Holiday in Koh Chang Island tourist want kayaking, I want elephant riding, I want rainforest, GO DISCOVER KOH CHANG!” These were my editor’s last words before I went ‘off radar’ in a hired car that sped off, in an easterly direction from Bangkok, for the six hour drive to Koh Chang Island. With me were two divergent companions: my brother, a hopeful kitesurfer; and my close friend, a female Laotian pop star wanting peace and pampering. Soon enough we were comfortably settled on the island’s recently opened Amari Emerald Cove Resort. This is Koh Chang’s only fi ve-star property and it may well put the Koh Chang Island on the international tourism map.
There is a lavish air to the hotel, a cool sea breeze fl oats through the open spaces, and a wooden boardwalk meanders through the tropical gardens leading past restaurants, a tiered Romanesque Jacuzzi, and fi nally down to the beach. Koh Chang is lush and mountainous with a multitude (47 to be exact) of satellite islands, of which some, notably Koh Kham, are gloriously exotic. In 2002, the government decreed that the island should become the ‘next’ Phuket and it has been furiously fi ghting the battle between development and
natural allure ever since.
Koh Chang Island doesn’t have the packaged tropical paradise island appeal that Phuket oozes yet, but that’s part of the attraction there is a depth to Koh Chang that one really starts to feel after a few days bombing around on motorbikes, speed boats or sailing dinghies.
There is one main road that almost circumnavigates the mountainous interior, (the highest peak is 2,428 feet) and this is where a hired four-wheel-drive really comes into its own. The road winds its way through untouched rainforest, spiralling to peaks which offer beautiful vistas of the coast and beyond, before plunging down to the rugged coastline. Any sortie off the main artery is rewarded with waterfalls, trekking base
camps, elephant riding centres, or just bizarre dead-ends.
The further south one heads, the less developed the island becomes; local restaurants bravely balanced on the side of the cascading coastline offer welcome breaks of papaya salad and Chang beer. The luxury of the Amari seems as distant as the islands on the horizon. Here lies the allure of Koh Chang; the symmetry between rustic beach life and the pleasures of fivestar living.
In the northwest of the island, a two-mile beach called White Sands is unarguably Chang’s best, but it has seen frenzied development in recent years, and is the island’s hub, with bars, restaurants, banks, dive shops, even a small shopping mall spilling out onto the concreted road.
What’s strange is that the budget accommodation is still on this beach, while the more up-market hotels are situated further south, at the sandy shallow end of the island, where at low tide the sea pulls back for hundreds of metres. This seems an odd choice of location, but the upshot is that privacy and a certain element of exclusivity is guaranteed. The charms of the Amari’s Emerald Cove become apparent when one returns from a foray to explore some of the lesser attractive attractions.
These include the nearby fishing village whose charm has been lost with the advent of rusty reinforced concrete, but the fishermen are happy to show off their exotic catch of tropical fish and blue swimming crabs.
A better afternoon, however, might have been spent being pampered in the resort’s spa, sunbathing or working ones way through the bar’s cocktail menu, whilst plotting an escape to one of the other smaller islands.
Koh Chang Island Include :
Bai Lan Bay Beach, Bang Bao Bay Beach, Kai Bae Beach, Klong Prao Beach, Klong Son Beach