This time last year, David and I were on the glorious Thai island of Koh Chang. Let’s just say that it wasn’t an easy journey to get there from Battambang, Cambodia (think car, tuk tuk, bus, ferry, mini-van and taxi all in one day), but when we finally arrived at our little hut near the beach, it was pure bliss.
Now… how to spend five days on Koh Chang? It had been a last minute decision. For ages we’d been planning to go to the backpacker haven of Ko Tao or one of the other Andaman islands further south. The idea of having to get first to Bangkok, then take an overnight bus or train before we could get on the ferry, it was all just too much for us at the end of two and a half months. Koh Chang seemed like a great compromise.
We weren’t really up for scuba diving (I’ve tried it before and had major ear problems), so instead we did what David does best – we rented a scooter. Having ridden a motorbike for years, any chance the man has to ride a bike makes him smile from ear to ear. He left the hut one morning and came back with two helmets and keys to our newfound freedom.
With our accommodation being on the southwest corner of Koh Chang, we spent the first day working our way counter-clockwise around the island to do a general exploration. We had four days to go, so we wanted to scout out places to eat, things to see, where we wanted to stop, etc.
For a couple of hours each day we ended up sunbathing on White Sands beach. It’s pretty popular with tourists, but also wasn’t too overcrowded in January. Come the close of my bout with salmonella, I may not have been confident with chicken, but I was feeling much better about being in a bikini! My stomach actually saw the light of day on that gorgeous Thai beach. We’d end our sun session with a frosty drink at the 15 Palms restaurant (ice cream smoothies… om nom nom), then zip back onto the road, either north or south.
I was always saddened when we passed the elephant sanctuaries on the island. I say sanctuary, but people were riding elephants. Given our experience at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai where we learned about elephant treatment in Thailand, I just wish these travellers knew then what we know now.
The east coast of Koh Chang is incredibly quiet. If you’re a honeymooning couple, I’d say go east, young folks! West is where the party is at. East is relaxation station. It’s there that we stumbled upon Na Tara Resort for some lunch and coincidentally ran into a guy that we’d shared a minivan with from Chantaburi to the Koh Chang ferry port. The whole time in the van he’d been quiet, hiding behind his sunglasses and frankly looked moody. When he recognized us, it was a totally different story. “Stay!” he’d urged. I think he was the bar manager, but this resort had a great ocean view and sun loungers with no sun bathers, so we took him up on his offer!
Heading further south on the east coast we discovered rubber tree farms, coconut halves tied to the trunks collecting the slow dripping rubber. We found fishing villages, passed a local spa and found many little restaurants tucked away. Pulling up for gas, however, always made me a little nervous. Here you’d find whiskey bottles filled with yellow, pungent liquid to fill your tank. Locals would be smoking while emptying bottles into their bikes. It would be at this point that I’d take a little walk… in the other direction. One of us had to live to tell the tale.
We didn’t spend a ton of money in Koh Chang, didn’t do the adventure sports or eat at fancy restaurants. We just took it easy, motored around the island at our leisure and caught up on our reading. Yes, we’re old, but it was all the peace and tranquility that we needed. I hope you get the opportunity to visit this island one day. And if you do… we’ve collected some Koh Chang scooter tips, where to eat and where we stayed below.
Koh Chang Scooter Tips
- Wear a helmet. Seriously people… this should be a given.
- Drive only in daylight. Many of the bikes and cars don’t have functioning lights! There aren’t really street lights except in the towns, so just stick to your town by night OR get the songthaw to your desired village.
- Beware of stray cats/dogs. I’m sad to say that we witnessed a local run over a cat with their scooter. They were coming around a blind bend and the poor cat was taking its time. The cat did not make it and it was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen. Take your speed down going through towns where you’re more likely to get more small animals.
- There are some very tight, steep hills on Koh Chang. Ideally this is NOT your first time on a scooter, but if it is, take it easy and don’t overestimate your skills.
- Travel with a small first aid kit. I kid you not, and maybe I sound like your mother, but we saw quite a few guys with epic road rash down their legs. With the heat and humidity, those scrapes can become infected quickly. Having alcohol wipes on hand would have done them wonders in a pinch.
- For more general scooter tips, check out our post from scooting around the Samoeng Loop outside of Chiang Mai.
Where To Stay
We stayed almost a full week at Asia Backpackers in Bangbao, Koh Chang. It’s almost as far south as you can go on the western side of the island, so be prepared for a long drive from the ferry. We did two nights in air conditioned bungalows and the rest in one of their fan cooled bungalows, which were perfectly fine. It was a short walk from Bangbao pier where all the restaurants and shops are.
Where to Eat
- Bangbao Pier. We ate at one of the restaurants here almost every night. The idea of riding our bike in the dark was less than desirable. The best place we found was the chilled out Bangbao Paradise. There are maybe 4 tables and the guy gets all his food from the restaurant next door, but that’s what keeps it so quiet. We came here a couple of nights for the sunset views across the water. Watch for the turquoise coloured building – can’t miss it!
- 15 Palms, White Sand Beach. This place makes epic ice cream smoothies. Perfect after hours of sunbathing. Indoors you can find a pool table if you’re wanting to get out of the sun for a bit.
- Na Tara Resort. We came across this place by accident and it was paradise. We just used their restaurant for lunch and the food was delicious. If you’re exploring the east coast of the island, it’s worth the travel.
- Crust Bakery. Sometimes you just want a crispy, flaky baked good, and Crust Bakery fulfilled our needs. We feasted on sandwiches for lunch and tasty desserts to go!
*Note, most backpackers stay and eat in Lonely Beach. It was pretty packed, as is White Sands beach, with travellers. Hence why we chose the laid back Bangbao. A little less accessible to the bars, but it was pretty relaxed.