By no stretch of imagination can the Centara Koh Chang ever be called small! Measuring at a whopping 43 rais (approximately 2.471 rais to an acre) this is a vast, spread out property comprising cabana accommodation; two swimming pools; a spa; a chef’s garden where vegetables and Thai herbs are grown, and acres of forestation. The property has been under the Centara management since the last one year. In keeping with the new style then, the staff have been issued with a fresh look to the uniforms, with all department heads – including the general manager – dressed in cool pale blue and white half-sleeved cotton shirts, resort-style. The general manager is new as well; Swiss-born Pius Luechinger assumed office here a couple of months ago.
The buildings are low-rise, adhering to the island’s standard norms and all have thatched roofs country-style. You enter through a small, rather unprepossessing lobby and then walk along stone-paved paths through what appear simply miles of greenery to get to your room or the beach. Unlike other resorts, the Centara Koh Chang does not keep golf carts on its premises; the hotel believes in building a bridge between its guests and Nature.
The 157-keys resort is divided into two main wings: Superior and Cabana. The first has the Superior and Deluxe categories; charming, Thai-style rooms with wooden flooring and ceiling, along with ceiling fans that have simulated wooden blades. A lot of bamboo has been used in the interior design, including bamboo floor lamps. Every room has bath tubs and balconies/terraces. Rooms in both wings come with the usual amenities of tea/coffee maker, complimentary drinking water, umbrellas and electronic safe.
The cabanas are categorised as Deluxe, Premium and Suite. The first has two cabanas housed in one building, while Premium is a whole unit. The suites, seven in number, occupy an entire upper floor above the Deluxe cabanas. All cabanas in the first two categories have outdoor rain showers and, while all of them come equipped with indoor bath tubs, some of the Premium cabanas have an outdoor bath tub as well. Deluxe cabanas have two wide, single beds, a daybed and a quaint wooden rocking chair. The Premiums have two queen-sized beds and a separate daybed area.
The cabana suites are quite humungous and built along the lines of luxury treehouses. A winding staircase leads up to the room. Tall French windows on either side of the room give on to vistas of greenery so that you feel you are literally perched on a tree branch. The large room has two beds – one king and the other queen size. The typical Thai wooden high vaulted ceiling adds to the treehouse effect. Off to the corner in the far end is the study desk. The bathroom space is elongated but not narrow, with the bath tub in the centre, the dressing area and shower cubicle to the right, the washbasin and toilet to the left. There is ample wardrobe space. Bathroom amenities are good. Six bottles of drinking water are provided complimentary.
Under the new management, all the cabanas are being renovated, with more of a Thai touch in the interior décor such as the pillows, furnishings, curtains and so on. Bathroom amenities are being upgraded to a brand name. Cabana Suite guests will have access to a lounge where afternoon tea and evening cocktails will be served complimentary.
F&B options include the Lobby Bar; Sunset Bar near the pool by the sea with a Happy Hours offer of ‘buy a drink get another free’ between 4-6pm; Splash Bar by the water-slide swimming pool, and the Sea Breeze Bar and Restaurant on the beach that serves Italian, Thai and international cuisine. The menu needs to be revamped for quality as well as repertoire. F&B service needs to pull its socks up. Also, having place cards by the dishes at breakfast time to identify them is usually a good idea.
Recreational facilities include two swimming pools – a full-length one amid lush greenery with a Jacuzzi and water slide, and the other a circular pool overlooking the sea and betwixt Sunset Bar and Sea Breeze restaurant. A hammock by the pool is much in demand at the latter and perhaps the hotel could consider stringing up another couple of them. The Fitness Centre has adequate equipment, with a personal trainer provided on request. The Centara organises complimentary activities such as water polo, beach badminton, beach yoga and Thai boxing. Every evening there is ‘Beach Cinema’ where a large projector screen has been erected on the beach. A stage set-up near the restaurant has a live band entertain guests daily except for Mondays. A Kids Club is located to one side of the gardens, in the vicinity of Sunset Bar. You can also have basic Thai or foot massages on the beach; this has been outsourced and is not managed by the resort spa.
Which brings us to an important part of the review: the Cenvaree Spa. The spa has seven treatment rooms, two of which are couple rooms with private sauna and Jacuzzi. The signature treatments here are the foot massage and the shell massage. In the former, a foot scrub made of bergamot and lemon grass gently scrubs away the dead skin, followed by a most relaxing foot massage, which culminates in herbal poultices made from traditional Thai herbs, heated and placed on pressure points on the foot and leg muscles. You could not think of a more tranquil way to spend 75-minutes of your life! The shell massage is a new treatment introduced by the Cenvaree Spa. You can choose the type of oil you would like for this massage; the Cenvaree also has an anti-cellulite oil. Different types of shells of varying sizes are used to rub the oil into the skin and massage the body; the shells contain a natural gentle warmth which is beneficial for the skin and have a hugely calming effect on the mind and body. This is a one hour massage which removes all the knots from the muscles, leaving them pliant and de-stressed. Post the massage, a strong hot towel is used to pat down your back and ease sore neck muscles. The therapist here is a wonder and truly an asset for the resort. She has deft firm strokes and is a very accomplished masseuse; it will surely be a high point of your stay at the Centara to experience a treatment at her hands.
Convention facilities include the biggest meeting hall on the island of Koh Chang, that can accommodate 300pax theatre style; no partition, just a single large hall.
Housekeeping service is efficient and courteous. Front office service tends to get a bit lackadaisical. Also, a property of this size would do well to go in for periodic pest control.
The Centara maintains the stretch of beach along its property and so the light sandy beach with soft sand is clean from debris, however, the beach along this side is full of broken coral bits so one has to look sharp. Nonetheless, it is among the best beaches on the island; secluded, unpolluted, free from hawkers and good for swimming.
The Centara is located on Klong Prao beach in Koh Chang. Moving south from here are the Kai Bae, Hat Tha Naam (Lonely beach) Bailan and Bang Bao beaches. Although Lonely beach is typically known as the party beach, this no longer holds true as each beach offers pubs and eating options; Kae Bae in fact, has its own ‘Walking Street.’ There are plenty of ATM’s and 7Elevens and I counted at least five Tesco’s. Money exchange centres are limited. Moving north you come across Chai Chet, Hat Kai Mook (Pearl beach) and Hat Sai Khao (White Sand beach.) There are two night markets daily between Klong Prao and Pearl beaches. Just before Chai Chet beach is the turn-off for the Klong Plu waterfall; a waste of time going here if it is not the rainy season, as the waterfall is a mere dribble. It is a walk through the jungle to get to the waterfall, so make sure you carry your sneakers. Much further ahead is the Klong Nonsi waterfall. Most tourists hire motorbikes to get around Koh Chang (usually THB 200 per day.)
To get to Koh Chang you can fly into Trat airport and then take a minivan or taxi from there to Thammachat pier from where you get the ferry to Koh Chang. You can usually buy the combination van/ferry ticket; price varies from THB 250-400 according to the beach you are headed to on Chang. Most travellers to the island simply take the bus from Bangkok’s Ekkamai station at THB 275 per head. Once at Thammachat pier, take the ferry to Sapalot pier (for beaches like Klong Prao or Kai Bae) at THB 80 per head. At Sapalot, you can take the shared songtaew (tempo-like vehicle) at THB 50 per head which will drop you to your hotel if you have not already arranged with your hotel for the pick-up.
CENTARA KOH CHANG TROPICANA RESORT
TEL: +66 39557122/ 24
FAX: +66 39557123