It should be called Koh Change since it’s grown tremendously in the past 20 years, according to Rick, our host, guide, teacher and mentor. The island, which was once a bumbling little no-man’s town is now a fresh pocket of backpackers turned tourists. Row after row of swimsuit shops, hostels, bars along the beach (I mean right ON the beach) and little quaint shopping bungalows that extend right out on the water.
But it’s still just quiet enough and minimally populated to feel like you’re escaping from something.
I smacked my lips on freshly grilled barracuda at one of the plethora of beach restaurants. By the time we were ready for dessert, the incoming tide was nearly lapping at our table.
We rented a moto the next day– an easy way to lurk about the island and explore its naturally lush undulations. We slipped down a dusty road toward the center of the island’s mountains where you can hike back a short distance to a swim-able waterfall. We passed numerous elephant parks (Koh Chang in Thai means “Elephant Island”) and sipped Tibetan butter tea in a local café. We snaked our way toward the southern tip where we got caught in a flash rainstorm under the rickety tin and tarp roofs over the stilted shopping bungalows.
We dined on the deck over the ocean, schlurping seafood from shells and watching ants steal prize pieces of our nosh, dragging them carefully along the wooden rafters and into their lair. We swam in the just-barely-warm ocean right across from our hotel, sunk our toes into the soft, glittering sand.