I was pulled into a magical spell of the eastern side of Thailand at the picturesque Trat Airport owned by Bangkok Airways. This easternmost province on the Thai coast is the way to the white-sand beaches of Koh Chang and the surrounding group of islands. Situated at a distance of 310 kilometers from the capital city of Bangkok, it is very convenient to reach Eastern Thailand and its islands through its two main driving routes and then take car ferries to Koh Chang. In my recent media trip, I was lucky enough to spend two nights and two days at Centara Koh Chang Tropicana Resort on the Klong Prao beach but the time was too less to explore the surroundings and absorb the bountiful and beatific vibes of its photogenic islands.
With a population of 20,000 people, the small town of Trat is the administrative and the main market town for the province. It has an open-air market on the Thanon Sukhumvit street. One can indulge in the Thai food and drinks and later head to explore Wat Buppharam, a 17th-century temple. If one decides to stay here, there is a guesthouse area just south of the town center with many backpacker style guesthouses and accompanying restaurants. Trat province also heads southeast towards the Cambodian border at Hat Lek. (90 Kilometers). Laem Ngop is a fishing village and also the departure point for the ferries to Koh Chang and other islands.
CAR FERRY TO THE ISLANDS
While the flight from Bangkok to Trat is the quickest way to reach the province, the next phase of the travel was my favorite. The ferry ride to the mainland to Ao Sapparot on Koh Chang (Elephant Island) was very exciting. A huge boat transferred us and our car to the largest island in the Mu Koh Chang National Park archipelago. Taking in the cool breeze by the window and marveling at the expanse of pristine waters on one side and mountainous jungle hills on the other, I did not sit down for a single minute of the boat. The joyride lasted for hardly thirty minutes but I thoroughly made the best of this experience.
THE BOATING EXCURSION
When we touched base at the island, we did not head to our hotel first but were headed for a lovely boating excursion.
Boating excursion at Long Rua Mad in Koh Chang is initiated by the local people from their intellectual knowledge. This activity was also awarded from Tourism Authority of Thailand in the year 2007. By booking for this boat ride, visitors get to peep into the lifestyle of local people (fishermen communities) who live near the mangrove forests. This activity is a slow and soulful way of soaking in the beauty of the island. It is extremely popular among the honeymooners. I found the ride a great way to meditate and converse with nature. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The boatman rowed it at a soft pace and we had all the time to observe the houses, the mangroves, the local life and more.
It reminded me of the backwaters of Kerala in India.
THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT KOH CHANG
Koh Chang is the third largest and one of the best kept secret island of Thailand.
It promises a perfect beach holiday but we must know that it enjoys the Marine National Park status.
29 different species of mammals have been recorded in the National Park. These included the Tailed Macaque, Barking Deer, Wild Pig, Javan Mongoose and Silvered Langur.
When one arrives on the mainland and gets off the ferry, there are shared taxis to help the passengers reach out to their respective resorts or hotels in various beaches.
Some of the famous beaches are White Sands Beach ( Hat Sai Khao), Klong Prao, Kai Bae, Lonely Beach and Bang Bao.
While the beaches of Koh Chang offer little opportunity for snorkeling, there are some excellent diving and snorkeling opportunities in the nearby islands which are rapidly becoming popular as major centers of diving.
There are some islands which are also known for their beautiful reefs, soft and hard corals including Massive, Columnar and Stagshorn Corals.
There are two wreck dives too for the adventurous divers.
A large part of the island is covered in rain forests and the mountainous green interiors make it unique and bewitching.
There are beautiful mangrove forest ecosystems where the little streams of water end up meeting the sea.
A variety of boat trips and boating excursions make for pleasant short trips from one island to another.
There are many waterfalls on the island and they have plenty of water but only in the season from July to December.
One cannot miss the inland beauty of Koh Chang while doing an Elephant Trekking.
The three places not to be missed on the mainland are Ao Tan Khu, Black Sand Beach and Ban Nam Chieo.