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
You start out on the Salak Phet trek at the end of the old road leading to Kheeri Phet waterfall. I met my local guide there at 07.00, 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. You first pass through the lower orchards, then the rubber trees and finally enter the jungle itself.
Over the years, trail steps have been chiseled into the terrain by the Park Rangers and local farmers. As helpful as these undoubtedly, this opening hour is still very tough going. High humidity under the canopy further exacerbates the strain – you’ll be soaked through.
Thankfully, life does get easier as the ascent becomes less pronounced and your body more acclimatised to the conditions. With that initial section behind us, we then made measured progress through the forest towards the top.
We stopped frequently to listen out for bird calls, hornbills in particular. and here and there, we trekked past termite mounds. The guide pointed out wild boar droppings too but not actual sightings. Soon enough, we had climbed above the trail line and so got our first glimpses of the land beneath.
The Peak – Koh Chang Treks
The final ascent took an another hour. There were 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, you pass 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, we passed on the bragging rights to continue down.
The Descent from the Peak
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. By skirting from the path through the undergrowth – the advantages of a decent guide – you can get to the bottom of the uppermost tier. It was fairly dry on our visit, bu the plunge pool was still 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. This is 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
In the last couple of years, the National Park authorities have clamped down on treks in this area. Certain guides no longer come here as it is too much hassle. You also now need to pay 200bt per person on top of any guide fee. In theory, Raht does still make this trek once a week at 1,000bt per person.
You must not attempt any of these treks without a guide as you will most likely get lost.
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