Wai Chek Beach down near Salak Phet in the south east of the island is one of the last remaining undeveloped spots on the island. Though few people are likely to visit it or even know of it, many have most probably clocked it when going out on a snorkeling or diving trip, for the wild and empty beach is clearly visible a couple of bays along from Bang Bao as you head out to sea.
Over on this Bang Bao side of the island, you have no hope of getting there unless by boat, and some of the snorkel trips, such as Kai Bae Huts Speedboat tour do include it in their itinerary. There is a road which quite a few erroneous maps suggest goes right past it, but this is actually the unfinished back link to Salak Phet, a project that fell foul of a lack of money and too many natural obstacles (mountains), thus causing its abandonment about 10 years ago. If you feel the urge to see for yourself that the road is indeed defunct and you have not been spun a yarn, and many apparently do, drive out to Bang Bao Beach (Klong Kloi) and keep going until you spot a small lane on your left. This slowly but surely deteriorates over 5km until finally calling it quits at an utterly broken bridge in the middle of the forest. You’ll find a small shelter too, which is used by Kongoi Trekking, who stomp into the interior from here, though in a different direction from where the road would have led, had things had turned out differently.
No, to reach Wai Chek beach by road, you need to to go all the way around the other side of the island to Salak Phet via the east coast road, a good 30km from White Sand Beach. Directions wise and everyone gets confused and lost, keep going straight the whole way, ignoring the turning to Salak Khok, Chek Bae and Long Beach and after a few more minutes, you will arrive at two large shops on either side of the road, one with signs for Chang Noi Kitchen and Koh Chang Marina outside. Take the road to the right and follow it for about 10 minutes until you spot a round white hut with green windows and to its side, one of those striped red barriers which can be raised to let through vehicles and hey presto, you are at the start of the other end of the abandoned road. This climbs and curves through the forest with some very tricky, dangerous eroded sections along the way until after about 7km, you’ll likely surmise you can go no further at the bridge which, you guessed it, has totally collapsed. This is not the other side of the collapsed one at Bang Bao, incidentally, there’s a good few kilometres in between. About 200 metres before the bridge, you need to take the dusty track leading off to the left. This will soon bring you to a dry riverbed, forget the first possible crossing and continue on, you could take the second one but best to stay on and take the third. A little further through the tall grasses and you have arrived at Wai Chek Beach.
At the southern end, there’s a freshwater lagoon and usually a couple of tents, intrepid backpackers and Thai hippies returning to nature, guitars and campfires, that sort of thing, though the ever present smart-looking SUV gives the game away a bit. At the northern end, up on the hill, Ting Tong Bar, yes that Ting Tong Bar from Lonely Beach have set up a few bungalows, Wai Shak Bungalows. Basic thatch numbers and no electricity, together with the small accompanying restaurant and chill-out area, they may well be a harbinger of what is to come should the road ever be restarted – Lonely Beach MKII would be our guess. The island offshore, by the way, is the uninhabited Koh Klum. As you leave, you’ll notice other tracks and these are fun to follow, some heading towards the lagoon, others, newly cleared, wending their way back to the road, but unfortunately none lead towards any as yet undiscovered hidden nirvanas.
Wai Chek Beach is a lovely place to drop in on, have a swim and escape the crowds, chances are it will be just you and a couple of others and long may it continue that way, wild and undeveloped. Ironically, though, on our last visit, we emerged out from the long grass that surrounds the sands to find a group of about 50. A Thai film crew apparently working to a Russian director, with Russian cast and entourage were busy filming for what looked like a well financed private project rather than somthing about to hit you nearest cineplex but then again, maybe the new Tarkovsky had found Koh Chang’s favourite deserted beach too.
Most tourists driving over this side are looking for Long Beach, the other undeveloped strand, though that does now have a bit more action than Wai Chek, with the re-opening of Treehouse Bungalows and the almost finished motel above. If you plan to visit both, bear in mind the state of the two respective roads and the overall distance there and back from the west coast. It will be a long hard day.