Of all the Koh Chang treks, perhaps the most exhilarating is the 650 metre climb up Khao Laem mountain in Salak Phet. It’s a hard, hot and sticky, three hour slog but once at the top, all that effort is immediately rewarded by the breathtaking 360 degree views of the island beneath.
The Ascent – Khao Laem Salak Phet – Koh Chang Treks
The Salak Phet treks starts at the end of the old road leading to Kheeri Phet waterfall and this is where I met my local guide Dam and his dog at 07.00am, ready for the day’s adventure.
After crossing over the dry riverbed to the left, we followed the path running parallel with it for 200 metres until taking a fork off to the left. If you were to carry on here instead, you would reach the lower tiers of the waterfall itself.
After a few minutes gentle stroll, things began to get more intense as we started the slow climb up the steep hillside through the lower orchards, the rubber trees and into the jungle itself. Over the years, trail steps have been chiseled into the terrain by the Park Rangers and local farmers, but as helpful as these are, this opening hour is still very tough going, with the high humidity under the canopy further exacerbating the strain.
Thankfully, life does get easier as the ascent becomes less pronounced and your body more acclimatised to the conditions, so once the initial section was complete, we then made measured progress through the forest towards the top. With frequent stops to listen out for bird calls, check out termite mounds, wild boar droppings and the like, we gradually climbed above the trail line and got our first glimpses of the land beneath.
The Peak – Khao Laem Salak Phet – Koh Chang Treks
The final ascent took an another hour, with just a few tricky sections where we needed to pull ourselves up over rocks until finally, we reach the flattened out peak. From here, the views of Salak Phet and Salak Khok are perfect. You can drop down the escarpment at the back too, where as the mist lifted, the pier of Bang Bao and the back of Bang Bao Beach could be clearly made out. Further round in the panorama, you can also make out Klong Prao.
Revitalised by our early lunch of sticky rice, grilled chicken and mango, we continued off this flat area to start the looping descent back towards the waterfall. After a few minutes, we passed another path which climbs up still further to the actual highest peak, Salak Phet, marked on maps at 744 metres. It takes about 20 minutes to complete this extra part but knowing the views at the top are blocked by the trees, this time we passed on the bragging rights and moved on.
The Descent – Khao Laem Salak Phet – Koh Chang Treks
The trail down is around 2 hours and although steep in places, it’s a lovely peaceful trek through the forest. You emerge at the top of Kheeri Phet waterfall and by skirting from the path through the undergrowth – the advantages of a decent guide – you can get to the bottom of the uppermost tier. Though fairly dry on our visit, the plunge pool was still more than deep enough for a refreshing swim.
Afterwards, we headed straight down the waterfall itself zig zagging from side to side but mainly following the far bank until we finally reached the lower tier – the one you can walk to along the original path on the right as mentioned above.
With just a few more minutes walking from that point, we arrived back where we started at the old road – tired but very satisfied with our efforts.
The Guides – Khao Laem Salak Phet – Koh Chang Treks
We do not recommend trying this trek without a guide.
Raht takes a group up Khao Laem each Friday, priced at 1,200bt per person.
Private treks are available with either Toon at Jungle Fever or Thomas at Thomas Koch Adventures, prices on request.
My local guide, Dam, is more than happy to take people too but his English is limited.
Whatever your requirement, we can organise it for you, so please do contact us for more information.