Ko Chang (Thai: เกาะช้าง), also Koh Chang is the second largest island of Thailand (largest island in the Ko Chang Marine Park archipelago), located on the Thai east coast 310 km away from Bangkok near the border to Cambodia in the Gulf of Thailand The name means Elephant Island. Ko Chang was named for the elephant shape of its headland, although elephants are not indigenous to the island. At present, there are 8 villages in total. It is a mountainous island and Khao Salak Phet is the highest peak of all at 744 metres. Visitors are also met with several waterfalls, splendid reefs and rainforests. The island has an area of approximately 217 square kilometers. Ko Chang was previously an unsettled island but it is now important as a harbour for ships to escape from the monsoon, and dietary or fresh water resources, especially at Ao Salak Phet or Ao Salat which is well known to pirates, Hai Lam Chinese and Vietnamese.
The island is part of the Mu Ko Chang Marine National Park. During World War II, when Thailand was occupied by the Japanese, Ko Chang was the scene of a naval battle between the reluctant Royal Thai Navy and a Vichy France squadron, in which the Thais were decisively beaten.
Until the mid-1980s the infrastructure on the island was undeveloped, but tourism has increased significantly since then. Around the year 2000, malaria was eradicated, the area became a national park (and began charging entry fees). The island now receives 655,000 visitors annually, about two thirds of them Thai. Ko Chang is one of the few places with virgin forest, but the mad rush to cash in on tourism has had a heavy toll on its virgin forests. Land prices have skyrocketed, there are also beautiful if not high end resorts now popping up all over the island.
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