(snapchat: lil.fel for live adventuring and work life).
January 2012. This is my top pick for Thai islands, hands down. On Koh Chang, meaning Elephant Island, you'll find insane partying, adventure with waterfalls and jungles, beautiful pristine beaches, and laid back hippie chillin times. While Koh Phangan and Koh Phi Phi are amazing as well for party and adventure (my fav), this island has a more laid back and hidden gem ambiance. It is less overrun with tourists making it one of the cheapest islands you can do in Thailand (this is rapidly changing), but yet it is insanely dynamic and fun. If you're travelling as a couple, Koh Chang is perfect for hottie romance as well. I spent one month living here teaching migrant Cambodian children English before my internship in Bangkok as well as spent over a week on the ile with my old amour. It was so amazing we did it twice, hence why I want to share every gold nugget of advice that made the experience unforgettable slash mad affordable with you.
December 2014 Update: As of late, it is poorly trying to imitate the debauchery of Koh Phangan's full moon party and grossly falling short. The result are massive sound systems and ostentatious stage displays set up with gap year kids with their thigh fat spilling over their overly tight jean shorts.The difference from the original full moon party, you ask? The music is terrible and there is the awful stench of trying too hard. If there is one thing FMP in Koh Phangan is lacking it is not organic buzz and excitement. Lonely Beach on the other hand is going through the awkward pubertal phase of transforming from a sleepy chill beach zone to being one of the big breasted popular girls starring in the Southeast Asian party trail. Can you imagine Tina Fey trying hard to be something she's not? Major awks.
NONETHELESS. Despite these awkward night episodes passing off as parties, Lonely Beach is still my preferred beach because of its epic beauty, sense of neighbourhood friendliness and unspoken magic rompin about..and let's not forget beach volleyball. There are many cool young expats who visit the island (like my hombres) that help battle the impending backpacker whiteout.
Where to Go: Lonely Beach
The island is divided into several areas. If you are a young backpacker or expat looking to party your ace off with others like you, play beach volleyball everyday and more, head straight to Lonely Beach. The taxi ride won't be more than 100 Baht (don't let them trick you!) and it will take you through winding roads and beautiful jungle hills in order to get to this hidden paradise along the beach. White Sands Beach is the most expensive area and usually where all the tourists without a clue end up (or the rich old folks). If you are looking to escape the backpacker scene and have a more calm trip I'd recommend going past Lonely Beach or heading to the other side of the island where it is pretty deserted. But honestly don't be silly. For the most fun party chillin times and best prices, head to Lonely Beach.
5. Practical Stuff (Internet, Laundry)
6. Other things to do
Ice Beach Huts: This is the cheapest in Lonely Beach for
Where: Go to the infamous Treehouse bar/restaurant and on the other side of some barb wire and in the forest a bit there is the cheapest hut you'll ever stay at in Thailand. Please tell me if it's still there or not.
Update 2014: The huts still exist but the price has doubled to around 100 Baht per night. They seem as shabby and humble as ever. In my new super profesh life I found I couldn't bear to live like this, but no regrets for my poor student being!
Price: 100 Baht
Details: No a/c, shower outside, fan and mosquito net bed.
Bonus: Hidden jungle paradise of simple living on a budget.
Bad: No comfort for princesses!
Update 2014: The accommodations have become very run down with garbage littered around each bungalow and holes in the walls. I stayed there earlier this month in December and there was no electricity outlet and the toilet stopped working. Not to mention a big ass creepy hole above the bed that was sealed up with some garbage wood. I don't know why the shape of Siam Huts has deteriorated but if you are on a budget and want to be in the center of the parties and close to the beach, this is still your best value for buck.
Price: 400 Baht (non a/c) -500 Baht (with a/c)
Details: Hot water, with or without a/c, mosquito net, large bed, simple bathroom.
Why stay there: Cheapest beachside living you'll find.
Bad: Garbage everywhere, some huts missing outlets to charge things.
Captain Planet would not be pleased ! Garbage everywhere around Siam Huts.
Um..where is my outlet to charge my phone?! Electricity tied in sketchy knots make phone modern life hard.
What in the bloody hell is this garbage wood found to board up the hole in my wall? Gah! I guess you get what you pay for, eh?
Nature Rock: I never recommended this place before because I was a poor student but as a kinda adult I am kinda diggin it now. Right along the beach, clean, air conditioned, delicious restaurant and most importantly they play great music all the time. As a grannie who likes to sleep in air condition without fear of cockroaches scurrying through cracked floors , this play has massive appeal. It's also where they play beach volleyball every afternoon! Win!
Price: 1200 Baht for a/c, 2000 Baht for beach front.
Details: Modern and new cement bungalows
Why stay there:: Beachside accommodation without being a fancy rich resort yet comfortable and clean.
Bad: Not suitable for backpacker budget.
Nature Rock: Get the best BBQ Seafood here. As the sun sets they bust out the grills where they cook the most delicious feast of fresh seafood you could imagine. The whole beach does it, but I found that the flavour here was the ultimate. Also during the day, if you're craving Western food they do an amazing Ceasar salad.
Recommendation: I always get the white snapper, steamed (not grilled!) with some salad and white rice. You can get fresh bbqed jumbo prawn as well. Around 300 Baht. Also, in any restaurant you go to, you must order Thai Ice tea and coconut shakes. They are dirt cheap and so yummy.
Update 2014: Sadly, none of this exists anymore. I have not deleted it for nostalgia's sake.
No more free meals but you can still get a free drink from most places.
Ting Tong: Was full of drugged up old dudes dancing with prostitutes. Disgusting scene with derelict creatures whom had lost their way in life. The music was good though, which is why we stuck around.
Siam Huts: Trying to emulate the full moon party ambiance, kids were wearing glow in the dark paint and lots of Chang singlets. Big music set and lots of investment into a party vibe but it's so out of place from the chill beach bars that it just feels gaudy and pathetic.
Himmer (?): There is some other bar across from Ting Tong that gives away free buckets and plays top 40 music. It's a good place to start if you're 21 years old and want a sweaty dance party. I would be inclined to like it except that I'm basically entering cougar territory and do not go in places where there are not more young professionals than uni students. Rule of thumb to avoid cougarism I think.
Sadly, I cannot recommend too much partying in Lonely Beach except drinking on the beach with friends. I am very disappointed that Koh Chang's nightlife has lost its way in the last two years.
For Some Naughty Fun..
One of the best things you can do is to sneak into the snobby hotel swimming pools with your friends and bathe in the middle of the night. It's beautiful and peaceful.. until the guards find you and start chasing you out naked with bamboo sticks and whipping your little derrieres! Be prepared to James Bond it out of there as the Thai guard searches for you in the water with his flashlight, in the corners of the pool, under the fountains, oh my! If you don't sneak out unseen you pay the price in red whipped skin.
Important Cultural Tip: While it may seem somewhat acceptable to be belligerent in fancy hotel pools, one thing you never do is mess with the local Thai property. Knew some people who thought it would be cool to sneak on a fishing boat to watch the sun rise (sounds reasonable and awesome) but one of them had to pee and did so off the side of the boat. THIS IS A NO-NO. This was believed to bring bad luck to fishing and as its such a major part of their livelihood, the man was staggeringly upset. Point being, don't be idiots. Respect the Thai people while you have your good time, duh.
Mushrooms: Koh Chang means elephant island in Thai. Most of the mushrooms in Thailand are grown from elephant dung so there is def' a plethora on this island (whereas in Koh Phi Phi it is impossible to find) and backpackers love to do try out the magical experience. Being discreet is obvious because it's illegal. But actually, it's not as prevalent as it is on Koh Phangan. One reliable place to buy from is Siam Huts. They sell "magic shakes" for 500 Baht, but rather than having them mix it into a shake, I've heard it's better to get them raw in a bag to eat with food.
How do you know they're real? Mushrooms in Thailand have a golden eye and a dark outer area. Friends have bought them and have had no effect once it was in a shake (in Koh Lanta). I imagine that is because they weren't real and there is no way of telling once they are grounded up. One tip for taking them is to eat it food.
Alcohol: Cheapest way to drink is by buying in the super market. Since you probably won't have a fridge in your hut it's recommended to buy bottles of Sam Song (Thai Whiskey) and mix that through out the night. The stores in lonely Beach are open late (midnight) so you can buy bottles of cold beer as your night progresses
Happy Shakes: Marijuana is very easy to get on Koh Chang and is cheap. You can get it mixed in a shake too.
Internet: There are internet cafes but they are sort of expensive. If you have a laptop you can get free wifi from Reggae bar.
Laundry: You can get laundry done for you for very cheap, but I've had several pieces of clothing destroyed in the process. Maybe just do your panties and boxers but nothing nicer.
6. Other things to do
Waterfall Road Trip to Long Beach: Rent a motorbike and go exploring on the other side of the island. It takes a couple hours and is a great day trip to arrive at the other Treehouse on the real remote part of the island on LONG BEACH. Along the way there are several waterfalls, monkeys, untouched fisherman's village and more. It's stunning. The waterfalls are nice to see and swim in but they cost some money. At the end of the long and adventurous journey and sketchy roads you end up on Long Beach, where there are only three huts to accomodate people. The water is beautiful. Come here for an escape from drunken crowds and some zen moments, not for insane partying. It's seriously quiet and nice for couples.
Visit the Cambodian School: Donate some clothes, supplies, see the children and if you're there for a while maybe volunteer some of your time teaching english. This is a school set up for migrant Cambodian children who cannot afford to or whose parents are scared to put them in the Thai School System. A lot of them are not legally in the country so they fear registering their kids in school. This school gives them a chance at an education. I volunteered there Summer 2009.
Stop by Evolution Tour and talk to Brian, the Dutch manager. Or give them a call. You have to go through a small path in the jungle to get to it. 30/1/7 Moo 4, Baan Klong Prao, Trat Province 23170, Thailand Phone: +66 39 557 078 - Mobile: +66 9 603 9642
Fish Market at Bang Bao: Rent a motorbike and go to Bang Bao. There's a market over the water and where all the fishing boats are lined up. It's nothing crazy special but it's pretty to sit out on the peer when the sun is setting or shop around for ridiculous hats.
Kayak to Deserted Island for Romantic Picnic: The old amour and I decided to dish a bit of money out on a kayak and head out to one of the little rocky islands not far out to picnic. With our beers in our bag and pad thai ready to go, we set off into the setting sun. It was an amazing adventure for our anniversary, as we jumped off the Kayak and swam in the bath warm water. The only bummer was when on the way back Zeus decided to send out a lightening storm (fine, maybe just heat lightening, but still). It was terrifying to go back to the mainland in a boat! Still, def recommend it for romance + adventure!
This is probably awkward. This relationship doesn't exist anymore. #ohwell #travelproblems
See the rest of the photos here from Koh Chang and please like the Facebook page
Travelling in Thailand? Read Also
How Not to Be an Ignorant Backpacker
The Party that Doesn't End- Full Moon Party (VIDEO)
6 Tips to Not Getting Ripped off in Bangkok
Rad Shopping Guide to Bangkok