Planning a romantic break or honeymoon, and looking for that perfect island? Then look no further - the idyllic Koh Chang, in Thailand, has everything you could wish for
Koh Chang is a Thai island paradise, with golden sand beaches and a dense jungle interior. Located in Thailand’s far eastern corner, it is much less developed than the tourist hotspots of Phuket, Samui and Pattaya, but still busy enough to have a great range of restaurants and accommodation. Jet into Trat airport or catch the bus from Bangkok to Laem Ngop pier, where a car ferry can take you the rest of the way across a narrow stretch of water.
The beach pad
Once you're there, the first step is finding that perfect beach base. We checked into the Koh Chang Paradise Resort, which offers sophisticated beach huts just metres from the shore. The rooms have large, soft beds, fully-loaded mini bars, and big open-plan bathrooms. With a view of the ocean in front and perfectly manicured lawns and gardens all around, this is the perfect location for a romantic honeymoon. If the beach isn’t enough, there’s a large pool with a bar inside it. The rates include a buffet breakfast with pretty much anything you would want.
Soaking up the sun
Klong Prao Beach is set in a beautiful bay, surrounded by jungle-covered hills, and is lined with towering palm trees. An excellent place to relax and watch the brightly painted Thai fishing boats drifting by in the distance, it's also perfect for swimming, with wonderful azure water. Children (and some adults!) will love the beach swings that hang from the palm trees.
Nothing says fun like “speedboat”, and we found ourselves shooting around the island at exhilarating speeds, heading for offshore rock outcrops and islands (Koh Wai and Koh Mak) in search of colourful tropical fish. On the bolt back to shore, in more choppy waters, we watched a family of macaque monkeys run out from the jungle interior to scavenge our leftover fruit from lunch, thrown by the drivers. The big one had a gleam in his eye as he chomped on a large piece of pineapple. Avoid similar trips offered by larger, slower boats, as these allow very little time for snorkelling compared to the speedboat trips.
Heading away from the beach for a day, we went for a delightful trek through the jungle on an Asian elephant (with baby in tow), followed by an opportunity to bathe the elephants.
Thai village life
Koh Chang still has some traditional Thai villages not yet overtaken by tourism, such as Ban Klong Prao in the middle of the island (near Klong Prao beach). Worth a visit is Wat Klong Prao, a small but beautiful Buddhist temple with a large golden Buddha on the porch.
Seafood and sunsets
Some nights we'd flag down a songthaew (shared taxi), and head down the east coast of the island to Ban Bang Bao fishing village (30-40 minutes away), for one of the famed seafood dinners at Ruan Thai (08 7000 162; 100-200 Baht per person). Nothing says "freshly caught" like picking your own dinner (fish, crab and crayfish) out of a tank. Feeling slightly over-full, we would wander the village, with its houses pitched above the ocean on long wooden poles and decking. Like modern art worthy of the Tate, brightly lit Thai fishing boats docked at the village pier, covered in hundreds of buoys, lanterns and nets.
On another night, craving the perfect pizza, we headed in the opposite direction to Hat Sai Khao (aka White Sand Beach) and Oodie’s Place, a popular hangout for backpackers (03 955 1326; 100-200 Baht per person). For dessert, try delicious banana pancakes, brought from a smiling roadside vendor, or, if you're feeling more adventurous, seek out the fruit stalls selling the large, spiky durian fruit, infamous for its horrid smell and unusual appearance.
A great place to observe the island’s beautiful sunsets is Laem Chai Chet, a rocky outcrop at the end of Klong Prao beach. On another night, we took a taxi to the viewpoint just past Kai Bae village, and watched the sun drift slowly down behind some of the random little islands that dot the coastline around that part of the island.
• Do all your shopping for water, junk food and basic supplies in the local Klong Prao village supermarket. It will save you a monumental mini-bar tab at the end of your holiday.
• Koh Chang Paradise Resort has its own restaurant (serving Thai and Western food) if you want to laze on the beach late into the evening.
• At lunchtime, head down the beach to the wonderfully rustic Palm Beach Restaurant (not in any guidebook). Wooden thatch chairs and tables are strewn randomly around the sand, and all the cooking is done on a tiny gas stove in a wooden hut. They will cook you freshly caught fish in a choice of chilli, garlic or lemongrass (a very popular choice), and the restaurateur's entire family pitches in to serve the random tourists who pop in for lunch while strolling along the beach.