|Koh Chang Travel-Chang Island Travel-Trat Travel Information|
|Introduction | East to Trat onwards to Ban Hat Lek and Cambodia | Map of Koh Chang and nearby islets|
Thailand's second largest island and about 8kms off the coast of Trat Province on the Eastern coast of Thailand. Koh Chang is part of the Koh Chang National Park comprising of an archipelago of 52 islands What special about Koh Chang is the white sand coves and lush tropical forest. There are few residents on Oh Chang and there are virtually no good roads and the only form of transport is by shared songtail (converted pick-up). Koh Chang is a divers' paradise. Koh Chang can be reached by bus either from Bangkok or Pattaya. First travel to Trat and from there take a tuk tuk to the ferry pier at Laem Ngop, where the Trat TAT office is located.
The town of Trat is 400 kms east of Bangkok and is the stop off point for Koh Chang rapidly growing in popularity as the new beach destination for diving. But for those looking for a remote escape, explore the coast line beyond Trat towards Ban Hat Lek 95kms away and the boarder with Cambodia. The road to the boarder is well maintained and used more by traders heading for the market at the boarder rather than foreign tourists. Along the Route 319 there are signs for resorts at Laem Sok and Ban Chun Beach, powdery white clear blue water but no one speaks English and food served is more for the local rather than the foreign tastes.
There are several combined Police and Military road checks along the road who are more interested in who is coming from the boarder rather than going to it. In most cases that make a notional glance into the vehicle to check that Cambodians are not entering the country.
The Market at Ban Hat Lek on the road just before the boarder trades in fresh fruit, fish and clothes destined for Cambodia from 4am-10am. Products that have come over the boarder from Cambodia for sale are Spirits, cigarettes and wine, most bearing stamps of "Duty Free Singapore" and Cambodian Duty tickets. Singapore is the supplier of wines, spirits and cigarettes to Indochina. I recently congratulated the representative of an exclusive Californian winemaker for having the most expensive wine on sale in Cambodia, only to be told that they don't officially sell their wine in the country.
An illegal trade that doesn't take great care in the handling of it merchandise. We bought a bottle of Mouton Cadet for B420 fraction of the price in Bangkok, to see if this was a good buy or not. When the bottle was opened the cork was found to be damaged and the taste of the wine affected. That could just have been bad luck , but the International wine trade has reservation about buying wine in Asia because of how it is stored and handled. What may look a bargain bottle of wine may not look the same in the glass, that's the risk.
The boarder is open for foreigners to cross over into Cambodia from 7am-4pm providing that they have previously obtained a visa. Although visas on arrival are obtainable at Potchentong International Airport in Phnom Penh and at Seam Reap the same facility doesn't apply at Ban Hat Lek.
They are ferry boats from the Thai side of the boarder to Koh Kong in Cambodia but someone we spoke with at the market, who wished to remain anonymous said "it's unsafe for foreigners once out to sea some boat operators demand money leaving little option to refuse.
If you were foolish enough to do so, they would throw you over board. No one would know, there are no records of whose on each boat." A safer option would be to take a taxi on the Cambodian side for Baht 50 taking you across no-mans-land from the boarder to the river crossing to Koh Kong. From where an air conditioned speedboat takes you to Sihanoukville Baht 500.
Travelling off the beaten track is fun and exciting, but we feel a sense of responsibility in advising our readers of the possible risks.
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