Plenty to do on Ko Chang
Published/Last edited or updated: 3rd March, 2018
Cooking classes, spa treatments, yoga sessions, muay Thai training, elephant encounters, cycling, jogging and swinging through treetops are all counted among the land-based activities on Ko Chang.
Ko Chang has an unusually high number of Thai cooking class options, including four reliable options in Khlong Prao alone.
One of the best regarded is Blue Lagoon with its open-sided pavilion kitchen overlooking an estuary in Khlong Prao. Going since 2000 and based at the budget resort of the same name, the class includes a market visit and curry pastes are made from scratch—the massaman we tried in the restaurant was terrific. The 1,800 baht per person price tag is a little higher than other spots, but you pay more for quality and get to take a booklet of Thai recipes home.
Another spot with a great reputation is Kati Culinary—the Thai word kati means coconut milk and the experienced chef will teach you all about it before showing you how to create curry pastes and other base ingredients from scratch. For 1,500 baht per person, Kati seems to represent good value.
Those wanting to save cash while still learning to make staple Thai dishes should check out Koh Chang Thai Cooking School in a forested area near Khlong Phlu Waterfall, and the newer Napalai Cooking School, which is one of the cheapest options at just 1,000 baht per person.
Elsewhere on Ko Chang, Bamboo Hut on Khlong Kloi Beach and the Happy Turtle in Bailan village are both great, long-standing restaurants that do cooking classes on a more casual, if-the-chef-has-time kind of basis. Down in Salak Khok on the east coast, The Spa Koh Chang Resort offers a raw-food cooking class in addition to the usual pad Thai instructions.
Blue Lagoon Cooking School: Southern Khlong Prao on the estuary ; T: (089) 515 4617 ; (039) 557 243 ; http://www.kohchangcookery.com/
Happy Turtle Cooking School: Bailan village on main road ; T: (089) 252 9287 ; http://thaicookingkohchang.com/
Kati Culinary: Southern Khlong Prao on main road ; T: (081) 903 0408 ; https://www.facebook.com/Kati-Culinary-154682197932086/
Koh Chang Thai Cooking School: Khlong Prao on the road to Khlong Phlu Waterfall ; T: (081) 286 6740
Napalai Thai Cooking School: Khlong Prao village ; T: (087) 301 7996 ; https://www.facebook.com/KohchangNapalaithaicookingschool/
Spas and massage
First up there’s the Herbal Sauna Bailan for relaxing in the 100% humidity of steam rooms built in the spirit of detoxification and relaxation as practiced in some Thai temples. In addition to Thai massage you can also enjoy various skin scrubs and hair treatments.
Chief among Thai massage spots is probably Sima, a modest establishment that can charge more than elsewhere thanks to its outstanding reputation among Thais. You’ll also find traditional Thai massage offered for cheap on all main beaches. One place that a local recommended to us was Joy and Ya Massage on the main road through Bailan.
Those looking to detox should book into The Spa Resort Koh Chang for a guided fast using herbal supplements, with yoga classes optional and vegan food waiting for when you’re ready to eat again. Accompanying the detox centre you’ll find a range of massage and spa options plus kayaking and other activities in a setting that’s as relaxing as they come.
If you want to give rather than receive, a small TTC Spa School teaches Thai massage, lymph massage, Hawaiian massage, foot reflexology and more in a Northern Thai-style house in Khlong Kloi village.
Herbal Sauna Bailan: Bailan village on main road ; T: (084) 464 4005 ; http://www.herbalsaunabailan.com/ ; open 08:00-21:00
Sima Thai Massage: Khlong Prao on main road ; T: (081) 489 5171 ; open 08:00-22:00
The Spa Koh Chang Resort: Ao Salak Khok ; T: (083) 115 6566 ; http://www.thespakohchang.com/
TPC Spa School: Khlong Kloi village (at Santisook Bungalows) ; T: (093) 262 5820 ; (090) 387 9268 ; http://www.ttcspaschoolkohchang.com/
Included in its third straight category in this article, The Spa Koh Chang Resort attracts yogis from around the island for its daily sessions alongside a mangrove-draped canal from 08:00-10:00 for 400 baht. They also offer extended yoga retreats and meditation classes along with “workshops in Shibashi, the 18 movements form of Taichi Qigong.”
Many of Ko Chang’s yoga instructors are employed through the big BB Divers facility at Lonely Beach, which also includes a fitness centre, restaurant and guesthouse. Yoga classes take place at 10:00 and 18:30 in the BB Gym and cost 300 baht, with private sessions available at other times. The BB crew also holds yoga classes at its beachfront property down in Khlong Kloi.
Facing the sea at the south end of Lonely Beach (the beach, not the village), Aire Yoga and Cafe holds vinyasa classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 09:30 and 17:00 on most other days, for 300 baht. It doubles as a health food cafe and appears to be a good option for yogis wanting to downward dog on the seafront rather than in a gym.
Other spots offering morning yoga classes at time of writing include Salt Cafe at Coral Resort in Kai Bae and Blue Lagoon in Khlong Prao.
Coaches at the Thai Boxing Camp in Bailan have trained athletes who went on to compete at the top muay Thai venues in Thailand. They offer training by the hour for 600 baht and by the day for 2,000 baht, with deals getting better on periods of weeks or months. Anyone from beginner to pro is welcome and accommodation is available.
Though we preferred the setting at the Bailan facility, the PP Wanrung Koh Chang Muay Thai Gym also has experienced coaches teaching foreigners how to gracefully kick each other’s asses in Kai Bae. Don’t be surprised to find yourself facing down a muscle-bound Russian here.
Koh Chang Thai Boxing Camp: Bailan village ; T: (087) 351 7006 ; https://www.facebook.com/kohchangthaiboxing/
PP Wanrung Koh Chang Muay Thai Gym: Kai Bae village ; T: (080) 726 6680 ; (083) 352 8896 ; https://www.facebook.com/PP-Wanrung-Koh-Chang-Muaythai-Gym-132400160669989/
We’d avoid all of Ko Chang’s “elephant camps” except perhaps Baan Kwan Chang on the scenic inland road from Khlong Son. The camp has support from the Asian Elephants Foundation and it thinks of itself as a “sanctuary,” though we don’t see how forcing “former working elephants” to carry tourists around on their back qualifies as “retirement”.
But at least at Baan Kwan Chang the mahout walks ahead, guiding the elephant from the ground for much of the trek while the tourists sit on the strong necks, rather than the weaker backs, of the animals. The environment here appears far more humane than at Chang’s other elephant camps, with a fair amount of space for the pachyderms to waddle around near the jungle. A one-hour excursion costs 800 baht while a two-hour spin including a swim with the elephants fetches 1,300 baht. Kids are half-price.
Baan Kwan Chang: East of Khlong Son on the road to Khlong Jao Leuam Waterfall ; T: (081) 919 3995 https://www.facebook.com/Ban-Kwan-Chang-1006182759394224/
Cycling and jogging
Ko Chang’s two southern bays—Salak Phet and Bang Bao—have mostly smooth sealed roads that pierce into the jungle before emerging at isolated beaches and bays—great for teaming up exercise with exploration.
In the Salak Phet (southeast) area, (very) fit cyclists and joggers could climb up and whiz down the forest-draped hills leading through breathtaking scenery on the 10-kilometre road from Chek Bae to Long Beach. On the west side of Salak Phet Bay, we did a great tumbling run down the rugged lane to remote yet beautiful Wai Shak Beach.
Every year in February, the Salak Phet area hosts a road race, the Ultra Trail Koh Chang, with options to run 13 to 100 kilometres on a mix of concrete, gravel and jungle trails.
On the Bang Bao (southwest) side of Ko Chang, the five-kilometre lane running behind Khlong Kloi Beach to the bizarre Grand Lagoona Beach makes for a worthwhile ride or jog through forest and coconut groves.
Many resorts offer bicycles of varying sturdiness to guests, but overall you’ll find surprisingly few bicycle rental outlets on Ko Chang. We suggest renting one of the decent-quality mountain bikes available at a few shops found along the main drag through Khlong Prao. If you don’t want to peddle all the way around the island, just toss the bike in the back of a songthaew.
Treetop Adventure Park
On the forested rim of Bailan Bay, Treetop Adventure Park charges 1,200 baht to let visitors be monkeys by way of ziplines, treetop walkways, “tarzan swings,” “spider webs” and “flying skateboards,” among others. The group runs similar parks in Krabi, Kanchanaburi and Chiang Rai, and has a good reputation for safety.
Treetop Adventure Park: South end of Bailan ; T: (084) 310 7600 ; http://www.treetopadventurepark.com/
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
Our top 10 other sights and activities in and around Ko Chang