An Escape to Koh Chang

After my first week at work in Trat at new high school I decided to finally put some sand between my toes and go to the backpacker friendly island of Koh Chang.  Having been in Thailand for over 2 months now and not yet made it to one of the nation’s crown jewels in island beauty I was long overdue.  On the Friday I went home in the afternoon to pack my bag to leave immediately from school to save time.  I was also lucky to have a Thai teacher who lived in the area and gave me a ride to Thammachart Pier, which I believe is the most popular pier to head to Koh Chang because the ferry crossing time only takes 30 minutes and 80 baht for a single crossing.  Ferries usually arrive every half hour from 6am to 7pm.  The only drawback  to my plans was that I was told Friday that I had to work Sunday which would mean I would only get one night on the island, still made the right choice and decided to go through with the weekend escape.

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After about 15 minutes a ferry arrived to pick us up and make the crossing. The lower deck is filled with cars and motorbikes and the upper decks have seats, a store or food vendor, and a fresh sea breeze flowing through the open windows.  I went to the upper deck, bought a beer, found a seat with a view and kicked back for the rest of the journey.

After the short journey time  we made to it Koh Chang and I immediately went looking for songthaews. So I find one and only three other guys get on the songthaew so the driver says we’re going to wait for the next ferry. The next ferry shows up a half hour later on and only two more people join us.  It was supposed to be a 100 baht trip but the driver asked everyone for an extra 20 baht so that we’d leave now.  One of the problems with Koh Chang is the scarcity of songthaews and the prices they charge.  During the day prices are ok if there are groups of people going places but at night when there are fewer songthaews running, it can be a hassle because the drivers start asking for extortionate fees of up to or more than 500 baht for rides between different beaches too far to walk to. DO NOT support these prices, always negotiate down.

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Songthaew rides across Koh Chang is like being on a roller coaster with the number of upward winding roads with clusters of development focused in and around the beaches.  70% of the island is still covered in virgin jungle and there are lots of trails for hiking to beautiful waterfalls and incredible views so the ride from the pier is quite scenic but you’ll definitely be holding on to something at certain points.  With stops in between it took about an hour to reach Lonely Beach, the backpacker center of Koh Chang.

I chose Lonely Beach as the place to start my exploration of Koh Chang because I was in the mood to have a good time and a friend recommended Siam Huts to me as the place to stay.  I paid 380 baht for a basic wooden hut with a bed, shower, sink, fan, and toilet.  Perfect for what I wanted: a cheap no-frills place to crash after a night out.

After settling in to my hut and changing from my stifling work clothes I met my friend, a fellow Brit I met from my Lao visa trip, at the bar and we ordered food.  I had a beer and ordered a huge pad Thai that I was impressed to finish.  Unfortunately he wasn’t feeling so well so he was not going to be able to stay out that night.  Still, it was nice to catch up with him and learn more about the island since her lives there.

For the rest of the night I hung out with various backpackers at Siam Huts, sharing stories, and knocking back beers while cheering on the fire show and hitting up the dance floor.  The party went on until almost 3am but by that point I had gone to bed, happy to have had a decent first night out on Koh Chang.

The next day I decided to make the most of my day and sat out in the sun in attempt to build up a tan before I head off to Abu Dhabi in April.  All day I alternated between beer, water, and fruit lassis.  I savored the time out in the sun by reading and thinking about the new job and the upcoming events in April.  For lunch I had a delicious tom yam soup with rice washed down with my second fruit lassi.

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With about an hour left to go before I wanted to take a songthaew back to the ferry I set off on a walk down Lonely Beach to get a feel for the sea and the sand washing over my feet and legs. It was a refreshing way to end my stay but knowing that I could easily see myself going back there again next week this time for the full weekend.

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View from Siam Huts

When it came time to leave the songthaews kept racing past me while I had my hand out but they were all full.  Much to my luck a Thai guy saw my predicament and offered to give me a ride to the ferry  as he was headed to the same place.  I happily accepted but then it dawned on me that he was a big guy and I wasn’t sure his scooter would be able to get up some the steep twisting roads.  While there were one or two moments I thought the scooter would break down, it pulled through and I made it to the ferry in one piece.  I will say that though I was grateful for the ride, he drove like a mad man desperately trying to get to the next ferry.

On the ferry I thanked him again and offered him some money for his trouble but he kindly declined saying it was just a nice thing to do for a person in need.  After the hour long journey, we had taken a slow ferry, we parted ways and I went to look for a songthaew back to Trat.

The problem was not finding a songthaew but finding other riders.  We waited almost another hour before I gave in and paid 300 baht to take me to the market in Trat.  All in all it was a great half weekend and I look forward to returning and exploring more of the island.

Have you been to Koh Chang? Where does it rank among your favorite Thai islands? Let me know what you think I should go see/stay next time I head to Koh Chang!

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