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Koh Chang

 

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Koh Chang is the second largest island of Thailand (largest island in the Ko Chang Marine Park archipelago), located on the Thai east coast 310 km away from Bangkok near the border to Cambodia in the Gulf of Thailand. The name means Elephant Island. Ko Chang was named for the elephant shape of its headland, although elephants are not indigenous to the island. At present, there are 8 villages in total. It is a mountainous island and Khao Salak Phet is the highest peak of all at 744 metres. Visitors are also met with several waterfalls, splendid reefs and rainforests. The island has an area of approximately 217 square kilometers. Ko Chang was previously an unsettled island but it is now important as a harbour for ships to escape from the monsoon, and dietary or fresh water resources, especially at Ao Salak Phet or Ao Salat which is well known to pirates, Hai Lam Chinese and Vietnamese. The island is part of the Mu Ko Chang Marine National Park. During World War II, when Thailand was occupied by the Japanese, Ko Chang was the scene of a naval battle between the reluctant Royal Thai Navy and a Vichy France squadron, in which the Thais were decisively beaten. Until the mid-1980s the infrastructure on the island was undeveloped, but tourism has increased significantly since then. Around the year 2000, malaria was eradicated, the area became a national park (and began charging entry fees). The island now receives 655,000 visitors annually, about two thirds of them Thai. Ko Chang is one of the few places with virgin forest, but the mad rush to cash in on tourism has had a heavy toll on its virgin forests. Land prices have skyrocketed, there are also beautiful if not high end resorts now popping up all over the island.

Realising the rich tourism resources and the economic potential of the Koh Chang Marine National Park, plans are being carefully mapped out to open up more doors and windows to welcome environmentally-conscious visitors who can appreciate this forgotten paradise of leisure islands. Koh Chang Marine National Park is set to be the new holiday destination within an old natural Marine National Park.

History

Prior to World War II, Ko Chang was little known by anyone. During this period, the few families there made a living growing coconuts and fruit on the mainland. In January 1941, during the Japanese occupation, the Thai Navy fought the French in a battle in the waters to the south-east of Ko Chang. It was the French who were the victors after the Thai naval ship was sunk.

Nothing else happened to Ko Chang until the first backpacker foreigners started arriving on the back of local fishing boats in the mid-1970s. In 1982, Ko Chang along with surrounding area became part of the protected Mu Chang Marine. Only very recently, in less than ten years, Ko Chang has turned itself in to a major tourist destination in Thailand, both for foreigners and local Thais.

Info

Koh Chang

Koh Chang. The topography contains high mountains and complex stone cliffs. The island is about 30 km long and almost 14 km wide, totaling 217 km². The national marine park covers of 650 km² of which 70 % is offshore. The interior of the island is mountainous, covered by tropical rain forest. The highest elevation measuring 743m is Khao Salak Phet. There are plenty of sandy beaches on the island, dotted with hotels and resorts.

The west coast settlements of Hat Sai Khao, Hat Kai Mook and Hat Ta Nam attract most of the tourists. The village of Laem Bang Bao on the south coast is also a favored destination. There is a single road linking the west coast. The remaining roads on the west coast have a high gradient, while the topography of the east coast prohibits roads. Most buildings are wooden stilt houses. The island is mostly reached by a ferry departing from Laem Ngop near Trat.



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