Koh Chang, one of the largest Thai islands in the Gulf of Thailand
Koh Chang is an island in Trat Province, Eastern Thailand. Located in the Mu Ko Chang National Park archipelago, Koh Chang is Thailand’s second largest island, and the biggest in Eastern Thailand. With about 5000 permanent residents the island is not heavily populated, but tourism has increased dramatically over the last few years.
Only very recently, in less than ten years, Koh Chang has turned itself into a major tourist destination, both for foreigners and local Thais.
The first foreign backpackers started arriving on Ko Chang in the mid-1970s, using local fishing boats, when the island was still undeveloped.
In 1982, Ko Chang along with the surrounding area became part of the protected Mu Ko Chang national park, with approximately 85% of the island, together with nearby coral reefs, falling within the park.
It has since become a major tourist destination, both for foreigners and Thais, with a number of tourist resorts being developed.
Despite this, tourism on Ko Chang. remains considerably less developed than on Ko Samui or Phuket.
This sudden tourism boom however, has been fraught with controversy concerning land encroachment etc. The government is trying to “develop” it from a backpackers’ paradise to a top-level destination, and construction work is going on throughout the island, with basic huts torn down to make way for fancy resorts.
At present, Koh Chang is overpopulated with Russian tourists.
How to get Koh Chang
Bangkok Airways www.bangkokair.com flies three times a day from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport (the “new” Bangkok airport) to Trat. The flights depart at 09:00, 12:15, and 16:35, and takes 1 hour and 5 minutes.
Direct door-to-door minibus transfers from Trat airport to Ko Chang resorts cost 475 baht/person one way and 800 baht/person return including the ferry crossing.
From Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, take the free express shuttle bus from outside the arrivals concourse to the airport’s own bus terminal, and from there the next available bus to either Trat or Chanthaburi, then proceed as described below.
From Bangkok the easiest, most direct, and most economical way to get to Laem Ngop (where the Ko Chang ferry piers are) is to take a 1st class bus from the Eastern (Ekamai) Bus Terminal direct to the Laem Ngop piers. The fare is 268 baht and takes just over five hours. Departures from Ekamai are at 07:45 & 09:45, and return at 14:00 and 16:00. Subject to seat availability, this bus can also be boarded at Chanthaburi and at Suvarnabhumi Airport. However, as of 1 Dec. 2009, there is a more comfortable way to travel from Bangkok Airport to Ko Chang: the new bus line # 392 starts from the airport at 07:30 and returns from Koh Chang at 13:30. Tickets can be bought online at the Suvarnabhumi Burapha Bus Company www.bussuvarnabhumikohchang.com and more departures will be added in the 2nd or 3rd month of operation.
Alternatively, there are 1st class (approx. 5 hours, around 250 baht) and 2nd class services from both the Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekamai) and Northern Bus Terminal (Moh Chit) direct to Trat, and frequent songthaew services from Trat to Laem Ngop (approx. 30 minutes, 50 baht/person). Departures from Ekamai are more frequent than from Moh Chit. If coming by bus from the south, the #511 air-con bus can be used to connect directly between Bangkok’s Southern (Sai Tai Mai) and Eastern (Ekamai) bus terminals.
Connection in Trat can also be used if coming from Pattaya (2nd class bus, 4 hours, around 200 baht).
There are direct minibus services to Laem Ngop from Pattaya, Ban Phe (gateway to Ko Samet), and Bangkok’s Khao San Road and Victory monument (in front of the Payathai hospital). They, however, are less comfortable and spacious than public buses, and you may be charged significantly more by travel agencies selling tickets to these, as often with any tourist-oriented transportation in Thailand.
It may also be possible to proceed directly to Laem Ngop by minibus or songthaew from the Hat Lek / Koh Kong border crossing with southern Cambodia, depending on the time of year, time of day, etc – enquire locally. Price around 120 baht (one way) from the border to Trat bus station.
Most ferries operate from Laem Ngop, which has three piers . The Laem Ngop (Tha Khrom Luang or Tha Laern Ngop) pier is approximately 700 metres west of Laem Ngop. The ‘Centrepoint’ (Tha Centre Point) pier is located about 3.5 km north-west of Laem Ngop. These piers serve both vehicle and passenger ferries.
Koh Chang vehicle ferry pier is located in Thammachat Bay (Ao Thammachat), around 15 km west of Laem Ngop.
All piers on Ko Chang are situated on the eastern side of the island. The major piers are the two Dan Kao piers, Tha Dan Kao and Tha Ferry Dan Kao, who handles most of the traffic. To take a boat from Laem Ngop to the Dan Kao piers take around 45 minutes. The car ferry from Laem Ngop take around 1 hour and arrives at the Tha Ferry Dan Kao pier, situated 400 minutes southeast of the Tha Dan Kao pier. The car ferry from Thammachat Bay stops at the Ko Chang Ferry Pier (Tha Ferry Ko Chang) in the Sapparot Bay (Ao Sapparot), 3 kilometres northwest from the Dan Kao piers.
Light meals, fruit, fruits and beverages are available at all the piers and on the car ferries.