A Visitor Guide to the Quiet, Eastern Coast of Koh Chang
2023 – 24 Update
✔ Some top rated small resorts
✔ Peace & quiet. An opportunity to see local life and escape from mass tourism
✔ Narrow red sand and shingle beaches
✔ A shooting range with real guns and zero suicides (so far)
The East Coast of Koh Chang isn’t really on the tourist map. There are a few places to stay and these are usually very good value, but the lack of good sandy beaches, shops, restaurants, signs of life etc means that it’s still only a place to stay if you really want to get away from it all or are more interested in seeing some local life than you are in sprawling on a beach in your speedos / bikini.
As every aspiring writer knows, it’s relatively easy to describe the extremes of emotion. The English language is awash with adjectives to describe monumental or despicable events. What’s far harder is describing something which is simply ‘nice’, ‘fine’ or ‘OK’. Not deadly dull, not a rollercoaster ride of emotions, not a disappointment and yet something that’s hard to enthuse about. It’s like, you know ‘fine’, ‘nice’ or ‘OK’.
This is the dilemma facing me as I write about the 25km or so of tarmac from the ferry piers at the northeast of the island to Salakkok & Salakphet in the south. But for anyone who’s never seen a durian or rubber tree then the road will undeniably hold some excitement. But as soon as you get past the ferry piers you’ll notice how quiet the road becomes. It is definitely nicer to drive or die on than the busy, hilly west coast road. The lack of traffic or crazy steep hills also means it’s also great for cyclists.
But the real highlights begin when you get down to the south-east in the areas around Salakkok and Salakphet bays.
Enjoy the Slow Life
In fact the east coast is a very good place to explore but virtually everyone (myself included, many times) just whizzes along the road on their rental scooters without pausing or saying to themselves . . “I wonder what’s down here” and taking one of the numerous tracks and narrow roads leading towards the sea or inland.
But spend a bit of time and you will discover a lot about local life on that side of the island and a few hidden gems.
After passing Ao Sapporot, the Koh Chang Ferry pier, the road hugs the coast, passing a naval pier where warships occasionally moor up and Mayuree Pink Resort, named after the owner’s mother who’s favourite colour is pink. You can’t miss it, as bright pink resorts tend to stand out. Even more so when they are in a crap location.
Nearby another feature you can’t fail to miss is the Great Wall of Koh Chang. This kilometre long whitewashed wall is clearly visible from the mainland and probably from low earth orbit too. It was built by the Thai Navy in order to keep prying eyes off their stretch of shoreline.
Immediately after the end of the wall you’ll come to Centrepoint Pier, the second best of the two car ferries, and 400 metres further is an old ferry pier which is now home to a few crumbling buildings and a family of stray dogs.
Map of the East Coast of Koh Chang
This is just the highlights to help familiarize yourself with the area.
If you need comfy AC bungalows, a family friendly atmosphere and a pool go for Amber Sands. It’s laid back and also has a great restaurant. And if you want peace and quiet , a spacious two bedroom bungalow & love a good cocktail or two in the evening, then try Serenity Resort. In between them is The Souk restaurant. Which, until mid 2018 also had some bungalows. But the resort was sold and renamed Sunrise Beach. The older bungalows have been revamped and new bungalows that can accommodate families plus a pool ad restaurant have been built.
They’re all good places to stay – it’s unlikely you’ll be disappointed regardless of which you stay in.
A couple of kilometres further south ‘Garden of Joy’ has excellent value rooms and a nice little pool right by the sea. But it’s usually deserted. Figure on only around 1,000 Baht for a bungalow that would easily cost double if it were on the opposite side of the island. The bungalows are built around a shady garden. Good for a private getaway or a discreet liaison with a mistress or two. But for many visitors is just too out of the way.
A few kilometres further down this way is the new ‘Na Tara Resort‘. Another place which is far nicer than you’d expect given the location – obviously built by a wealthy Thai family to cater solely to people from other wealthy Thai families. The location doesn’t lend itself to them getting a whole load of walk in guests despite the quality of rooms and large seafront pool. Their coffee shop is good too. Very nice spot to break the journey and have a drink by the sea.
Keep heading south and you pass Crown Beach Resort. Which is a bit of an oddity as it’s such a nice place in an out of the way spot. It boasts luxury European style, self-contained villas, with a nautical theme which are set in manicured gardens by the sea. If you’re looking for a private hideaway for a small wedding or family gathering then this would be ideal.
Continue along the main road you’ll come to Dan Mai village. It’s here that Elysian Pearl was located. Best known for being the only resort on Koh Chang that’s been named in an US court document. Thanks to the owner being arrested in 2019 for scamming thousands of people online. He currently serving 15 years in a US jail for wire fraud, money laundering & securities fraud.
The Capital of Koh Chang
The small village of Dan Mai is Koh Chang’s administrative centre. You’ll pass the island’s public hospital by the main road. This is the place to go, or be taken, if you don’t have medical insurance or don’t want to pay for luxuries such as uniformed reception staff serving up green tea and multi-lingual sympathy. It’s cheap but not really a place you’d want to spend more time at than absolutely necessary.
In the centre of the village you’ll also see the Police HQ, Fire department and local government offices. If you take the small road opposite the police station in Dan Mai village you can head down to the pier, you’ll pass the village school and temple and reach the fishing community by the sea.
The pier here used to be the main one on the island until car ferries began running in the early 2000s. It is now unused. The buildings near the start of the pier which have mostly collapsed, used to be fish sauce factories.
But ride your scooter or walk along to the end of the pier and you’ll be rewarded great views looking along the coastline and back towards the village. You’ll also notice a small white chedi, most fishing villages have these. It brings the fishermen good luck & wards off evil, catch depleting, ship sinking spirits.
After visiting the pier, head back to the crossroads in the centre of the village, turn right and after about 200 metres you will see a red building on your right, with a large dragon mural on the outside, near a recently rebuilt pier. This is a Chinese shrine and an interesting photo opportunity. Adjacent to the shrine you’ll see a new concrete building, also painted red, where you might be able to rent bicycles.
A Dan Mai cycling route was put together in 2013 and signs erected to highlight different aspects of life in the area. It was a good idea. But as usual, whilst there was a budget to set it up and erect signs, there’s no budget for maintenance and the signs have largely disappeared now. Some of the sights were pretty interesting.
For example. there’s the old fish sauce factories; wild pig farming; remains of the old Customs House from the 1930s, complete with Chinese writing; and, most interesting for me; one of the elderly locals had a collection of books and magazines dating back 60+ years. He didn’t speak any English but allowed visitors into his house to see his collection. Unfortunately the house has been closed since before covid and apparently the original owner has now passed away.
The village temple isn’t anything spectacular but it does have a 200 year old tree, located near the monks’ quarters. Adjacent to it are a dozen other trees all equally large. I’m sure there must be loads of trees as old or older but this is the only one on the island with a sign next to it saying it is a 200 year old tree. So take a photo.
Also in this area of the east coast are two waterfalls. There is the small, free to enter Klong Nonsi waterfall which is actually a good place to stop and stretch your legs for a while. Especially in the rainy season and early months of the High Season when there is a nice flow of water. The falls aren’t huge by any means but you can swim here.
To get there follow the inland road that runs alongside the government offices in Dan Mai. There is a large blue sign in English pointing the way. This paved concrete road takes you about a kilometre inland and ends in a small parking area by the river. The first level is only 100 metres walk. A second level is another few minutes walk away and there is a hidden third level. This isn’t as easy to get to. You need to follow a steep trail and then clamber along some rocks. But it’s a great spot. If you’re feeling adventurous, more details on how to get to the hidden level.
The larger, 200 Baht entry fee, National Park run, Than Mayom waterfall is a few minutes drive to the south of the village. It’s an easy walk to get to and you can swim there. But the only real reason people go is because a couple of Thai Kings carved their names into the rock above the falls well over 100 years ago.
It does get more interesting if you can get to the upper levels, but this requires a couple of kilometre walk through the jungle and there’s no signposted path. So, to see the impressive top level of the waterfalls you need to take a trek across the island. You’ll follow the river from the top of a hill down towards the coast. Stopping on the way to see this large, unnamed waterfall.
In late 2014 a new concrete walkway and bridge across the river was built for visitors, this now also acts as an alternative entrance to the waterfall. You’ll see a separate ticket counter at the start of the concrete walkway near the river. There’s also a parking area and toilet block here.
Than Mayom can’t compare to Klong Plu waterfall on the west coast for anyone who is visiting purely on the grounds it’s a waterfall. But if you want to see both, then you could save money and see them both in the same day – as you only pay the National Park entry fee once per day.
If you’re getting hungry there are a couple of good spots close to Than Mayom. The ranger station by the sea has a small restaurant built on stilts in the sea. It has simple Thai dishes plus cold drinks. You’ll find a more extensive menu, and more chance of staff being around, at Rimtarn Restaurant, 100 metres north, on the roadside adjacent to the bridge over the river.
East Coast Views and Scenery
Just past Than Mayom, as you head south you’ll see a pier out into the sea, you can drive along here on your bike or in a car. ( Although as of mid-2023 it’s got a No Entry sign up. ) It’s a great spot for fishing and also for taking in more coastline views. This is one of the original piers that serviced the occasional passenger boat when Than Mayom was the be all and end all of Koh Chang’s tourist attractions. The crumbling remains of a couple of disused bungalow resorts nearby provide a clue as just how popular this area was with Thai visitors prior to the construction of the west coast road.
Anyone interested in buying land for a house on Koh Chang should consider the East coast. It’s not stunning scenery, but it is very quiet, has amenities and it’s still possible to buy small plots of land here. Also there is more of a sense of community to the place than you find on the West coast where tourism and the influx of workers from elsewhere in Thailand and Cambodia, mean that there isn’t the same emphasis on keeping the roadside clean & tidy and free of piles of garbage.
Continuing on, there are more palm trees, more rubber trees and a few shrimp ponds. There is also an area where some kind of seafront promenade has been created. The area by the main road has been cleared, and dozens of metal benches set up making an ideal spot to stop and stare at the sea. Why you would want to do this, I don’t know. But if you do, then park here and enjoy the views of sea, and sky, and more sea.
Also down this way is the large wooden Lung Talay restaurant ( closed at the time of writing Nov ’18 ) with great views over a bay. If it re-opens, they do a range of snacks and light meals plus some very good fruit shakes. Sit in the shade or outside on the deck at the rear if you want to enjoy the views.
A little further on you can’t miss the signs for Koh Chang’s shooting range. A wide range of firearms on offer from pistols to M-16’s. It’s not cheap but if you need to let off some testosterone fuelled steam and blast some targets into oblivion – or more likely make holes in the dirt to the left and right of the target, then it’s the place to go. Adjacent you’ll see there are small Optimist class sailing dinghies on the shore. These are used by the fledgling Koh Chang Sailing Club to teach local kids to sail.
About 1km past the shooting range you’ll see a small coffeeshop on the right hand side ‘Baan Kafe’ which is a good spot for a break. Or better, another 100 metres further on the left hand side is ‘Ronny’s Coconut Organic Garden‘. A roadside shack / restaurant that sells the best fruit shakes on the island plus coffee and some Thai and western dishes. Ronny’s is a very gregarious Thai guy who speaks good English. Definitely worth stopping for a drink or a meal.
There are two good resorts in the area, The Spa Koh Chang opened in late 2006 and is the island’s only true health resort. You’ll pass the entrance as you near the turning for Salakkok. This is the place to go if you want a holiday consisting of twice daily colonic irrigation sessions and herbal drinks for a week. Not surprisingly, this is an effective method to lose weight, there again, so is cutting off a limb and I’m not sure which is worse. Yoga retreats are also run regularly.
However, it’s a beautifully designed small resort and also gets quite a few guests who are just looking for a romantic place to stay for a few days. So beer, wine and proper food are available in the restaurant.
The restaurant does a selection of Thai & Veggie food. So it’s a good spot for a healthy lunch. To cool off, try a Cayenne Cooler, a concoction of chili, honey and lemon juice or a fruit ‘Softy’ – basically pureed fresh fruit served with cinnamon honey. Nectar of the gods in a glass.
The other option is ‘Kooncharaburi Resort‘, a resort that exists for no discernible reason as they hardly ever seem to have guests. It may well be a rich man’s tax deductible plaything, as it’s hard to believe it’s a serious business venture. At one time it was a beautiful empty resort, but is now slowly deteriorating, and the location means it has very few visitors even in High Season.
Hidden away near the entrance to Kooncharaburi is a small bungalow resort built around a lake called ‘Flukies Place’. One of those spots that you won’t find on booking sites. Just a handful of tastefully decorated bungalows and a stylish little restaurant by the water. It’s very popular with Thai visitors who want a ‘back-to-nature’ experience.
You have now made it down the east coast and you’ll find that there’s even more of interest awaiting you in Salakkok and Salakphet Bays.
Hotels on the East Coast of Koh Chang
These resorts and bungalows are located on the east of the island between the ferry piers and Salakkok. They are all bookable on booking.com. The price shown is a typical high season nightly rate. It may well vary and expect it to be higher at holiday weekends and during peak season.
Mayuree Resort – Spacious aircon rooms in this small hotel by the sea, located between the two ferry piers – 1,400 Baht
Amber Sands Beach Resort – Lovely small resort with six bungalows, landscaped gardens and a pool on the beach – 3,250 Baht
Serenity Resort – Top rated resort in this area. Sharing the same same beach as Amber Sands, a handful of bungalows plus larger two bedroom houses – 2,100 Baht
Sunrise Beach Resort – New – late 2018 resort occupying the site of the former The Souk bungalows. Value for money by the sea – 2,200 Baht
Feungfa Koh Chang Resort – Good value bungalows with sea views – 1,200 Baht
Baan Chid Talay – locally owned AC bungalows by the sea in Dan Mai village – 1,000 Baht
Na Tara Resort – Modern 4* resort by the sea with well-equipped rooms and beachfront pool – 4,800 Baht
The Spa Koh Chang – A place to rejuvenate and relax. Enjoy yoga and vegetarian raw food at this lovely health resort by the bay – 1,800 Baht
Privacy Resort – A handful of bungalows and pool by the roadside a few Km north of Salakkok – 1,900 Baht
Next: Salakkok Bay