Apr 05 2012

Ko Chang noi: Thailand’s most laidback island?

Published by at 11:10 am under Andaman Sea islands

As far as countries go, Thailand is known to be an especially laidback one, and some of the Thai language’s most frequently used phrases express this. There’s sabai sabai, which most phrasebooks translate simply as “relax”, but to me it’s more like “chill chill” or better yet, “just kick back and relax because everything is well and good”.

"Sabai sabai" personified.

"Sabai sabai" personified.

There’s jai yen, literally translated as “cool heart”, and used either to suggest that someone “chill out”, or to describe one who possesses a particularly cool and composed disposition, which is highly commendable in Thai society. And of course, there’s mai pen rai, the phrase with a thousand meanings, all of which correlate to relaxing, stepping aside and just letting things be.

Sometimes, this mai pen rai attitude can be annoying, like when dozens of Thais are doing that ever so slow sabai style of walking and thereby blocking one of Bangkok’s notoriously narrow sidewalks when you’re late for the bus. Most of the time, however, Thailand’s laidback ways are welcomed by travellers looking to escape the bustle and overly uptight rules and regulations of places like my home country, the United States.

Thailand's animals seem ultra laid back too; something in the water?

Thailand's animals seem ultra laidback too -- something in the water?

As far as big cities go, Bangkok is an amazingly laidback metropolis, and Chiang Mai somehow captures that lazy country porch atmosphere in a city of some 600,000 people. Yet, if Thailand were an earthquake of sabai sabai, the southern islands would be the fault line, and after a recent visit I’m convinced that Ko Chang noi off Thailand’s west coast (not to be confused with big Ko Chang southeast of Bangkok) is the country’s laidback epicentre.

This pretty well sums up Ko Chang noi.

This pretty well sums up Ko Chang noi.

Ko Chang noi attracts a special type of person. If you enjoy lounging for hours to dub reggae music; if you consider your daily exercise to be the stroll from bungalow hammock to beach hammock; if you prefer to have no clue what day of the week it is; and if you’re perfectly happy to lose yourself on an island where all of the above are normal, then Ko Chang noi is for you.

Ko Chang is definitely for them.

Ko Chang noi is definitely for them.

This island is not for those seeking pricey air-con bungalows with room service, satellite TV and those little complimentary slippers for when you’ve just emerged from the shower. In fact, all of Ko Chang noi’s modest resorts run generators between 17:00 and 23:00 only, and even during these “lights on” hours you won’t find hot showers, fans or TVs anywhere on the island. The cell phone signal is weak but accessible at a few strategic points only, and internet is unstable at best, so if roughing it is not your thing you might consider somewhere like Ko Phi Phi, Ko Ngai, or Ko Lipe.

Who needs TV anyway?

Who needs TV?

For those who are happy to let the ocean breeze alone cool them at night, Ko Chang noi offers an ample supply of cheap bungalows at some very — you guessed it — laid back resorts. Nearly all of the island’s accommodation is in the 200 to 500 baht range, and it’s one of Thailand’s last remaining islands where you can still live relatively comfortably for under 500 baht per day.

Typical accommodation on Ko Chang noi, this one from Sea Eagle Resort.

Typical accommodation on Ko Chang noi, this one from Sea Eagle Resort.

This partly explains why so many come back to Ko Chang noi year after year and often stay for months on end, but it’s not the low prices alone that bring people back. Ultimately, the island’s chilled out atmosphere and positively intoxicating Rastafarian style vibes — if you get the hint — explain the loyalty of Ko Chang’s visitors.

Do I have to spell it out for you?

Do I have to spell it out for you?

In particular, a consistent group of artists, writers and musicians come to the island each year for extended stays, and it’s not difficult to see how this place is highly suitable both for getting the creative juices flowing and for rejuvenating body, mind and soul.

A plain bungalow becomes a work of art, at Cashew Resort.

A plain bungalow becomes a work of art at Cashew Resort.

A few activities are available for those who’ve realised they haven’t moved from a single beach chair for the last two weeks. Several of the resorts either rent out sea kayaks or allow guests to use them for free, and there are some picturesque rocky formations and totally secluded beaches along the island’s north and east coasts.

If Ko Chang's not quite isolated enough, this little spot is just a short kayak ride away.

If Ko Chang's not quite isolated enough, this little spot is just a short kayak ride away.

Some of the resorts can organise fishing trips on longtail boats, and a lone diving operation is based out of Cashew Resort. If that all sounds just a little too adventurous, Cashew Resort also offers daily yoga classes, and some rousing beach volleyball games are held every evening at dusk at Eden Resort. After dark, a guitar sing along beside a campfire is always a favourite.

Fishing in Eden.

Fishing in Eden.

Most who arrive at Ko Chang noi stay at one of the handful of resorts located along Long Beach, the island’s main stretch of sand, but if you’re seeking isolation there are a few good spots towards the island’s northern tip that occupy wooded hillsides and private beaches. In this neighbourhood I recommend Sea Eagle Resort, Rattana Bungalows, or the oddly named Contex Resort.

Long Beach -- Ko Chang's "busy" area.

Long Beach -- Ko Chang's "busy" area.

Closer to the “action,” Changthong Resort is a charming family run spot that was one of Ko Chang’s first resorts, and Crocodile Point gets serious points for its high level of hospitality and service, picturesque patio restaurant perched on a cliff above the beach, and breezy, tasteful bungalows set on a shady hill overlooking the sea.

Crocodile Point does its part to add to the island's laid back theme.

Crocodile Point does its part to add to the island's laidback theme.

One final tip: for dinner don’t miss Little Italy down a path off Long Beach. Here you’ll find a laidback Italian chef who whips up some of the best pesto Genovese, tiramisu, espresso and fresh baked Italian bread I’ve tried anywhere in Thailand.

See you here!

See you here!

Ko Chang noi is reached by daily longtail ferries that cost 150 baht and depart from a special pier in Ranong at 9:30, 12:00 and 14:00 during high season, or — weather permitting — around 14:00 in the rainy season. The hammocks are free.

Sea Eagle Resort
Sea Eagle Beach, Ko Chang noi
T:(084) 628 4985 ; (084) 840 7789

Rattana Bungalow
Ko Chang noi (north of Long Beach)
T: (080) 694 2157

Contex Resort
Ko Chang noi (north of Long Beach)
T: (081) 273 9454 ; (083) 392 0076

Cashew Resort
Long Beach, Ko Chang noi
T: (077) 820 116

Changthong Bungalow
Long Beach, Ko Chang noi
T: (080) 526 8422

Crocodile Rock Bungalows
south of Long Beach, Ko Chang noi
T: (081) 1370 1434

Little Italy Restaurant & Bungalow
Long Beach, Ko Chang noi
T: (084) 551 2760

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3 Responses to “Ko Chang noi: Thailand’s most laidback island?” ...

  1. royon 05 Apr 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Good bye Koh Chang?

  2. Shots along the way, 7 April 2012 | bright blue buson 07 Apr 2012 at 11:29 pm

    […] much with this blog (I’ve been busy with the Travelfish.org islands blog, writing stuff like this), but I’m going to start trying to post a photo or two from along the way. It’s been […]

  3. Isabelon 05 Dec 2012 at 9:22 pm

    It was nice to read this, I stayed there last february and loved it, 2 weeks there and one forgets about the world :) I stayed with Tonn and Pit at Crocodile Rock Bungalows, here’s their website: http://kohchangandaman.webs.com/

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