PROS: for Koh Chang the positive points are many

How to get the best possible hotel deals in Koh Chang?
Contact the hotel directly, make a Private Deal then BOOK DIRECTLY – this cuts out middlemen, saving cash for both guests and hotel – and we take no commission.
We identify hotels that guarantee, in writing, to discount below the lowest available on-line agency rates for guests who book direct. See the GUARANTEE list on this page, then contact the hotel via the e-mail box on the hotel page.
DISCOUNT ROOM VOUCHERS – the very cheapest rooms in Koh Chang – are also available here for some hotels, but they are limited in number. See Top Deals above.

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Many of the PROS of Koh Chang revolve around the natural environment

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The large number of visitors willing to make the 5-hours' drive from Bangkok to this rugged island tells us it must have plenty of good attributes. Most of the Pros for Koh Chang are related to the environment, for here we find an island with little development and few human settlements. The island is rugged, and its mountains have stopped most of the natural forest being cut down. The beaches are often squeezed tight between mountain and ocean, giving them real character. Here are our choices for best attributes of this large, natural island,
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ruggedly beautiful island and beaches

Koh Chang is a large mountain protruding from the sea, with very little land flat enough for agriculture. This has kept people from colonizing the island, and today almost all of Koh Chang remains under a cover of virgin forest. It's rugged, natural beauty makes it very different to Thailand's other large resort islands like Phuket and Koh Samui, which have quite large local populations. Naturally, the virgin state of the island and its forests enhances the island's attraction with visitors.

undeveloped & off the beaten track – a real getaway

For most visitors it takes a five hour drive from Bangkok just to get to the ferry, then another hour crossing, followed by a drive down the rugged west coast. All of Thailand's easy-to-get-to beaches like Pattaya and Hua Hin are heavily urbanized, while Koh Chang is quite the opposite. There is only a tiny bit of development on the island, most of it as minor infrastructure behind the tourist beaches; shops, markets, restaurants and varied services.

A trip to Koh Chang gives the sense of really escaping from the modern world. The few who take the Bangkok Airways' flights to Trat airport, then connect to the ferries certainly get to the island faster, but the sense of being far from anywhere is also boosted by the landing in an almost deserted little airport, followed by the ferry ride.

beaches face west and the sunset, a major daily attraction

Virtually all beachfront resorts on Koh Chang line the beaches and coastline of the island's west coast, and thus face the setting sun. Sunset is the most important and social time of day on this island. As the sun begins to sink deep in the west beach restaurants and bars all up and down the island lay mats, cushions and low tables on the sand in preparation for the daily ritual. Some restaurants move their tables right out onto the sand.

Visitors soon follow, emerging from everywhere to choose strategic positions on the sand for the daily ceremony of sunset worship. Young people pick their positions and company even more carefully, for the ever-revolving game of life – the meeting and selection of partners –hits a daily peak here on the beach mats each sunset.

The beach with the most active sunset social scene for young travellers is Ta Nam Beach, called Lonely Beach by many foreigners.

choice of resorts is good, from budget to 5-star

Once famed as a backpacker island, Koh Chang has seen the winds of change thoroughly transform it over the past ten years. Dozens of upmarket and boutique resorts now line most of the beaches, having replaced many of the old backpacker huts – but not all. As with most Thai beach resorts, the quality of Koh Chang's hotels is quite high. There are many mid-range, 3-star accommodations here, a good number in the 4-star range, and just a couple at the very top, 5-star end. Also, quite a few boutique resorts have also arrived on the island, each bringing its own distinctive style, while adding interesting diversity to the island's hotel offerings. For boutique and unique see The Chill and Gajapuri Resort on Kai Bae Beach and The Dewa Koh Chang and Barali Beach Resort on Klong Prao Beach South.

Koh Chang can thus satisfy visitors from the cheapest budget traveller looking for a $10 room to someone seeking 5-star luxury.

many possibilities to find absolute beach tranquillity

Looking for a true beachfront escape? A resort that is both completely tranquil and set in a natural beach environment? This is Koh Chang's forte. The island is feeble on attractions, entertainment and excitement, but those seeking a genuine beach escape and the chance to chill-out can find any number of possibilities on the many beaches of this island.

The most active beach (but still not very active) is Sai Khao at the north end. As you move down the west coast the beaches become more sparsely inhabited and increasingly quiet. The beach farthest from the ferries, Klong Kloi Beach, is perhaps the most peaceful of the island's sandy beaches. For even greater isolation there are some oceanfront hotels that face rocky shores, and have few neighbours.

beautiful big native trees hang out, shading most beaches

Simple and natural, beach trees are one of Koh Chang's most endearing features. It doesn't happen like this on all of Thailand's islands, but on Koh Chang the trees that line the tops of most beaches are especially thick – and very competitive. They fight for sunlight, and in doing so many lean far out across the sand. Some have leafy branches stretching ten metres across the sand, creating a shady, cool world that is ideal for easily-burnt humans. Who wants an umbrella when there is natural shade over the sand? Almost no-one – and tourists show their preference for natural shade as they gather under the trees on many beaches here. Sai Khao Beach has the best examples. Here a whole little beach world of massage beds, bars, restaurants and beach lounges keeps hundreds of guests happy through the day. Unshaded patches of sand are completely deserted in the daytime heat.

Most other beaches also have excellent shade from trees, such that beach umbrellas are not used very much at all on this island.

good snorkelling, diving and paddling at offshore reefs & islands

Koh Chang is the largest island in a small archipelago that has a score of tiny dots protruding from the ocean, all providing interesting underwater topography for snorkelers and divers. In some places the main island provides good conditions for snorkelling and kayaking– particularly in the south – but almost all diving takes place well offshore, requiring a boat trip. All major beaches have dive operators, while those staying on beaches without can get picked up for a diving day-trip. Advertising posters for dive shops and trips can be found to the back of every beach.

excellent atmosphere on many of these beaches

The special atmosphere on Koh Chang's beaches is largely the result of the items above, the many large beach trees and the shady areas they create that allows beach activity to continue right on the sand through the entire day. The fact that no buildings are visible from most beaches is a big plus. Atmosphere is also related to the narrow width of the beaches here. At high tide many beaches have no dry sand remaining, with the water lapping right inside the little forest enclaves of massage beds and restaurants.

Add the spectacle of sunset over the Gulf of Thailand each day, plus the evening sun worshipping ritual, and Koh Chang's special beach atmosphere is quite unique among the beach resorts of Thailand – and one of its strongest attractions.
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CONS of Koh Chang - not so many negatives, but there are some

Calling certain attributes of a beach resort 'Cons' can be difficult, for depending on the eye of the beholder, some things that one person dislikes can be the very thing that attracts another. However, there are a few negatives that virtually everyone agrees are unwanted, like pollution and rubbish. Koh Chang, like all resorts in Thailand, has some of those universally recognized negatives. Here we try to be fair while pointing out things that some people will consider turn-offs, while others will not be perturbed by them.
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beaches have an offshore reef and shallow water

Off-shore reefs are a common problem for tropical beaches the world over. Thousands of years of coral growth builds a reef following the beach, sometime just 20 metres out, but more often 50 or 100 metres from the shore. Sand builds up between the beach and reef, creating an area that is generally shallow, and dries out at very low, spring tides. Often these sand flats are covered with coral rock and rubble. This often makes swimming a high-tide-only activity, or in some places it kills the swimming possibilities entirely.

Virtually every beach in Koh Chang has an offshore reef and the resulting shallow water. There are only a few exceptions, with the very north end of Sai Khao Beach being one of those with deeper water at all tides.

the famous beaches get quite busy in high season

While Koh Chang is relatively isolated – compared to better-known beach resorts like Phuket, Koh Samui, Pattaya and Hua Hin – it is far from undiscovered. The major beaches now see quite a lot people in the high season from November to April.

Koh Chang caters to two markets, the foreign tourist market and the Bangkok weekend and holiday market. Thais tend to avoid peak seasons when foreign visitors arrive in droves, preferring weekends and holidays in non-peaks periods. During the monsoon months you will often find Thais are the only guests in many resorts. While Sai Khao Beach at the north of the island can get quite busy, even crowded by Thai island standards, the beaches further south become progressively quieter.

not enough beaches to meet the demand

All two kilometres of Sai Khao Beach is completely lined with beachfront hotels, guesthouses and resorts. Kai Bee Beach has almost no empty beachfront land. Klong Prao Beach still has a lot of empty land along the sand (the Klong Prao beach map shows all empty land), but resort construction is on-going and it won't be too many years before this too is completely occupied. The number of beach resorts on Koh Chang is now quite high, with True Beachfront qualifying 80 plus in 2012.

Many bungalow establishments have built along shores without a sandy beach at all, or in the case of Kai Mook Beach, on an unusual beach composed completely of pebbles. Considering the number of resorts here, and those that have no beach, it is easy to say that Koh Chang simply doesn't have enough sandy beaches to meet demand.

tourist village developing by the same ugly model

The small communities that are growing behind each of Koh Chang's tourist beaches can generally be classified as exceptionally ugly, with few exceptions. The development model used here is the same one that is turning all of Thailand's urban areas into monotonous cookie-cutter replicas of Bangkok's 'modern' suburbs. Thailand's singular, destructive urban blueprint sees all trees and green spaces destroyed and replaced by strips of concrete shop-houses. When both sides of a road are 'developed', the street view is narrowed to concrete, dust and masses of ugly electrically and telephone wires.

Koh Chang is already on the same path, here transforming a beautiful, green environment to the same enclosed strips of concrete. The commercial village behind Sai Khao Beach points to the future of all villages here... replicas of the worst of Bangkok.

you’ll find little Thai culture on a remote island

With few established villages on Koh Chang, and no town beyond the tourist villages, the island has little traditional culture to offer. The nearest one can get to seeing traditional Thai life is taking a tour of the small, one-time fishing community at Bang Bao, right at the island's south end. Here we find the traditional housing of a water-borne community on stilts over the water. But the fishermen have now largely turned their boats to catching tourist dollars instead of the now rare fish in the ocean. And while rather touristy, Bang Bao village is still quite interesting and worth a visit, and perhaps lunch in one of the over-water restaurants.

few good local restaurants, food quality poor

The lack of an old town and local communities means there are no well-established restaurants here, and virtually none serving Thai communities. With virtually all eating establishments here set up for tourism, there is a lack of restaurants serving good local food. Most restaurants relying on the tourist trade serve the standard 'tourist' version of Thai cuisine, with little chilli, low spicing and various interpretations of what Thai cooks think foreigners want.

There are a few good restaurants at the cheap end of the scale, serving one-plate meals and simple cuisine to Thai workers from the tourist trade. Here you will get the real thing. Some resorts will have tasty interpretations of Thai cuisine, though few serve it as Thais really eat it. For really good Thai cuisine visitors should try to find some time in Bangkok at either end of their Koh Chang excursion.

narrow beaches, strange tides can leave the beach dry or drowned

Koh Chang beaches are quite distinct from most others on Thai islands. Here they are generally quite narrow, disappearing completely when the spring high tides arrive every 14 days. Only a few are wide and sandy enough to remain dry during these tides. The north ends of Sai Khao, Kai Bae Beach and Ta Nam are fine exceptions. Wind and waves gradually push the sand to the north end of Koh Chang's beaches, swelling these ends with sand and making them higher and wider.

Another strange phenomena of just two-tides-a-day can cause problems for visitors, too. Most places on the planet experience the normal four tides per 25 hours. This two-tide anomaly is unique to certain, enclosed bodies of water around the globe, of which the Gulf of Thailand is one. It causes ether low or high tide can last all day, meaning the beach may be too shallow for swimming all day, or the beach may be underwater throughout the day, then dry by night. See more info on the strange tides in the Gulf of Thailand.

rubbish & pollution; it's ugly, and local attitudes are poor

Unfortunately it is a Thailand-wide problem that Koh Chang cannot escape. Thais do not take issues of rubbish and pollution seriously, even though their whole country is now terribly dirty. Here on Koh Chang quite a lot of pollution still finds its way into the sea. Small resorts under 80 rooms are not required by law to have waste water and sewage treatment plants, and just release black water below ground or through pipes into the ocean. Local residents toss their bag of rubbish all about the place. It's disgusting, it's sad and it's not going to go away for a long time since few Thai's are willing to clean anything beyond the borders of their own homes. And they have barely even begun national cleanliness awareness in schools.

by John Everingham

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