There’s been a traffic jam in, of all places, Trat, as impatient domestic tourists waited for the ferry to head to Koh Chang from the mainland. The island was invaded by Thais getting out of town for the long LONG weekend and, despite the forward bookings, the traffic police and ferry operator weren’t ready for the onslaught.
The long weekend runs from yesterday through to the end of Monday, 2 days public holiday to make up for the postponed Songkran celebrations in April, which were cancelled amidst the middle of Thailand’s outbreak of Covid-19. Over 10,000 tourists were scheduled to arrive on the island yesterday and today. Cars lined up for more than 3 hours to catch the Ferry from Ao Thmmachat Pier to the pier on Koh Chang. The Khaosod reported that at least 1,000 cars were lined up to get on the ferry at Ao Thammachat that will take them to Koh Chang Island.
Despite being one of the country’s largest islands in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Chang has remained somewhat off the mass tourism development footprint (Phuket is the largest, Koh Samui second and Koh Chang third). In 2019 the island’s hotel market hosted 1.2 million guests at its 272 tourism establishments that feature 7,617 rooms, with more on the way. Hotel occupancy for Koh Chang teeters between the mid to high 60’s, though the off season sees numbers often drop by half, like other islands around Thailand.
Perhaps the biggest barrier to entry for new larger hotels in Koh Chang remains the lack of direct airlift and dependence on the privately operated Trat airport, not far from the pier on the mainland. The distance across the channel, between the 2 piers, is about 3 kilometres.
The Koh Chang Deputy Municipal Clerk said that over 10,000 tourists had been waiting to travel the island early yesterday but that 1,000 cars had already crossed over to the island before lunchtime. About 2,000 cars were estimated to have crossed onto Koh Chang in the past 2 days. The cars are expected to wait at least 3 hours just to get back onto a ferry for the ride home.
Mainland police did their best to manage the additional holiday traffic in the area. Police said they received dozens of reports from motorists complaining about the wait to get catch the ferry to Koh Chang with most reporting the wait of 2-3 hours. The piers and related officials will have to find a solution so tourists don’t have to wait so long on holidays. Local residents and Koh Changians think it’s high time for a bridge to be constructed from the mainland to the island so cars can drive directly into the island, just like Phuket.
SOURCE: Khaosod English