After the Travelguru film trip back in February this year, I took a short break to the beautiful island of Koh Chang with my friend Lucy. A new part of Thailand to discover for Thailand Fan Club and Lucy’s first trip to Asia, here is our holiday diary from our Thai island adventure.
I have been working for Thailand tourist board for five years and I have clocked up over 30 amazing trips to the land of smiles in that time (a mix of business and pleasure). That’s a lot of air miles I hear you cry! This was Lucy’s first time to Thailand and what an introduction it was!
Now, Thailand is a big country with a huge number of places to visit and I have been so lucky to have ticked many boxes so far but I hadn’t yet been to Thailand’s second largest island, Koh Chang. I’m now kicking myself for not going sooner. It’s stunning! Despite being the second largest island it’s not one of the top visited destinations – Bangkok, Phuket, Samui, Pattaya, Hua Hin and Chiang Mai hold the top spots.
As much as I would love to keep this little slice of a paradise a secret I have to share with you all just how beautiful this little island gem is.
How to get there:
The journey was so easy. After a night in Bangkok at the Centara Grand hotel, cocktails at their fabulous roof-top Red Sky bar and a much-needed breakfast to mop up one too many Mojitos from the night before, we made our way to Suvarnabhumi airport around 10am.
I pre-booked our flights on Bangkok Airways, Asia’s boutique airline, at around £80 return each. If you book earlier there are even better value fares to be had. I love flying with Bangkok Airways, especially because of the lounge facilities they provide for all passengers. Even if I’ve just had breakfast I can always find room for hot chocolate and freshly popped salted popcorn! Yum. They also serve tea, coffee, juices, cakes, sandwiches, Thai snacks and there are computers and free wifi access too. The lounges are a fantastic and comfortable way to kill time in any Thailand airport.
I may have made Lucy jump when I squealed at the excitement of grilled pork and sticky rice for our inflight meal – one of my favourite street food snacks. Beats a cheese sandwich any day!
Cue more squealing when we touch down at Trat airport. Quite possibly the cutest airport in the world.
Back at Suvarnabhumi airport, we had booked our return transfers from Trat to Koh Chang with a tour company who had a desk just by the domestic security channel in departures. For just £9 each way we travelled in air-conditioned comfort in a van from Trat airport all the way to our hotel on Koh Chang including the ferry ticket). Bargain! Being met at Trat airport and knowing you will be delivered to your hotel lobby without any further thought only helped you relax and get into the holiday mood quicker!
Where to stay:
There is a great choice of accommodation on the island of Koh Chang from basic beach huts, budget hotels and boutique hotels to luxury spa resorts.
We stayed at The Aiyapura Resort & Spa, a Furama Exclusive hotel situated in the north of the island, only 10 minutes from the pier. We were dropped off first so we bid farewell to our fellow van passengers and skipped excitedly towards reception while the smiley concierge team wrestled with our over-packed suitcases! We were ushered towards a very large comfy sofa in the lobby and were handed cold towels and a refreshing iced drink. What a welcome! After a speedy check-in we were whisked away in a golf cart to our pool villa which we were proud to call home for the next four nights.
The pool villas are right on the beach, away from the main resort, so the privacy and peace and quiet is great. From the villa you could practically jump into the sea when you needed to cool off.
The villas are decorated Thai-style, decked out in teak wood but with all of the modern touches you need. The view from the villas is lovely, an undisturbed panorama of sand, sea and mountains.
An added bonus (especially as two girls with a lot of stuff!) was the huge bathrooms. That’s what I love most about hotels in Thailand, they don’t scrimp on space, the square footage of hotel rooms is second to none. The jacuzzi bath was a treat too.
Excited and eager to explore, we dumped our suitcases, threw on our bikinis and headed out to see the rest of the resort. Plus, a little birdy told us it was happy hour and we thought it would have been rude not to oblige. Much to our delight, it was also happy hour at the pool bar so we jumped in and ordered Mai Thais.
The next morning, en-route to breakfast, we wandered through the resort. It’s so green and lush, with palm trees everywhere. Such a tropical feel. As we made our way across the paths Lucy had a funny feeling we were being followed, she was right, but you would never guess what it could have been.
Yep, Peacocks! These magnificent, beautiful birds live at the Aiyapura and wander around the resort at leisure (and like they own the place!) They took a while to get used to as they often just appeared from nowhere and made me jump as they but they only added to the beauty of the resort.
The reception and concierge team were great. In uber-relaxed holiday mode we kept forgetting our key and locking ourselves out of the villa so we probably spent more time in reception than other guests but they always greeted us with a smile and were super helpful. We booked a snorkelling boat trip with the concierge team – they talked us through all the options and recommended tours that would allow us to see us much as possible during our short stay (more on that below under Things To Do). We also indulged in their spa.
Lucy is my best friend, practically a sister (we have been friends since we were three years old as we grew up in the same street) but we are chalk and cheese and this is the perfect example of how different we are… Lucy was content with just a 30-minute massage as she was eager to take out one of the hotels complementary bicycles and get in some exercise/exploring, I however, emerged 3.5 hours later from the spa having indulged in full body massage, head massage and a pedicure! It’s guilt-free pampering, though, as it’s such good value for money in Thailand plus the hotel had some fantastic spa offers/discounts.
The Aiyapura offers a free return transfer from the resort to White Sand beach throughout the day which is a great added-value extra and we took advantage of it most days for trips to the beach, shopping and going out for dinner. White Sand beach is beautiful, and aptly named! The powder-soft sand felt so good between your toes and the hawkers bringing ice cold drinks, ice cream and trays of sliced fresh pineapple all day was enough to keep you lying there all afternoon without having to get up! My favourite bit about going to the beach was taking a swim and admiring the view back towards the beach – the jungle clad lush green mountains set against the white sand beach and blue sea was postcard perfect.
If you get itchy feet and want to stretch your legs you could wander up the beach to one of the cool, quirky beach bars for a snack or frozen Mojito!
The market shops along the beach road were pretty good too and we both bought new bikinis, dresses and gifts for friends and family.
The last free return transfer by Aiyapura is early evening but it was easy to get a Songtheaw (local taxi) from town back to the hotel if you stay out late for dinner, drinks, and dancing (guilty!)
There is a fantastic selection of restaurants, cafes and bars to chose from. As the sun sets and the beaches empty of suntanned tourists, chairs, tables and giant cushions start to spill onto the sand, restaurant signs come to life and trees filled with fairy lights start to twinkle. Soon, the beach is busy again as hungry travellers wander along deciding where to dine. The seafood is particularly good, especially the prawns which are the size of lobsters!
Things to do:
There are a range of activities and tours to enjoy on Koh Chang. You can book with your hotel like we did at the Aiyapura, or with a local agent in town – but do check that they are licensed operators and shop around. Click here to read about all the things there are to do on the island.
The Thai Fun sight-seeing and snorkelling trip takes in 15 tropical islands and there a minimum of two stops for coral reef snorkelling and island stop-overs for beach time. The boat is really nice, with two decks for those who want to relax on the comfy sofa chairs downstairs or top-up their tan on the upper deck.
We were picked up around 8:30am from our hotel and taken to the pier where we boarded the boat for the day. While we waited for other passengers to arrive we were offered coffee, tea, toast and jam. Yum!
We were soon on our way, heading south, passing the West coast of Koh Chang, past Bang Bao, Koh Klum, then towards Koh Wai.
Our first island stop was Koh Wai where we snorkelled in the beautiful warm coral waters and relaxed on the beach for about 45 minutes before swimming back to the boat and heading off again.
En route to our next island stop, Koh Mak, a delicious buffet lunch was served on board – a a selection of Thai and Italian pasta dishes followed by fresh fruits. We had to take our hat off to the chefs cooking such tasty food at sea, pretty amazing! Tucking into lunch as we sailed onwards, looking out to sea, was a pinch-yourself moment and a definite highlight of the holiday. Soft drinks are included but you can buy Thai beers on board for just 50THB.
With just enough time to digest lunch we arrived at Koh Mak where we couldn’t wait to jump off the boat and into the sea to cool off with a swim over to the island. We decided to chill on the beach here as one of the boat boys gave us a good tip that the best snorkelling is at Koh Rang…
After an hour of sunbathing on the gorgeous beaches at Koh Mak we set sail towards Koh Rang. The sea here is crystal clear with unspoilt coral and tropical fish in a rainbow of beautiful colours. We spent an hour diving and swimming with all the amazing fish. I have to admit, at first I was nervous as there were soooo many, but it was so much fun. And then something really cool happened… one of the boat boys started throwing bread and melon into the sea (from the boat) right where we were swimming and within seconds we were surrounded in a colourful frenzy of fish of all shapes and sizes as they darted about for food. In fits of giggles we just bobbed about in our life jackets admiring the chaos as the boat boy laughed from the side of the boat at us.
At around 5pm our journey back to Koh Chang began. Back on board we dried off and indulged in an ice cool beer. The journey back was wonderfully relaxing as we reflected on our day and watched the sunset as we approached the pier. Lucy and I decided to stay at White Sand beach for the evening for dinner and drinks. We found a cute spot for Pina Coladas before walking up the beach to find a restaurant for something to eat.
Sprawled out on Thai cushions on the sand we tucked into another Thai feast, washed down with Thai rum, watching the fire entertainers before heading back to the Aiyapura to crash out. We both agreed it was by far our most favourite day of the holiday and I can highly recommend joining this island-hopping tour if you visit Koh Chang. The Thai staff on board were so kind, friendly, helpful and took great care of us and made the day even more memorable.
We paid 1,000 THB each (£20) which we thought was amazing value for money as it included the return transfers, day sightseeing, snorkel gear lunch, snacks and soft drinks.
Since returning from Koh Chang I haven’t stopped raving about it! A few friends are planning a trip to Thailand this year, one a romantic holiday and the other with her family (two young girls) and both have now decided on Koh Chang based on my recommendations. I can honestly say that this idyllic island gem is a place everyone should visit if they are looking to experience authentic Thai island life – which is why I know my friends will have a holiday of a lifetime – like Lucy and I did.
If this blog has inspired you to visit Koh Chang why not check out some of these tour operators for more information, hotel choices and prices. If you have already been and would like to share your travel stories with us we would love to hear them at Thailand Reunited.
Thank you to the Aiyapura Resort & Spa, a Furama Exclusive hotel for their kind hospitality.
Emerald Travel http://www.emerald.travel/thailand-holidays
Odyssey World Travel http://www.odyssey-world.co.uk/tailor-made-holiday-destinations/category/thailand
In 2013 Southall Travel will also have the resort in their brochure too