Ko Chang District
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Amphoe location in Trat Province
|• Total||650 km2 (250 sq mi)|
|• Density||34.6/km2 (90/sq mi)|
|Time zone||ICT (UTC+7)|
Koh Chang (Thai: เกาะช้าง, pronounced [kɔ̀ʔ tɕʰáːŋ], also Ko Chang) 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.
The name means "Elephant Island", and comes from its elephant-shaped headland. Despite the presence of elephants on the island, they are not indigenous. At present, there are nine villages on the island.
During World War II, when Thailand was occupied by Japanese forces, Koh Chang was the scene of the 1941 Battle of Koh Chang between the Royal Thai Navy and a Vichy French naval squadron, in which the French won a decisive victory.
Koh Chang is part of an archipelago of 51 islands, and is approximately 30 km long by 14 km, wide with a total area of 429 km². It is part of the Mu Koh Chang National Park, which covers an area of 650 km², of which 70% 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 Koh 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).
Following a decision of the Thai government on 15 May 2007, all of the 81 minor districts were upgraded to full districts. With its publication in the Royal Gazette on 24 August, the upgrade became official.
The district is subdivided into the two subdistricts (tambon) of Koh Chang (Thai: เกาะช้าง), consisting of four villages and with a total population of 3,010, and Koh Chang Tai (Thai: เกาะช้างใต้), five villages with 2,346 inhabitants.
The district contains the following nine villages (muban):
- Ban Salak Phet
- Ban Salak Phet Nuea
- Ban Salak Khok
- Ban Chek Bae
- Ban Dan Mai
- Bang Bao
- Ban Khlong Son
- Ban Khlong Phrao
- Ban Khlong Nonsi
Koh Chang has no airport. The nearest airport is Trat Airport located 17km from the Ao Thammachat Koh Chang ferry terminal on the mainland. A minibus service runs from the airport to hotels on Koh Chang.
There are two main roads on Koh 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 Koh Chang. Both take vehicles and passengers. There are now no passenger-only boats to the island. Ferries run from around 06:30 until 19:30.
During high season, from November to May, there are passenger-only boat services from Koh Chang to the outlying islands of Koh Wai, Koh Mak, and Koh Kood.
Koh Chang's income derives largely from tourism, but some traditional livelihoods still exist. Many of Koh Chang's villages rely on fishing, with Ban Salak Phet (Thai: บ้านสลักเพชร) being the largest and oldest community on Koh 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 Koh Chang in the mid-1970s, using local fishing boats, when the island was still undeveloped.
In 1982, Koh Chang along with the surrounding area became part of the protected Mu Koh Chang National Park, with approximately 85% of the island, together with nearby coral reefs, falling within the park.
It has since become a major tourist destination, both for foreigners and Thais, with a number of tourist resorts being developed.
The hilly nature of the island provides it with a number of popular waterfalls, including Klong 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 Klong Nonsi, Klong Nueng, Khiri Petch which is about three kilometres from Salak Petch village, the five waterfalls of Kongoi near Bang Bao, and the Thanmayom waterfall near Thanmayom 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).
Koh 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 Koh Chang. This was deserted until 2006 but is now home to a community of beach bars, restaurants, and accommodation.
Events & festivals
Koh Chang Yutthanavi Day, which occurs in late January at the Koh Chang Yutthanavi Memorial on Laem Ngop, commemorates the Royal Thai Navy's engagement against the French at the Battle of Koh Chang on 17 January 1941. There is an exhibition by the Royal Thai Navy, and merit-making and tribute rites are performed.
- "Koh Chang". Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). Retrieved 10 June 2015.
- ประกาศกระทรวงมหาดไทย เรื่อง แบ่งเขตท้องที่อำเภอแหลมงอบ จังหวัดตราด ตั้งเป็นกิ่งอำเภอเกาะช้าง (PDF). Royal Gazette (in Thai) 111 (42 ง): 24. May 26, 1994.
- แถลงผลการประชุม ครม. ประจำวันที่ 15 พ.ค. 2550 (in Thai). Manager Online.
- พระราชกฤษฎีกาตั้งอำเภอฆ้องชัย...และอำเภอเหล่าเสือโก้ก พ.ศ. ๒๕๕๐ (PDF). Royal Gazette (in Thai) 124 (46 ก): 14–21. August 24, 2007.
- Airways, Bangkok. "Trat Airport - Bangkok Airways". www.bangkokair.com. Retrieved 2016-04-26.
- "Mu Ko Chang National Park". Department of National Parks (DNP) Thailand. Retrieved 10 June 2015.