Almost a month exploring the mountains and cities of central and northern Thailand, it’s time for some sand and sea. We originally had an ambitious plan to do as many islands as we can, but with the amount of time we had left we decided to focus on visiting a couple of islands on the Gulf of Thailand in the Trat region – an area we have never visited before.
Returning to Bangkok, we met our friend Lila (from our Central American tour), from there we boarded the 07:45 ‘999 Express (Government) Bus’ to Trat from Bangkok’s Ekamai Eastern Bus Station in Sukhumvit. The journey took 6 hours and arrived at Centre Point Pier (near Laem Ngop) where we caught a ferry transfer to Koh Chang.
Koh Chang, literally meaning ‘Elephant Island’ is one of the largest of the Trat Province islands but also the most developed. Following Lila’s recommendation, we settled down at White Sand Beach which is located North West of the island. At the heart of White Sand Beach is the main road where the hotels, resturants and stores are located. We were surprised how quiet the streets were and it wasn’t over developed at all. In fact the island is so large resort towns are spread out along the west coast, the east remains almost untouched.
The best way to explore the island, you guessed it – is by motorcycle. But only rent one if you are confident on the roads here, tight bends and uphill climbs as it curves round the mountains. The Songthaew (shared taxi) drivers drive incredibly fast around the island, do watch out for them.
My favourite motorcycle journey was discovering the East side of Koh Chang. Once you leave the tourist zones on the West, the road becomes flat and and a joy to ride. I was in search of a ‘secret’ beach located somewhere in the South accessible by an unsigned dirt road.
The actual name is Wai Chaek Beach, it was tricky to get to but worth the effort. I am happy to share my directions (if you promise to keep the beach clean, taking any litter back with you): Take the East road and head South towards Salak Phet, before the village there is an (unsigned) abandoned old gatehouse where a smaller road folks to the right.
Follow this small road, be warned parts of the road are missing and the pot holes are huge. About 15 minutes in, the road is blocked off and on the left is a dirt road, follow the tracks until you see palm trees and the beach. It is best to have GPS satellite map available on your phone (already downloaded for offline view as mobile coverage is weak).
When I arrived at the beach, there was nobody else there except myself and for at least an hour I had this whole beach to myself before a couple more people came. This was certainly one the prettiest beaches on the island, and one of the best highlights of our Koh Chang visit.
WHERE TO EAT
Another highlight for us, was the evening food market along the main road at White Sand Beach. We ate here every night, each stall sold very appetising meals and snacks for a cheap price. Grab a beer from a convenience store and your evening dinner is sorted. There are plenty of resturants along the road and the beachfront as well if you prefer to sit down.
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed at the Koh Chang Hut Bungalow hotel at White Sand Beach, it’s located at the far end of where most of the activity is. The hotel has great sea views from it’s restaurant and it has it’s own mini pebble cove where we watched the sunset. We found the hotel to be a little too far to reach the main area of White Sand Beach, about a 20 minute walk. If you want to be closer to the action, look for hotels around here but the prices tend to be a little higher.
- There are various bus services offered from Bangkok’s Ekamai Bus Station to Trat for ongoing connection to the islands. Try get a ticket that combines both bus and boat transfer, we recommend the 999 Express Bus service which cost 300Baht/each way.
- Always wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle and ensure you are covered in your travel insurance in case of an accident.
- Take care and drive steadily around the tight bends, especially when the road is wet.
- Keep the beaches clean, throw your litter in the bins (if provided) or else take back with you.
- To explore the other islands or to return back to Bangkok, there are numerous travel agencies on the main road at White Sand Beach who can sell you boat tickets. Most are priced the same, but do try to haggle for the best deal.
- ATMs are plentiful in Koh Chang, however if you go to the other smaller islands this is your last chance to get cash out as it gets much harder to get cash elsewhere (the smaller islands have no ATM or they are restricted).