There is an island in Thailand to suit every type of traveler, whether you are an adventure sports lover, a family, a young couple or someone just looking to party.
Sometimes choosing one of these islands in Thailand to visit can be a little bit like Goldilocks sampling the bear’s porridge. This one is too hot. This one is too deserted. This one is too rowdy. This one is too expensive. If you are lucky, you’ll find one that is “just right.”
Lee and I were looking for our “just right” island on this visit to Thailand. A couple of years ago we tried Koh Lanta in low season and it was too quiet. Then we tried Koh Phi Phi and it was a bit too much of a drunken mess. As digital nomads, we wanted somewhere that would be conducive to getting work done, but we also wanted to be able to relax and have a little bit of fun as well. After researching many different options with our work/life balance in mind, we gave Koh Chang a try.
Known as the “Beast in the East” because of its size, Koh Chang is located in eastern Thailand close to Cambodia. Along the coast are laid back villages and within the interior there are vast acres upon acres of unspoiled rainforest.
We ended up loving Koh Chang so much that we stayed for nearly two weeks. So what about Koh Chang makes it just right for digital nomads? Here are a few of the things we loved about it.
You Can Stay Connected
Koh Chang offers the perfect balance between the unspoiled beauty of a Thai island and the convenience of being connected. We could have gone to one of the smaller islands where there is less infrastructure and completely pristine deserted beaches. However, when you go off the beaten path too far you end up in a simple bamboo hut where the electricity isn’t even guaranteed, not to mention the Wifi.
If Lee and I were on a purely recreational getaway and we didn’t mind being totally disconnected from the world while relaxing into the pace of island life, that would be fine. However, we are travelling while working on a freelance writing career, running a travel blog and starting up a brand new internship program. Internet is required and we can’t be disconnected for too long.
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In Koh Chang we could enjoy lovely beaches, while still being able to get our work done online. When it was time for a break from the computer screen, the sandy beach was only a five-minute walk away. The hotel where we stayed, Sanuk Sanang Resort on Kae Bai Beach, offered fast Wifi that allowed us to be very productive. We didn’t suffer any power outages and the internet failed only a couple of times within the 12 days we were there.
We Found the Perfect Place to Get Work Done
We have been working on the road for the past 5 years and we have learned that it’s not always easy to find a comfortable place to set up the laptop and get stuff done. We have visited some true amazing and gorgeous destinations, but they haven’t had the best working environments so we have struggled to be productive. When we find an ideal working set up like the one we found on Koh Chang, we really do appreciate it.
At Sanouk Sanang Resort we had a room that opened into a small garden. There was a little porch area right outside of our door with a big wooden table. This was an ideal place to work, because it was quiet and shady and the Wifi connection was strong. It was close to the room, but not inside the room which worked well when one of us was resting but the other was working. Although the temperature was sweltering, the shaded overhang and the breezes kept it cool.
Also, this spot was ideal for working because it wasn’t a communal area. I have spent a lot of days trying to get work done in the communal areas of hostels and it can be frustrating. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love hostels. They are wonderful for saving money while you travel and for meeting other interesting people. However, if you are a travelling freelancer or blogger and you try to use the communal areas to get work done on your laptop – it can soon feel very anti-social.
Everyone else is in a chatty mood and is trying to talk to you, often because they don’t understand that you are in work mode while they are in holiday mode. It’s hard not to feel like you are being rude when you shut down the conversation politely so that you can concentrate. It’s always challenging to work in that environment, like trying to do your homework in the middle of a party. I’ve even taken to wearing big headphones (even if no music is playing) just to put out “do not disturb” vibes. However, that still doesn’t stop a lot of people who continue to talk to you either way despite your polite protests.
That’s why finding a private or semi-private place to work for a digital nomad is so lovely. I enjoyed the opportunity to hunker down and hammer out several freelance travel articles for my clients as well as a ton of new content for Global Goose. When I wanted to go out and socialize, I could make the choice myself to leave the hotel and head to one of the nearby bars. I’ve found that the more I draw a clear line between work time and play time, the more productive I am and the more I enjoy both.
It’s Relatively Easy to Get to from Bangkok
Another reason why Koh Chang is a great choice for digital nomads is because it’s not too difficult to get there from Bangkok. Unlike some of the islands in the south that require a long and arduous journey from Bangkok, Koh Chang is pretty easy. We purchased tickets on Soi Rambuttri that included both the bus and ferry for 400 baht. The ferry deposited us at Centrepoint Pier and from there we took a ride in an open-backed pickup truck taxi to Kai Bae Beach.
There Is Enough to Keep You Busy and Entertained
When you take a break from work, there is enough on the island to keep you entertained – even if you stay for a week (or 12 days like we did). On Kai Bae Beach there was an assortment of restaurants including Indian, Mexican and a Steakhouse as well as the typical local Thai food. On some more remote islands there are only a few restaurants to choose from and after a few days you end up eating most of the choices on the menu and having to repeat yourself.
We also ventured beyond Kai Bae Beach some days to check out some of the other beaches on the island. This was easy to do, as there are taxis that frequently run along the coast of the island. White Sand Beach is the larger and more developed beach with more selection of restaurants, cafes and hotels. Lonely Beach is the backpacker hotspot with cheap huts and reggae bars, giving it the vibe of a sandier Khao San Road. (Although it was fun to check out the other beaches, we still thought that Kai Bae was the prettiest.)
As well as taking day trips to the other beaches, you can also take tours around the island. We took a day tour that drove us around to a hilltop temple, a fishing village, a pier and a lookout point. (It was supposed to include a couple stops at beautiful waterfalls, but it was so hot while we were there that the waterfalls were all dried up.) We also saw lots of other activities advertised, like scuba diving, snorkeling, boat trips and day trips to some of the smaller nearby islands such as Koh Kut and Koh Mak. Also, we were there during the Songkran Festival, which added another layer of fun to our stay.
It is Affordable
Finding a cheap place to travel and work is always a plus for our lifestyle, because it means that the money we earn online can go a lot further. Our hotel room in Koh Chang was 500 baht per night, a very reasonable price for the quality of the room and the hotel. Also, it had a mini-fridge which saved us even more money. We could keep sandwiches, fruit, snacks and drinks from the nearby 7/11 in our fridge so that we didn’t have to eat out for every meal.
My breakfast, usually an assortment of fruit from the local vendor, rarely cost more than a dollar or two.
Fresh fruit smoothies were 40 baht, a meal in a local Thai restaurant was around 70-80 baht, or prices ran a little higher if we wanted Steak or Mexican. It’s not the cheapest travel destination in the world, but it certainly offered a lot at a very affordable price.
These are just a few of the reasons why Kai Bae Beach on Koh Chang worked out to be an ideal place for our digital nomad lifestyle.