Holiday on Koh Chang Island

Gai Bae Beach on Koh Chang

From Samut Prakan, it took us about three and a half hours to reach the car ferry for Koh Chang. We then had to wait about 10 minutes for it to leave. The trip across the water then only took about 20 minutes. So, in all, it was about four hours door to door. Not too bad. However, as our journey took us further south-east, the weather deteriated. We were having scattered showers. Not the best of weather for a beach holiday! But, according to the teachers at my school, I already had “na dum” which meant I shouldn’t be trying to get more of a tan.

I must admit my first impressions of Koh Chang weren’t that good. We disembarked from the ferry and immediately drove up a steep and winding road. A short while later we passed through a small community. It looked like a dump rather than a slice of paradise. I was thinking they should make some effort to “beautify” the area but then I guess that people were trying to live their normal lives here before the tourists started to arrive. It is not really fair of us to judge the state of their front yard.

I wasn’t sure what I really expected to see. Some friends had told us that the first beach called White Sands is quite crowded and that there were many shops lining the road. They weren’t wrong about that. There were pubs and restaurants, convenience stores, motorcycle rentals, a post office, massage parlours and even internet cafes that were charging a staggering 2 baht per minutes. In Samut Prakan it is only 20 baht per hour! We stopped briefly at a book store to buy a map and then continued onwards. Our friends had suggested that we checked out Gai Bae Beach first and then Lonely Beach next door.

I think my expectations were a bit too high. I was thinking I would drive along this road and “oo aah” at the beautiful palm fringed white beaches and sparkling blue sea. I thought I would be choosing the beach from the car! As it turned out, the car journey was more like a roller coaster ride and we were all soon feeling rather car sick. We passed through a number of communities and before we realized it, we had reached the end of Gai Bae Beach! We weren’t getting any views from the road at all. Well, hardly any. Leading down from the road were these small dirt tracks. Some better than others. We soon realized we had to go down these in order to reach the beach.

Lonely Beach with lots of tourists

Our first view of a beach was rather disappointing. It was a nice hotel, but the beach was just rocks! I could see sand in the distance but not here. Good job we didn’t book a hotel in advance! So, we got back into the car and continued on our rollercoaster ride to the neighbouring Lonely Beach. Maybe this was lonely once upon a time, but not now. There were a lot of foreigners here. However, the beach looked much better. The bungalows were also very quaint looking. We inquired and were told that basic bungalows with a big bed, own bathroom and fan was only 500 baht. There were also cheaper smaller ones for about 200 baht with shared bathroom. This wasn’t bad. But we were looking for something a bit bigger and also with a fridge! We had brought a lot of shopping. Beer, soft drink, bottled water and lots of snacks!

So, we decided to head back to Gai Bae Beach. This time we went down a dirt track at where we thought the middle of the beach was. This was much better. There was some good sand here and even some palm trees. There were still some rocks but not so much. I think it probably added character. The first place we inquired said their bungalows were 1800 baht a night. A bit too expensive. So, we just kept on walking down the beach. It was actually quite difficult to know where one beach resort ended and the next one started. Soon we found another beach bungalow with hot water shower, air-conditioning, tv, fridge and two king-sized beds big enough for four people. The price was 1,200 baht. Probably more than I wanted to pay but the location was pretty good. So, we moved in.

The bungalow where we stayed

Our bungalow was built on stilts. Out front there was a spacious balcony with table and chairs. It was good that I could park the car right next to it. At high tide, the water lapped against the rocks that you can see in the picture above. It was literally about four metres away from our front door. Perfect. As we were all pretty tired and hot from the long journey, we decided the best way to cool off was a dip in the sea. This was so excellent and so relaxing. You know what the best thing was? When you normally go to the beach you are always worrying about your valuables while you are swimming. However, we didn’t have to worry. Our “hotel’ room was just a few metres away!

That night we dined in the restaurant attached to this resort. We weren’t actually that impressed with the food so we decided we would walk the 50 metres to a neighbouring resort and eat there the next day! That is the best thing about this kind of place. There are always plenty of places to eat. However, the prices were a little high on average. Take breakfast as an example. The Thai breakfast of rice porridge was 45 baht when it is only 10 baht in Samut Prakan. The American breakfast was a whopping 80 baht. For this you got one egg, two slices of ham, three tiny hot dogs and two slices of bread. I reckon the ingredients for that meal would have cost them only 20 baht at the local 7-Eleven. I made a mental note to bring my barbeque hot plate next time and do my own cooking for breakfast and lunch. I had only brought the kettle so I could make coffee and of course pot noodles.

The first night there was a really bad storm with thunder and lightning. It poured for most of the night. I was a bit worried about the car. I had a bad experience during a road trip to Sukhothai a few years back. We stayed in a nice guesthouse by the side of a river. It was a wide river but only half full. The weather was clear when we went to bed. In the middle of the night, we woke up to the sound of lapping water and people shouting. Apparently, a big storm further north had produced a surprise flash flood where we were staying. The water was already up to the mattress. Ten minutes later the bed was under water. By morning the waters had receded a little. We were quite lucky where we had parked the car. There was only about a foot of water inside. So, when I looked out of the window at Koh Chang and saw the waves splashing the car wheel, I decided to get out and move the car to higher ground!

It had stopped raining by morning. When we woke up it was even starting to get brighter. However, there was then a power cut! We decided to hang around to see if it would come back on and also to see if the sun would come out. Check-out time was mid-day. If things didn’t improve by then, we decided we would head back to the mainland and maybe drive up the coast to the beaches at Rayong. At the moment it looked like Koh Chang had a different weather pattern compared to the rest of Thailand. Maybe Rayong would be better.

[The next story is “Koh Chang to Rayong” ]

One response to “Holiday on Koh Chang Island

  1. stevesuphan

    I was first down there on the islands in ’91’ when you still had to get a boat to Had Rin beach on Koh Phan-ngan and for the ultime in adventure travel there was an island called Koh Tao which wasnt mentioned in any guidebook!
    On top of that there were no more than 10 guesthouses on Ao-nang beach in Krabi. Of course thats history now.

    Over the past few years ive been disappointed most by the escalation in prices. Just as Richard has written here, a lot of the prices for things have gone through the roof and there is no need for such drastic over-pricing of things.

    Rent prices are not absurd on beaches such as ‘Lonely Beach’ but instead what has happened on these islands etc.. is that each place now has a ‘price committee’ that decides how much tourists pay for each commodity. ie.. on Koh Phan-ngan a Pepsi is 20 baht everywhere. A songthaew ride to the north is 100 baht (60 baht for a resident). On Ao-nang its 45-50 for a fried rice and 15 for a Coke at a Mini-mart etc..
    These are ‘tourist’ prices which also includes Thai tourists so dont get paranoid!

    The only place that certainly hasnt changed over the years is amazingly Phuket! The price for a cheapo room out of High season on say Kata or Nai Harn beach is the same as say 1995! then the food is far cheaper than say at neighbouring Krabi, this is in sharp contrast to ten years ago when Phuket was by far the most expensive destination down south, now its the opposite.

    Just last year i got a crappo bungalow ion railey Beach in Krabi for 350 baht a night, then on Patong Beach in Phuket i got a lovely big clean bungalow with good maid service with a decent priced restaurant for 300 baht! On Patong it was 50 baht for a Big Beer etc.. in the place i stayed and then on krabi it was 85 baht.

    Phuket along with trang are now me fave places down south!