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Introducing Ko Chang

With steep, jungle-covered peaks, picturesque Ko Chang (Elephant Island) retains its remote and rugged spirit despite its current status as a package-tour resort akin to Phuket. The island’s swathes of sand are girl-next-door pretty but not beauty-queen gorgeous. What it lacks in sand, it makes up for in an unlikely combination: accessible wilderness with a thriving party scene. Convenient forays into a verdant jungle or underwater coral gardens can be enthusiastically toasted at one of Lonely Beach’s many beer and bucket parties.

A little more than a decade ago, Ko Chang didn’t have 24-hour electricity, was still considered malarial, had few paved roads and only a handful of motorised vehicles. Today, it is still a slog to get here, but there is a constant migration of visitors: Russian package tourists, Cambodia-bound backpackers and beach-hopping couples funnelling through to more remote islands in the Mu Ko Chang National Marine Park. Along the populous west coast are virtual mini-cities with a standard of living that has noticeably outpaced the island’s infrastructure, a common problem on many Thai islands. Ko Chang struggles to provide decent sanitation and alternative means of transport to an ever-expanding nonresident population.