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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A small point - water depth at low tide is a bit of a problem for swimmers at the other, southern 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.
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 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
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.
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 café 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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you are visiting Chang, perhaps you might be interested in nearby:
-- and in calling in at KO SAMET on the way to/from Bangkok
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.