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For tourists inclined to relaxing inside upscale resorts with all luxury amenities to hand, Koh Chang may not be an ideal destination.

But this more-or-less undiscovered jewel of an island, nestled in the east of the Gulf of Thailand, represents everything that makes Thailand so alluring to travellers – pristine waters and white beaches, endless acres of unspoilt rainforest, waterfalls, and teeming wildlife.

The fact that it doesn’t yet have the presence of big-name international hospitality brands on its shores makes it all the more endearing.

It’s the second largest island in Thailand after Phuket, but unlike its cosmopolitan big brother, Koh Chang remains largely unspoilt and retains an intriguing rugged charm.

With an area covering around 450, 70 percent of the island is still covered in rolling rainforest, mountains and beaches. Its highest point is Khao Salak Phet, at 743 metres, and with all this mountainous terrain there’s no shortage of waterfalls of various sizes for adventurous hikers to explore.

As part of the Mu Ko Chang National Park, Koh Chang is also a jumping-off point for visitors eager to ramp up the remoteness factor with trips to the almost 50 small, uninhabited islands that lie nearby within the National Park.

Known as Elephant Island – Chang is Thai for Elephant - and so named due to a prominent elephant-shaped headland on its northern tip, this idyllic isle is around 300 kilometres east of Bangkok in Trat Province, near the border with Cambodia.

Its relative remoteness previously made Koh Chang a bit of an inconvenient stretch to reach, hence its traditional popularity with hardy backpackers.

There’s no such difficulty these days, since the opening of the airport at Trat and regular flights from Bangkok – three a day - which link to the ferry service serving the island.

This new ease of access may have detracted from Koh Chang’s original cachet of sleepy remoteness on the edge of wildness, but there’s still a wealth of natural wonder around the island for visitors to revel in.

The string of white beaches and coral reefs that stretch along its long west coast are a major getaway draw, and with the hinterland dotted with villages it’s easy and inexpensive to become immersed in a complete Thai island experience by rounding it all off with authentic local food.

Most popular for timeless, lazy days by the sea are White Beach, the aptly-named Lonely Beach, Klong Prao and Kai Bae beaches. They’re all paradise settings where the hours pass slowly, lulled by lapping waves and sea breezes, until spectacular sunsets herald the onset of darkness. And if chilling out on a blissful beach doesn’t fit the bill, there’s always diving and snorkelling among stunning coral reef landscapes in the crystal waters.



















More active pursuits beckon inland, with hiking trails into the mountain forests to discover some of Koh Chang’s fabulous waterfalls, and opportunities to see colourful native bird species, deer, and even the elephants which make these forests their home.

This forest tranquility will be somewhat disturbed on the weekend of 16-17 February, when about the only event to ever raise a sweat on the island takes place - the annual Ultra Trail Running contest - with some 2,000 hardy runners of all nationalities, ages and sizes competing a series of gruelling courses across jungle, waterfalls, beaches and through local villages.

For those with a yen for fitness, it’s a wonderful way to explore unseen aspects of Koh Chang, albeit with plenty of companions.

Accommodation on the island ranges right across the spectrum, from slumming it in budget beach huts to kicking-back in a luxury villa.

Of the resort hotels available, recommended choices include the Amari Cove Resort Koh Chang, Santhiya Tree Koh Chang Resort, and Keereeta Resort & Spa.


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