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Koh Chang – The best island near Bangkok

I love the beach. I have been to almost all of the beautiful beaches in Thailand; Lipe Island, Similan, Tachai, Surin, Phuket, Samui, Koh Tao, etc.

All of them are located in the south of Thailand which is quite far away from Bangkok – at least 7 hours by bus plus ferry. But I have never been to beach near Bangkok, except Pattaya which I didn’t really want to go to.
When I got the chance to join a trip to Koh Chang (Chang Island) with 21-year-old German girl whom I had just met at a couch surfing event, I jumped in instantly. Not only the fact that I had a short time to travel but also I had heard that Koh Chang is super nice, pretty cheap, and close to Bangkok.

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After finishing the trip, this is my conclusion: If you get sick of seeing too old, western guys with young ladies in Pattaya, and feel that it is too crowded in Phuket, while Lipe Island is too far away, then I am sure you will love Koh Chang!
Koh Chang surprised me in a very good way. It has a huge, green forest, very nice beach, stunning hills where you can look out over the island, and the cost of living is low. Alright enough of an intro….Let’s go to Koh Chang!!!

The three best things about Koh Chang

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1. Pure nature & adventure!
Koh Chang is Thailand’s second largest island, and the biggest in Eastern Thailand, with approximately 5,000 permanent residents, it is number one on my list of islands with mountains and rain forests.

You can find a wide range of wildlife, including a good selection of birds, snakes, deer and a elephants (mostly in elephant farms). The island and the surrounding vicinity is a great place for snorkeling, diving and jungle hiking.
As a matter of fact Koh Chang is very big and hilly (that is why its name is Chang because Chang means elephant). You can rent a motorbike for 200baht per day or cheaper if you rent it for a longer period of time.

Then you can do an adventurous tour by yourself! Just ride and stop wherever you want to, relax on the beach, swim or snorkel, or climb the mountains. You can do all these things in just one day.

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2. Cheap Cheap Cheap !!!
Another of the best things about Koh Chang is that it is a hidden gem as Thai people consider it a bit far from Bangkok by bus, and don’t want to spend too much money for the flight.

Most of them end up in Samet Island which is about 3 hours from Bangkok. So there are not too many tourists there. Sometimes you might find only yourself amid the nature! Surprised? So how cheap is it if you want to stay there?
300 baht/night for accommodation with fan, own room and bathroom (can accommodate two people)
200 baht/day for motorbike rental (can share between two people)
100 baht/day for gasoline (can share between two people)
200 baht/day for basic food
100 baht/day for 2 big bottles of beer
(1 dollar = 32 baht. 04/24/2014)
If you just want to enjoy sunshine and nice beach without other activities like diving then $20 per day is more than enough.
3. Close to Bangkok and Angkor Wat
One of the reason that I went to Koh Chang is that it is close to Bangkok. So I could spend just two nights there and have a great time. If I was asked to join a trip to Koh Tao, I would need at least five days to enjoy the time there and to make it worth the cost of transportation.
The reason that my German friend went to Koh Chang is because she wanted to continue her journey to Cambodia and Angkor Wat is just a few hours away from Koh Chang.
Koh Chang is perfect for someone who wants to get away from the city to a nice beach just for a few days, or someone who wants to make a stop at the beach on their way from Bangkok to Cambodia.

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To go to Koh Chang: From Bangkok to Koh Chang

By bus and minivan – There are 4 options.
1. Bus fom Ekkamai (Eastern bus terminal) – Government 999 bus.
Contact number: 089-752-5732 , 090-356-1092
This option is the cheapest and fastest way to get to Koh Chang because the bus takes you to a spot near the ferry pier, then the free shuttle service will take you to the pier. You depart from Ekkamai bus terminal, which is linked with Ekkamai BTS (sky train). A one way ticket costs 275 baht and a return ticket costs 520 baht- open date to use.
The only disadvantage of this option is that there are only two buses leaving per day – 7.45am and 9.45am, and only one bus leaves from the ferry pier (Centerpoint Pier) back to Bangkok at 2pm. This service also stops at Suvannaphume airport about 30 minutes after it departs from Ekkamai.
Buses take from five to six hours to get to the Centerpoint Pier then the ferry is about 30 to 45 minutes. The cost of the ferry one way is 80 baht, and return is 140 baht (no expiring date). The first ferry leaves at 6.00am, and the last ferry leaves at 19.30pm.

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2. Private bus operators.

Cherdchai Tour
Contact number : 02-3912237 (Ekkamai), 02-9360199 (Mochit), 039-511062 (Trat)
The first one is Cherdchai Tour which you can take from both Ekkamai or Mochit (Northern Station). However, this bus will send you to the Trat bus terminal, and from there you must pay for a taxi to the pier.

The taxi price depends on the number of people who join. In my case, it was is 100baht each for 3 people, and took about 45 minutes from the bus terminal to the ferry pier (about 20km but the taxi stopped several times to take more passengers along the way).
Here is this operator time table (updated 24/04/2014):

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Tip: Everything in Thailand seems to be slower than in the Western world so be careful about your time management. On the way back to Bangkok , I met a couple from Germany who had a flight on the same day they departed Koh Chang.

They were in a real hurry as they couldn’t miss the bus or they would miss their flight. Firstly the ferry departed 10 minutes later than it was scheduled to, secondly the taxi stopped to pick up more customers, and there was a traffic, so it took about 45 minutes instead of 30 minutes, as they had planned for. They were totally panicked.
I told them to be calm and relax as I knew that the bus would depart late as well. When we finally arrived at the bus station, it turned out I was right. We still had to wait on the bus for about 10 minutes. Unfortunately on the way back, the bus broke down so we had to wait, then were moved to another bus and all together that took up about one hour.

Tanakawee
Contact number: 02-391-2331
Another private operator is Tanakawee. It takes the same route as Cherdchai Tour but will send you to another pier (Ao Tammachat). Call to check their schedule.
Tip: There are several bus stops at the airport if you want to go straight from the airport to Koh Chang. Look for the free white shuttle buses that will take you around the airport or ask any airport official where to go and they will be more than happy to help.
3. Bus from Khaosarn Road.
The famous Khaosarn road has transportation to Koh Chang as well. You can book through many travel agencies there but be careful because a lot of them will try to rip you off.

I heard from new friends I met on Koh Chang that they paid 700 baht per person for the bus plus ferry, while the local guide book says it should only cost 250 baht for this service. Choose and deal with the agency wisely, tell them that your Thai friend has told you what the real price is (I think it should not exceed 350 baht).

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4. Minivan from victory monument.
There is minivan service to Koh Chang that leaves from the Victory monument in the center of Bangkok. This service leaves every hour and cost 300 baht. It takes you to another pier, Thammachat, which is less busy and has fewer bike rental shops.
Another options…
From Pattaya and Samet island:
You can also take buses from Pattaya and Samet Island to Koh Chang. The daily service leaves Pattaya at 8am and picks up in Ban Pae (Samet Island pier) at 11am.

The journey takes two and a half to four hours respectively. The cost is 400 baht from Pattaya, and 300 baht from Ban Pae. This bus will take you to Leam Ngop, and the return bus departs form here at 1:00pm daily.
From Koh Chang to Cambodia:
You can easily go from Koh Chang to Koh Kong, Sihanuville, and Siem Reap (Angkor Wat) by bus.
Read more

By Plane:
The only airline that operates at Trat Airport is Bangkok Airways. There are three flights per day at 8.45am, 10.30am, and 17.05pm. The flight takes about one hour but the airport is located 17km away from the ferry to Koh Chang so this probably isn’t the easiest or cheapest option.

Transportation in Koh Chang:
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1. Shared Taxi
When you arrive Koh Chang, the first things you will see are the big, white shared taxis. It costs around 80 baht to go from the pier to White Sand Beach (Hat Sai Keaw), which is a beach quite close to the ferry. It cost about 100 baht to Lonely Beach (recommend) and other destinations depend on how far you want to go and how many people you share the taxi with.

You can find these shared taxis all over the island. It was not my favorite option but good for people who have never ridden a motorbike in Thailand before, and want safe travel.

2. Motorbike

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If you’re comfortable on a motorbike, Koh Chang can be full of fun and adventure.
This option is the best in my opinion. When we had just arrived, we discussed whether we should go to our accommodation by shared taxi first and then rent a motorbike later, or if we should rent one immediately.

I won and saved us 200 baht from the cost of a taxi. We rented a motorbike at the Centerpoint Pier and loved it. After we rented the motorbike we deposited our bags then went to explore the island, and look at the different accommodation options. This way, we saved a lot of money on transportation and accommodation.

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Tip: I have seen many Western tourists end up with bandages on their hands and legs as a result of motorbike riding. As you might know, our driving and riding style is totally different to the Western style so be careful if you do choose this means of transport.

Koh Chang is not a good place for someone who has just began riding. The steep hills and winding roads could cost you your life. I am not joking!
When selecting a bike, make sure you pick one that has a 200cc engine (or more) to guarantee that it will not stop on a hill.
Recommended: Joy & Jo 087-1381750, 082-0827987 (this one is at the pier)

3. Hitch Hike.

I have never hitchhiked as I have always chosen to drive myself around by motorbike, but I am sure that there would be people who would pick up hitchhikers. You should try going to and from specific points nearby your accommodation but not at the ferry pier.
4. Ferry

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Here, you can take a ferry to a number of the nice, quiet, nearby islands, such as Koh Mak, Koh Kood and Koh Wai. Grab a free travel guide book when you’re onboard and check the ferry timetable.

What to do in Koh Chang?

There are plenty of activities to do here. Scuba diving and fishing are the most popular activities but jungle trekking is a good one as well, and kayaking from Lonely Beach to a nearby island is not to be missed.
For this trip, I agreed to my German friend’s plan that we wouldn’t spend any extra money except for beer and gasoline. So here are our recommendations:

Explore the island by motorbike.

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If you look at the map, you will see that Koh Chang major roads on either side of the island. The nicer one is on the West. There are some nice beaches, such as White Sand Beach and Lonely beach. We heard from many people that Lonely Beach is the best one and after we went there we agreed with them.

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On the way to Lonely Beach, you will pass Kai Bae Lookout. This spot is a highlight that you should not miss. When the tide is low you can see a fantastic view of white sand, different shades of blue and green water, and small green islands. I took time to chill out for about half an hour. It was my favorite spot on the island.

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There are still a lot of things for you to explore in Koh Chang. It was a pity I only had a short amount of time to spend there.

Relax on the beach

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While riding around the island, you will see that the beach is just few minutes away from the road. You can ride all day and stop wherever you like. Some beaches have very few people on them and that is was why I really like this island.

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If you want to enjoy the sunset, the west side is the spot to watch it. I took this photo on my way back to the motorbike rental shop where I’d left my bag so it was taken in quite a hurry.

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Tip: We stayed in Klong Prao in a very cheap guesthouse but this didn’t stop us from enjoying a private beach and getting a free seat to drink our beer and watch the sun go down. If you want this experience, you can buy your own food and drinks from Tesco Lotus or 711 and sneak it through VJ Hotel and Spa Resort. Just park the motorbike outside and walk straight through.

After you get to the beachfront, walk to the right and you will see an abandoned restaurant, which has free seats you can use to seat on and enjoy your own alcohol. It cost about $3 for 2 big bottles of beer. So you can be drunk on the beach very cheap, huh?

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Mix swimming, hiking and rock climbing together!

After I saw a small island from Kai Bae Lookout, I made a decision right away that I had to go there. It would be fun and adventurous!
We looked for a way to the island by going down the hill and trying to find a way to the closest beach.

However, there are many private properties which prohibit anyone who is not a guest from entering the grounds.

(F**k it, beach is for everyone!)
(F**k it, beach is for everyone!)

But as they say “When there’s a will, there’s a way”! Finally we found a small path to the beach and it turned out to be Lonely beach!

(Next to this luxury property, there is a small pathway to the beach)
(Next to this luxury property, there is a small pathway to the beach)

After we got through, we enjoyed the beautiful white sand and crystal clear water but still I wanted to go to that island so there was more adventuring to be done.

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(Lonely Beach when we first arrived)
(Lonely Beach when we first arrived)
(Lonely Beach is not lonely anymore…)
(Lonely Beach is not lonely anymore…)
(Enjoy the white sand with picturesque view of mountains and beach)
(Enjoy the white sand with picturesque view of mountains and beach)
(How’s that for crystal clear water! Can compete with Phuket, huh?)
(How’s that for crystal clear water! Can compete with Phuket, huh?)

After about 30 minutes chilling and relaxing on the beach, we decide to go find the island from the lookout so what did we do? Swim!

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Anyone who wants to make this trip must remember that there are rocks on the end of the right side of the beach that you have to walk or swim past to get to the island.

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I have never regretted coming with this girl. She means real adventure!

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Look at how far we went! There are beach, rocks and mountain.

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We were a bit fed up with swimming so it was time to do a bit of rock climbing. It didn’t look hard but we were barefoot. Be careful of the white stuff on the rocks. We got some cuts from it.

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Stop for a picture. Not bad, huh?

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Finally, we saw it! The island that we were trying to reach was just a few miles away. The problem was it was a few miles across the water so we decided to go back…

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…But not the same way we came. We wanted to do something new so the steep hill and jungle were no problem. We just hoped that after we got up the hill there would be easy access to the road.

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Real jungle girl, huh?

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Trying to show off something I don’t have: muscles.
At last, we decided it was a bad idea to keep climbing up as the way was getting tougher with spiky plants and mosquito so we returned the same way we came. On the way back, I noticed that there was some coral in the rock pools along the way. They may not have been as beautiful as the coral on Lipe Island but the very nice thing was that it was free! So enjoy!

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Some coral you could still see clearly from above the water.

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There are many different types

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This was taken underwater.

Tip: Be careful of getting cut. If you’re walking barefoot on the rocks and see some white stuff like in the picture, pay close attention to it

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as it is very sharp seashells that have fussed with the rock over many years. I was not cut at all as I know how to avoid it but the picture above shows the cuts from my German traveling mate. So wear shoes or be careful!

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Where to stay?

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As we decided to do a budget trip, after we had seen some different accommodations, we decided to stay at Cheap Trills as my German friend’s motto went, “as cheap as possible”.

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This place is not bad. Actually I really enjoyed it as the location is the best. It was in the middle of the island in the Klong Prao area. This spot offers plenty of choices of food, and is close to a 711 and Tesco Lotus for all other needs.

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Cheap Trills is owned by a French guy and his Thai girlfriend. Our room had a fan and its own bathroom. The price is just 300 baht between two people, no breakfast included. Wifi is shit but there is a nice bar that has live music when the French guy is there. (He went to Nepal for a holiday while we were there).
If you are interested, the number of Cheap Trills is 085-3955582
Where to eat?

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(711 is the cheapest)

There are various choices, from local noodle shops to a proper Swedish-Thai food restaurant. The prices are from 40 baht per meal.

(Plenty of stuff that’s cheap cheap cheap!!!)
(Plenty of stuff that’s cheap cheap cheap!!!)

But again, we stuck to our theme “as cheap as possible” and I found that the 711 near Crust Bakery is the best choice. That 711 has the same prices as 711 on the mainland (others in Koh Chang have put their prices up).

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There is plenty food and drink, you can even save money on cigarettes. For example, I could buy a frozen Thai meal for just 37baht or a baked ham cheese sandwich for 25baht. The drinks are super cheap, one bottle of water starting from 6 baht. And there are more than a hundred choices for beverages. We found out one brand of cigarettes that cost only 39 baht. We tried it and it was not too bad.

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At last I want to say all the best to everyone who wants to spend time on the nice, quiet island not far from Bangkok, Koh Chang. I hope that this information will help you to travel better in some ways. Happy traveling guys!

XXX-E01

 

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