggy means, Google it). Then the guy said the price was 500 for one night, 400 a longer stay, which was no great deal compared to the other two nearby places. There is no beach at central Bai Lan (there is sand to the north and south of the area - see shots down page) just stones - and when I arrived it was low tide making for a restaurant perched on piers over pretty ordinary looking stones, not water.
But hey, on the positive side, the bungalow area was heavily landscaped almost to the level of some of those real nice places in Bali, the fan bungalows themselves were super clean faux-rattan and thatched roofed jobs with lacquered timber highlights, funky brick and tile indoor-outdoor bathrooms with water pouring from bamboo pipes (they also had 600b aircon bungalows which seemed similar in style although with concrete walls), they supplied towels, toilet paper soap and shampoo which wasn't all that common for budget bungalows back then and the restaurant was super cool once the tide came up and water went under the piers. Food was pretty good and at normal budget bungalow prices plus they did their own baking which meant super thick slices of toast at brekka and even saw tezza order a pizza for dinner, something I’ve never done in Thailand. The owner, his young family and staff were pretty laid back.
So I warmed to the joint and decided to make it my base on Chang while I explored the rest of the island. ph 08 7028 0796 .... ph 039-619607 fax 039-61908 email jackflipper at hotmail.com

Although the bay view was fine, the stoney area under Bai Lan Hut's restaurant piers looks a bit daggy at low tide...

....but not too bad at all when the tide comes up a bit. Some kayaks were parked next to the sitting platforms. UPDATE FEB 2012 - the outer area in the above shot seemed greatly diminished when I called in on a later trip - maybe a wet season storm did some damage.

MARCH 2010 - I rented a mountain bike and called in at Bai Lan Hut. They now have these spiffy looking aircon seafront huts - check the roof lounging areas. 1200 baht which in 2010 terms was reasonable. My older fan bungalow was still 500. Nice new A-frame reception area too. Advertising live music in the restaurant in peak season.
UPDATE FEB 2012 - a few more of the above spiffy bungalows have gone in.

I also noticed an ATM opposite the Dusit at the south end of the small main road strip maybe 500m away.

BAI LAN BEACH RESORT - FEBRUARY 2012
I wanted a nice place to stay reasonably close to the Bang Bao pier and its ferries to Wai, Maak and Kood latest trip. Bai Lan Beach Resort did the trick pretty well. As a matter of interest this is a newer property where Bai Lan Family Bungalows mentioned above was located in 2008.

Bai Lan Beach Resort is a lower-midrange joint - has this lovely pool on the lower hillside back from the bay - most of the bungalows are arranged around this pool, but there are two rows of "beachfront" and "garden" bungalows close to the water.


This is our beachfont bungalow - actually bayfront is more accurate, the beach being to the left of shot and north of all the bungalows. Ours was the southen-most bungalow - and immediately on the other side of the dividing fence and creek was Bai Lan Hut mentioned above.
Bungalow had air, tv, hot water, spacious for 2 and their gear but a third single bed would be squeezy (lotsa family bungalows up around the pool).


This is the beach at the north end of Bai Lan which starts in front of our joint's restaurant. Reasonably nice sand, a bit rocky in the water. Water cleaner than a lot of parts of big Chang but not able to match Kos Wai, Maak and Kut. I checked the snorkelling - very oridinary. Kayaks free to guests. Some other resorts mid and far end of beach.

Beach view section of restaurant above. Food good, prices at budget bungalow levels (s/l Changs at 40/70 baht 2012), service very good. Side of pool can be seen mid-background right.

Bai Lan is developing a busy little service area on the coast road starting 5om south of Beach Resort's driveway. Bike hire, travel booking, general stores and some restaurants to keep resorts honest.

This is Bai Lan's other beach at the south end of the bay. The Dusit (now Mercure Hideaway) and White Beach are two places on this section.
The central 300m or rocky shore between the two beaches has some nice less expensive places - besides Bai Lan Hut we have Green Cottages and Bai Lan Bay Resort.

Central Bai Lan is only 1500m south of Lonely Beach's main street area. For scale the straight line distance between the Bai Lan Beach Resort and Mercure place markers is 500m


LONELY BEACH
The first place I checked both trips from Bai Lan was LONELY BEACH - you can walk to the beach along the main road in about 15 minutes.

This is an April 2010 shot of Lonely Beach. One of the better stretches of sand on the island - not too shallow most places low tide. Note to low season travellers - Lonely has similarly bad rep to White Sand Beach for drownings. But very benign conditions before the wet season westerlies hit, as you can see.
Siam Hut is the nearest backpacker-sytle joint to the beach - its funky rockside restaurant is abt 30m behind camera, similar in style to Treehouse's restaurant pictured down page. Siam Hut has dozens of trad style very non-flash budget bungalows - most of the front-rower rockside ones were aircon at 560 baht, the fans were 480 to 380. Pretty reasonable for 2010 Ko Chang. Check Google for latest prices.

2012 shot from budget Siam Hut's restaurant (front of which is foreground) - has a great position right at the southern end of the sand. Siam Hut has a big range of bungalows both on the inland side and rockside behind camera. Aircon 520, fan 380 Feb 2012, no inflation here. There are no other budget bungalows this close to the beach. +66 (0) 86 6097772

Note midrange Siam Beach Resort has some aircon backpacker style bungalows on the far headland, some with great views. SBR has a real swish beachfront pool too. I was real keen on these headland joints until local macca_t warned me of traffic noise. Yep, the closest is 5m from the super-steep main road, the most distant no more than 100m. Thanks macca.

Okay, Lonely Beach may not be a lonely hippie outpost any more, but it looked okay to me. The main street is some distance from the beach itself and is a bit like Hat Rin’s in the 90s, except it slopes downhill along the main road. Lots of new-age types hanging around with more traditional long term type travellers and plenty of shops, stalls, restaurants and services (incluidng ATMs by 2010) to cater for these types. There seemed to be a host of places to stay along the side tracks both inland and towards the water, largely backpacker and flashpacker in price with a few flasher options.

The start of Lonely Beach's town area in the north - I reached this in 7 minutes walking from south Bai Lan. However it is another 10 minutes or more before you hit the beach. Best take the second road left near the foot of the hill and follow the signs. This side road has a similar range of businesses to the above.
If coming from the mainland ferry let your driver know your resort - if you hop out at the beach it is a hell of a long slog up here with bags. I noticed the songthaew drivers seemed much more obliging in 2012 in taking people to their resort - even made some quite big detours up side roads in other parts of the island. Note too a lot of accommodation directories give location as Lonely Beach/Bai Lan - a couple of guys in my 2012 shuttle thought their Green Cottages was in Lonely Beach - fortunately the driver knew its location at Bai Lan 2km away.

A Lonely Beach institution, the original Tree House still existed on my first pass thru in 2008 and I thought their huts and outside stone shower-toilet blocks looked pretty funky. One thing I didn’t realise was that Tree House was not on the beach but had a similar rock frontage to Bai Lan Hut - however the beach was only about 3 minutes stroll away and is one of the better patches of sand on the island.

UPDATE late Sept08 - according to macca_t, a local: "The original Treehouse will be closed within a month for accommodation. They have already started to demolish some bungalows. The bar will remain as it is."


Yep, macca was right. This is an April 2010 shot of Treehouse's restaurant. When the tide comes up you would have water under the piers. No bungalows left. But a sign advertised 10am transport around to the New Treehouse at Long Beach (see shots down page) for a 100baht - excellent value for a 70km trip. This would be a good combo - a few nights partying at Lonely Beach followed by a stay on laid back Long Beach.
All this New Treehouse stuff is a bit confusing - the people who originally ran the above Treehouse Lonely Beach (at least the bungalow part) were for several years operating Treehouse Ko Phangan at Thong Reng. But this too closed down in about 2011 - the landlord had sold out to developers, and last time I visited Phangan (2013) there had been no progress.

Whoa, it's gone! By February 2012 the Tree House restaurant had gone. Land including old bungalow site behind not yet developed - probably earmarked for some big upmarket resort.

Talking of which, this nice looking place, Sea Horizon behind the northern end of the beach, was new to me in 2012.


Lots of budget travelers stay up the hill in the main street area or nearby. This a fair way from the beach - the easiest route is to follow the path past the old Treehouse restaurant site to Siam Hut. The main road lacks footpaths and is busy with traffic. For scale - the beach is 700m long.


BANG BAO
Warning - no real beach at Bang Bao. However it is a location many Chang travelers visit on account of the pier, and additionally it has no shortage of places to stay.

At the south of the west coast is the pier town of BANG BAO, maybe 5 or 6 kms south of Lonely Beach/Bai Lan on quite a sheltered bay. There were a couple of very classy looking resorts in this 5 or 6 km including the Dusit Princess and Nisa Cabana.
The Bang Bao pier area gets real busy each morning as dive boats, snorkelling trips and island hopping ferries and speedboats depart. The pier itself is real nice, particularly after dark, because the first 300 meters has a good array of non-tacky shops plus quite a few seafood and other restaurants and is well lit and closed off to traffic. There are also rooms on the pier plus a walkway which leads to a midrange bungalows-on stilts-outfit in the bay called Bang Bao Sea Hut - this place has attracted some good posts. A short distance weat of the pier area on the shores of the bay is a budget/flashpacker place Remark Puzi. Nice looking bungalows and grounds but the beach here is pretty dire.


Bang Bao pier gets pretty busy each morning with people heading for daytrips, diving and other islands. This is shot from the Bang Bao slowboat to Ko Mak - the section of shops and restaurants ends in the background. Note there is accommodation right on the pier, a lot associated with dive outfits.
On the main road into town, a few hundred meters before the crossroads leading down to the nearby pier was a place advertising 300baht bungalows, tantric courses and arty stuff. Could be just the spot for you new-agers if Lonely Beach is booked out. I think it is called Koh Chang Hill.
Aboutt 400 m west of the pier are a few other places including the upmarket Nivana Resort. But the one in this area which has caught my eye and has received good reports on the travel forums is the budget Cliff Cottage which spreads across to the ocean side.
Nicely positioned traditional style bungalows of Bang Bao Cliff Cottage. The restaurant is seaside too. Place gets pretty hot user reviews on Trip Advisor.

There are several other budget and midrange places in the area - check the maps towards the end of this page.

The wet season beaches I've labelled at bottom would be nicely sheltered from the south westerly monsoon - there are 4 different budget accommodation places in this area. For scale - it is 1100m from the Ko Chang Hill place marker to that of Nirvana.


If you fancy a bungalow perched above the water on stilts, Google Sea Hut. Closer and on on the pier are less expensive rooms.


The South Coast Beaches
Approaching Bang Bao on the boats from Whai, Mak or Kut you notice there are some nice looking strips of sand on the southern coast of Chang, quite a few not too far from Bang Bao itself. So in April 2010 I decided to check this area out, even stay a few nights. The west coast road actually continues past the turnoff to the Bang Bao pier and sweeps to the left where it runs close to the foreshore of the south coast for less than 2km, where it hits the corner of the beach below.
Road reaches the beach at far background - I believe it is called Kong Koi aka Tropical Beach. This seemed to be a popular spot for daytripping motorcycle people to spend a few hours - uncrowded in this 9am shot but reasonably busy later with sunbathers on scattered beach lounges and people eating and drinking at the two budget beach bars and restaurants in this area. Sea to distant walker's right pretty good for swimming although water is not as clear here as some other Chang areas. Nice views of the islands south of Chang. There are two budget bungalow operations including KK Beach Hut. It takes about 15 minutes to walk to the busy Bang Bao pier area.

Behind camera the beach extends in a shallow S curve another 1km or so to Tropical Beach Resort,  a pretty nice looking midrange joint - although the water there is very shallow low tide


Past Tropical is the entrance to Grand Lagoona's river and lagoon and then another 400 m or so of pretty fine beach with okay swimming - see shot above.
Ko Chang Grand Lagoona is a huge complex just over 2km along the beach from Bang Bao pier in the background. Way less than a quarter of this huge resort is in the shot, showing some of the accommodation around the lagoon. That is a small ocean liner-style floating hotel in the foreground (image from Lagoona's brochure).
Access is by continuing along the coastal road which turns inland from the corner of the beach two shots up, climbs a few killer hills, passes access to Tropical Beach Resort and finally turns into a private road the last few hundred meters. Non-guests must pay 150b for access - which gives them free bicycles to explore the resort, free kayaks, a pretty nice beach, a cool floating swimming pool, a good 10 minute jungle walking track to an underwhelming waterfall and reasonably priced 90b big Changs (April 2010) in the otherwise slightly expensive beach restaurant/bar. Plus you can walk up to the 7th floor observation deck on the liner which gives a good outlook. I don't think all this is worth 150, but several visitors did when I stayed.
This is one of Grand Lagoona's boat chalets. Lady Tezza and I were lucky enough to get a free upgrade from the floating hotel to a boat similar to these - this was actually shot from the bow of our boat as we enjoyed a late-arvo elcheapo Oz red from the well travelled cardboard box.
All for 1200b including brekka!! Note rates seem to vary wildly from website to website - we found Sawadee.com undercut others markedly. I've done an entry in the Trip Report section for this place and the surrounding area with a whole lot more info and pix.




THE EAST COAST
(2008) So over to the non-touristy EAST COAST on my hire Honda.
In ‘98 my ferry from Ko Whai called in at a small pier on the south-east tip of Chang and picked up a Brit girl. She told me she had stayed at a wonderful beach nearby, LONG BEACH, which had one budget bungalow place. I determined then to check this beach out next trip to Chang. Long Beach is actually a westward facing beach on the eastern side of a big bay which takes a huge chunk out of the eastern half of Chang’s south coast (hey, how's that fer a sentence - check the map and it might be understandable). Being within the bay it is pretty sheltered by spectacularly high mountains which make up the eastern peninsula. A fairly good concrete road leaves the main east coast road (which runs across to the fishing village of Salak Phet on the upper west of the bay). This concrete road goes up over some real steep passes with some great bay and southern-islands viewpoints for about 6 km where it peters out to a dirt track the final 2-3 km into Long Beach - it actually continues down to that pier. This was in fair conditions and had a narrow concrete strip for bikes on the steepest slopes, but would maybe not be a place for amateur riders in wet season.

The newer version of Tree House is on Long Beach and is very similar in style to the original at Lonely Beach. Besides the seafront bungalows there were some fabulous huts on stilts level with the tree tops, plus an elevated restaurant with great views and a slightly lower bar area. Bungalow prices were 180 to 280 (with those outside funky stone bathrooms) and restaurant prices seemed pretty normal. Note the complex is built over the rocks at the immediate northern end of the beach so the bungalows are not technically by the sand. Pretty close though.
Tree House was the only operation on Long Beach, so maybe they took over and developed the place the Brit girl stayed at. There was a sign advertising meals and bungalows at some point further south on the coast, but I gave up the walk after 15 minutes - I’d rather have a swim.


Houses in the trees at Long Beach. I'm a sucker for places like this.

Two travellers arrived by public songthaew when I was leaving the car park - I’m not sure if they’d come around from the where the Trat-Salak Phet songthaews terminate or had come all the way from the northern Chang ferry piers on a charter. That wouldn’t be cheap.



Repeat of the opening shot showing Long Beach from Tree House Resort. Seeing Long Beach is actually on the eastward facing coast of Salek Pet Bay which takes a chunk out of the eatern most south coast of Chang, many people claim it is a SOUTH coast beach, not a west coast beach. Probably right.


Lonely Beach 2nd up lower right. Image from The Ko Chang Guide.

2013
Apparently Tree House Long Beach has been closed for a while. I heard a wet season storm washed away the access road more than a year back - maybe this hastened its demise. Places at Long Beach don't have a record of longevity. The original bungalow joint probably stayed in by the Brit girl in '98 was called Long Beach Bungalows, but that closed down before Tree House started up. Another joint called Zion appeared after Tree House but it has sold its land to developers. Separately a fairly flash resort was being built more than a year ago according to I Am KoChang website. I'll update when I know more.

The rest of the east coast has a few places to stay - there were several side roads on that concrete road leading down to places which I believe are flash-packer/midrange on the bay (google for Ploy Talay) plus a few similar joints that looked orientated towards Thai tourists on the long main road up the east coast.
SALAK PHET also has a few places to stay near the pier, but is a typical Thai fishing village, far less attractive than Bang Bao.
I also noticed on my return from Ko Wai a week later that the south-east corner pier where the Brit girl had been waiting all those years ago had some pretty neat midrane looking rooms being built on it. There is no beach here but I noticed a small beach a short distance away on the bay side. Long Beach would be 3 or 4 km away. I reckon it would be pretty hard to get a more away from it nice location on Chang than this one.

Okay, I didn’t worry about trekking in the national park or checking the waterfalls. I did the latter last century and found them underwhelming - and I didn’t have to pay a 200baht entrance fee then. You can also do elephant rides, but frankly that to me is even less whelming. But hell, whatever floats your boat.


KAYAKING - TREKKING - KC Farang gave this great info: "On the west coast of Koh Chang the best kayaking is from Klong Prao or Kai Bae beaches - paddle out to the small islands offshore and you get some very nice views. best not to do this in the rainy season unless you know what you are doing as the sea can be choppy.
Head over to Salakkok to do some mangrove kayaking. Get your kayak from Salakok Kayak Station and paddle through the canals in the mangrove forest out into the bay. Very nice. This place is run by members of the local community and won an award for Ecotourism at the 2007 TAT Awards. Salakohet Bay is also a good place to rent a kayak. Can paddle though the fishing village and into the bay then head to Koh Sai Khao where there's an old unused resort and a very nice little beach. Can also get to Koh Laoya if you are happy to paddle further.
If you want to see islands that virtually no tourists see then go to Hat Yuthanavy at the far south east of Koh Chang. Rent a kayak for 250 baht/day from Sea Breeze restaurant and paddle to Koh Ngam and then onto and around Koh Mai See Yai - a large isladn where the only inhabitants are sea gypsies. This will take half a day - 15-16km of paddling. Could also easily paddle to Laoya from here too.
Trekking - take a walk up Khao Jom - the peak that overlooks White Sand Beach. I did this last week, saw some Hornbills too, photos etc on iamkohchang.com "


A WORD ABOUT WET SEASON.
The Trat-Chang area is one of the wettest in Thailand particularly in June July August and September which average something like 900mm each month. To put this into perspective, I think London averages 400mm each year. Despite this I have seen a number of posts mentioning ok visits to Chang in wet season, so it looks like you can still rely on some good sunshine between rain showers, but when it rains it REALLY rains. I also notice statistically that the rainy season seems to end a bit earlier here than in the Andaman - November averages are considerably lower. My first visit was in November and saw no rain over 3 weeks in the area.
Once again heed the warning about often dangerous surf on Chang’s westward facing beaches (nearly all the good ones) in wet season. Note that neat little beach across from the pier on Bang Bao Bay would be nicely sheltered then.


GETTING TO CHANG.
Buses leave Bangkok’s eastern bus terminal (Ekamai) to Trat just about hourly for a 5 hour trip. Even better for some visitors are less frequent buses leaving Bangkok’s northern Mo Chit bus terminal for a similar length journey to Trat. Mo Chit is not too far from the old airport for many domestic flight arrivals.
UPDATE 2010 - there is now a direct VIP bus from the newer international Suvarnabhumi on to Chang which leaves the airport at 7.30 am and returns from Chang 1.30 pm - ring Bangkok 1.30 66 8 3794 2122 - Chang 66 8 1660 5926. The advertisement I saw suggests this goes right on to Chang via the vehicle ferries, but at 5 hours it mustn't muck around.
There are also several buses per day from Suvarnabhumi's transport center to Trat and the coastal car-ferry piers.
KO MAK com has an excellent Getting There section which shows buses from Bangkok's Ecamai and from Mochit and the Suvarnabhumi Airport to Trat for songthaews to the piers.
Plus flights into Trat. It seems particularly good because the guy who runs the site tends to keep timetables etc up to date over time.

From Trat bus station there are regular songthaews down to Laem Ngop’s pier and the Thammanchat and Centre Point car ferry piers (which now seem to be the most popular people ferries too) via downtown Trat. This is maybe 35 minutes and was 50-60 baht in April 2010. The first erry is 6am (Centre Point) and the last 7pm. If you arrive late, Trat is a pretty nice town to stay in.

macca-t added this useful info if busing into Trat: When you travel to Trat let them know you're going to Koh Chang.
They will drop you off at a taxi / songtaew point approx 15 km from Trat.
The taxi goes direct to the Thamochat ferry. This ferry runs every 1/2 hour approx as compared to a very unpredictable Laem Ngop to Centre point ferry.
The bus is 241 baht and the taxi 60 baht. The ferry 100 baht return . The last ferry is 7pm.

Top deck of the car ferry. This gets reasonably crowded once all cars are aboard and their passengers come up here. Trip takes maybe 30-40 minutes - very relaxing. Songthaews and other tranport waiting both ends.

There are also privately run coaches and minibuses leaving KSR and dropping off at the piers. These have the advantage of avoiding the hassle of getting across Bangkok to Ekamai, but tales of theft from luggage are not unknown on big buses operated by KSR travel firms. And 5 hours+ is a long time if it is a minibus.
Most of the minibuses drop at travel agents near the piers but this outfit runs right through onto Chang via the vehicle feries.

By the way, I found a great way of getting to Bangkok's Ekamai from the KSR precinct was by catching one of those big fast public water taxis from pier 13 to pier 0 (Central) at Saphin Thaksin Bridge, walking the well signposted 100m to the SkyTrain station and going thru to the Ekamai stop which is 50m from the bus station. You need to change lines at Siam Square (Central) - walk up the escalators. Total cost 55 baht - time probably quicker than an expensive taxi during daytime. And the river trip is wonderful viewing-wise. Note the last water taxi is about 1930.

Car with driver transfer from Bangkok Airport and Bangkok downtown (also vans for large groups).

Just a word of caution if you are leaving the Trat area for Bangkok by big bus - Give Superat Tour the big miss - this outfit cancelled its direct bus to Mo Chit via Suvaranabhumi airport and loaded the unsuspecting passengers onto an Ekamai bound bus - dumping them on Sukhumvit and responding to complaints with those short shakes of the head and flicks of the hand we see so often in this type of stunt. Even for Ekamai passengers the service was a bummer because the Sukhumvit stop was about 500m past the bus station meaning a hot haul back to the SkyTrain with luggage.
Suparat is the outfit with the office in town where all the pier to bus-station songthaews stop first. Stay on to the bus station, but still take care - Suparat has a counter there too and that’s where its buses depart.

If you are coming to Chang from Ban Phe (the pier for Samet) or Pattaya there are regular minibuses to to the piers or travel agencies near the piers. You can also come by big coach but the route for most is not direct and you need to change buses. The 3-4 hour minibus trip could turn into a half- day saga by bigger coach depending on connection delays. Captain Haddock gave more detail from Pattaya:
There's tourist minibuses, but they are always exhorbitantly priced in Pattaya travel agents as well, at least 500 and sometimes as much as 800 baht. Coming the other way, from Trat TO Pattaya, they're much cheaper, only 350 baht as of last year (prices may have increased). There's two direct buses a day to Trat at around 6am and 12 noon, but they don't stop at the Pattaya bus station but on Sukhumvit Road adjacent to it. You have to flag them down. It's easy to grab a Rayong (the place name is painted in English on the side) bus, change there for Chantaburi and then change again for Trat and then songthaew to the ferry.
There is no ferry from Samet or Pattaya.

You can fly into Trat on Bangkok Air, which then runs a minibus from the airport to your island accommodation via the vehicle ferries for 250 baht.
I think the Russian package tourists flying into U-Tappao are poured into big tourist coaches in a cloud of vodka fumes and thunder across to Laem Ngop.

There are no cross-Gulf ferries to Samui and its neighbours, an oft-asked question on travel sites. The only way to avoid Bangkok if doing this trip may in future be to get Bangkok Air Trat to U-Tappao and then change to a Samui flight. Trouble is they were only thinking of introducing the former service last I heard.


MAPS OF MAIN BEACH AREAS showing accommodation, restaurants and more can be found at White Sands Thailand com.
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If you are visiting Chang, perhaps you might be interested in nearby:
KO WAI
KO MAK
KO KUT
-- and in calling in at KO SAMET on the way to/from Bangkok.
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If you see mistakes or have extra info please post it below. But if you have questions, please ask them on THE FORUM page which can be accessed via the Index - I don't get to check individual island pages regularly, but I try to check the Forum most days when not travelling.