fishing industry on Koh Si Chang — Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis Koh Si Chang lies only an hour and a half from Bangkok, yet except for weekends, it is sleepy and overlooked, and even a weekend visit may have one conjuring up the Thailand of old, where few foreigners are present, and the easy going locals appear to concentrate more on their chess games than on making a tourist baht. Many people confuse this place with the more famous island of Koh Chang, but Koh Si Chang is far closer to Bangkok and far more off the beaten path.
Arriving at the tiny port of the island's one and only town, one is greeted by a fleet of the largest motorcycle taxis in Thailand, samlor 3 wheelers mounted on king sized Kawasakis. Friendly drivers offer maps of the island and give advice on the handful of accommodations available.
Hat Tham Phang Beach, Ko Si Chang — Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis There is a small beach on the west side of the island, Hat Tam Phang,with clear water, swimming, and a couple of bungalow operations, yet there are a lot of other diversions besides sunning oneself on Koh Si Chang. Wat Tham Yai Prik dominates most of the center of the island, with it's giant golden Buddha welcoming visitors, perched on the limestone cliffs above the sea. The wat is home to a series of cool meditation caves, and is inhabited by monks and nuns.Near the main port, perched on a hill overlooking the sea, is San Jao Phaw Khao Yai, a colorful Chinese temple complex, full of caves, Buddha images, pagodas, and fantastic views of the surrounding town and busy seaport. Koh Si Chang's colorful fishing harbor — Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis
At the southern end of the island is the Phra Judhadhut Palace, the former summer home of King Rama V, surrounded with immaculate terraced gardens, streams, fountains, and ponds, another nice spot to while away the hour, picnic, and watch the goings on of the Thai fishing industry in the Bight of Bangkok.
As foreigners tend to seek the beaches and parties of Koh Chang, Koh Samet, and Pattaya, Koh Si Chang remains a primarily Thai island. There are few internet cafes, no video movie parlors, and no go-go bars.The few farang one does meet on Koh Si Chang tend to be teachers, expats, or long time Thai aficionados who have discovered this quiet gem so close to Bangkok.
Getting There and Around
Koh Si Chang is reachable by boat from Sri Racha, the fishing port on the eastern seaboard, famed for it's Sri Racha Chili Sauce. Buses from Ekkamai leave Bangkok every half hour or so for the 1.5 hour trip. From the town pier, boats leave hourly for Koh Si Chang. The trip across the Bight of Bangkok takes 45 minutes.
There are several options, so it's better to call ahead if showing up on a weekend. The Koh Si Chang Palace is the top hotel in town. (038 216 276) Far more picturesque is the Sri Pitsanu Bungalow, perched atop the cliffs near Wat Tham Yai Prik. Rooms with a view are available. (038 216 034)