Guide to the southern end of Klong Prao Beach
✔ Local village nearby, so good for cheap food but not the same variety of shops and bars as on other beaches
✔ Want to party? Look elsewhere, there’s not a lot of nightlife
✔ Has the quietest stretch of beach on the west coast
After Klong Prao Resort, the road heads away from the beach and meanders for a couple of kilometres before reaching Klong Prao village and then running parallel to the sea again at the far southern end of Klong Prao beach. This southern section is home to several of the island’s best resort plus a couple of cheap backpacker hut options. But there isn’t anything beachfront for anyone looking for 2 star, mid range accommodation or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, a nice boutique resort.
The beach isn’t too bad either (see below), it’s like this for most of the High Season. In the rainy season it loses sand and gets quite a lot of debris washed up, so doesn’t always look as attractive. This is where I walk my dog virtually every afternoon. Most of the resorts are at the southern end of this section of beach, about 1.5 Km away. I’ve found that there’s a correlation between the more people pay for their hotel rooms, the less they like to walk and explore.
Towards Klong Prao Village
OK, back on the road and continuing the tour . . . having headed a kilometre south past Klong Prao Resort you may well have spotted the row of hastily constructed shop units set back and below road level on the right of the road – if you need a welder there’s a guy here who’s cheap, also a mechanic, a sign maker and several units housing sweatshops. This is where your tailored clothes are actually made. The work isn’t done by the smiling Nepalese guy who will offer you the $99 deal of a lifetime on jacket, shirt and slacks combo as he spies you walking past his glass fronted tailors shop, trying your best to avoid eye contact.
Not far away, the 3 star Ramayana Hotel sits roadside, hoping that visitors will stay in the belief that they can easily walk down to the beach from here – they can’t, although it’s a good choice for anyone wanting a very nice room at a reasonable price. A free shuttle service takes guests to the beach at The Dewa, which is owned by the same family. 200 metres away, on the river estuary, Aana Resort offers another quiet alternative to the busier beachfront hotels, guests use the free boat service or free kayaks to get to the beach, 300 metres down river.
The hotel restaurant is usually empty in the evening as nearby, there are two good Thai / Seafood restaurants ‘Pu-Talay’ and ‘Iyara’ both also on the banks of the river estuary and both serving your Thai & seafood favourites. For a cold beer, Thai & Western food try Moley’s and Sapporot Bar, two small English run places that are also on the riverside. You can also rent scooters or fishing equipment there.
On the opposite side of the road to Ramayana, by a large sign for Aana Resort, you’ll see a gravel track. If you’ve ever wondered where all the Cambodian labourers and hotel workers live then take a look down here. Hidden away from sight is a shanty town slum that’s home to an estimated 1,000 people. These are workers who will be earning 300 Baht or so a day for working from dusk till dawn.
It is in this area that a Dutch couple set up a small private school ‘Study Buddies’ to provide the workers’ children basic education and a safe place to play. The school is now self financing and run as a registered charitable foundation, so any donations of books, writing materials etc are always appreciated. More details on Cambodia Kids Care
A little further on and you’ll meet the turning for the waterfall – located about 1.5 kilometres inland. It’s worth a look but don’t expect to see more of a cliff face and less of a waterfall if you visit late in the High Season. But from May until December you can swim in the clear pool and watch visitors, usually loud Americans or even louder Russians, jumping off the cliff face into the water. The 600 metre riverside walk from the entrance to the main fall takes 15 minutes and is shady and cool. There’s a 200 Baht entrance fee for foreign adults & 100 baht for kids. Avoid weekends & Thai holidays when the place is packed out with Thai groups.
A new nature trail takes more active visitors on a 1.5Km loop from the waterfall back to the entrance via a hillside trail which is easy to follow and is a very pleasant walk. However, it is sometimes roped off to prevent people from using it for some reason.
At the entrance to the waterfall is an interesting little shop. At first glance it looks like any other minimart. But look inside and you’ll find that it has an amazing selection of herbal remedies, creams, lotions and oils that will cure pretty much any known disease or genetic medical condition. The Thai owner speaks good English and can explain what these concoctions are good for etc.
Nearby, you’ll find a couple of good roast chicken and papaya salad restaurants. When Thais travel & need food to fill a minibus full of friends the simplest thing to do is order a couple of roast chickens , a few plates of ‘somtam’ plus beer or coke. Simple.
(If Jesus was Thai he’d have fed the 5,000 with chicken and somtam & turned water into Chang beer. Job done. Everyone happy.)
There’s also a very good seafood place just south of the waterfall turning. Visit Jae Eiew Seafood virtually any evening and it’ll be busy, 99% Thais. During Low season weekends it’s probably the busiest restaurant on the island with the roadside resembling the parking lot of a luxury hotel, with SUVs and Mercedes lined up. While all the foreign tourists are eating overpriced seafood by the beach, the Thais are heading here for cheaper prices at a restaurant that’s very well known. The original ‘Jae Eiw’ opened 20 years ago at Ao Sapparot ferry pier on the east coast.
Klong Prao beach and estuary
The beach itself is split in two by the Klong Prao river estuary. The sand shelves gently into the sea along the entire length of the beach, and so is ideal for children. In High Season dangerous currents or rip tides are very rare.
During the rainy season it’s a different story as high tide often leaves the the beach littered with flotsam and jetsam and riptides are common. At certain times of year jellyfish can also be a nuisance, the reason being jellyfish like to congregate and breed in areas where rivers flow into the sea. However, they aren’t life threatening. It is a bit weird to swim through a school of small jellyfish but if they do sting you it feels like an insect bite or nettle sting. More annoying for 10 minutes than actually painful. The estuary that splits Klong Prao beach in two makes for a prime jellyfish hangout at the beginning and end of the rainy season.
The estuary itself is a little haven of tranquility. There’s nowhere like this elsewhere on the west coast or indeed on the island. It’s also the only place on the west coast where you can moor a speedboat or fishing boat right outside your house. The bank nearest the main road is lined with fisherman’s houses, and two good seafood restaurants that I mentioned earlier – ‘Iyara’ & ‘Phu Talay’.
The opposite bank has half a dozen houses and is backed by mangrove trees and coconut palms which lead down to the beach 150 metres further back. This is where I live, and a lovely place it is too. (If you want a comfortable, quiet place to stay, take a look at ‘Baan Rim Nam‘ . . . .our guesthouse. And also our holiday home ‘ Baan Moon‘ is down here too. )
Paddle down here in your canoe and you can go around a kilometre along the river. Go past the houses, Aana Resort, and River View Villas ( one bedroom bungalows available for monthly rent) and you’ll come to a lagoon with two mangrove lined rivers leading off it.
In the evenings an area along the river leading off at the right of the lagoon comes alight with fireflies. On a good night the mangrove trees light up like Christmas illuminations, although getting the fireflies to form any readable festive phrases or outlines of recognisable Disney cartoon characters is next to impossible. I know, I’ve tried. Both Iyara and Phu Talay restaurants run free firefly trips down here for anyone dining at their restaurants.
The nearby beach is home to the well-known budget KP Huts and Tiger Huts as well as three upmarket places Santhiya Tree Resort, Barali Resort and Tropicana Resort. If you want a very nice longterm rental, Koh Chang Longstay bungalows, at the mouth of the river has new one bedroom bungalows in a great location for around 40,000 Baht/month. Weekly rates are also available.
Santhiya Tree Resort (formerly Panviman Resort ) is a good choice if you want peace and quiet, immaculately landscaped gardens and great beach. The buildings are styled like Thai temples. Not overly kitsch, but teetering on the brink. A great beachfront location but 15 minutes walk to the village.
Further south, 10 minutes walk away, Centara Tropicana Resort, is one of the largest on the island but only has a relatively small stretch of beachfront, so expect the battles for sunbeds to be fierce. However, the bungalows and hotel rooms are very bright and spacious and it is only a few minutes walk to the village. Adjacent, Barali Resort doesn’t seem to have much personality, but it’s a good 4 star resort that’s unlikely to provoke any strong reactions from guests. Spacious, well appointed bungalows but packed quite close together.
Near the Centara Tropicana, Blue Lagoon bungalows has a loyal following amongst travellers and seekers of peace & quiet. They also run popular, fun cooking classes at their cooking school on the banks of a smaller river estuary. A pontoon bridge allows people to cross from one side of the river mouth to the other without getting their feet wet. Once on the opposite side you will see Lin Bungalows, another cheap place to stay with better than average concrete bungalows in a very pleasant setting by the beach. You can walk along the remaining southern section of the beach, past The Dewa & Amari Emerald Cove resorts, to the headland. More on this stretch of beach later.
Adjacent to Blue Lagoon is Baan Zen, a lovely, wooden house for rent. It is set in tropical garden and has a spacious riverfront deck. 3 minutes walk to the beach, 5 minutes walk to the village. But hidden away. An ideal holiday home for a couple or family. ( I manage the house for the owners – so if you rent it, I’ll be the one meeting and greeting you. Look forward to seeing you soon)
Time to double back abit and see what’s on the main road nearer the centre of the beach . After passing Jae Eiw Seafood you cant miss the ultralight airstrip on the right and opposite Chang Chutiman Elephant Camp. It used to be possible to take ultralight sightseeing flights but this hasn’t been the case for the past couple of years.
In the village of Klong Prao, around 5-10 minutes walk from Santhiya Tree, Barali & Centara Tropicana Resorts and 2 minutes drive south if the airstrip, there are still quite a few local shops, a temple, a school, a gas station plus a selection of restaurants catering to tourists, a decent enough bakery, a clinic, an elephant camp plus a bank, several ATMs and both 7-eleven and Tesco Express minimarts. As it is home to a community of locals and also a large number of Thai and Cambodian workers you’ll find it easy to get ‘real’ Thai food at normal prices and won’t feel as though you are staying in a tourist ghetto.
For excellent food, try Kati Culinary & Tonsai, both roadside near the elephant camp at the southern end of the village. Kati has some of the best Thai food on the island. Try it, and if you disagree you obviously don’t appreciate Thai food, get your tastebuds fixed and then go back and try it again. But don’t expect quick service, everything is prepared from scratch, so it can take 30 minutes for your food to arrive at your table.
Tonsai is opposite and worth a try too, the restaurant relocated here from White Sand beach, where it was a long established favourite, back in 2010. At the opposite end of the village, Baanta is a new restaurant, opened in November 2014, but offers very good food at sensible prices with efficient staff and in clean surroundings. It’s owned by the Santhiya Tree Resort and their staff also work there. That should also be on you ‘To Eat At’ list.
Just across the main road from Baanta is a new permanent market with roadside stalls selling various types of streetfood. Again, this isn’t aimed specifically at tourists, you’ll find many locals and hotel staff buying food here. The stalls tend to be at their liveliest from late afternoon until around 9pm
Close by Kati & Tonsai, is Sima Massage, a very good choice if you want a proper Thai massage, designed to cause pain but simultaneously soothe aching or stressed muscles but not at inflated spa prices. They also do acupressure – we’ve had a few guests try it and they all say that it did wonders for their ailments which ranged from injuries from a car accident to muscle strains from lifting weights. Another good massage option is V-Spa, opposite the turning for Kp Huts & Santhiya Tree Resort. But this is more the type of place you go to if you want a gentle rubdown accompanied by the sound of traditional Thai music and the smell of lemongrass wafting through the air-conditioning.
For people on a budget or those like me who would rather not pay a premium to eat a simple plate of regular Thai food, two good places for a 50 baht lunch are Chumnan Restaurant and Bam & Tom on either side of the petrol station and motorbike repair shop in the centre of the village. They both have all the usual Thai dishes at dirt cheap prices and that includes some decent attempts at Western food.
Chumanan is opposite the temple and during High Season they open a second branch, run by the owners son, on the road leading to KP Huts, Santhiya Tree Resort and Tiger Hut. You’ll often see a few elderly expats nursing their beers mid-morning, don’t be put off. It’s just that they sell the cheapest beer in the area. Ban & Tom, about 300 metres south, supposedly won an award for the best somtam on the island, but whilst good, it isn’t the best IMHO.
Try the somtam made with sweetcorn along with a fried chicken leg, and sold from the cart outside the 7-eleven, for a proper Thai lunch.
Opposite the petrol station is KP Clinic, which, when open, has an English speaking female doctor who will patch you up and dish out pills. You’ll also find a couple of ATMs a little further south in the village, in the wall of a miminart & DesAnn Hostel
Head down the adjacent track to find a cheap laundry. Much cheaper than getting your hotel to do it and they do the laundry for many of the resorts in the area. (If you are staying in the area and give your laundry to your resort to do, they will bring it here or to the other cheap laundry which is at the north end of the village midway between Klongtara Resort and 3 Seasons bungalows.)
Also in the centre of the village is the local temple, nothing too exciting, just a common or garden village temple with a dozen or so resident monks but if you want to see a typical village temple then you can wander through the grounds.for a look around. The local primary school is located at the back of the temple.
Also around the back you’ll find some run down shophouses that are very cheap to rent and which have sea views from the roof terrace. The cheap VJ Bed & Breakfast, with apartment style AC rooms is also in this area, these can often be had for around 500 – 700 Baht / night even in High Season. A good deal if you just need a cheap, clean place to sleep. Opposite the entrance to the temple on the main road is ‘Crust‘ probably the best bakery on the island. If you need decent sandwiches, croissants and a Illy coffee then put it on your must visit list.
Klong Prao village isn’t awash with Western restaurants – which is a good thing – but you’ll find excellent Italian food and pizza at NP Pizza, close to Kati Culinary and Baan Camp Chang Elephant Camp. And the new ( mid 2016 ) Streetlife restaurant in the centre of the village has an extensive Western and Thai menu, Happy Hour and does proper English breakfasts.
Heading south through Klong Prao village, there are a couple of good places to stay roadside – The Gallery and Noren Resort which has been receiving great reviews for several years. The road then again veers inland and towards the southern end of Klong Prao beach, in an area technically called ‘Mab Klong Kao’ . If you’re on a budget or looking to stay longterm then good value rooms can be found at Sofia Garden & Boonya Resort. 400 metres south, another built up area with shop units and shophouses.
The development in this area was all due to the 160 room Emerald Cove Resort opening up. A couple of rows of new shophouses and a small plaza of, permanently unoccupied, shop units have sprung up. The plus side is that there is a good dentist’s here which offers a range of therapeutic & cosmetic dental treatments. So if you need a dazzling movie star smile you can get it here at a fraction of the cost back home.
But not much in the way of inspired eating and drinking options by the main road in this area though. But there are a cluster of small bars a couple of hundred metres south and a minimart or two. You will be better off either walking south to Kai Bae village or north to Klong Prao village.
Located in the bowels of the Emerald Cove you’ll find the office of Kayak Chang, who offer guided sea kayaking day tours to the nearby islands and longer trips to the south of Koh Chang. Run by a UK based company who provide top quality equipment and experienced English guides. Worth checking out for a waterborne ‘soft adventure’ whilst on the island.
Or if sailing is you’re think ‘Koh Chang Sailing’ run by affable Thai guy, Mo, keeps a couple of Hobie Cats at Emerald Cove and also Centara Tropicana. These can be rented bareboat, for people with the pre-requisite sailing experience, or skippered for a tour around the bay
Back on the beach for a sunset beer or meal on the sand, you’ll find Pilot Bar , located two minutes walk north of the Emerald Cove. There are also a couple of other similarly priced beach bars on this stretch of sand. Family Restaurant and Mandalay are tow other popular choices for people wanting to spend their days in a deckchair in the sun but with cheaper & better food and drinks than their nearby hotel offer.
South of the Emerald Cove are three mid-range resorts, Grand Cabana, Magic and Chok Dee, which cater more to Thai than Western visitors. The beach here isn’t great but the views north along the length of the beach are excellent. Chok Dee and Magic both have restaurants built over the sea, far better to eat your Thai food here in the evening than in your 5 star resort. The service won’t be anywhere near as good, the tableware won’t be a matching, but you can be sure the food will be decent and the bill will be far more easy on the wallet.
From here a 5 minute walk along the main road, past the police box and a few small bars and restaurants, brings you to the start of Kai Bae beach.
A Scooter Tour of Klong Prao
The area roadside around the north end of the beach is mostly very recent, virtually all of the shop units being built in the past decade. Once you head south you come to the village – which has been home to a local community for a century or more. You’ll notice that’s Klong Prao is still a normal village. As such the roadside isn’t lined solely with tourist shops. Check out the sights with this video, it follows on from the last one taken at the north end of the beach.