If you are an adrenaline junkie and are looking for something to fuel your appetite for adventure, Koh Chang is the place.
Taking a flight from Bangkok to Trat on Bangkok Airways, we landed at the picture perfect airport that seems more like a resort, with landscaped lawns, elephants carved into grass and a façade that looks straight out of a fairy tale. Even the luggage is placed in a specific location — there are no conveyer belts! Driving through the countryside post a quick lunch, we soaked in the shades of the green landscape and blue skies and were soon at the ferry station to Koh Chang. Being an island, the only way to reach Koh Chang was through the ferry and this one was large, all the vehicles actually drive through the lower level, and the upper level is where you can catch enticing views of the blue lagoon.
Koh Chang is one of the best islands of Eastern Thailand with picture perfect beaches. And since there are many satellite islands around, the best way is to hop on to a speed boat and make pit stops. Our first stop was at the stunning and serene Koh Rang Island that has a setting straight out of a postcard with swaying palms, mountains and a clear blue sea. In fact, at Koh Rang the water is shallow, and even if you do not know how to swim, you can take a dip. There are swings hanging from trees on the shore so you can even sit and soak in the sights and sounds. Koh Mak and Koh Wai are the other nearby islands. In fact, having lunch at Koh Wai island is a delightful experience with freshest of seafood. Even the coconut water is sweet and delightful. Of course, while you are here, you must try snorkeling. The shallow waters are excellent and bring you up close with several bright coloured fish and tiger clams too. It is a world full of colour and fascinating sights.
Learn Thai cooking from a local. It is an awesome experience and you are even awarded a certificate at the end. We headed to meet Bunny who runs the successful Napalai Cooking School in Koh Chang. There are classes through the day, and a prior appointment is a must. While Bunny prefers to cook in smaller batches, she is also mindful of special dietary requirements and went out of her way to ensure she could teach vegetarian fare to the vegetarian in the group. Using farm fresh vegetables, local spices and curry paste, she taught us four course dishes that we could chomp on after each course. Bunny also retails products, and her magnets, key chains are all hand-made, supporting local artisans.
If you love nature, a boat ride in the mangroves is a must. There are two lovely stretches of the mangrove forests at Salakkok Bay in the southeast of Koh Chang and near the Bang Bao Beach. Walk across the wooden planks to the shore and a country boat with a boatman is waiting to take you on a 45 minute ride on pristine waters. As you hop on to the boat, you can see how locals live along the shore. Most are now so used to tourists that they continue doing their household chores without batting an eyelid. Our boatmen took us deep inside the mangroves. He even plucked a small branch and explained how the roots develop inside the water. He even fished out a contraption that looked like a netted basket and showed us how the locals catch crabs and small fish. A calm and relaxing experience, try coming here in the early hours of the morning or during sunset for some wonderful views.
If you are an adrenaline junkie and are looking for something to fuel your appetite for adventure, Koh Chang is the place. The Treetop Adventure Park will connect you with the Tarzan within you. This is a 40 course activity with giant zip lines, rope bridges, tarzan swings and flying skateboards. While all this sounds scary, it is managed by French experts and there is a mandatory safety briefing that you need to attend where one of the volunteers explains how you need to use a harness for your safety. This activity is open for children above 12. There is also a kid’s course for five to nine-year-olds. Ensure you have proper closed shoes, though. While you are zipping along, don’t forget to look below for stunning forest views, hills of the Bailan Bay area and sea-views.
If it’s not your cup of tea, head to an elephant camp for a controlled adventure. We went to Chang Chutiman Tours, an authentic Thai Elephant Camp. Two guests are allowed to sit on an elephant, and we were also given a bag full of bananas for the elephant — a sweet gesture for the hungry pachyderm. Our ride started, and what seemed smooth at first soon became a bumpy one, as the elephant trudged nonchalantly through the terrain that seemed best for a 4x4 drive. Hanging on our dear life and clutching the handle, we trudged along and the mahout stopped in between for a while where we could feed our very hungry elephant with some bananas. A store also sells elephant inspired accessories, books, jewellery and more here so there is no missing out on elephant souvenir to carry back home. With myriad things to see and do, Koh Chang is certainly a Thai holiday that you will cherish.
— Photographs by Bindu Gopal Rao