At a Glance – Salak Phet
- Likely to meet: Thai weekenders, couples, badly researched bookings.
- The Beach: None apart from the very difficult to access Wai Chek.
- Accommodation: Thai homestays, couple of boutique resorts, guesthouses.
300bt for dorm rooms to 4,000bt for sea villa.
- Resorts: Salak Phet Resort, The Mangrove Hideaway
Bungalows/Guesthouses: Ban Chan Lay, Koh Chang Marina, Island View
Backpacker: Baan Yemaya, Sleepover!
- Salak Phet Seafood, Fishermen’s Hut
At an Island Pace – Salak Phet
Salak Phet, lies on the opposite side of the bay to to Chek Bae down in the south east corner of Koh Chang, It is another rural community of fruit farmers and fishermen, spread out along the water and among the rubber tree plantations and orchards.
With the 744 metre mountain peaks of Salak Phet and Khao Laem providing the stunning natural backdrop at all times, Salak Phet comprises three distinct areas:-
- the temple and fishing village, with its jetty at the top end of the bay;
the long winding road that skirts the bay to the far outlet to the sea, with its vast orchards, hamlets, waterfalls and viewpoint;
the village at that outlet to the sea, known locally as Baan Rong Than.
Though mostly catering to Thai weekenders with homestays, there are a couple of resorts and guesthouses, a small marina with sailing facilities, a seafood restaurant and other local spots to eat, but as with elsewhere on the east coast, there is no readily accessible beach.
Ignoring the turning to Salak Khok, Chek Bae and Long Beach, the road continues on for another two kilometres until it reaches two large stores opposite one another. Look out for the signs for Chang Noi Kitchen and Salak Phet Marina to get your bearings. There’s also a curry and rice shop, noodle soup stall, pharmacy and ba mee (egg/wheat) noodle stand, so it’s a useful place to pull in and take a breather after the long ride down the coast.
Taking the right here, puts you on the route for the waterfalls, the marina and Salak Phet Seafood, the restaurant at the very end in Baan Rong Than, whereas continuing on takes you past the temple down into the village on the water.
Heading in that village direction, you’ll immediately find an Issan restaurant on one side and shortly afterwards, next door to the local clinic, another excellent diner, with noodle soup and crispy pork its specialities. The temple, monastery, cremation building and unique tiny museum are just a few hundred metres further on. It’s free to walk round the whole complex and if you are lucky, your visit may coincide with one of the very frequent temple fairs – full of stalls, music and normally very busy, with partying going on well into the night.
Take a left down the street by the bridge and you ultimately reach Koh Chang’s second mangrove walkway, tucked away past the now defunct shrimp farms. Like its counterpart in Salak Khok, it does need some renovation but it’s well worth taking time out to explore.
Continuing on, the main road narrows and curves round to follow the water’s edge at the bottom of the bay with houses on either side. The newly opened backpacker hostel Sleepover! is located down the little street on the bend at the bottom.
In truth, this is not the most scenic of spots, with buildings in different stages of either decay or renovation, but it is as local as Koh Chang comes. Ban Chan Lay, a Thai guesthouse and the resort, The Mangrove Hideaway, sit somewhat incongrously sandwiched in the middle of it all.
If you cut through between the houses along here, you can get onto the walkway that runs along the backs of the houses, with the boats as always moored up and the mangroves-lined inlet opening out onto Salak Phet bay beyond.
The road itself carries on still further, with the Swedish owned Fishermen’s Hut restaurant, just before a small humpback bridge, which itself leads to more houses and a Thai homestay at the very end.
Down one of the walkways, you’ll find two small guesthouses, one Finnish with no name and at the end, Baan Yemaya, a restaurant and cafe on the water’s edge, with a couple of rooms out the back, everything squeezed in amongst the densely packed stilt fisherman houses. From any vantage point here, the views up the bay are simply wonderful.
Back at the main junction by Chang Noi Kitchen and taking a right, the road sets off towards the far side of the bay. Immediately on your right again, another smaller road leads into the interior. This is the route to Klong Neung waterfall, Koh Chang’s tallest and least accessible falls, which are found at the very end of the road, completely unmarked.
At the final small bend before the end of this back road, another track climbs straight uphill and like a long forgotten secret garden, reveals itself to be a fully paved, landscaped route to an abandoned viewpoint, with yet more amazing views across the bay, over the offshore islands and far out to sea.
On you way back, you can also swing down the road to the left and this takes you through the rubber trees, bamboo copses and orchards to Klong Sip-Et, a very nice drive – another whole hidden part of the island.
On the main road again, this carries on past the school, also home to the area’s solitary ATM and other local houses until an interior road to the right, perhaps best spotted by the minimart on its corner and yellowing old government sign, leads to the second of the waterfalls, Kheeri Phet.
Like Klong Neung, the falls were seen as an attraction in the very early days of Koh Chang’s tourism and money was invested in the roads to them, car parking and even small toilets. With the building of the west coast road, however, the number of visitors to these attractions has become almost negligible and so they have been largely abandoned, left for nature to take its course. The road to this one in particular is normally strewn with coconut fronds but the orchards on either side are very much tended and harvested by the locals.
Once you have parked up, Kheeri Phet waterfall is far easier to reach, at least to the lower level, than its neighbour and even in the drier months, when the water level is likely very low, the peaceful walk through the forest is in itself a great escape.
Around the Bay, Wai Chek Beach – Salak Phet
After the route to the falls, another few hundred metres more brings you to a soi (street) on the left, Salak Phet 1, which branches into Salak Phet 2. This allows you to join up with the village by the water, with Salak Phet 2, for example, bringing you out near to The Mangrove Hideaway as described above.
Along the main road, meanwhile, a small village is concentrated around the bridge at the signed Klong Thum, with some cheap restaurants and a minimart. Further still, another kiosk with a barrier that is sometimes up and sometimes down, sits on the corner of the unfinished back road to Bang Bao, which also leads to Wai Chek Beach.
You can whip up here to explore, a steady curving climb to the top on patchy and in places washed out tarmac, followed by a mixture of mostly good sections interspersed with terrible sections, those unfortunately always found on the trickiest hills. After about 5 or 6 kilometres, you come to an abrubt stop at a broken bridge.
The intrepid, however, can cross over the river bed and continue on yet more narrow paved road until that too completely runs out after a few kilometres. On foot, the even more curious can press on again down the narrow track, but ultimately that itself comes to a grinding halt at a rock face after another 2 kilometres.
The back road near Bang Bao Beach is in a similar state, with the unfinished bit between them about 4 kilometres. Approval has been granted now to complete the project and with it, the island’s circumvention but talk to Salak Phet locals and they are not holding their breath on anything happening anytime soon.
Just before the broken down bridge and its chasm, a sandy track to the left leads via a river crossing and some tall grass fields to Wai Chek Beach, the completely undeveloped strand on the next bay around the coast from Salak Phet.
This is a lovely long stretch of sand with great views across to Koh Klum, the first large uninhabited island which all the boats from Bang Bao go pass on their way to Koh Wai, Koh Mak and Koh Kood. A pretty lagoon sits behind the beach at one end, while there is a curious house up on the hill at the other.
Like Long Beach, there is a sense in Wai Chek Beach’s wildness and remoteness of how the island and its beaches used to be, long before tourism arrived. Here, in particular, you selfishly hope that the two sides of the island do indeed stay unconnected for as long as possible, for this last vestige of former times, will simply and rather sadly disappear once the road is joined up and the inevitable development begins.
Back on main road, the Salak Phet route now starts to hug the shoreline and after the now abandoned Jab Jab Seafood Restaurant which sits in its small lake, you reach the long concrete pier, which offers great panoramic views of the islands in the bay and back to the mountains behind.
Koh Chang Marina, shortly afterwards, is home to various yachts including Gulf Charters. It also has rooms and a restaurant on the other side of the road.
The road next passes a monastery set back on the inland side, which is currently constructing a huge Buddha statue to look over the bay in a similar vein to Ao Salad in Koh Kood. Finally, you reach the car park for Salak Phet Seafood, a large restaurant built on stilts over the bay, with teak floors, fish in pens and accommodation.
At the back of the car park, a narrow path leads past another seafood redstaurant, much more local in style, Sangarun, and then various other houses, which all sit on stilts back over the water.. Towards the end, you reach the German owned Island View, which has its own rooms over the sea on a wooden jetty, as well as a swimming pool and bungalows on the mountainside. Sailing Koh Chang, the second of the sailing companies, is also based here.
You can walk still further to pass yet more fishermen’s houses built both on the shore and at the end of their own long walkways stretching out into the bay, before finally ending at a newly constructed Thai homestay.