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.

Much of this page was written after my second Chang visit in 2008. However I have added new information and shots from a later March/April 2010 trip and my latest late Feb 2012 where needed.

This is a pretty lengthy thread. For people wanting specific information on one particular area, WHITE SAND BEACH starts about 10% down the page, BAI LAN about 35%, LONELY BEACH 45%, BANG BAO 50%, KAI BAE (very limited) and KLONG PRAO 55%, THE SOUTH COAST 60%, LONG BEACH 65% and SALEK PET and the rest of the EAST COAST 75%. From about 80% there are sections on KAYAKING-TREKKING, the WET SEASON and GETTING TO CHANG


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.

I got back to big Ko Chang for the first time in 10 years in February 08. Back in ‘98 it was a pretty laid back island, just starting to attract more widespread budget traveller interest. However recent reports indicate it is doing a Samui and turning to crap, so I though I better get back and see for myself.
So is the place ruined? No way - I thought it is still an attractive destination for budget travellers and because of the development it now offers quite a lot for midrange and high end tourists too. Improvements in services have benefited all visitors.

WHITE SAND BEACH
Some of the harshest criticism has been levelled at White Sand Beach (Hat Sai Khao), the first beach after the mountain pass from the ferry, which has always been the main tourist focus.

White Sand Beach looking south from half way down the mountain pass from the ferry. That's KC Grande Resort's big new structure going in in the foreground. Cookies is the U shaped joint a bit further on - it has also expanded across the road. The nicer northern part of the beach starting beyond Rocksand's little headland is out of frame well to the right. Okay, the sand is more yellow-brown than white and gets a bit skinny in the far south - and 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 is building a huge beachfront concrete structure which would equal most Phuket hotels and has a completed slightly smaller section at the beginning of the mountain road.

UPDATE - late March 2010. KC Grande's new section (a small part is above) is finished. This beachfront pool aint too bad at all and there is a smaller version beachside further north - the resort must stretch 500m along the beach. Top priced room was 25k when I asked (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).

Further north on the beach, KC still has the above mentioned tarted trad bungalows, but at 2900b (2008), no bargain baby.
UPDATE March 2010 - KC's tarted up trad bungalows are still there - but 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.

If these new places are not your style and the trad's bungalows' 2900 (now 4200) too expensive for you midrange/flashpackers, push on to where the beach appears to end in the north at a short headland with a restaurant. Walk up through this restaurant and you can then access the way nicer northern section of White Sand Beach. I’m sure 80% of visitors never make it up to this area. Here the beach widens out so that there is plenty of sand even at full tide, something the more visited central and southern sections lack (although the beach widens there nicely as the tide drops), there are trees for shade in back of the beach and the last 400m+ is dominated by one outfit, White Sand Resort aka Sai Khao Beach Resort which has a big range of traditional style bungalows, all aircon, starting at 1100 and going thru to 1800 for places made KC’s 2900 jobs look poor value indeed. And hey, two 5 bed family bungalows and two 6 bedders for around 2500. The catch? Well it’s a bit of a hike to the beach bars and restaurants in the middle beach section and main street. Although WSR's own big beachfront restaurant had pretty good food when I ate there back in the old days. No problems accessing with your heavy bags on arrival - the guy 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.

Some of White Sand Resort's cheaper bungalows - trad style but aircon.
White Sand Resort's section of beach extends right down to the beachside structure far right of pic 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 the 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.


UPDATE APRIL 2010 - we were unhappy with the first room we got at Rocksand so we hiked the 400m up to White Sand Resort to see what they had to offer. Beachfront 2 person bungalows were 1700 and they would not discount despite looking to have 40% occupancy. Seemed a bit steep without breakfast, so we changed to a better (but cheaper!) Rocksand room. But we ate several meals at White Sand - its restaurant is considerably cheaper than Rocksand and priced pretty normal for budget/flashpacker resorts.

Okay, you budget travellers say, WSR's prices are way too much fer us.
No problems. Go back to that headland walk-thru restaurant. This is owned by RockSand Bungalows. 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.
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.
Traveller type places immeditately south of RockSand. Independant Bo is the multi-coloured one.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 0 just steep rock and higher rainforest then. RockSand has developed a bit too.

UPDATE 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.

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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 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 problem in all areas 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.
UPDATE 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 ;-)

Success breeds imitation, and a whole enclave of clones have surrounded RockSand. There are another 4 or 5 joints built up the cliff-side. Independent Bo on the (southern) main beach side looked the funkiest. They all had vacancies in early Feb, something which surprised me. But then, the bad publicity has maybe caused traveller types to avoid White Sand altogether.
Next to Inedendent Bo is 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 too.

Immediately north of Rocksand is another appealing cheapie, Maya lamean, also with 500 and 300 bungalows and nice very inexpensive food in the elevated restaurant.
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.

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.

There are also cheap 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 7/11had some 350b rooms, and travelfish talks about some cheapies on a road leading uphill from the main street a bit further south.
I also noticed in the latest March 2010 trip that several places on main street had newish looking upstairs aircon + hot water rooms around the 1000 mark which could appeal to flashpacker types.

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.)

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 2010: 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 pavement turned to dirt not far south of White Sand then became total crap south of Kai Bae on the west coast. It was 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 - they were charging 50baht off the ferry to White Sand and I paid 100baht to Bai Lin not too far short of the south end. But come to think of it, that’s a pretty long trip.
UPDATE 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.


LOWER WEST COAST
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 and 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 - with a restaurant on piers over the sea. I’m a sucker for that kind of corny tourist 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 gives way to a sizable dirt parking area which because of overnight rain was pretty muddy and daggy. 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.
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 - maybe a wet season storm did some damage.
UPDATE 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. 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 in the south end of the small main road strip.

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 LanHut 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 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.



LONELY BEACH
The first place I checked 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. 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 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 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. 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 is 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 advertises 10am transport around to the New Treehouse at Long Beach (see shots below) 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 are now operating Treehouse Ko Phangan at Thong Reng. Check the pix and links about 70% down page here.

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.



BANG BAO

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 MID-WEST COAST
The rest of the west coast, the central area between White Sand Beach and KAI BEA including KLONG PRAO is a pretty big area and I didn’t have time to check it fully. The main road thru here indicates why so many people think Chang is past it because it is an unattractive continuous strip of shops, motorcycle joints, restaurants, massage places, petrol sellers, fruit stalls, hire joints, laundry services etc plus vacant blocks with mounds of used building materials and rubbish which the Thais never seem to clear away.
There’s a huge range of resorts mostly midrange and better down the side roads towards the beaches. I cruised down one of these roads in KAI BEA and had trouble actually getting to the water because these joints’ grounds tend to dominate access. Note in ‘98 Kai Bae actually had no beach at high tide. I’m not sure if things have improved.
KLONG PRAO
In researching a second place to stay on my latest 2010 visit someone mentioned Coconut Beach Resort at Klong Prao as being an excellent value midranger on a nice section of beach. In the end we picked another area but because I didn't know much about Klong Prao I decided to spend a few hours checking it out.

Klong Prao is a long 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. This indeed was 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+ 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.

THE SOUTH COAST
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. 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 readers' left of walker 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 2km 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 below.
Ko Chang Grand Lagoona is a huge complex less than 4km 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.

UPDATE 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 about 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 slightly 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 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 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 - note the stunt I mentioned under ferries about 25% down this page. 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:
KO WAI
KO MAK
KO KUT
-- 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.

22 comments:

jason said...

hey, here is the site i was talking about where i made the extra cash......

this site ..

tezza said...

Oh, fogot to mention - I can't monitor each thread daily. I saw Jason's comments when I added the map.
If you have extra information on Chang, by all means post it here.
But if you have a question, please put it on the FORUM which you can access via the INDEX.
I try to check the FORUM daily except when travelling.

Cornbury said...

Hi tezza, I used to visit Koh Chang on a regulary basis when I was younger! It was my favourite Island. It's sad to see things have been changed but think the beached there are nice still. My friend has a place in the jungle call Jungle Way near Klong Son incase you want to check it out on your next visit. Check out their website www.jungleway.com

Cornbury said...

hi tezza, I used to visit Koh Chang on a regular basis, very sad to see things have changed. Still think beaches there are very attractive. My friend has a place in the jungle near Klong Son called Jungle Way, it is pretty cool incase you want to visit next time. Check out their website http://www.jungleway.com/

cynicjunkmail said...

Hi, I went to Ko Chang in 1996 and loved it but now can't remember which beach I stayed on. Would like some help.

We stayed in a huts on a beach, to get to our accommodation we got dropped off on the main road and then crossed a small river by row boat. It sounds like the island has changed a lot but I was hoping someone may have be able to identify any beaches that are in close proximity to rivers.

Appreciate anyones help.

tezza said...

Wow, cynic. The only place I can think of is maybe Khlong Phrao - if it was a only a few km past where the paved road ended back then, just south of White Sands Beach, that could be the one.
But a Chang specialist might best answer this. The guy who does IAMKOCHANG website lives on Chang - maybe you could email him. There is a sublink to the website about 70% down this page.
BTW, Khlong Phrao is more midrange-high end pales these days.

Ruth said...

Hello Tezza
Thank you so much for all what you write. I have read alot of it and now I want to ask you a question. I am going to Cambodia Feb 4 and will stay there a week or two. Then I want to stay 2 weeks in Thailand at some quiet, nice and cheap bungalows at or close to the beach, but also possible to go shopping, see people etc. My main issue in Thailand is to get alot of massage for my painful and stiff body. You have also written about the Koh Chang on the westcoast. If I fly to Bangkok from Cambodia, maybe it is as easy to go to Koh Chang on the westcoast? I want guietness, but I don't want to be stocked at a beach and in one restaurant :-)

Ruth said...

This I read on the net :-( abot Treehouse:

Things change.... so at the TreeHouse
After 11 amazing years with all of you finally the old TreeHouse on Lonely and Long Beach is under new management. Both places are still open but Pamela, the founder of the treehouse, is gone and will open a new place somewhere else in Thailand VERY soon. The new place will be in an amazing and beautiful location (naturally a white sand, palm-fringed, beach) and things will start again with the old vibe, quieter, more personal and more natural...

We can't wait to see you all again at the new location and we will give you more information as soon as everything is up to our standards and we are ready to open. If you would like to be in on this exciting new adventure then please leave your e-mail using the form below and we will send out e-mails with all the news.

To all of you a BIG thank you for the years of support you gave to the treehouse! We hope you understand that we just want to make these changes to make sure we can get back to the old. much loved, treehouse vibe!!!

For those people who are heading down to Koh Chang, for the old TreeHouse, we would like to mention that both places stll exist, but at the Lonely Beach location only the restaurant and bar is open, whilst on Long Beach the new management are ready and looking forward to you staying with them!!!

So, for now, we send you all our love, sunshine and a BIG smile!!! We can't wait to see you all soon, so please leave your e-mail and we will bring you up to date as SOON as we have news for you.

Brian said...

Has anyone heard any information about this "new" TreeHouse that Ruth refers to?

tezza said...

RUTH and BRIAN - sorry, didn't see your comments until recently.
The NEW TREEHOUSE is on Ko Phangan's east coast AT a lovely little bay called Thong Reng. I have some pix and contact info on the PHANGAN PART 2 page.

Dion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dion said...

I have just returned from Koh Chang and stayed at White Sands beach. It is still very laidback with only a few party places. I stayed at Cookies and it was superb and I will definitely go back if I return.

Cheryl said...

Went to Koh Chang on New Year's day and stayed at the Mangrove on Bailan Bay. Nice bungalows built into the hill, each with their own shower, designed so that the breeze flows through but very private, no aircon, but really comfortable. Service a bit too laid back, or staffing too thin. Bungalows have one double bed and cost 1800B. The restaurant is very limited and over-priced. The English manager said she preferred it when there were fewer guests. she was very friendly but not prone to good service. We were one of two tables at dinner, but had to walk up to the bar to pick up our drinks every time we wanted a refill. at 1800B I thought I might be able to order up some coffee and orange juice for breakfast (BTW not included in the room rate), but coffee was cold and no OJ. food on the menu overpriced and not very much selection.

tezza said...

Cheryl, the above would make a pretty good basis for a trip report in the new READERS' TRIP REPORT section (see main INDEX).
Could you contact me at lajolla22@hotmail.com?

Dion, maybe we could work something up from your trip too.

Ian said...

Hi Tezza

Can you change the name of our guesthouse. You've got Amber Sands Guest House rather than Baan Rim Nam.

Amber Sands Beach Resort is on the east of the island.

Thanks. Ian from iamkohchang.com

tezza said...

Wow Ian, just saw your comment - I don't check the individual island pages that often. Have made the change - bit slow, but tourist season is still a few weeks off.
How the hell did I get Amber Sands?

Reason I was on this page was I just added in the White Sand Beach section your comments re the land slip - put a link next to it.
Cheers.

Ana said...

Interesting... I was searching this info for my uncle. He will be happy for such a great info. Thanks for sharing...
Ana
Ferry Companies

anil said...

Hi Tezza,Thanks for your report it was very helpful,Kindly tell me where can i stay nearby at White sand beach, sea front hut for 700bhat to 1000baht
Thank you waiting for your reply

tezza said...

Just noticed your comment Anil. I don't scroll down on individual pages much.
Glad you enjoyed White Sands.

Academic said...

This is an excellent resource. I will definitely use your site when I plan my next trip to Thailand, thank you!

Luizze Oliveira said...

Ko Chang beaches are distributed in two parts and most of all tourist attraction places are available western side like Klong Prao Beach, White Sand Beach, Kai Bae Beach and so many other.

Grand Oca Maragogi Resort

Sbipk said...

Thank you nice article.
your next trip…Phuket is the best choice for you!!
I love here Surin Beach Hotel This hotel is very nice clean and the people are friendly. VERY nice hotel with helpful staff.
And I really love white sand, crystal clear waters at Surin Beach too.
Thank again.