An average driving time between 4-5 hours or one hour by flight from Bangkok to the last eastern province of Thailand “Trat” that has borders with Cambodia and the Gulf of Thailand to the south. The province is most famous for gemstone mining and trading. Hence, the history of Trat can be traced back to the reign of King Prasat Thong, the first king of Prasat Thong dynasty and the 4th dynasty of the Ayutthaya Kingdom (1350-1767). Owing to its excellent location, Trat has played an important role in the development of the country’s stability and economy. Later, the city has become a place for many Chinese settlers principally the merchants who remained in the Chinese community.
The southern part of the province is on the edge of the Gulf of Thailand, hence Trat has countless islands and one of the celebrated islands is “Koh Chang”, Thailand’s second largest island after Phuket. The most visited islands in Trat are certainly Koh Chang, followed by Koh Kood, Koh Mak, and a Group of Koh Rung. Moreover, there are small islands scattered around those island areas, which can be visited as a day trip or some with accommodation. Trat is the only province in the east of Thailand that performs ecotourism, as a matter of fact, the island coastlines are blanketed with lush mangrove forests, which help capture and store carbon, and eventually grown into low carbon islands.
Mu Koh Chang National Park covers more than 52 islands from the territory of Amphoe Laem Ngop, Amphoe Mueng to Amphoe Khlong Yai including Koh Chang, the country’s biggest east coast island with an area of approximately 429 square kilometres. In Thai word “Chang” means “Elephant” despite the fact that the island has no relation to the figure of elephant.
The topography contains high mountains and complex stone cliffs. The highest mountain is Khao Salak Phet, 744 metres above the sea level, rich in fertile evergreen forest. Koh Chang is divided into two main areas; the east and the west, both has very much the same characteristic of attractions, such as view point, waterfalls, beaches, and mangroves. However, the charms of the east end are wonderful islands of Koh Man Nok and Koh Man Nai, the elephant jungle trekking and a visit to Bang Bao fishery village – an existing village whose villagers are direct descendant of the Salak Phet villagers, living in a simple way of life in traditional wooden houses on stilts built into the sea with bridges connecting them together. The majority of villagers earn a living from fishery as well as manufacture shrimp paste, dried shrimp, fish sauce, and salted fish. In addition, the location is functioned as fishing boats harbour providing a good shelter from monsoon storms and wind.
Koh Kood is Thailand’s fourth largest island and the second largest in Trat. It has an area of approximately 129 square kilometres that is administrated by a local sub-district authority including oceanic islands of Koh Mak and Group of Koh Rung. Koh Kood has abundant diversity of flora and fauna, most of the island area is mountainous, interspersed with natural forest, a suitable island for nature lovers with an amazing challenge to visit the most famous 3-tiered Klong Chao Waterfall with water all year round running in a stream. It is only accessible by taking a boat upstream through the rich mangrove forests then followed by 1.5 kilometres walk to reach the falls. The travel distance and time to Koh Kood from the mainland is much longer than any other islands due to its southernmost location. As a result, the island remains pure, many rare species of plants and wild insects such as sandflies can be found in the least visited beaches. The typical inhabitants of this island are a mixture of Thai and immigrant Khmer from Koh Kong, though you may find some people speak with a strange accent when speaking a foreign language, compared with Thais speaking English with a Thai accent. Getting around the island is not possible as there is no ring road, only cut-through bumpy road from the east at Salad Bay, a fishing hub, to Bang Bao Bay on the west that is lined with shady coconut palms in a tranquil atmosphere. Whether in the east or in the west of Koh Kood, the island is enclosed by the natural environment – incredibly clear seawater that is good for swimming, fine-looking beach lied on each bay, explore an entire mangrove forests and caves by sea canoe, snorkelling and diving with schools of colourful fish.
Koh Mak is situated between Koh Chang and Koh Kood, approximately 38 kilometres from the mainland. It is the third biggest island in Trat, many locals say that the island has the shape of a dragon. The geography is mostly fertile coastal plain filled with coconut and rubber plantations. The word “Mak” in Thai means “Betel Nut”, the island name derives from the betel palms (Areca-catechu) which was once full of those plants but not many exist today. During the influence of the King Rama V along with his duty call in Trat, he and his family visited Koh Mak twice where he admired the quietness, pristine beauty and its natural surroundings. Today, about 95% of the land on this island is private property that belongs to five powerful families whose families have been occupied the land for decades, the first settler on the island was Luang Prompakdee who held the post of Chinese Affairs Officer at the time. As time goes by, what remains to be seen is dated back to King Rama V’s era, “Koh Mak Museum”, the only survival, overwater two-story white wooden house, typically Siamese style that belongs to one of the families, filled with displays of images, maps, household items that have been well-preserved.
A group of islets set on the west of Koh Mak is Group of Koh Rang. Islands hopping is an ideal activity to visit a variety of island sizes, for example, Koh Thain, Koh Rang Lek, Koh Kra, Koh Ma Pring, and so on that have picturesque coral reefs nestled in fabulous greenish blue water.
Climate: The eastern islands have a typical monsoon climate with an average temperature of 28 degrees Celsius. The best time to visit is during the cool season of November to February and through the summer season from March to April. Access between the months of May to October can be tough from the effect of northeast and southwest monsoon winds.
How to get there:
By car – There are three routes that you can drive from Bangkok to Trat:
Route 1 Bangna-Trad (Highway 3) passing Chonburi – Rayong – Chanthaburi – Trat, a total distance of approximately 385 km.
Route 2 Bangna – Chonburi – Klaeng – Chanthaburi – Trat (Highway 344), a total distance of approximately 318 km.
Route 3 Motorway starting from Srinagarindra – Ramkamhaeng intersection and drive onto the route Ban Bueng – Klaeng – Chanthaburi – Trat.
By bus – Several air-conditioned private bus companies are available at the Bangkok Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekkamai) and Bangkok Northern Bus Terminal (Mochit).
By air – Bangkok Airways has daily flight schedule from Bangkok to Trat. There is a transfer service available from the airport to the ferry pier where tourists can take a ferry to Koh Chang.
What you should know:
- Some beaches in some islands have endured through its time of purity, therefore, there are possible sandflies that you may encounter. For those who easily have an allergic reaction to insects, it is advisable to bring an insect repellent and allergy medicine with you, as specific islands neither have clinic nor hospital.
- There are no banks as such on the islands. It is sensible to either use ATM cash machine or exchange foreign currency in Trat town.
Tourism Authority of Thailand, Trat Office
Administrative Organisation of Koh Mak
Tel: +66 (0) 39 524 038