As you know we spent one week in Bangkok Thailand. Of course since that was our first week in Thailand, we had to get used to the humidity, toilets and culture. Our son also stepped up to the plate and ate a scorpion on a stick; please check out the video! Following our time in Bangkok we envisioned a nice relaxing week or two at one of the islands in the Gulf of Thailand. The problem was, none of them were going to be a short journey from Bangkok.
Flashback to 2014:
Twenty years ago, I spent some time in Koh Samui as well as Koh Samet. They were both lovely back then and I have very fond memories. Part of me didn’t want to taint any of those memories and not visit those exact locations. The other part of me was very curious to see what it was like now. Koh Samui was going to be a very long over night journey, and I couldn’t really find any affordable accommodation in Koh Samet. I thought that was funny, as Mom and I paid about $4 a night each, 20 years ago, for a beach hut.
I researched other islands and Koh Chang kept popping up. This was a popular backpacker destination, it was closer than the southern islands and it was going to be less touristy. This sounded perfect! They did offer beach huts, but with a family of 4, we went the hotel route. I still stopped to admire the backpacker beach accommodations. The transportation research began and it seemed there were several options getting from Bangkok to Koh Chang.
Bangkok to Koh Chang
Transportation options from Bangkok to Koh Chang Thailand – 342km ( 212 miles)
All of these options can be booked at any travel agent around town or on your own. We found that the prices varied significantly from one tour / travel agent to another, so ask around. We opted for the VIP bus and were quoted prices from 300 – 950 baht ( $9.50 – $29.20) per person, for the same exact bus and journey.
- Fly – The fastest and most costly option. This would be a one hour flight from Bangkok to Trat (BKK to TDX). Bangkok Airways offered 3 flights a day. The base price was about $90 per person one way or $170 round trip. We would then have to add checked baggage as well as our transportation to and from airports. Arriving in Trat would only be part of the journey, as we would still need to taxi to the ferry and ferry over to the island. This was going to be well over $100 each for the one way journey.
- Public Bus – This was a very cost-effective option after some research. When traveling east from Bangkok, trains aren’t an option, so you need to hit the roads. The public bus was a cost-effective option. The buses heading east left from Ekkamai bus terminal or the Airport. This option would get us as far as Trat. Again we would need to taxi to the ferry port and then take the ferry to the island. The cost? Public bus was about 272 Baht ($8.40) per person, but we would need to get to the airport or bus station and then a taxi from Trat to ferry, etc..
- Mini Bus – This was a 9 passenger van with AC that would take you directly to the ferry port (in some cases on the ferry to Koh Chang as well). The cost was about 1000 baht ($31) per person and would take about 5-6 hours in total. This seemed like the best option, but we weren’t thrilled about potentially being enclosed in the back of a van for 6 hours and hope the AC vents hit us. Not to mention, what about bio breaks?
- Private Car or Minivan – It was about 5000-7000 Baht ($155 – $220) for this option, one way 5-6 hours. A taxi would be too small for the 4 of us with our luggage and we were leery of the minivan with car sickness and space. Since it is a private car, they would stop for you along the way for food or bio breaks.
- VIP Bus – Pick up in a large double story bus, with AC at Khao San Road (where we were staying) or the Hua Lamphong Train Station. This was supposed to be a 6 hour journey direct to the ferry port and it would include the price of the ferry to Koh Chang. As stated in the tip above, the prices varied significantly. It took a little asking around at the many tour agencies and we found one for 300 Baht (just under $10) per person. They would pick us up at our hotel and drop us right at the ferry. There was a toilet on the bus and there was one 30 minute rest stop mid-way. SOLD!
We of course opted for the VIP bus and it worked out very well for us. We each had 2 seats to ourselves, the AC was blowing and there was a toilet on board. We were loaded up with some snacks and our daughter even voluntarily brought out some of her homework! This was actually a pretty relaxing 6 hours, that is once we actually got going.
You see they did pick us up at our hotel, but on foot! The bus was parked several blocks away on a main street. We all had to lug our things several blocks, but the guide also made stops along the way to pick up others. It turned out that we walked a huge loop about triple the distance we needed to walk. That was less than pleasant, but we did finally get on the bus and enjoy that AC.
Like clock work, we arrived at the ferry port. They offered a little shuttle to take you down to the pier. We ferried for about 45 min to the island of Koh Chang!
Upon arrival at the ferry port, you have the option of booking your return to Bangkok, with exact dates or open-ended. This was 300 baht ($10) per person. We declined as we weren’t sure if we were going back via Bangkok.
They also offered mini bus service directly to your hotel for 100 baht ($3) per person. We declined as we read there was a set taxi fare 50 baht ($1.50) to White Sands Beach and 100 Baht($3) to all other beaches. (This isn’t exactly true!)
We enjoyed the ferry ride over to the island and the breeze felt great!
We arrived on the island and just as we thought, the taxis (songtaews) were lined up to take passengers to their hotel.
Songtaews are modified pick up trucks that serve as shared taxis. These are very popular around Thailand. It gets its name from the two bench seats fixed along either side of the back of the truck.
They each hold about 12 passengers and the luggage is stored up top. The first taxi was filled up quickly and the 4 of us as well as a Dutch family of 5 were going to hop into the next taxi. We were all traveling to the nearest beach, named White Sands. All of the sudden the “set price” of 50 Baht per person, jumped to 100 baht per person. Apparently, if they don’t have a full load they will charge you.
The other mother and I were both adamant that it was a set price of 50 baht. Alan kept telling me it was just $1.50 each, but that wasn’t the point. They were just trying to take advantage of us. The taxi driver was very frustrated with us and said only the first taxi is 50 baht. We would need to wait an hour for the next ferry to get on the first taxi. What?! We were frustrated, the driver was frustrated and rapidly sped off.
There we were in the heat sitting on a stone bench in the sun. The entire family was mad and frustrated with me. Why didn’t we just pay the higher price. I of course kept saying it was just feeding the cycle of taking advantage of tourists. I didn’t want to have anything to do with that. We were all hot, tired, hungry and just wanted to get to the hotel. What kind of mother am I? I was feeling very guilty, but still felt it was the right thing to do. I need to remember I am not traveling on my own and that I need to think of the others too.
About 10 minutes later another taxi pulled up. I approached him and the other mother came over as well. I asked the price and he made a phone call and said it would be 80 baht each. We took it, as the guilt was weighing heavily on me at this point. The Dutch family came along as well and we finally made it to our hotel in Koh Chang!
Alina Grande Hotel & Resort – Very nice clean spacious rooms, with AC. The pool was refreshing. We had jungle and sea views and were located just across from the beach. It was green season (monsoon/rainy), so we didn’t really see many blue skies. The sea was very rough and many riptides, so we really didn’t swim there.
Green Season is the “rainy or monsoon” season. It was overcast most of the time, so be prepared for cloudy skies and rough seas in green season. Maybe once a day we had a downpour and it was very exciting! I just love the rain. It would come and go in about 20 minutes. The day of our departure was a different story and it kept coming down all day.
Total travel time door to door from Bangkok to Koh Chang – 8 1/2 hours!
- 8am pick up from hotel
- 8:30am departure from Khao San Rd.
- 9:15am departure from Hua Lamphong train station
- 2:30 arrival at ferry port
- 3pm departure on ferry
- 3:45 arrival on Koh Chang
- 4:30pm arrival to hotel
Total cost per person from Bangkok to Koh Chang $12.50
- 300 baht ($10) for the bus/ferry
- 80 baht ($2.50) for the taxi
We found this Koh Chang Island Guide very useful.