We usually only include our own experiences in these reports but to be quite honest, one of our goals in going to Koh Chang was to spend a lot of time not doing anything except relaxing and chilling out. Happy to report: Mission accomplished!
So in the interest of providing a more complete list of what there actually is to do there, this discussion will have 2 points of reference:
1. Things YOU COULD DO in Koh Chang
2. Things WE DID in Koh Chang
We like to snorkel and scuba dive and there are lots of opportunities for that around Koh Chang but we didn’t go even once. There is fishing from the beach or by charter boat but we didn’t go fishing either. Neither did we take long walks through the jungle to any of the numerous waterfalls or visit other natural attractions or temples or other religious sites on the island even though there are lots of opportunities for that in Koh Chang as well.
We had a lovely bungalow right on the beach at and only a few steps from the pool on one side and the hotel restaurant/bar on the other at Serenity Resort and in fact it was 2-days before we felt the need to even leave the grounds of the resort.
Our first venture from the resort was motivated by the desire to get one last elephant experience on this trip. We had already visited the Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai and the annual Surin Elephant Roundup but we wanted more.
Given that the literal translation of Koh Chang is Elephant Island, one might think that elephants are native to the island. They are not. We were told by one mahout that all elephants on Koh Chang are originally from Surin. The name actually comes from the vague similarity of the shape of the island to the animals and also Koh Chang’s size as one of the largest islands in Thailand.
However, probably partly from that name, the island has become a center for elephant camps. There are now 6 elephant camps on Koh Chang so an elephant “experience” is definitely one of the excursions many travelers enjoy.
We won’t go into great detail about the morality of elephant camps. None on the island reach the standard of true elephant sanctuary like the Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai where injured elephants are truly rescued.
Our research suggested that Ban Kwan Chang was the most ethical of all local Elephant Camps so we chose that one for our experience. And I will say that the elephants at Ban Kwan Chang appeared to be healthy and well treated. And the location deep in the jungle far removed from traffic and hotels created a peaceful setting for man and beast.
The tour began with a short orientation and then a ride of about 40 minutes over some hilly terrain with a stream running through it. It is always an interesting experience but to be perfectly honest, sitting on a bench on the back of a moving elephant is really not a comfortable ride. After about 10-minutes, we would have been happy to move on to the next activity.
The elephants trekked up and down some hills and through a stream in the jungle. The mahout was friendly and not abusive of the elephant and near the end of the trek he got off the elephant and walked ahead taking some photos of us.
When the trek was completed we spent a few minutes feeding bananas to the elephants and then came our favorite part of the trip: washing the elephants. Our group of 6 took a short walk from the center of the camp to a section of the stream where we met up with 2 large elephants. We entered the water in groups of 2 to each elephant and while the animal lay on its side we scrubbed its hide with brushes while standing beside or laying on top of them.
We got the distinct impression the elephants were enjoying the scrub as much as we were. In fact, IMHO, the park is missing the chance to market the washing of elephants as the primary activity rather than as a throw-in to the elephant walk.
Prices range from $25 USD for a 1-hour orientation and trek to approximately $40 USD for a 2-hour experience that includes the washing.
We’ve been to numerous camps in Lao and Thailand and while we thought the elephants in Ban Kwan Chang were generally well treated, we’ve made the decision that it will be the last time we take a ride on an elephant.
We’ve taken a lot of cooking classes in our travels and have to say this was one of the more informative and most organized classes we’ve ever taken. The resort arranged the booking and transportation for us to the lovely setting for the class on the grounds of the Blue Lagoon Bungalows Resort. While very close to the shoreline of the Gulf of Thailand on the western side of the island, the actual cooking school is right on the lagoon in a jungle setting.
Chef Ya has many years of experience in the kitchen including formal training at a culinary institute in Bangkok and took time during the class to school us on the many varieties and some of the technical characteristics of the different rices and gingers available to Thai chefs. She is a very nice person with a good sense of humor and very thorough in her preparations.
The cooking facilities and prep areas are first rate and we were aided in some of the prep work by several other ladies in the back kitchen. We were allowed to pick which dishes we wanted to cook and each of us got hands on experience prepping and cooking. We were also provided with a recipe book as a takeaway.
In our class we cooked Gaeng Som, Khou Soi (yellow curry noodle soup), Pad Thai, Massaman curry with chicken and Steamed Pumpkin with Coconut Custard. And if I say so myself, it was a delicious meal.