On Land

Trekking Across Koh Chang – Coast to Coast in a Day

Walk across Koh Chang island

The first time I did this trek it was overshadowed by the ‘King Cobra incident’ ( you can read about that at the bottom of the page. ) So this time I was hoping for something less eventful.

Not many people do this trek.  You wonlt get great views form the top of any hills and you won’t gt a guide who speaks great English.  But what you willget is the sense of accomplishment of walking across the island.  Starting near Klong Plu waterfall on the west coast and ending just north of Than Mayom waterfall on the east.  

There were four of us on this trek, myself, two of our guests at Baan Rim Nam and a Japanese woman who put everyone else to shame with her nimble footwork hopping across slippery rocks and balancing on fallen trees.

Starting point was jus toff the road to Klong Plu waterfall.  From there we headed up towards an abandoned road and then took a path heading uphill towards the waterfall.  This joined the ( also abandoned ) trail that the National Park built year ago which offered an alternative route to Klong Plu waterfall.  It has since been closed off.  

We hit the river above the falls and then started climbing uphill.  Quite a lot of this section was on the old cross island trail (Yep, that too also abandoned and never maintained by the National Park). 

It’s uphill most of the way first to one small peak then drop down into a gulley and up to a higher peak – almost 500 metres above sea level.  It’s pretty tiring and there were frequent short stops for water and to rest.   

Starting to head downhill, we reached a large bamboo forest which you have to zig-zag across.  It’s very disorientationg being surrounded by clumps of massive bamboo plants.

Lunch was at the source of Than Mayom river.  A 20 minute break to peel leeches off and have simple rice and omlette lunch by the river.  From here on 80% of the trek was gently downhill with just a few short, uphill climbs and a couple of very steep downward sections which required scrambing down rocks and lowering yourself by rope.  Half of this section was along the river bed.  So  footwear that you don’t mind getting wet and also doesn’t get too slippery is important. 

As you’ll see from the photos the best views on the trek are along the river.  Some lovely pools ofor a swim and one large waterfall deep in the jungle, which is an upper level of Than Mayom waterfall.  

The route:

Trek Profile:

 

Time and height profile for cross island trek on Koh Chang

Height ( elevation ) vs time. 

The actual time was a bit longer than this as I paused recording when we had lunch for 20 minutes or so.  As my old Garmin watch only has about 8 hours battery life with GPS on.

Should you do the cross island trek?

Definitely recommended for the experience, for the challenge of doing something that most visitors to the island won’t even contemplate and just for anyone who wants to casually drop the fact that they walked across a mountainous island in Thailand into a conversation when they get back home.

Not recommended if you aren’t used to doing some exercise; are obsessed with Health & Safety regulations; have a fear of leeches, bugs etc or don’t want to end up a wet, muddy, sweaty mess at the end of the day.

I’d recommend bringing a couple of extra bottles of water with you and also having a big breakfast.   Footwear should be something that you are comfortable walking in when they get wet.   I wore my Colombia trail running shoes and they were fine.  Although the leeches did get in through the mesh. They’ll get through your socks too.  So it’s also handy to have some tobacco with you to stop the bleeding from leech bites. ( Rub it onto the wound and it quickly stops the bleeding. )

Booking:

The trek is run by Jungle Fever Trekking.  But you can book in advance by contacting Colin at CocoDeeBoTour, Chai Chet.  Email him at Colin@cocodeebokohchang.com  

Trek price is 1,200 Baht. (I paid for my trek – wasn’t a freebie.) This includes round trip transfers between your hotel and start and finish points, licensed guide, drinking water, simple Thai food lunch & a small backpack.  Group size is always small and a private trek can also be arranged. The minimum group is 2 people, so one person can do the trek privately but must pay double. 

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Original post from 2013: A Jungle Trekking Adventure

In the past guided walks across the island have been possible but these always involved an overnight stay camping in the middle of the jungle.   I was never too keen on that idea and I knew that in the past it was possible to walk across the island in a day on a trail that was made years ago in he early days of the National Park. This connected the two main waterfalls on the island, Than Mayom & Klong Plu.   Of course the trail was never maintained and so large parts of it have been overtaken by jungle once more.   The remnants of this trail can easily be followed at the Than Mayom end by visitors to the waterfall, but they soon disappear once you reach   a rubber plantation after around 20 minutes walking.

The good news is that, as of a couple of weeks ago, ‘Jungle Fever’ have started running a cross island trek. This involves an early start – you will be picked up around 7.00 – 7.30am and will be walking most of the day until around 5pm, although there are regular rest stops on the climbs, which can be pretty steep and a half hour break for lunch.

The cross island walk that I took is about 50% on the original trail, where you can still see some old information signs and steps that are obviously man made up hillsides through the jungle, and 50% on trails that you wouldn’t know existed unless you had a good guide with a GPS leading the way. this definitely isn’t the sort of trek that you would try to do on your own.   If you get lost or get into trouble there is no mobile phone coverage in the centre of the island and unless someone knows the route you are taking the odds of anyone finding you would be slim.

You will be dropped off in the morning near the entrance to Klong Plu waterfall.   From here you head uphill along a narrow trail to join an old waterfall walk, which currently isn’t used – although it is shown of signs at the waterfall entrance.   This takes you around the top of the falls, across the river and joins the old National Park trail up into the hills through.   There is a fair amount of uphill walking, which is steep in some areas, after heading up one 300 metre hill you dip down into   a valley and then up again to the highest point, just over 520 metres.   On the way there is a rocky outcrop where you can get views west to Klong Prao beach.

From then on it is over the ridge and the start of the walk down to Than Mayom.   After heading through leech valley, an area of very prickly plants ( “Be careful, spikey” will become the guide’s catchphrase by the end of the day ), a beautiful bamboo forest you realise that you are now well off the original trail and are now following paths that you would never know were there.

We headed down to what the source of the river that flows into Than Mayom, from here it was a matter of following the riverbank downstream, criss-crossing the river as we went and taking the occasional detour around a couple of nice waterfalls.   It was whilst we were walking alongside the river that we encountered a King Cobra.   The guide had a very close encounter indeed. We were walking by the river, guide at the front and I was a couple of metres behind.   Next thing I know, the guide throws himself to the right and into the river as a 4 metre long King Cobra shot out of the rocks, head raised, and straight for him.   Both ended up in the water and the snake was pretty much on top of the guide who was thrashing around a bit, then the snake swam off leaving a shocked and stunned guide.   It was all over in a few seconds. I pulled him out and quickly checked he wasn’t bitten.   Which was a bit of luck as if he had been then it wouldn’t be good.   We were about 3 hours walk from the nearest other people and the only place with King Cobra serum in the vicinity is Trat Hospital, on the mainland, there’s none on Koh Chang. So chances are he would be dead before help could arrive. I have never seen a   snake move like that before and hope to never see it again. It really was just a matter of split second or a few centimetres.   The guide’s amulets worked on this occasion.   But when you do a jungle trek, especially on a route that few people have walked, it isn’t surprising that you encounter some wildlife.

(It is very rare that King Cobras will try to attack humans.   It is something that other guides on Koh Chang haven’t experienced before. As I was writing this I had a trekking guide from another company call me to ask about what happened.   He has seen numerous snakes on the island, including Green Mamba, another very deadly snake for which there is no serum available in Thailand, but they have never come close to attacking him and always move away from humans. His best guess was that it was a female protecting her eggs or young. So I guess we were walking too quietly and startled it.   Whilst this was a bit freaky, the chances of it happening again are very slim. It shouldn’t put you off taking a trek but does serve as a reminder that you are walking through a real jungle full of unpredictable wildlife.   )

After the snake incident we were back on the barely visible trails for another 3 hours, gradually making our way down towards the east coast.   Some very scenic river views to be had but no more wildlife.   There was one other area we crossed that was apparently home to quite a few Green Vipers but we didn’t see any.    Then at around 4pm the first sign of civilisation, a couple of rubber tappers shacks way up in the hills.   These guys live up here with no electricity in makeshift huts.   Around there were also hunting platforms in some trees.   These are about 2 metres off the ground and at night hunters will sit on them waiting for deer or wild pigs to wander past.

Finally at 5pm we headed down the steep incline to the river at Than Mayom falls and walked out of the National Park to where the pick up truck was waiting to take up back to the west coast.   Total distance is around 13-14 Km but due to the nature of the trail, progress is slow in places, especially after lunch.   Not a trek to do in the rain due to the steep slopes and narrow trails and not one where you can stop for long periods regularly.   Nightfall is at around 6pm and so you want to be out of the jungle before then.

 

 

6 Comments

  • Thanks Paul. That’s a great write up on doing the trek solo. You’re a much more adventurous man than me.

    * Remember kids, don’t try this unless you know what you are doing *

  • “this definitely isn’t the sort of trek that you would try to do on your own”

    I took that as a challenge and today tried to do it on my own. It was raining all day and it’s rainy season anyway so lots of water in the rivers and lots of leeches because the ground is damp and they like that. I’d checked out where the start point was a month or two before (this page was very helpful) and had a rough idea of the terrain and which valleys I had to cut through and which ridges I had to walk along etc (Google Maps Terrain view). There’s no data signal in the middle of Koh Chang so I also had an offline map downloaded on my phone using a GPS app.

    For anybody else reading this, unless you have decent knowledge of Koh Chang jungles and do extensive preparation, and have all the right gear (compass, GPS, phone, spare power pack for phone, knife, food), you do need a guide or you will almost certainly get lost. Also if national park staff see you trying to do it alone they might fine you 1000 baht. The start point of the trek is cordoned off at the moment (at both ends) because a German woman got lost last year, and she wasn’t even trying to do the trek, she was just trying to do the nature trail.

    I set off about 4.15am, it was still dark but I wanted to get past Klong Phlu without anybody asking me questions. I walked up past Klong Phlu waterfall and then waited until about 5.15am until there was a bit of light. I carried on walking and turned the torch off by about 5.45, by this stage I was up near the top of the first 300m summit. The trail doesn’t really drop down there as mentioned on this page, it’s sort of flat for a while and then goes up to the 520m summit, I didn’t find any viewpoint here but I didn’t look very hard (the leeches were annoying me). I did find a viewpoint at about 400 metres; a partial seaview that wasn’t spectacular.

    The leeches start after the 300m summit, at least they do in rainy season. The leeches are all the way down until you reach about 3 quarters of the way through the trek (just before the rubber tappers huts). I had some success rubbing insect repellent on my ankles, socks and outside of my trainers. This works until you walk through a stream then you have to reapply.

    About 15 minutes after the source of Than Mayom (you can step over the stream it’s that small, which is amazing to think when you get to the waterfalls at the bottom) you will get to the same stream which is now more of a small river with knee-deep water in places (in rainy season). At this point the trail ends and this confused me because up until this point the trail had been clear and obvious. I spent about 30 minutes walking up and down the bank looking for a trail but there was nothing so I decided to walk on down the river bed. Eventually I noticed a trail running alongside the river and rejoined it. This kept happening for about 2 hours, either the trail became unclear, impassable due to fallen trees/bamboo, or just stopped at the river’s edge. So 75% of the time I was walking along the river until I found a new section of trail.

    The trail is really not good for the Than Mayom half of the trek, until you get to level 2-3 of the waterfall (the most impressive level). After then it’s fine but by that stage you’re only an hour or two from the finish. I think Jungle Fever are still running this trek but maybe they haven’t had any customers for the last 6+ months because it’s rainy season, so the jungle has taken over. It really needs somebody with a machete to hack the path back into shape.

    In terms of the trek itself, it’s a hell of an achievement to say you’ve done it. But actually the trek isn’t amazing. At least, there are better ones on Koh Chang. This is a good-all rounder but the views aren’t great compared to the Salakhphet and Klong Son treks (I know I might have missed a viewpoint here but I don’t think I was missing much). I suppose if you haven’t already visited the 2 waterfalls, then they’ll add to the experience. Khlong Phlu is the 2nd biggest on the island, and the upper levels of Than Mayom are very big as well. I didn’t see much nature at all but I think that was due to the weather. One squirrel, one eagle fishing in the river, one small snake, a few lizards, and 154226 leeches.

    I arrived at Than Mayom waterfall at 12pm. So total time for me was 8 hours, but that included 1 hour sitting around and 30 minutes trying to find a path. I think next time I could do it in 6 hours. If the path was good and in dry season then 4-5 hours would be possible.

  • Thanks Toon. Very nice photos.
    ( For anyone reading this Toon runs the trekking company ‘Jungle Fever’ that does the cross island trek and other treks on Koh Chang. Contact him via the Facebook link above.)

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