A friend recommended Koh Chang to me many years ago when I was talking about undertaking my first backpacking foray into South East Asia.
Down the years, I kept coming back and eventually took up residence over two years ago. Now that time has come to move on to pastures new and leave the island life behind.
The excitement of building a new homestead from the ground up in Trat province is also touched with mixed feeling about leaving Koh Chang.
In this post I will set out some of the best things about Koh Chang. These are my personal favorite places, things to see or do and/or pet peeves. Katae, who shares some of my likes and dislikes, naturally has her own opinions too, so you may see another blog post from her perspective about living on Koh Chang.
So here’s goes and in no particular order;
Best Local Place to Eat
Blues Blues Arts and Food
As we live on the outskirts of the small village of Klong Son, having Blues Blues down on the valley road was a gift from the Gods of all the 20 main religions.
Blues Blues is a family run restaurant that never failed to satisfy. I can honestly say we never had anything less than a wonderful meal there. They serve traditional homemade Thai food and a little ‘farrang’ food and knock up the best coconut shakes on the island.
They are open from 9am to 9pm daily and you dine in their tropical garden listening to, yep you guessed it, blues and soft rock music. The walls and gardens are adorned with many artworks and painting created by the head of the house.
Best Place to Chill
The SOUK Restaurant and Resort is located on the East coast between Amber Sands and Serenity.
Many of our friends looking to chillax on Koh Chang have stayed in one of their beach bungalows and let their stress wash away while listening to nothing more than the gentle breaks of the sea on the shore.
We regularly indulge in the intimate dining experience by the beach while watching the electrical storms light up the night sky across the water on the mainland. Coconut shakes with a Malibu shot are a perfect accompaniment to natures’ after-dinner entertainment.
The owner and chef is a Thai gentleman who goes by the name of Eddy. You couldn’t hope to meet a more genial host and inspiring cook.
The SOUK’s menu compromises of some wonderful Thai dishes, lots of seafood and some interesting twists on European food, (Thai green curry sandwich anyone!) I would recommend one of their set menus to start with to savor the flavor of many dishes.
Best Place for a Very Late Lunch
Paramar is a boutique resort and restaurant on the East coast around 20k from the ferry terminals.
Its most unique and interesting feature is the main restaurant that sits above what is essentially a giant fish tank. The surrounding waters are full of hundreds of local marine fish from grouper to puffa fish and even a couple of turtles. So if you are not able to dive for any reason, but want to see the local aquatic life, Paramar is the place to be.
The menu is European friendly and a little pricier than many other places but it certainly wont break the bank. They also have a fully stocked winery with possibly the largest selection of wine on Koh Chang.
For resort guests, there is a private boat service that will take and hopefully pick you up from a private beach on a small island across the channel. My brother didn’t want to leave!
Best Sunday Lunch
Paddy’s Palms Irish Pub
When in Thailand, I would thoroughly recommend trying the local fare any chance you get. Sometimes however, there’s nothing quite like a Sunday roast with beef, chicken or pork, roasties, Yorkshire puddings, lashings of gravy and all the trimmings. And if you can wash it down with a glass or two of the ‘black stuff’ so much the better.
Let’s face it, it’s too hot in the day to be outside and Sunday’s were made for us to feast like a beast in the East. So heading to Paddy’s Palms for the afternoon to eat and catch some sport on the giant TV’s should practically be made a law.
If I see you down there, I’ll have a Guinness… or a Beer Lao.
Best Sunset Beach Bar
Shambhala Beach Bar
If you feel the need to exercise after your Sunday ‘nose bag’ head over the mountain to Klong Son and seek out Shambhala.
This beach bar is located in the Siam Royal View development and the local expats can be found here late on a Sunday afternoon enjoy a game or two of beach cricket until the sun goes down. If you fancy a game, you will be more than welcome to join in.
Alternatively try one of their cocktails, mocktails or fruit shakes when you swim up to the bar in their beach side infinity pool. They also have an outdoor pool table if you prefer a cue to a bat.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a better place to kick back and enjoy the stunning sunsets across the bay.
Raht Koh Chang Trekking
No man is an island but you can conquer one if you are feeling fit.
If you love to hike and get close to nature, take a trek up to Koh Chang’s highest peak at 744 meters.
The starting point is on the East coast in a rubber tree plantation, but soon you will be ascending into virgin forest. It’s hot, humid and anyone with reasonable fitness can achieve reaching the summit. Allow 4-6 hours depending or your acclimatization and general fitness level.
You will need to take with you 4 liters of drinking water and a bunch of bananas to provide the energy to get to the top and back down safely.
It’s best to tell some one where you are going before setting out or better still take a guide. I’d recommend Rhat. He makes regular, weekly trips and provides transport to and from the start/finish point, drinks and lunch. He also speaks English and is knowledgeable about the flora and fauna.
The 360 view of Koh Chang from the top of the peak on a clear day is definitely worth the sweat.
With so many beaches on Koh Chang it’s hard to narrow it down to just one. Out of season, many of the beaches are almost deserted but even in high season you’ll never find a beach full of sun loungers unlike many other Thai islands. It’s a little more old skool here, and that’s the way we like it.
White Sand Beach is a wonderful stretch of coastline with all the local amenities behind it.
Some of our favorite places to eat, drink and watch the sun set on a beautiful day are KC Grand, Rock Sand, 15 Palms and Sun and Soul to name but a few.
When I was a backpacker, Lonely Beach was the place to hang out. I don’t go there anymore but it’s still big on the backpacker scene. Check out the local guides to see what DJ’s are playing at neighboring Nature Beach if beach parties float your boat.
A little further past Lonely Beach heading south is one of my old skool beach bars I still drive to every once in a blue moon. It’s called I Do I Do. There’s a tiny beach over looking the bay to Bang Bao. Mr. Noi the owner makes wonderful Thai food. If you are down the south of the island, it’s worth whiling away a few hours from a hammock with a few low-key reggae tunes setting the rhythm out for a relaxed day by the beach.
If you are feeling adventurous take a trip to the other side of the island, the road doesn’t circumnavigate the whole island so it’s quite a trip, but you will be rewarded with the loneliest of beaches; Long Beach.
Best Mexican Restaurant
For a true, authentic taste of Mexico visit another of my favorite restaurants on Koh Chang, Barrio Bonito.
The first restaurant opened in Lonely Beach many moons ago but has since moved on to even more success in Kai Bea. The restaurant is run by a Mexican – French couple, Mariana on chef duties and Julian overseeing the front of house. So if you are looking for the tastiest alambre, burritos or mouthwatering Fajitas, you now know where to go… down Mexico way!
Hand on heart, I can safely say not only do Barrio Bonito serve the best Mexican food in all of Thailand they also mix up the best Michelada, my poison of choice when in the barrio.
If you are passing through Bangkok on your travels before or after visiting Koh Chang, you can now find Barrio Bonito in The Commons around Thonglor 17.
Best Late Night Venue
My days of staying out all night are behind me but if I ever find myself in White Sand Beach after 9PM, I often make a beeline for Rock Bar.
Big Momma, the resident band has recently moved on and it’s worth catching them in other venues to watch the lead guitarist Thien play. He’s one of the most versatile and talented guitarists you will see in Thailand.
The Rock Bar still have a resident band who play several sets of rock and pop classics per night along with your requests. Drinks flow easy here and there is also two pool tables and plenty of parking behind the venue.
Best Indian Restaurant
Taste of India
Everyone loves a Ruby Murray. A Friday night isn’t a Friday night without a visit to the Taste of India to experience their authentic spicy curries, nans and mango lassies.
The al-fresco restaurant is located on the northern end of White Sand Beach close to Erawan Hotel.
The menu comprises of all your favorite Indian foods and some surprises. Be warned, portions are on the large size and prices are very reasonable. Lovely!
Best Snorkeling and Diving
Koh Chang and its neighboring islands have some wonderful swimming and diving holes to get up close to the local marine life and coral reefs. After all it’s a protected marine park.
BB Divers have offices in a number of locations throughout Koh Chang and Koh Kood and run a very slick, friendly and professional service.
If you are a dive master, are looking to take a full diving course or just go snorkeling for the day, I would highly recommend BB Divers.
In 2012 HTMS Chang was sunk of the coast and is now a haven for marine life. Lucky divers have been known to see the majestic whale sharks that swim close to the islands.
Best Elephant Camp
Baan Kwan Chang
If you are looking to ride an elephant there are four camps on Koh Chang. The camp in the most natural setting away from cars and lots of people is Baan Kwan Chang.
You can find this elephant camp at the end of Klong Son valley approximately 3K from the village 7/11. It’s a lovely and safe bicycle ride there for all the family.
The elephants live with their Mahout (or do the Mahouts live with their elephants?) in the jungle. An hour’s ride will take you through the jungle, streams and waterfalls and give you majestic views of the jungle terrain.
I occasionally pop up to the camp to bag elephant poo and feed these giants. If you want to make a garden grow, elephant dung is the way to go!
Klong Prao Clinic
The three main businesses on Koh Chang are; bar, pharmacy and massage. There is an endless reputation of these establishments. Why so many, I do not know!
With all the competition, you’d of thought the standard of massage would be high but without visiting a spa where the services is excellent, (We like Majestic on White Sand Beach and Parnviman Resort) having a massage here often leaves me with a sense of little more than it was a waste of time.
Recently a Thai friend told me about the Klong Phrao Clinic. As the name suggest, it’s a medical facility that includes massage.
You’ll have to call and book for an appointment but if you have aches and pains and want a real, beneficial massage for the same price as a rub down on one of the many massage shops, I’d highly recommend this place.
Give us our daily bread… there is only so much rice and noodles you can eat before you want the feeling of only some serious carbohydrates give you.
Crust Bakery is always worth the drive over to Klong Prao to get fresh loaves and some naughty but nice treats to eat. They also have a small deli and lots of coffee. It’s a great place to have a brew, eat cake and chat with friends.
The best time to go to the fall is towards the end of the rainy season although it can be busy with lots of tourists.
The volume of water cascading down the fall is dependent on the rainfall but the plunge pool is refreshing to swim in and there are plenty of cliffs to dive from.
As Klong Plu is in the National Park, the rangers charge up to 200 Baht for entry. Other waterfalls on Koh Chang are free and are less visited so if your budget it tight and you don’t like crowds, follow a path less traveled.
Best Permaculture Food Farm
This is a working family permaculture fruit farm long before the term permaculture was ever fused together from the words ‘permanent’ and ‘culture’.
Spread over 70 Rai on both sides of the road and going all the way down to the ocean is an extensive food forest containing, coconut, durian, elderberry, banana, coffee, dragon fruit, mangosteen, tamarind, lemon and much more. Take the family and have a guided tour.
They recently opened a little shop where they sell their home made organic products including, washing-up liquid, shower wash, shampoo, coffee scrubs, mangostean oils and edibles like the delicious sun dried bananas, mulberry drinks and fresh fruits.
Shop local and take a little of Koh Chang home with you.
Best Source of Information
The Koh Chang Guide
There are many sources of information on Koh Chang both physical and online.
A quick search on Facebook will result in a number of dedicated pages and groups. Look out for; Koh Chang Ticker, Ticker Koh Chang, Koh Chang Nature, Koh Chang Talk, Koh Chang Events, Koh Chang Food Collective and วิพากษ์ Koh Chang.
Back in the real world or if you want a physical reference, look out for the free maps on your ferry crossing. The maps are produced by Siam Royal View and contain a number of discount vouchers.
Combining on and off line reference material is The Koh Chang Guide. Their handy pocket size magazine, Treasure Map and Restaurant Guides are free and available from most bars and restaurants as well as outside the Post Office.
Funnily enough next to the Post Office is the office of the publishers, Koh Chang publications. They also have a second hand bookshop run by the long standing, knowledgeable resident/owners of The Koh Chang Guide.
Pet Peeves and Things I Will Not Miss About Koh Chang
As much as I love Koh Chang there are a few things I wont miss when I leave.
Mini Van Drivers – I would like to say it’s a small minority but I think I would be lying. I wont miss the crazy mini van drivers who race around the island like it’s a Monaco Grand Prix circuit.
Far to often they are overtaking on corners and driving way to fast for the safety of their passengers, pedestrians and other road users.
Tourists #1 – Driving way to slow or actually rolling back down the mountain roads.
Tourists #2 – Walking down the middle of the road instead of the using the path (often in Speedos) without a clue as to any vehicles let alone the Mini Van Drivers.
Tourists #3 – Fat Europeans in Speedos, nuff said.
Tourists #4 – Feeding monkeys, soi dogs and cats, don’t do it!
Locals – Charging me tourist prices.
Ferry Crossings – I can never reclaim the hours I’ve spent waiting for and traveling on the ferry to and from Koh Chang.
Boy Racers – Super expensive cars with low profile tires are not made for getting of the ferry or driving on the road in Koh Chang for obvious reasons.
Water – Koh Chang has an ongoing non-sustainable water issue. As part of ASEAN development Koh Chang is earmarked to have more tourism but it can’t sustain the amount of tourists it has already with the current infrastructure or lack thereof IMO.
Water shortages are a real problem for residents and tourists alike and getting worse with more hotel and building developments. Water sustainability needs to be addressed or all developments need to cease.
TOT – please fix my Internet… again!
Have you been to Koh Chang? What is your best or worst experience on the island? Let us know in the comments below.
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