Salak Khok, Chek Bae and Long Beach at a Glance
Salak Khok, Chek Bae and Long Beach at an Island Pace
Salak Khok, Chek Bae and Long Beach are accessed with a left turn off the main east coast road, a kilometre or so after The Spa Koh Chang. Salak Khok is a local fishing community with next to no tourism, built in the mangroves on one side of a large shallow bay, with an outlet to the sea on the east coast.
Chek Bae, meanwhile, lies further south on the eastern shore of Salak Phet bay and consists of a spread out village, dotted with simple Thai resorts and one more upmarket choice.
Long Beach is just that, a beach, remote and undeveloped, located at the end of a long and tortuous road far down in the south east corner of the island.
The Mangrove Walkway at Salak Khok
From the left turn, the road passes the local school on the bend, before reaching the understated entrance to Salak Khok’s mangrove walkway, with the temple on the opposite side.
The walkway, constructed from concrete planks raised on pillars above the water, twists and turns its way through the forest with an observation tower about half way along, giving you views above the trees. It is free and takes no more than twenty minutes, emerging further down the road by the little somtam shack.
Past Salak Khok to the resorts at Chek Bae
If you take the right fork at the crossroads at the end, you head towards Chek Bae and Long Beach. The houses here are widely spread out amongst the rubber tree plantations, orchards and pineapple fields and the actual village, just a couple of shops, a local clinic and school is a few kilometres along, with the strange arch of two battleships high above, marking its entrance some way before.
Chek Bae’s resorts, Ban Mae, Ploy Talay, the luxurious Parama Resort, Judo and Rommai Chailay with its pretty seafood restaurant, are all situated by the water and have great views across the bay to the uninhabited offshore islands of Koh Phrao Nai and Koh Phrao Nok and to Salak Phet itself on the other side of the bay.
There are no beaches as such and it is not an area where people tend to swim, but kayaking is an option, with the abandoned resort and strip of good sand beach on Koh Phrao Nok or Koh Sai Khao, as it is often called, not so far away.
A few bungalows, Sunset Beach Huts, sit at the end of the main road and then two rough tracks continue on through the trees. The straight on option brings you out at Ban Vitee Thai, a curious collection of long term bungalows for rent. The left fork comes to the end of the line at Karang Bay View Resort, located in its own sheltered part of the bay, with a tiny sandy beach, wooden pier, a handful of bungalows, rooms and a restaurant.
Out to Long Beach
Along the main road of Chek Bae, just after Parama Resort, another smaller road signed for Ban Aoluk branches off into the interior and this is the one you need for Long Beach.
This road is held somewhat in awe on Koh Chang due to its awful state of degradation, landslides and constant closures. As of June 2016, however, the legend will have to be rewritten as the famously terrible road is now not so terrible at all. Ongoing construction has almost completely transformed it to one of the newest roads on the island and most importantly, the collapsed bridge, part of an ongoing battle with the elements, has now been properly and lastingly repaired.
There is still a tricky section near the start after the tiny rangers station and the last 2 km, including the steep hill, are as bad as ever, but these too will be too finished off in the near future.
Long Beach lies at the end of that final section, with the entrance to Treehouse Bungalows clearly signed. This was the offshoot of the former backpacker haven on Lonely Beach, long since gone, and it too fell into disrepair. Happily though, it has been taken over for the last few years by the same caretakers as the never opened or finished Long Beach Resort above and offers very decent, old beach style, traveller accommodation.
The beach is impressive, sitting in a pretty bay, with good sand and clear waters but it does gets filled up with flotsam from the fishing fleets. Behind it, apart from the buildings at the northern end, there is nothing but long grass and coconut trees, which add to the wild atmosphere.
Overall, as a place to stay, Long Beach will only appeal to a certain kind of tourist, especially given how very remote and basic it is. There is no popping out for a change of scene or something from the shops and you have only the company of those around you. As a day trip, on the other hand, the trek out there is most definitely an adventure, with the scenery, at times quite stunning, and the road now so much easier than before.
To the far south east corner and views to Koh Ngam
The track carries on after the entrance to Treehouse, past Long Beach Resort and above the back of the beach itself, until it reaches a newly paved road leading down to Tantawan Resort. Opposite, there is a path through the fields to the southern end of the beach.
Tantawan, luxurious bungalows on stilts over the water used almost exclusively by Thai packages, sits in a lovely bay overlooking Koh Ngam, a tiny offshore island with a picturesque white sands beach, so close one almost does not realise it is a separate land mass.
The naval memorial at Hat Yuttanavy is a few hundred metres further on. Annually, a small ceremony is conducted here in commemoration of lives lost during the 2nd World War when the French Navy scuttled 3 Thai warships just offshore. You can drive even further before coming to a dead end at the sea itself, with fabulous views across to Koh Ngam.
Heading back via Salak Khok
Returning right back to the crossroads just after the mangroves walkway of Salak Khok, its left fork, or straight on if you are coming back from Chek Bae, leads to the actual village. It is centred on a wooden walkway, hidden in the mangroves, with houses built on stilts and fishing boats moored up alongside. Pretty much undisturbed by tourism and a sense that it will stay that way, the local community is tight knit and wary of outsiders, quietly going about their business, more than a tad disinterested in life outside.
About half way along the narrow road, after the boat yard, Salak Khok Seafood sits at the end of a track joined to the wooden walkway. Primarily a seafood restaurant, and a good one at that, it also has kayaks and rents out gondolas with cute white parasols, paddled by local gondoliers, which make a tour of the bay.
The road continues on to a dead end at a small scrappy pier, where the shrimp and squid are unloaded, with the outlet to the sea just a hundred metres away. There is nowhere to stay in Salak Khok and with that, maybe a nagging feeling that it is the one part of Koh Chang, where tourists could allow themselves to be excluded and leave the locals to it.