Klong Son – Fishing Village and Valley
✔ Lovely bay – but all the beachfront is owned by property developer
✔ Great area to explore by scooter / bicycle and see local life
✔ Two cement works, two 7-eleven minimarts and a pointless public parking area.
A few minutes after leaving the ferry pier you’ll pass through Klong Son village. You probably won’t even realise you are passing through it as the pick-up truck taxi won’t stop and you’ll see very few obvious signs of tourism by the main road.
Klong Son is still very much a local area for local people.
This isn’t an area of the island many people will head to if they want to holiday on Koh Chang, but it is home to a small fishing community; the best elephant camp on the island; a shrine to the spirits who look after the fortunes of Koh Chang; some good jungle trekking; a nice little multi-tiered waterfall; a huge luxury beachfront housing development with 9 hole pitch & putt course and Klong Son valley makes for a very nice spot to live should you wish to make your home on Koh Chang without breaking the bank.
Plus there is even a run down golf driving range and cock fighting arena.
And if you need a place to park a car there’s a brand new public parking area that no-one uses
So, it really does have something for everyone.
Klong Son beach accommodation
There is a kilometre long crescent beach with views out across a beautiful bay flanked by two peninsulas. However, you won’t notice it from the roadside. The beach lies about 1km from the road and there are no obvious ‘This Way to the Beach’ signs. There’s only one small resort is on this beach, the excellent ‘Little Sunshine‘ – which is located in the Siam Royal View housing development. Nearby, a new resort, Peninsula Bay Resort, run by SRV and with a handful of rooms just off the beach, will open by the end of 2016.
Aiyapura Resort is located on the southern peninsula of the bay. This is a hotel to head for if you want to impress your better half by splashing out a few hundred Pounds/Dollars/Euros a night. They have two small, man made, beaches outside the hotel to ensure that well heeled guests weren’t found waist deep in silt from the mouth of the river following attempts to enjoy a romantic evening stroll along the shore.
But on the plus side the Spa is rated as one of the best on the island, the views across the bay are excellent and it is a good place to get away from it all or for a honeymoon. Ex- Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra is also rumoured to have a residence within the resort which itself is rumoured to be owned by his close associates.
In the past this beach at the northwestern tip of Koh Chang, went by a multitude of names. The Tourist Authority map gave the name as Klong Son Bay, a locally printed guidebook didn’t give it a name, a roadside sign gave the name as ‘Chang Noi Beach’, and in a magazine for Thai travellers it went by the names ‘Son Bay’ or ‘Premwadee Beach’. (Premwadee was also the name of the aging, rundown resort at the northern end of the bay.)
However, now we’ll call it Chang Noi Beach as the entire length is now owned by a property developer, Siam Royal View, and this is what they call it. It’s their beach, and they can call it whatever they want to.
Lining this beach will be, one day, dozens of swish, but cookie cutter, villas. It will be huge development including a huge marina – in the river estuary at the rear of the beach. So whilst living on this development won’t be a place to get away from it all, it is unlikely that your neighbours will be drinking Mekhong whisky and singing karaoke songs until the early hours.
With prices for land and a house from anything from 6 to 40 million Baht mark there’s something to suit the budgets of most people looking for an island home in a Swiss managed development where the locals are kept at a safe distance from the inhabitants.
Whilst I’m personally not a fan of large housing developments, I can see the attraction – it’s safe, has great views and the developers take care of all the worries associated with having a house built abroad. The addition of a marina is a big plus, as there are very few places where you can moor a boat on the island. If sailing is your thing day trips and skippered or bareboat charter can be arranged by Denis from AV Ocean who run sailing trips and courses at the marina.
Inside the Siam Royal View development one owner has made his beachfront homes into a small resort called ‘Little Sunshine‘, a very nice place to stay if you are looking for a homely boutique resort with personal service as good as you will find in any luxury hotel. And increasingly, owners are renting their villas out to visitors. So if you’re looking for a holiday home for a week or two you’ll find a lot on sites such as Flipkey and Airbnb etc
But even if you aren’t planning on buying a home during your holiday you could do worse than visit Siam Royal View and play around on their 9 hole pitch and putt golf course, which is dotted with water features and comes complete with astroturf on the cambered greens to make it a tough challenge for even experienced golfers. There’s also a very good restaurant and beachfront pool where you can relax. At the south end of the beach, the Shambala Beach Bar also hosts the occasional beach cricket match.
However, the bay is very shallow, at low tide you have to walk a few hundred metres to get deep enough to swim, but it is very sheltered and safe for kids to play on. It’s a great bay for canoeing, you can find a couple more small beaches on the southern peninsula and there are two islands at the mouth of the bay. The largest Koh Chang Noi has good snorkelling off the southern side and a sandy beach on the north. You will also see some huge boulders, not found anywhere else on Koh Chang around the shores of the northern peninsula. You’ll find kayaks for rent for 100Baht / hour by the Siam Royal View pool.
As more homes at Siam Royal View are completed, more shops and services catering to expats will spring up. But at present, Klong Son is still a sleepy little village. Highlights include a couple of 7-Elevens, not one but two ATMs, a builder’s merchant, a wood shop and a couple of cement factories. It’s also the only place on the west coast without a tailor’s shop or a souvenir shop of any kind – unless of course you’re looking for a kilo of assorted vegetables, a 13,000 BTU aircon unit or a 4 metre long length of redwood as a reminder of your stay on the island.
But the first signs of change are there – Aiyapura Resort run a great little bakery ‘Bread Oven’ roadside near the cross roads in the centre of the village. This crossroads, in the centre of Klong Son, is where you’ll turn off to either head into the valley or to the fishing village.
Around the Village
Follow this winding road though the village and you’ll end up either at the village temple or at a small parking area at the start of a pier, depending on which fork you take near the end of the road. The pier is still home to a small fishing community. There are no fancy seafood restaurants or souvenir shops on the pier. For now you can still see the locals in their boats doing what they have done for generations e.g. sleeping, talking, drinking cheap whisky,preparing boats for heading out to sea and staring at outsiders who wander into their midst.
From the end of the pier you’ll see along the estuary into the bay and also across to Siam Royal View and a sandbar that is overgrown with Causarina fir trees. The estuary was dredged and the area around the pier filled in on one side. Leaving houses that were originally built on the river bed now landlocked. This has increased the number of boat moorings – so is more practical for the locals, but it has destroyed a lot of the charm.
There is also a white chedi near the pier, most fishing villages have these, you’ll see a similar one at Dan Mai on the east coast. The spirits here basically guard over the fishermen and providing they are kept happy, the fishermen will live, thrive and survive during their time at sea.
Not far from the start of the pier, close to the signposted “Family guesthouse”, one of the first guesthouses on the island. A leftover from when visitors arrived by fishing boat from the mainland. It is the start of a long concrete footbridge that leads along the side of the estuary towards the river mouth. This was built to provide additional boat mooring and also easier access to several homes in the area which are built on stilts near the shore of the estuary. This is also worth taking 15 mins to walk along and explore.
After photographing the pier you’ll might as well head another 400 metres along the road to the temple. This is a proper working temple with lots of monks and stray dogs running around. Nothing spectacular but it’s the oldest on the island and doesn’t get many tourists visiting.
Into the Valley
However, the real highlight of Klong Son is the inland valley. Head inland by taking the inland road at the 7-eleven crossroads. Following this road will bring you to Jungle Way bungalows, Baan Kwan Chang elephant camp and Klong Jow Laem waterfall. Jungle Way is an alternative for travellers who want an old fashioned backpacker vibe in the heart of the jungle. Baan Kwan Chang is, in my opinion, the best of the elephant camps on Koh Chang.
The small waterfall, which you reach at the end of the road into the valley, is rarely visited and has numerous levels – at least 9 or 10, I lost count last time I visited. You have to pay 40 Baht to walk through land belonging to a restaurant with a couple of bungalows to rent, and then it is just a matter of following a footpath. The path up the levels zig zags across the river and isn’t easy to follow, often simpler to walk on the river bed. it’s nothing spectacular, but it’s an easy walk and you can swim in a couple of the pools.
There’s not much in the way of culinary delights in Klong Son, but one small restaurant that you should try is Blues Blues Art Cafe, located on the road into the valley. Good food and some great decor with unique artwork and sculptures made by the owner, these are also for sale.
Also found in the valley are the island’s only golf driving range, Cookies Driving Range, which has nets, distance markers, chipping baskets and a set of clubs and three racks of balls is around 100 Baht. However, when I visited whilst checking out changes for this update, the driving range was severely overgrown and there were no signs of life. But as with many activities, it may just have been in hibernation for the rainy season.
Adjacent is Koh Chang’s only semi-legal cock fighting arena. And on the opposite side of the road is a large breeding centre for fighting cocks. Monday is usually the day for fights, and the place will be packed with Thai guys comparing their cocks and laying bets on whose is the biggest and strongest. Ask any of the locals with a chicken in their backyard and they will know date of the next feathery bloodbath.
The road up here makes for an interesting drive / motorbike ride ( You’ll need your own transport as the pick-up truck taxi’s don’t run along this road.) and since late 2008 it has been paved for 2.5Km inland to just past the elephant camp. You start out by passing the local school and numerous houses of varying standards of design and construction quality. After crossing the river the road passes through more rubber plantations and fruit farms with a smaller number of private homes by the roadside.
Head up here between May – September and you’ll find the roadside lined with all manner of fruits hanging from the trees – Pomelo. Durian, Rambutan, Longan, Mangosteen, Jackfruit etc etc.
This area is the starting point for guided jungle trekking with walks taking you up the hillside on your right. On the left hand side, if you keep your eye’s peeled, you’ll also see a small sign for ‘Koh Chang Animal Project‘ run by Lisa the Vet who takes care of Koh Chang’s stray and unwanted pets in addition to providing much needed medical care for sick and injured animals. This is a few hundred metres past Cookies Driving Range. Look for the garbage bin with ‘LISA’ painted on the side.
Another kilometre or so further on and you’ll pass Jungle Way on your right and a few hundred metres further on, you’ll reach ‘Baan Kwan Chang’ elephant camp, the first and the best of the elephant camps on the island. Friendly, non-pushy staff, quiet location in the valley surrounded by jungle and fruit farms it’s a great place to head to to just feed the elephants and pet them or to take an elephant trek.
The paved road continues further inland, passing a large area of land that was cleared for housing projects and has now grown back again, due to lack of buyers. The valley is a nice spot for a peaceful, cheap home, but bear in mind the land being ‘sold’ to foreigners here rarely has any title deeds and all 99 year leases or even 999 year leases are total bullshit, aren’t legal in any way and you will be screwed if you decide to ‘buy’ one.
The road eventually ends at ford crossing the river that is dry most of the year. Head across the river to the small restaurant. It is from here that you can walk to the waterfall where you will find several pools where you can swim, about 15 – 20 minutes walk away. It’s an easy walk to the river from where you have to clamber along the river bank and head upstream and enjoy a (usually) very private swim. You can’t get lost just follow the blue water pipes that local use to supply water to their homes from the river.
Anyone adventurous reading this might also like to try to find Koh Chang’s weirdest swimming pool, built on the hillside close by. Head 100 metres back from the ford across the river and you’ll see a track leading up the hill on the right. Take this. It forks in a couple of places but just keep to the right and go until the end. Around 300 metres or so. There you will come to this small waterfall and man-made pool. You’ll probably hear monkeys and may well see snakes. I wouldn’t swim there or if you do, make sure you make enough noise to frighten off any creatures that might be lurking.
Riverside Resort and the more luxurious Koh Chang Grand Orchid provide roadside rooms well away from the sea for people who put price well before location in their choice of holiday accommodation. The Grand Orchid is a beautifully designed place with Lanna (northern Thai) style architecture, but nowhere near the beach and the only view is one of the nearby cement works. The Riverside has older AC rooms for 750 Baht all year round, no need to book in advance. If you are driving and don’t really care where you stay so long as it has AC then it’s fine for a night. On the access road to Siam Royal View you’ll find a couple of places with bungalows to rent either nightly or long term. These are value for money and can often be had for around 500 Baht / night. Nearby, White Swan Villa is a comfortable, value for money holiday home which is within walking distance of the beach and shops and has far more space and privacy than homes at Siam Royal View. For half the cost.
Klong Son is also home to a large gas station with a 7-eleven and a branch of the popular Amazon coffee shops – which are found in all PTT gas stations around Thailand. Not far from the gas station is a new public parking area which someone in power deemed essential for the island to have. It never gets used so at present ( October 2016) , what was the picnic area is now overgrown and the tables and chairs barely visible.
Meet the Spirits
The only thing now remaining to do is to go and see what the future has install for you by paying a visit to the Shrine of the Godfather of Koh Chang ‘Chao Po Koh Chang’ who, along with his wife, ‘Chao Mae Koh Chang’ take care of the spiritual needs of Koh Chang residents 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In the past, farmers and fishermen who faced problems would go to the temple to make an offering and seek faith and guidance from the statue of Chao Po Koh Chang. Apparently, there are plenty of success stories of prayers being answered, fortunes revived or made after making an offering at the temple. So who am I to knock it. ( Although I prefer to save my offerings for the Google search algorithm which probably bought you to this site. )
The temple is on a hilltop midway between Klong Son Village and Ao Sapparot ferry pier. You’ll see the parking area and steps leading up near the roadside on the right as you travel up the first small hill after leaving the pier. In early 2011 a swathe of hillside was cut down and levelled to make it easy for people to drive all the way to the shrine without having to walk 100 metres. A fine example of how to wreck a hillside for no good reason. And, in late 2013 a new, large meeting hall was opened next to the temple. When you are here you’ll also hear many passing drivers beeping their horns three times to say ‘Hello’ to the spirits as the drive by. The temple is unlike Buddhist temples on the island in that it is a 100% Chinese design – dragons, peacocks and so forth, which gives away the ancestry of the original Koh Chang residents – sailors who made their way here from southern China. There’s one very similar shrine, but on a smaller scale in Dan Mai village on the east coast.
Outside the temple you’ll see plenty of concrete elephants of all sizes plus figurines depicting likenesses of the Godfather and his wife, he looks a little like an oriental Colonel Sanders in some. Offerings of sugarcane (for the elephants) and Fanta or Chinese tea plus fruit (for the humans) are laid out on pedestals in front of the likenesses. On either side of the doorway into the temple there’s a large brass bell and a large traditional wood/animal hide drum. Feel free to give these a good whack three times. Chinese Spirits, like the Chinese in general, love a lot of noise.
Inside you’re confronted by a smoky room full of large statues, Chinese style murals and incense sticks. You’ll see more offerings of fruit / food / flowers laid out on the table directly in front of you and incense sticks burning in a number of different spots. It’s best just to loiter in the background and leave the spiritual gubbins to others, unless you have a Thai with you who knows their way around the art of praying to Chinese spirits and can point you in the right direction and show you how many incense sticks to put in which holder and in which order after you have said your prayer.
But one thing that you can do, and better still is pretty idiot proof to do, is to get your fortune. Pick up one of the bamboo containers which sit on the table of offerings to the spirits. You’ll notice these hold dozens of thin sticks, each of which has a number written on the end of it. Kneel down. Hold the container chest height at a 45 degree angle and start to shake it vigorously. One of the sticks will eventually vibrate out and fall on the floor. See what number is written on it. Go over the the wooden cubby holes on the left wall of the shrine, pick the piece of paper that corresponds to your number your fortune is written in Thai, Chinese and English. Good luck. And the beauty of it is that if you get a fortune that isn’t particularly good then you are allowed to burn it and repeat the process until the correct fortune is predicted.
If you don’t ride a scooter then by far the best way to see the Klong son area is by bicycle. There is an excellentd ‘Slow Cycling‘ trip run daily by a friendly Thai guide called ‘Chat’ who also owns Pajamas Hostel in Klong Prao. He runs tours with small groups, less than 6 people, that takes in all the sights around Klong Son from the beach to the valley, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see how the villagers live.
If you’ve got about 15 minutes to spare, take a look at this ‘scooter-cam’ tour of Klong Son village and the valley to see some of the normal island life in this area which has largely been bypassed by tourism.