Why visit Koh Samui when you could visit Koh Chang?
The tropical Thai islands of Koh Samet, Koh Chang and Koh Kut...ever heard of them? Me neither until I started planning a travel route to Cambodia from Bangkok.
Apart from the beautiful scenery, Koh Chang is packed with activities and entertainment
At the end of this article you should takeaway:
1. A different take on the best coastal locations in Thailand
2. How to reach Koh Samet and Koh Chang
A different perspective:
Normally it's the Ko Samui, Krabi and Ko Phi Phi islands of Thailand that you hear about, and for good reason. They are all tropical paradises in one way or another, home to picture-postcard beaches, close to perfect dive conditions and everything you need to relax…..or party as many will attest to.
If heading towards Cambodia from Thailand however or perhaps you hear of bad weather conditions in the Lower South West, as I did, spare a thought for the islands to the upper South East.
Generally less touristy than their more famous counterparts yet still brimming with wildlife, waterfalls and jungle, these islands (Koh Samet is a few hours away from the larger group of islands spearheaded by Koh Chang) are easily accessible from the mainland and offer a welcome refuge for the wind-swept adventure traveler.
Moreover, nestled in sparkling blue waters with speed-boat transfers, pick-up truck taxis, scooter travel, snorkeling and a variety of other entertainment and excursions available, the islands offer affordable excitement every day.
How do I get there?
As the first large island along the coast, Koh Samet makes sense as stop number one.
Flying into the city of Pattaya, you can take an Easterly mini-bus transfer directly from the airport. Taking you to a regional transport hub at Rayong, you’ll then need to hop into a second mini-bus to Ban Phe (journey time approx. 1.5 hours altogether). It’s here that you will be able to arrange your transfer to Koh Samet by speed boat or small ferry, the latter being the cheaper but slower option.
We took an internal flight from Chang Mai to Pattaya with Air Asia - Plenty of deals available with Air Asia, Thai Airways and others
Electing to head outbound via speedboat, we came back on the regular public ferry
Getting to Koh Chang is just as easy...
Once back on the mainland from Koh Samet you can arrange a pick-up to the main road and onward transfer towards Trat. Get off at the rather incognito built up area on the T-Junction to the 3156 road and purchase your dual coastal transfer and ferry ride ticket. There are regular buses throughout the day and prices are of course negotiable.
Don't be shy of a little sales back-and-forth - everyone is trying to make a living and generally most operators are as helpful as they can be, but some will try to take advantage of the language barrier. If in doubt, say no and wait. There is always a solution!
The view from the ferry across to Koh Chang island
Arriving at Koh Chang a number of taxi vehicles are available to take you directly to your accommodation
It’s about a 30 minute truck ride to the coast before taking the Koh Chang ferry. This much larger ferry can accommodate vehicles and is a comfortable journey. Sound complicated? It’s really not. Working out the next stages can be a bit of a challenge with the language and it is frustrating that the whole process is a money making machine, but this is a route commonly taken by tourists and most sales office signs will have an English translation.
Besides, when your later floating in a tropical waterfall or relaxing on one of the many beaches, you'll soon forget how you got there!
Booking a good base of operations:
To make the most of a location of course, it’s paramount to have a good base of operations.
With better infrastructure than some of it’s less developed neighbors, Thailand has excellent quality wi-fi in most bars, restaurants and hotels, so it’s easy to book accommodation on the move. That said, the Airbnb app worked extremely well, allowing us to find cost effective and good quality living solutions.
Plenty of options are available and with scooter hire so cheap the islands really become a mecca for the curious traveler.
Without covering all places, I would certainly recommend the excellent Samed Pavillion Resort on Koh Samet. Right on the beach and with fantastic facilities and food options, this was an excellent escape from the more basic Himalayan group tour that I did a few weeks before.
Our other island options included a private themed bungalow on Koh Chang and a hotel on stilts in a mangrove forest on Koh Kut. Certainly different!