Not to be confused with the much larger Ko Chang off Thailand’s east coast, Ranong’s KO CHANG is a forested little island about 5km offshore, whose car-free, ultra laidback, roll-your-own vibe more than compensates for the less than perfect beaches. The pace of life here is very slow, encouraging long stays, and for the relatively small number of tourists who make it to the island the emphasis is strongly on kicking back and chilling out – bring your own hammock and you’ll fit right in. Those in search of (slightly) livelier scenes head across the water to sister-island Ko Phayam. Most islanders make their living from fishing and from the rubber, palm and cashew nut plantations that dominate the flatter patches of the interior. The beaches are connected by tracks through the trees and there are only sporadic, self-generated supplies of electricity for a few hours each evening.

The best of Ko Chang’s beaches are on the west coast, and of these the longest, nicest and most popular is Ao Yai. The tiny bays to the north and south mostly hold just one set of bungalows each and are good for getting away from it all, though access to Ao Yai is easy enough if you don’t mind the hike. About halfway between the west and east coasts, a crossroads bisects Ko Chang’s only village, a tiny settlement that is home to most of the islanders and holds just a few shops, restaurants and a clinic.

Nearly all the bungalows on Ko Chang close down from about late April or early May until mid- or late October, when the island is subjected to very heavy rain, the beaches fill with flotsam, paths become dangerously slippery and food supplies dwindle with no ice available to keep things fresh. Many bungalow staff relocate to the mainland for this period, so you should phone ahead to check first.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Thailand features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The truth about elephant tourism in Asia

The truth about elephant tourism in Asia

Elephants are born free, but are everywhere in chains – and it’s tourism which is increasingly to blame. Riding an elephant used to be on every visitor’s …

11 Aug 2017 • Gavin Thomas insert_drive_file Article
Why Thailand is the wine destination you never knew existed

Why Thailand is the wine destination you never knew existed

Asked to name the world's best wine country and you'll most likely tout the undulating vineyards of Italy, France or California. But Thailand? With its smo…

26 Jun 2017 • Tamara Hinson local_activity Special feature
Go it alone: solo travel in Thailand

Go it alone: solo travel in Thailand

Thailand is the quintessential backpacker destination. Here you can make the first footprints on secluded sands, dance shoeless under a full moon and swim benea…

15 Feb 2017 • Helen Ochyra insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month