Ko Chang District
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Amphoe location in Trat Province
|• Total||212.9 km2 (82.2 sq mi)|
|• Density||34.6/km2 (90/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+7 (ICT)|
Ko Chang (Thai: เกาะช้าง, pronounced [kɔ̀ʔ t͡ɕʰáːŋ]) is an amphoe (district) in Trat Province, Thailand. It is on the Gulf of Thailand's eastern seaboard, 310 km from Bangkok, near the border with Cambodia.
Confusion has arisen over the size of Ko Chang and whether it is the second (after Phuket) or third (after Phuket and Ko Samui) largest island in Thailand. The confusion likely arises from Ko Chang's inclusion in the Ko Chang District (419 km2) and as the largest island of the Mu Ko Chang National Park (650 km2).
Ko Chang means 'Elephant Island' and derives from its elephant-shaped headland. Despite the presence of elephants on the island, they are not indigenous. At present, there are eight villages on the island.
On 17 January 1941, Ko Chang was the scene of the Battle of Ko Chang between the Royal Thai Navy and a Vichy French naval squadron, in which the French won a decisive victory. Ko Chang Yutthanawi Day, which occurs in late–January at the Ko Chang Yutthanawi Memorial on Laem Ngop, commemorates the Royal Thai Navy's engagement against the French. There is an exhibition by the Royal Thai Navy, and merit-making and tribute rites are performed.
Ko Chang is part of an archipelago of 52 islands. It is approximately 30 km long by 14 km, wide. It is part of the Mu Ko Chang National Park, which covers an area of 650 km2, of which 70 percent is offshore.
The main settlements on the west coast are around Sai Khao, Hat Kai Mook, Hat Kai Bae, Ban Klong Prao and the fishing village of Bang Bao on the south coast. The island's administrative centre is Ban Dan Mai on the east coast.
The Ko Chang frog (Limnonectes kohchangae) was originally thought to be an endemic species, but has also been found on the mainland.
The island forms a district (amphoe) in the province of Trat. It was formed on 30 April 1994, when it was split off from Laem Ngop District, at first being classed as a minor district (king amphoe). On 15 May 2007, the nation's 81 minor districts were upgraded to full districts. With publication in the Royal Gazette on 24 August, the upgrade became official.
1. Ko Chang (Thai: เกาะช้าง), consisting of four villages with 3,010 inhabitants:
- Ban Khlong Nonsi
- Ban Dan Mai
- Ban Khlong Son
- Ban Khlong Phrao
2. Ko Chang Tai (Thai: เกาะช้างใต้), consisting of five villages with 2,346 inhabitants:
- Bang Bao
- Ban Salak Phet
- Ban Chek Bae
- Ban Salak Khok
- Ban Salak Phet Nuea
There are two main roads on Ko Chang, running the length of the east and west coasts. Both roads start at Ao Sapparot in the north, near the ferry piers. Shorter roads branch out to Ploytalay Resort and Keereephet, Khlong Nueng, and Klong Phu waterfalls.
Songthaew operate on the two main roads, providing both public transport and taxi services. This is the only form of public transport on the island.
Motorbike rental and car hire are available.
The nearest long distance road transport is at Trat town, from where the 310 km journey to Bangkok takes five hours by bus.
There are two ferry companies that run services from the mainland to Ko Chang. Both take vehicles and passengers. During high season, from November to May, there are passenger-only boat services from Ko Chang to the outlying islands of Ko Wai, Ko Mak, and Ko Kut.
Ko Chang's income derives largely from tourism, but some traditional livelihoods still exist. Many of Ko Chang's villages rely on fishing, with Ban Salak Phet (Thai: บ้านสลักเพชร) being the largest and oldest community on Ko Chang, in a sheltered location in the south of the island. Other fishing villages include Bang Bao (Thai: หมู่บ้านประมงบางเบ้า), at Bang Bao Beach, which consists of houses on stilts built into the sea, and Ban Khlong Son, which also partly relies on rubber plantations.
Ban Dan Mai and Ban Khlong Non Si also have coconut plantations, and orchards of lychee trees. The variety of lychee grown, Silaman 200 years, is believed to be found only on Ko Chang.
The first foreign backpackers started arriving on Ko Chang in the mid-1970s, using local fishing boats, when the island was still undeveloped.
In 1982, Ko Chang along with the surrounding area became part of the protected Mu Ko Chang National Park, with approximately 85 percent of the island, together with nearby coral reefs, falling within the park.
The hilly nature of the island provides it with a number of popular waterfalls, including Khlong Plu (น้ำตกคลองพลู). It is the only one on the west side of the island, and has an entrance three kilometres from Ao Khlong Phrao. Waterfalls on the east side of the island include Khlong Nonsi, Khlong Nueng, Khiri Phet which is about three kilometres from Salak Phet village, the five waterfalls of Khlong Koi near Bang Bao, and the Than Mayom waterfall near Than Mayom pier.
Ban Salak Phet village has a temple, Wat Salak Phet, built in the reign of King Rama V on his visit to the island. The original temple is now used as a museum commemorating the king's visits to the area. A new temple was completed nearby in 2014.
Bays include Ao Salak Phet, the largest on the island, and Ao Bai Lan (Thai: อ่าวใบลาน).
Ko Chang's beaches include Hat Kai Bae (Thai: หาดไก่แบ้) beach, and Hat Khlong Phrao-Laem Chaiyachet (Thai: หาดคลองพร้าว-แหลมไชยเชษฐ์) beach. By far the busiest is the first beach visitors reach when they arrive on the island, White Sand Beach (Hat Sai Kao). Backpackers will opt to head a couple of kilometres south of Kai Bae Beach to Lonely Beach, which is known for cheap accommodation and almost nightly parties in high season. A quieter alternative is Klong Kloi Beach on the south coast of Ko Chang. This was deserted until 2006 but is now home to a community of beach bars, restaurants, and accommodation.
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- Airways, Bangkok. "Trat Airport - Bangkok Airways". www.bangkokair.com. Archived from the original on 2016-04-29. Retrieved 2016-04-26.
- "Mu Ko Chang National Park". Department of National Parks (DNP) Thailand. Archived from the original on 10 June 2015. Retrieved 10 June 2015.